It is well known that the Inca Empire was centered in what is today Peru and the most spectacular Inca ruins are there. But the Inca Empire was larger than Peru and there are many Inca ruins to be found in today's Ecuador and Chile. The impressive Inca road system once stretched from Columbia to deep within Chile.The Inca Road Network has been compared to the Roman roads and is regarded as some of the best of the ancient New World. It was this massive network that knit the massive Inca Empire together until the arrival of the Spanish. When one hikes to Machu Picchu, one will hike on segments of the ancient Inca Roads.

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What To Know About The Inca Road System

The Inca road system was very impressive and was the most extensive and advanced transportation system on the continent before the arrival of the Europeans. It stretched for at least 40,000 kilometers (25,000 mi).

  • Length: At Least kilometers (25,000 mi)
  • Countries: Today's Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Columbia
  • Name: Also Called Qhapak Ñan

The road system permitted the movement of goods, soldiers, and information - all without the use of wheels or horses (one can not ride on a llama).

The Chilean Inca trail is a local and popular term to describe the various branches of the Inca Road Network in in Chile and the associated Inca archeological sites. The Inca rule in Chile wasn't very long in the greater scheme of things. They came to dominate northern and central Chile from the mid to late 15th century before it all came crashing down with the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors. The Inca southward advance was halted by determined resistance by the Mapuche warriors at the Battle of the Maule.

  • Inca Empire In Chile: Dominated Northern and Center Chile From the Mid to Late 15th Century

The Royal Inca road entered Chile from Bolivia where the Tambo Quemado international border crossing stands today.

The altitude of the highway fluctuated from as high as 4,000 meters above sea level to as low as 500 meters just to the north of Santiago.

Related: Thinking About Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu? Here's What To Expect

There's An Inca Settlement Under Santiago

Almost completely hidden from view, there is an ancient Inca Settlement buried beneath the streets of the Chilean capital, Santiago. Archeologists believe that this settlement was more of an "Inca administrative and ceremonial center” as opposed to a city in the normal European concept of the word.

  • Santiago: Has An Inca Administrative and Ceremonial Center Underneath It
  • Used And Destroyed: The Spanish Used The Settlement To Found The City But Destored Many Of The Structures

It was likely the administrative headquarters of the Inca governor of the region and the settlement's infrastructure would likely have been used by Pedro de Valdivia when he founded the city of Santiago. While the Spanish would have taken over much of the administrative structures, others like guacas, shrines, and pucaraes (fortresses) were destroyed as part of the Spanish policy of extirpation of idolatry.

Various archeological digs (and other projects like building subway tunnels) have revealed evidence of this ancient center including sections of ancient Inca walls, vessels, cemeteries, and ceramic remains.

Related: Introduction To The Inca Sacred Valley: Home Of Machu Picchu, Cusco, And The Heart Of The Empire

Pucará de Cerro La Muralla

The Pucará de Cerro La Muralla (in Enlish Pucara of Wall's Hill) is an ancient Inca fortress (called a Pucara) in Chile. It is perched up on a strategic hilltop overlooking a lagoon that is today dry. It is thought that the fortress was used for observation so that the Inca could control the valley while using the lagoon as a defense (it lacks a southern wall as it would have been covered by the lagoon). The fort was built with three defensive walls.

One thing that makes the fort notable is that it is believed to be the southernmost fort of the sprawling Inca Empire.

  • Location: 5 Kilometers (3 Miles) South of San Vicente de Tagua Tagua
  • Southernmost: Thought to Be The Southernmost Fort of The Inca Empire

Pukará de Quitor

The Pukará de Quitor is another ancient fortress in northern Chile's Atacama Desert. It is located just out of the town of San Pedro de Atacama and overlooks the valley of the river San Pedro. It is believed to be around 700 years old and predates the Inca. It was designated a national monument in 1982.