Ever thought about hiking in Bolivia? Peru is famous for its Inca trail to Machu Picchu. But did you know Bolivia has an Inca trail as well? This famous Inca road system runs through Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru and is almost 30,000 kilometers long. In Bolivia you can make a beautiful day hike, walk on these ancient trails and enjoy the magical Andes Mountains. Since this road plays an important role in the history of Latin America and Pre-Columbian cultures, I made a special TV report about this trail. Read everything about the hike in this article, including some history and background information.
Before we go into hiking in Bolivia, let me start by saying: In my younger years, nobody would have thought I would become a hiker. I didn’t like walking at all and preferred doing other things. Well the unthinkable happened! Nowadays, I’m the first in line for a beautiful hike, even if it is a multi-day hike. Hiking can be fun for everyone, especially when you are traveling and want to see something of the environment. Today it’s about an easy going day-hike: The Bolivian Inca trail!
History & Background information
The road system, called Qhapaq Ñan, in Quechua ( the language of the Incas), was build by the Incas and served as an important communication and trading network. Chasquis, or couriers, brought messages from one place to another, using this road. And everything happened according to a well-organized relay system. It is said that people knew what had happened at a distance of 300 kilometers, within a day. I’m fascinated by this idea!
The construction and location of the Inca trail are unique. The trail in Bolivia connects the high peaks of the Andes with the coast and runs through rainforests, valleys and deserts. It is unbelievable to think that this road was built thousands of years ago, with the very limited resources of that time! This ancient Inca road is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and this listing is special because the different countries worked together to get it included.
Royal route to Machu Picchu
Many people know the trail because of the royal route to the city of the Incas: Machu Picchu, wich is located in Peru. This route takes a few days and you’ll sleep in tents. The trail takes you along ceremonial centers, old cities and crop circles. Hiking the Inca trail in Bolivia is easier and you will only need a day.
My hiking must-haves | Hiking in Bolivia
Of course, it’s my job to look fresh and awake in the morning, but I never thought I’d enjoy it so much. Height, rain, wind, sunshine, I have learned a lot over the years and I’m prepared for everything nowadays. Good walking shoes, a small day-pack, lots of water, plenty of food, sunglasses, in some cases walking sticks and lots of layers of clothing are my must-haves for hiking. In the Andes, it is very cold in the mornings. But as soon as the sun comes through, it becomes beautiful and pleasant. Then very hot, after which at the end of the day, when the sun goes down, it cools down again. In the evening you walk around wearing your gloves and a warm hat. The climate in the Andes is very special.
The Bolivian Inca trail | Hiking in Bolivia
Most tours start in Sucre and will drive you to the village of Chataquila, where there is also a beautiful church to visit. This is where the hike starts and the view is already breathtaking. Miles of views over the tops of the Andes, a clear blue sky, steep abysses, countless colors of brown and green. The immense Andes mountain peaks make you realize how overwhelming nature can be.
The road consists for the most part of original Inca paths, known for its large boulders and stones. It’s 5.5 kilometers from Chataquila to the village of Chaunaca and the road is completely down-hill. Where the Inca trail in Peru can be a physical battle with yourself and your endurance is put to the test, by the altitude (ranging from 3000 to 4200 meters), this Bolivian tour is relaxed and beautiful.
On the way, you won’t meet many people, especially compared to the Peruvian part. Besides the tourists who walk the route in Peru, there are countless people who live and work along the Inca trail. As a tourist in Bolivia, you will mostly be walking by yourself.
30,000 kilometers of trails
It’s my dream to cover the entire 30,000 kilometers. I’m fascinated by the Incas and other Pre-Columbian cultures. These cultures have been widely researched and by now, we already know a lot about them. Yet many things are still a mystery, and that’s what makes it so interesting.
Want to hike the Bolivian Inca trail?
Ready to go hiking in Bolivia? There are several tour operators in Sucre who offer this hike. I always work with Skyland Bolivia, a very reliable organization that offers tailor-made tours.
How to get there?
You start your trip from Sucre (2800 m altitude) and drive to the village of Chataquila (3650 m altitude), in about an hour and a half. Here you can visit the small church and get a short explanation about the Virgen Guadalupe, which can be seen everywhere in Sucre and surroundings. It’s the best way to get used to the altitude, since the trip goes up a few hundred meters.
How difficult is it to hike the Bolivian Inca Trail?
The Inca trail in this area has a distance of 5.5 km and depending on your pace, it will take you 2 to 3 hours. It’s a relatively easy, down-hill trail. As it is an old and original Inca path with boulders, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to walk. It’s important to wear good shoes! The route runs on a number of places along steep cliffs, so be aware if you are afraid of heights. The route ends in the village of Chaunaca where a bus will be waiting to take you back to Sucre.
If you want to see more of the area, you can choose to extend your trip with a visit to the crater of Maraguay or the murals of Pumamachay (1500 years old) and Incamachay (2500 years old). Don’t do this trail on the first day of arrival in Sucre. Take some time to get used to the altitude!
What to bring?
- solid and good hiking shoes (because of the different boulders and stone on the path)
- enough water
- sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat/cap (the sun will be bright in the Andes)
- hiking sticks (if you are comfortable using it)
- layers of clothes (so you can take it on and off depending on the weather during the day)
- rain coat (depending on the season)
The Inca road system in South America
Curious about Sucre, the official capital of Bolivia? Check out the 10 best things to do and see in Sucre in the next article.
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