Peru now has a total of 12 World Heritage Sites, with the recent inclusion of the Great Inca Trail. In June UNESCO granted the Inca Qhapaq Nan road system, also known as the Great Trail, the prestigious World Heritage status.
The road system includes 273 component sites along the route and extends more than 30,000 kilometres. It is also believed to have been used by the Spanish when they arrived in South America in the 16th Century. Many other roads were built during this time through the lush mountain peaks, which were so intricately woven by the Incas that to this day, new routes are still being discovered.
Around the same time as the Great Inca Trail World was granted World Heritage status, another trail was discovered when a team of Peruvian archaeologists recently found a new trail leading to the mysterious Machu Picchu citadel in Cusco. The discovery was announced in June by the director of the Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu, Mr Fernando Astete.
The new road, which begins at Wayraqtambo, leads up to a platform where travellers can see the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu from a completely different angle. Even with much of the road still heavily covered by thick vegetation, it is thought that this exciting discovery will change the way the world sees Machu Picchu.
The trail is thought to predate Machu Picchu itself, which was built at the height of the Inca Empire, around 1450, and was unknown to the outside world before being discovered in 1911 by the American historian Mr Hiram Bingham
The new trail to Machu Picchu is approximately a mile long and between 1.20 and 1.40 metres wide, dimensions vary with topography. Another impressive discovery along the trail is a tunnel, more than five metres long, located 2,700 metres above sea level.
This recent discovery is further proof of the greatness of the Inca civilisation and highlights why Peru is now one of the most important archaeological destinations in the world.
The new Inca Trail will certainly diversify the tourism product, giving visitors to Machu Picchu a different perspective and experience of this famous Inca citadel.
Other World Heritage Sites in Peru are the City of Cuzco, Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, the Chavín Archaeological Site, Huascaran National Park, Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Manu National Park, the Historic Centre of Lima, the Abiseo River National Park, geographical Nasca lines and Pampas de Jumana, the historic centre of Arequipa and the Sacred City of Caral-Supe.