Llama with Incan decoration facing camera and standing among grass tufts

Llamas, vicuñas, spectacled bears, condors and more ... the animals you'll see on the Inca Trail

Jun 30, 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

The Inca Trail isn't known for its wildlife, though it does have some cool species like Andean bears, vicuñas and Andean condors. But really it's the domesticated animals that are the real drawcards: visitors to the Andes commonly see llamas and alpacas!

The most commonly seen animals on the Inca Trail are llamas and alpacas. These long-necked domesticated animals have become the poster children of the Andes! And their untamed cousin, the vicuña, can also sometimes be seen.

Then there's the lesser-known wildlife, like spectacled bears, viscachas and chinchillas. These require some luck and effort to see, but they're not especially elusive.

Let's look at the domesticated Andean animals first, and then at some others you might just spot, as well as a few special birds to look for.



Llamas and alpacas

Llamas and alpacas have been part of Andean culture since before the arrival of the Spanish. They're prized for their wool, as meat, and as pack animals.

Seated llama and alpaca in ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru

A llama and alpaca chilling among the ruins of Machu Picchu

You'll likely see some llamas and alpacas during your Inca Trail trek, but you're pretty much guaranteed to see them when you visit Machu Picchu.

Llamas are pretty smart animals and so are able to learn some simple tasks after a bit of repetition.

Alpacas can be differentiated from llamas most easily when stood side by side: alpacas are the smaller of the two. They also have shorter ears and softer wool. And hopefully there'll be no reason to find this out firsthand, but llamas are more likely than alpacas to put you in your place if you get fresh with them.


Vicuñas are even smaller than alpacas, and they're quite easy to tell apart as they have a relatively dainty look about them. They're believed to be the ancestor of the domesticated alpaca.

Vicuna on hillside in Peru

The vicuña is the national animal of Peru

Vicuña wool is very soft and fine (more so than alpaca wool). But it can only be shorn every three years as it grows so slowly. This has historically made vicuña wool very highly prized by locals.

The Incas prized vicuñas for their wool, and it was actually illegal for anyone but royals to wear garments from made from vicuña wool!

Spectacled bears

The spectacled bear – also called the South American bear, Andean bear, Andean short-faced bear or mountain bear – is a medium-sized bear with a 95% herbivorous diet.

Spectacled bear in a tree in the Andes

Spectacled bears don't always have spectacle markings

Spectacled bears live only in the northern half of the Andean mountains. So the Inca Trail is the perfect time to hopefully spot one.

Interestingly, the closest extant relative of the spectacled bear is the giant panda, which lives on the other side of the planet!

Andean deer

The Andean deer (or taruca) is hard to spot, as it's small, endangered and very shy around humans. But if you keep your eyes open from Day 2 of the Inca Trail onwards whenever in forest, you might just be lucky enough to spot one.

Taruca, or Andean deer, Inca Trail, Peru

The Andean deer (or taruca) is very shy of humans

The Andean deer is an endangered and elusive species with short fur and small horns.

If you're really keen to see Andean deer, then you want to try trek in the off-peak season, in a small group, and space things so that you're not around other, noisy groups. If you trek quietly, it's just possible you'll spot one standing among the trees.

Andean mountain cats

Now it won't be easy to spot an Andean wild cat on a busy trek route like the Inca Trail ... wild cats sightings are very exciting for good reason!

Andean mountain cat standing on a rock

An Andean mountain cat as snapped by J. Sanderson

Making it an even harder task to spot an Andean Mountain cat is the fact that it's an endangered species. Estimates put their numbers at around 1,500 species in the wild. Further, these beautiful cats are only the size of a domestic cat. They rarely go above 5.5 kg (12 lb).

But you just never know.

The Andean mountain cat is traditionally considered a sacred animal by the Aymara and Quechua people.


Chinchillas are large rodents that live only in the central Andes. They're pretty adorable, with their small size, very soft fur and fluffy tails.

Chinchilla among stone ruins of Machu Picchui

Look for chinchillas blending into Incan ruins

Chinchillas have the the densest fur of any land mammal – 50 hairs grow out of each follicle!

Chinchillas live in groups known as herds at altitudes up to 4,270 m (14,000 ft).

Northern viscachas

Northern viscachas look a little like rabbits from the front, but their long tails distinguish them in an instant.

Northern Viscacha (Lagidium peruanum), Hidden among rocks. Huancayo - Peru

An adult northern viscacha weighs just between 0.9 and 1.6 kg (32 and 56 oz)

Similarly to chinchillas, viscachas are well camouflaged when found among rocks. So keep your eyes peeled for any small movements when trekking as this could alert you to the presence.

Andean condors

The Andean condor is a type of New World vulture. In fact, it's the largest flying bird in the world when you combine size and wing span!

The Andean condor is the largest bird of prey in the world!

Andean condor in flight above mountains in Peru

The Andean condor has a distinctive white collar

The male Andean condor can grow to be 15.5 kg (33 lb) and have a wing span of 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in). Oomph.

Look for them in flight, of course, during your trek, but also note that they make their nests on craggy ledges up to 5,000 m above sea level. A condor sighting would be a huge feather in your cap on an Inca Trail adventure (sorry, yes, an easy pun we couldn't resist).

Andean cocks-of-the-rock

The Andean cock-of-the-rock is a large and unusual passerine bird that can often be seen in the forest along the Inca Trail. The bright red plumage of the males also really helps with spotting it!

Andean Cock of the Rock perched on a branch

No, this pic by D. Morris isn't distorted – that's the shape of its head!

Like many birds in South America, male cock-of-the-rocks have elaborate courtship behaviours. They're hard to spot, but you want to look for them in the forest during your trek.

Those are the animals and birds we think you'll be most excited to see on the Inca Trail. Have we left out any that you think should be included? Please let us know – maybe we'll update this post to include them!