The Conquest of the Inca Empire Detailed Timeline

The Conquest of the Inca Empire by the Spanish is a complex and pivotal event in world history, involving multiple actors, battles, and strategic maneuvers over several years. Below is a detailed timeline that highlights the key events and milestones from initial contact to the eventual fall of the Inca Empire.

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Timeline of the Conquest of the Inca Empire

Early Encounters and Preparations (1524-1530)

1524-1525: First Expedition by Francisco Pizarro

  • Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro, along with Hernando de Luque, initiate their first expedition from Panama to explore the South American coast. They encounter harsh conditions and limited success, but they hear rumors of a wealthy empire further south.

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1526-1528: Second Expedition and Initial Contact

  • Pizarro leads a second expedition and reaches the northern coast of the Inca Empire (modern-day Ecuador). They capture a raft with valuable cargo, confirming the existence of a rich civilization. They also make initial contact with the Inca.

July 1528: Pizarro Returns to Spain

  • Pizarro returns to Spain to secure royal support for a new expedition to conquer the Inca. He presents the captured treasures to King Charles I, who grants him authorization to lead a new expedition, naming him Governor and Captain-General of New Castile.

The Invasion Begins (1530-1533)

January 1531: Third Expedition Launches

  • Pizarro sets sail from Panama with about 180 men and 27 horses, beginning his third and final expedition to conquer the Inca Empire.

April 1532: Pizarro Arrives at Tumbes

  • Pizarro’s expedition reaches Tumbes, where they find the town in ruins, a result of a civil war between the Inca factions led by Atahualpa and Huáscar.

November 1532: Capture of Atahualpa at Cajamarca

  • Pizarro and his men march to Cajamarca, where they meet Inca Emperor Atahualpa. On November 16, Pizarro stages an ambush and captures Atahualpa during the Battle of Cajamarca, despite being vastly outnumbered.

1532-1533: Ransom of Atahualpa

  • Atahualpa offers a room filled with gold and silver as ransom, which the Spanish accept. However, despite fulfilling the ransom, Atahualpa is executed on August 29, 1533, under charges of plotting against the Spanish.

Consolidation and Expansion (1533-1538)

November 15, 1533: Spanish Enter Cuzco

  • Pizarro and his forces enter Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire, marking the effective end of organized Inca resistance. They loot the city’s treasures and begin the Spanish consolidation of the region.

1535: Founding of Lima

  • Pizarro establishes the city of Lima, which becomes the new Spanish colonial capital of Peru, signaling a shift in political power from the Inca to the Spanish.

1536: Inca Rebellion Under Manco Inca

  • Manco Inca, a puppet ruler installed by the Spanish, rebels against the conquerors. He lays siege to Cuzco, which lasts for 10 months but ultimately fails due to lack of support and Spanish reinforcements.

1537: Battle of Ollantaytambo

  • Manco Inca establishes a stronghold at Ollantaytambo and resists Spanish advances. Despite a victory in a major battle, Manco is forced to retreat into the jungle, where he continues guerrilla warfare against the Spanish.

1538: Defeat of Almagro

  • Diego de Almagro, who has been in conflict with Pizarro over the division of spoils and territory, is defeated and executed after the Battle of Las Salinas. This eliminates one of the major sources of internal strife among the Spanish.

Final Resistance and Aftermath (1539-1572)

1539: Manco Inca’s Guerrilla Campaigns

  • Manco Inca continues to resist from his jungle stronghold at Vilcabamba. The Spanish are unable to completely quash his efforts, though they consolidate control over most of the former Inca territory.

1541: Assassination of Francisco Pizarro

  • Francisco Pizarro is assassinated in Lima by supporters of Diego de Almagro’s son, Diego de Almagro II, as part of an ongoing feud among the Spanish conquistadors.

1572: Capture and Execution of Túpac Amaru

  • Túpac Amaru, the last Inca ruler and Manco Inca’s son, is captured by Spanish forces led by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo. His execution on September 24 marks the definitive end of the Inca resistance and the full consolidation of Spanish control over Peru.


The Conquest of the Inca Empire was characterized by a combination of strategic warfare, exploitation of internal divisions within the Inca Empire, and superior European weaponry and tactics. The fall of the Inca Empire led to significant changes in the political, social, and economic landscape of South America, establishing Spanish colonial rule that would last for centuries. The conquest also had profound and devastating effects on the indigenous populations, whose societies were dramatically altered or destroyed.

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