Best books to read before trekking to Machu Picchu 

by Abhinanda, on Jan 6, 2017

Visiting Machu Picchu is an experience of a lifetime – you’ll be seeing one of The Seven Wonders of the World, a sight that will leave you breathless! It’s been estimated that almost a whopping one million people visit Machu Picchu per year. If you’re one of those lucky few heading over there soon, then reading about the place will definitely set you in the right mood and give you a better insight into the history and the culture of Peru.

Machu Picchu is much more than just an adventurous hike through challenging trails, heart-stopping vistas and ancient ruins set in nature. The Incas built the town around 1450 A.D and deserted it a century later during the Spanish Conquest. But don’t let the short timeframe fool you – the history, traditions and the culture of the Incas are one of the richest in the world and won’t leave you disappointed in the slightest. Machu Picchu is full of amazing and magical stories and one of the best parts of your visit is that you could read about some of those stories beforehand!

Take the time to prepare for the trip of your lifetime and check out some of these awesome books or the series of Machu Picchu articles offered on our blog.

Machu Picchu Guidebooks

The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour – Ruth M. Wright, Alfredo Valencia Zegarra

In the book, you’ll be able to find detailed explanations of different areas of Machu Picchu because, in all fairness, it’s pity to go all the way up there and have no idea what you’re looking at. Even if you have a guide with you, it’s a good idea to read this book beforehand. That way you’ll know what he’s talking about, instead of just focusing your attention to hear everything that he says and missing out on the cool things around you.

Readers will probably find the map in the back very useful, which suggests some routes on how to walk through Machu Picchu. The National Geographic picture of the most glorious days of the Inca Empire is definitely a nice addition and gives the book the mystic and historical aura it deserves.

While the weight you’re going to carry in your rucksack is certainly limited, this Machu Picchu Guidebook might be well worth the hauling. More than 70% of the readers on Amazon rated it with 5 stars and it has an overall grade of 4.5 stars. I’d say it’s a pretty good thing to have on hand during your visit since decent guidebooks like this one are a rare find.

Frommer's EasyGuide to Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu – by Nicholas Gill

This book has been written by Nick Gill, an experienced traveller who have spent years on the spot exploring the destination. Gill has been writing about Peru for well over a decade, so if you’re looking for an insightful guidebook to add to your collection, then this 4.5 star rated and beautifully written guidebook should definitely be one of your picks!

The guidebook covers the top most visited places in Peru: Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu. As most of the Machu Picchu visits follow a similar travel plan, it’s a great read if you’re interested in knowing more only about the places you’ll get to visit. It also includes some nice itineraries based on the time you have there, as well as information on various practical subjects: what not to miss on your trip, the best restaurants to eat at, the currency, the weather and so on.

While most of the guidebooks boast only about how great everything is, Nicholas likes to get real. He shares his opinion on the places and things you should feel free to skip – something that will save you precious time while in Peru!

Machu Picchu Stories & History Reads

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time – Mark Adams

With an average 4.5 star rating out of 5 on Amazon, this book is a New York Times bestseller and an absolute must-read before even getting on the plane to Peru! The author, Mark Adams, decides to set out on a great journey and traces the steps of the great (or not so great, it’s up to you!) Hiram Bingham. There’s just one question he’s looking to answer – “Just what was Machu Picchu?

But here’s a small twist to the story – he’s never even slept in a tent before and yet he works for a travel and adventure magazine! How on Earth is he going to survive all of those trails? Well, you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself!

The book is a definite attention-grabber due to the style it’s written in – it’s not just another historical book full of places, dates, and events that few people will remember after closing it. It is full of informative content that keeps you engaged at all times while reading. The bonus points go to the fact that Mark Adams is hilarious – he even compared the Machu Picchu trails with the stock market during the dot-com bubble!

The book is also full of pictures, 45 to be exact, that help guide the reader throughout it. The things you’re going to see at Machu Picchu will make much more sense after you’ve read this book.

The Last Days of the Incas – Kim MacQuarrie

Another bestseller on the list you should make room for in your Kindle! With an average Amazon rating of 4.7 stars, the book tells the story of the last years of the Inca Empire, right before the Spanish conquest and occupation of South America took place. Even though it’s full of historical events and the story in it is told through a timeline, this book feels more like reading fiction rather than non-fiction – kudos to the author for that!

It’s a commonly known fact that the Incas were fierce. However, you’ll realize you had no idea actually how fierce they were until you’re done with the book. Through the intriguing story told in the book, you’ll get to learn more about their ancient way of life and how the Inca Empire gloriously resisted occupation for more than a few decades.

And then, after devouring their history in one setting, imagine the one-of-a-kind feeling you’ll get after you set foot at the glorious Machu Picchu. Learning more about the Incas is only going to increase your fascination with Machu Picchu and set your mind in the right mood for conquering those challenging trails – if the Incas could do it, so can you!

Lost City of the Incas – Hiram Bingham

Hiram Bingham is by far the most popular American in Peru. He ventured out into the wild and re-discovered The Lost City of the Incas in the beginning of the 20th century – quite daring considering the time he lived in! I won’t be talking about whether he was a hero who discovered something that was lost or a villain who ripped the place of its treasures and I’ll let you decide that for yourself.

Instead, let’s focus on the fact that the book he wrote is actually pretty good. It’s a good thing to read before heading over to Machu Picchu for the first time. The language and the style of the book might be too stiff for some readers, though take into consideration that the book was written quite a while ago; you can’t really expect modern phrases in it. Still, most of the information offered in it are still valuable today, making it a good trip-prepping choice for you.

The best parts of the book are the original pictures included in it, which are copies from the ones Bingham took in 1912. Some readers might find it fascinating to see what Machu Picchu looked like when it was first “discovered” and if you take the book with you on the trip, you can even compare them to what they look like today.

The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers) – Orin Starn, Ivan Degregori, Robin Kirk

The book title says it all – if your knowledge about Peru is somewhat limited or shaped only by what you’ve read online, then this book is the thing for you.

This book allows you to get an insight not only into the rich Peruvian history but into modern culture and events as well. In it, you’re going to find information as diverse as Peru itself: there’s a large collection of essays, folklore writings, and some major historical documents. Very interestingly, the book is also full of poetry, songs and stories and this gives you a much better, well rounded feel of the culture. The Peru Reader is a great collection of different perspectives about Peru, which means you will get to view works and opinions not only by the modern intellectuals, politicians and historians of the Peruvian society but of ordinary people as well.

Digging into it before your travels will leave you feeling comfortable enough to actually interact with Peruvians themselves without worrying you might say something offensive. However, note that if you order the hardback, it may not be ideal to actually take with you due to the fact that the book is larger and heavier than normal ones.

Hopefully, this list will help you to prepare for your upcoming Peru trip! Do you think we’ve missed any great books everyone should know about? We’d definitely want to know what you think – feel free to share them in the comments!