The 25 Best Books About Machu Picchu to Read Before You Go to Peru

Apus Peru > Trip Preparation > The 25 Best Books About Machu Picchu to Read Before You Go to Peru

Alright, adventure seekers and bookworms, listen up! Imagine you’re getting ready for an amazing trip to Peru, and the highlight? The absolutely awe-inspiring Machu Picchu of Aguas Calientes.

But before you dive headfirst into the nature wonders, let’s talk about the real mood-setters – books! There’s just something magical about flipping through the pages of a great read that transports you to a place before you’ve even set foot there.

best books about machu picchu

So, for all you Peru-bound souls, we’ve cooked up a list of the absolute Best Books about Machu Picchu. We’re not talking your run-of-the-mill travel guides; no, these reads are like secret passages into the heart of trekking escapades, the untold tales of Incan history, and the wild adventures of folks who’ve dared to uncover the mysteries of this miracle.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an adventure junkie, or looking for a great gift, in this blog post we list the best books on Machu Picchu that will ignite your excitement for the incredible journey that lies ahead. Get ready to turn those pages and let the adventure begin!

Essential Machu Picchu Books

Welcome to a collection of Machu Picchu books to read! We’ve gathered the classics that everyone should check out if you’re interested in this topic. Dive into the stories and fascinating insights of this archaeological site with these wide variety of books, perfect for anyone curious about this iconic destination.

These are the top 03 must reads for anyone visiting Peru; for ease and enjoyment of reading,  great historical perspecive, and an understanding of the past and present.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams


Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams is a fun mix of travel stories and history, following Hiram Bingham’s path in search for the famous ruins of Machu Picchu a hundred years ago. The book jumps between Bingham’s and Adams’ adventures, with Adams throwing in some humor and interesting bits.

Adams explores one step at a time the question of what role the Inca citadel played, digging into theories about whether it was a city, a pilgrimage spot, or the lost city of the Incas. If you want a light-hearted and easy-going book covering various perspectives on this ancient site, this one’s got you covered.

Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie


Kim MacQuarrie’s Last Days of the Incas is a gripping historical tale that reads like an exciting novel. Assuming its historical accuracy, the narrative provides diverse perspectives from the Spanish and the Incas, offering insights into early politics in Peru. Ideal for those gearing up for a trip to Cusco, especially if you love history.

Unlike traditional history stories, MacQuarrie’s book adopts a captivating storytelling approach. Covering Pizarro’s conquest of Cusco amid conflicts with the Incas and the havoc caused by smallpox, the book extends its narrative for 40 years post-conquest. It delves into the Inca struggle and modern-day Peru’s interpretation of the conquest, including intriguing stories of conflicts among the Spanish, leading to Pizarro’s demise.

For a more accessible and story-like experience compared to deep academic reads, this book is an excellent choice. Whether you’re heading to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, or on the search for Machu Picchu, this book provides a unique and captivating perspective on the fascinating history of Peru.

The White Rock by Hugh Thomson


The White Rock by Hugh Thomson stands out as a notable book about Peru, offering the story of a young adventurer in pursuit of ancient ruins once uncovered by Hiram Bingham but subsequently lost. As Hugh embarks on his travels, the book unfolds a captivating narrative that delves into the rich history of the Inca empire, sharing tales of exploration not only from his own experiences in Vilcabamba but also from other modern-day adventurers. This provides readers with a genuine sense of the challenges and adventures involved in discovering Inca ruins.

While “The White Rock” doesn’t only focus on Machu Picchu (with only one chapter dedicated to it), it serves as an excellent companion for a trip to Machu Picchu and Peru. The book’s broader exploration context and insights into travel dynamics contribute to its appeal, making it a compelling read for those interested in the history and adventure that Peru has to offer.

Best Machu Picchu Books on History: Inca History Books

In this section, we’ve listed the top books that delve into the historical aspects of the ancient Inca citadel. If you’re keen to learn about the World Wonder’s past, these Inca history books are essential additions to your reading list. Get ready for a journey through time and uncover the fascinating history behind this remarkable destination.

Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham


The Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham proves to be a great Machu Picchu book to get into the spirit of the lost city. Despite the fact that locals always knew about Machu Picchu close to the Vilcanota River, Bingham’s narrative, though not entirely accurate in its details, remains a compelling and evocative read. As the “discoverer of Machu Picchu”, he definitely is a real-life Indiana Jones who explored the mountains and jungles of Peru!

The book immerses readers in the thrill of adventure as they accompany Hiram Bingham on his explorations that ultimately led to the discovery of the renowned Lost City of the Incas. The narrative sheds light on Bingham’s romantic and exciting journey, highlighting his constant companionship with local guides who were well-versed in the locations of these supposedly “lost” ruins. For those seeking a taste of exploration and a vivid understanding of Bingham, rediscovering the lost city one, this piece of literature is a recommended read.

Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas

Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas, edited by Richard L. Burger and Lucy C. Salazar, is a compelling exploration that combines Hiram Bingham’s original report, archival and modern photographs, and insightful chapters on recent archaeological efforts at the site. This comprehensive book vividly brings to life the art, architecture, culture, and society of Machu Picchu.

The authors, both professors from Yale University, delve into investigations at Machu Picchu since its discovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Through the latest discoveries, they expertly describe and explain the past and present of the Inca City. With its blend of historical accounts, visual documentation, and scholarly insights, this writing is essential reading for anyone fascinated by this iconic site.

The Conquest of the Incas

best books about machu picchu, The Conquest of the Incas

The Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming is a classic history that skillfully blends scholarly insights into a captivating narrative of the Inca struggle against the Spanish invasion.

Starting on September 25, 1513, the book follows weary Spanish explorers as they cut through Panama’s forests and discover the Pacific Ocean. Over the next six years, they establish the town of Panama, marking the beginning of a vast expansion.

Hemming’s masterful account covers the journey from the first small group of Spanish adventurers entering the Inca heartland to the execution of the last Inca forty years later. It’s a tale of bloodshed, infamy, rebellion, and extermination, told in a compelling manner that makes historical events feel vivid and immediate.

The Inca: Lost Civilizations

The Inca: Lost Civilizations, best machu picchu book

The Inca: Lost Civilizations by Kevin Lane is an informative exploration of one of South America’s most advanced civilizations. Offering detailed historical accounts, the book provides readers with a perspective on the rise to power and eventual decline of this ancient culture due to Spanish conquest of the Inca over 500 years ago.

Lane does an excellent job vividly describing the people who controlled these lands, their advanced architecture, and crucial religious practices that maintained social order within their society until disrupted by external forces. The book covers topics such as how they adapted to changing environments, enabling them to become successful traders across what would later be known as Latin America.

Lane’s book is written in a way that’s easy to enjoy, even if you’re not familiar with Inca societies. By the way, it’s perfect for research purposes.

Best Adventure Books About Machu Picchu

In this category, we’re excited to share our top picks for adventure books about Machu Picchu. Keep reading to discover the exciting tales that await you on the routes to Machu Picchu. Immerse yourself in stories that will transport you to the heart of this ancient wonder, filled with exploration, mystery, and thrilling escapades.

best books about machu picchu

The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey

The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, best book about machu picchu

Made famous by the film of the same name, The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara is an entertaining read for anyone traveling to South America, Bolivia or Peru. While the diaries span Che’s home country of Argentina to Colombia in the north, the Peru section is particularly evocative and interesting. After visiting Cusco and the Sacred Valley and reading his beautiful impressions, you’ll realize that there are timeless aspects to this part of the world.

If you’re intrigued by Che Guevara’s revolutionary contributions, the Peru section of “The Motorcycle Diaries” is especially interesting. Coming from a relatively affluent background in Argentina, during his travels, he encounters indigenous people such as the Quechua and Aymara, discovering the harsh realities of their lives. His time in Peru reflects a shift in his thinking about the world.

“Of course, tourists traveling in their comfortable rail coaches could only glean the vaguest idea of the conditions in which the Indians live, from the fast glimpses they catch as they speed past our train, which has stopped to let them pass. The fact that it was the U.S. archaeologist Bingham who discovered the ruins and expounded his findings in easily accessible articles for the general public, means that Machu Picchu is by now very famous in that country to the north and the majority of North Americans visiting Peru come here. (In general they fly direct to Lima, tour Cuzco, visit the ruins and return straight home, not believing that anything else is worth seeing.”

— Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries

The Serpent, The Puma, and The Condor: A Tale of Machu Picchu

The Serpent, The Puma, and The Condor: A Tale of Machu Picchu, peru book about machu picchu

Gayle Marie’s The Serpent, The Puma, and The Condor is a captivating exploration of historical events. Marie’s adept storytelling, employing multiple perspectives, brings vibrancy to the narrative, especially in portraying the complexities of human nature during the Spanish invasion of Peru.

The interwoven characters showcase Marie’s meticulous approach, underscored by her thorough research in Peru. This novel is a succinct yet powerful journey through history, offering a formal yet immersive experience for readers. This is unquestionably one of the best fiction books about Machu Picchu and serves as a commendable testament to the author’s skill in seamlessly blending history and human stories.

Death in the Andes

Death in the Andes, peru book about machu picchu

In Mario Vargas Llosa’s 1993 novel, Death in the Andes, the Andean landscape becomes a stage for the clash between tradition and modernity. Captain Lituma and Tomasito, stationed in a remote mountain village, grapple with the mystery of three disappearances amid the backdrop of the enigmatic terrucos.

The Nobel Prize-winning author talks in his piece about old traditions and new ways, showing a place where ancient beliefs and modern life meet. With simple yet captivating words, Vargas Llosa tells a tale of mysteries, love, and strange happenings in the mountains. “Death in the Andes” is like a journey into a different world, where the present and past come together in a captivating way.

Best Books on Machu Picchu Culture & Art

In this carefully curated category, we invite you to explore the best books on Machu Picchu culture and art that delve into the cultural and artistic wonders surrounding the ancient citadel. These books are a gateway to understanding the profound heritage, artistic expressions, and cultural nuances that define one of the world’s most fascinating Inca sites and local culture.

Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands: Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories

Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands: Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories, book about machu picchu

One of our most highly recommended literature, Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is a must purchase for anyone who loves art or textiles. This beautifully illustrated book gives a wonderful insight into the importance of weaving in Peru. The author, Nilda Callanaupa, an indigenous woman from Chinchero, was critical in bringing the world’s attention to Cusco weavings, and she does it again with this great work.

It extensively documents many of the incredible traditional patterns that you see throughout Peru’s textiles, and shows how exquisite pieces of fabric are crafted on a simple loom – helping you appreciate the labor and love that goes into each piece!

Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center

Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center, book about machu picchu

In Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center, Johan Reinhard, a seasoned explorer and anthropologist, tackles the enduring mysteries of this iconic site. Through a blend of historical, cultural and ethnographical insights, Reinhard unveils Machu Picchu’s role as a cosmological and sacred hub.

The book stands out for its accessible style, providing a profound glimpse into the cultural and spiritual dimensions of Machu Picchu. Recommended for those intrigued by ancient mysteries, the author’s dedication adds depth to our understanding of this natural wonder.

Books to read that give context to your Peruvian adventure

The following two books are not about Peru, specifically but they are good reads and will open your eyes to teh significance

The Potato: How The Humble Spud Rescued The Western World

The Potato by Larry Zuckerman, best books about machu picchu

The Potato by Larry Zuckerman is a highly intriguing historical account detailing the potato’s history and its introduction to Europe after its discovery in the Andes! Can you believe that the potato was once considered throwaway food that no one wanted to eat? This piece does a marvelous and entertaining job of illustrating the evolution and importance of the potato.

However, the book doesn’t delve much into the history of the potato in the Andes Mountains. Instead, it focuses on the incredible impact it had in France, England, and Ireland. It’s astonishing to consider the profound effect a simple potato had – truly life-changing for many people and countries!

If you happen to visit any traditional communities in Peru, you are likely to be offered more than a few humble potatoes. Reading this book will undoubtedly give you a new appreciation for the humble spud!

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, And The Quest For The Color Of Desire

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, And The Quest For The Color Of Desire, best peru book

A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield is a fascinating and beautiful book about color, specifically exploring how the color red gained power and influenced present and past cultures, competing with other colors. From botanists to spies, industrialists to inventors, politics to revolutions, this book is a captivating read that keeps you turning pages.

In short, after the discovery of Cochineal by Spanish conquistadors in Mexico in 1519, it became one of Spain’s top colonial commodities. The Spanish crown not only benefited from the gold and silver of the Americas but also held a monopoly on the Cochineal bug, making them rich. Spain guarded the secrets of cochineal cultivation in Mexico fiercely. It was only after centuries of speculation (was the red powder derived from a plant or an animal?) that 18th-century microscopes revealed the secret of Cochineal red.

General novels about Peru

We get it; sometimes nonfiction work is just no fun when on holidays. That is why we have included a few novels about Peru. We believe they would be a good companion while on your Peru holiday.

Conversation in the Cathedral


While not centered on Machu Picchu, we highly recommend Conversion in the Cathedral by Mario Vargas Llosa for its insightful exploration of power and politics in 1950s Peru when General Manuel Odría was in charge. Written by the once-presidential hopeful, this book provides a fascinating fictional look into the country’s history. If you want to understand modern-day Peru before your trip, this book is a must-read.

In “The Cathedral,” Santiago Zavala, a young journalist, meets Ambrosio Pardo, his father’s former chauffeur, in a rundown bar in Lima. They chat about old times. Santiago is distant from his family, not liking their rich values, his father’s shady business, and right-wing politics. On the other hand, Ambrosio respects Don Fermin, Santiago’s father, and served him well.

The book is told from Santiago and Ambrosio’s viewpoints. Please be warned that this book is long (about 600 pages)! The first few chapters are rather difficult to get through due to disturbing events, but if you stick it out you will be well rewarded.

Celestine Prophecy

Once on many bestseller lists, the Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield is bound to be a slightly controversial inclusion in this list!

If you are interested in viewing your life and the world differently, then the Celestine Prophecy might give you a wonderful revelation. The writing in this book is terrible. The description of locations in Peru is completely inaccurate. However, try to let go of the bad writing and instead discover the gems and insights offered.

Yes, it’s a “new age”, batty book. However, it does get you thinking about your personal energies and what coincidence is and what is not. And more.

Top Books on Machu Picchu for Children

In this section, we’ve carefully selected engaging and educational reads that promise to transport both you and your little ones into this fascinating world of Peru. Discover the top books on Machu Picchu with captivating stories, vibrant illustrations, and adventures that will ignite the curiosity and imagination of young minds.

best books about machu picchu for children, a kid reading a peru book

Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu: Folk Tales and Stories of Inca Life

Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu: Folk Tales and Stories of Inca Life by Elizabeth Conrad VanBuskirk is a mesmerizing anthology that weaves together tales of Inca life with captivating illustrations. Authored by someone deeply immersed in local culture, the book is a testament to years of experience and a genuine love for the traditions it explores.

Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu: Folk Tales and Stories of Inca Life, book about machu picchu

This anthology transcends age, making it suitable for both children and adults. The tales, both in their telling and illustration, transport readers to the heart of Inca life. The beauty of the prose creates a vivid tapestry that allows readers to appreciate the traditions, art, and intricate weavings that defined this ancient culture.

Reading this piece of literature feels like stepping back in time. It is a treasure trove of stories that resonates with the magic of a bygone era, a delightful addition to any reader’s collection, whether for young readers or those captivated by the allure of this ancient wonder.

Lost City: Discovery of Machu Picchu

Lost City: Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin is a visual masterpiece that breathes life into the historical expedition of Hiram Bingham III to Machu Picchu. Lewin’s skillful use of vibrant watercolor illustrations transports readers on a vivid journey, capturing the essence of Bingham’s exploration from the ancient city of Cusco to the breathtaking discovery of Machu Picchu.

What sets this picture book apart is its narrative richness. Lewin artfully weaves in key characters from Bingham’s 1911 expedition, infusing the story with a dreamlike quality that enhances its enchanting appeal. This inclusion not only adds depth to the historical account but also makes the adventure accessible and relatable for readers of all ages.

Adventure in Machu Picchu: An exciting time travel picture book for children

Adventure in Machu Picchu: An exciting time travel picture book for children, best machu picchu book

Adventure in Machu Picchu by Mildzy Mujica invites young readers on an exhilarating time-travel journey. Kianna, the spirited protagonist, races against time to save the city from an impending earthquake by finding the sacred animals of the Incas—the condor, the puma, and the snake.

This lively adventure cleverly blends excitement with education, making it an ideal birthday gift for little adventurers. With its easy-to-read style and captivating illustrations, this book offers a delightful and educational experience for kids aged 3-9. It’s a perfect addition to any child’s collection, providing both entertainment and insights into Inca culture. 

For more comprehensive list Peru Childrens Books 

Machu Picchu Travel Books & Field Guides

Get ready for an epic adventure in Peru with our handpicked travel book selection! These reads aren’t just packed with facts – they’re your lively and enjoyable companions for that first unforgettable trip to Peru. So, dive in and let the anticipation of your journey mix with the excitement these books have to offer!

Moon Machu Picchu: With Lima, Cusco & the Inca Trail (Travel Guide)

Moon Machu Picchu: With Lima, Cusco & the Inca Trail (Travel Guide), best peru book

Moon Machu Picchu: With Lima, Cusco & the Inca Trail is an excellent guide for exploring Peru’s history and culture, and for planning an adventure. Focused on Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Lima, this book features colorful photos, maps, and strategic trekking guides for the Inca Trail.

Perfect for hikers, it provides diverse itineraries to reach the ruins, advice on activities at Machu Picchu, and helpful trail maps for easy navigation. “Moon Machu Picchu” is a valuable companion for anyone journeying to this iconic destination, offering practical insights and essential planning resources. It’s a wise investment for a well-prepared and unforgettable experience.

Peru – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Peru - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture, best book about machu picchu

If you read any books before traveling, let it be this. The Peru – Culture Smart!: Essential Guide to Customs & Culture is a good, strong, in-depth Machu Picchu guidebook to all things Peru.

You will learn about the traditions and values of the residents of Peru. The guide also explains communication, food, along with do’s and don’ts so that you can avoid any awkward experiences when visiting for the first time!

It’s always difficult to travel from one country to another, especially if you haven’t been there before. This Machu Picchu travel book will help you know what to expect and understand the things that you may see – it’s a great tool to prepare you for your trip!

Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour

Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour, best machu picchu book

Alfredo Valencia Zegarra’s Machu Picchu Guidebook is your key to unlocking the wonders of this ancient site. Crafted for self-guided exploration, it provides step-by-step insights with a detailed foldout map.

Perfect for pre-trip reading, the guide book breaks down Machu Picchu into easily digestible sections, offering essential perspectives that enhance the visitor’s comprehension. Some chapters on Huayna Picchu and the birds of Machu Picchu expand the guide’s scope, offering insights into both cultural and natural aspects.

In essence, this book is a must-read, ensuring travelers approach Machu Picchu with enriched knowledge and a deeper connection to its wonders.

Exploring Peru’s Literary Marvels: Beyond Machu Picchu

As we wrap up our journey through the best books about Machu Picchu, we hope these literary gems have ignited a newfound curiosity about this captivating destination. Whether Peru was already etched at the zenith of your travel aspirations or just found its place, these titles have undoubtedly cast a spell on the allure of Machu Picchu and the broader Peruvian heritage.

aguas calientes hotels, typical view of machu picchu site

Peru’s literary landscape is expansive, and there’s a trove of authors and books awaiting your discovery. This blog post serves as a mere prologue to the literary wonders that reveal the spirit of Peru and the history of the Inca. So, whether you’re an armchair voyager, or a seasoned globe-trotter who wants to visit Machu Picchu and hike the Inca Trail, let the pages of these books continue guiding you through the mysteries and beauty of Peru’s past and present. The adventure persists—don’t close this chapter; turn the page and delve into more of Peru’s literary treasures!

If you’re seeking additional inspiration for your trip to Peru, feel free to leave us a message or explore our comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know about Machu Picchu. Don’t forget to peruse our other blog posts featuring 25 of the best hikes in Peru, such as the Choquequirao trek, and dive into our article highlighting seven amazing hikes at Machu Picchu.


Leave a Reply


Hiking in Peru

machu Pichu
The Best Machu Picchu Backpack: Everything You Need to Know
15 July, 2024
The Ultimate Machu Picchu Packing List [2024]
1 April, 2024
person enjoying views of inca site, private inca trail tour
Inca Trail Private tours to Machu Picchu: 4-Day Trek Expert Guide
15 February, 2024

Peru Trip Planning

machu Pichu
The Best Machu Picchu Backpack: Everything You Need to Know
15 July, 2024
CA Private Cusco
13 Best Hotels in Cusco for All Budgets
30 June, 2024
Best Collapsible Hiking Poles for Peru and Worldwide 2024
21 April, 2024

What our clients are saying about us


Proceed Booking