The best books about Machu Picchu

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Machu Picchu and why they recommend each book.

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Lost City of the Incas

By Hiram Bingham,

Book cover of Lost City of the Incas

The story of the "discovery" of the now-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu by an obscure Yale professor in 1911. During his first exploring expedition in the jungles of Peru in 1909, the author learned of the final redoubt into which the Incas fled after the arrival of the Spaniards. Called "Vilcabamba," the city had since become lost in the rain forests of the eastern Andes and Bingham was determined to find it. He did but stumbled upon the much finer Machu Picchu, a world-class architectural wonder, in the process.


Who am I?

Vincent Lee is a professional architect and former Alpine climbing guide and instructor, US Marine Corps officer, Andean explorer, and author. Searching in the high Andes of Peru and the rain forests of the Upper Amazon for the remains of the long-lost final redoubt of the once-powerful Inca Empire not only appealed to his life-long interest in all of these disparate fields, but it called upon his many years of experience in each: wilderness trekking, mountain warfare, mapping and drawing the remains of the more than 500 ancient structures discovered.


I wrote...

Forgotten Vilcabamba: Final Stronghold of the Incas

By Vincent R. Lee,

Book cover of Forgotten Vilcabamba: Final Stronghold of the Incas

What is my book about?

A modern-day scientific adventure story set against a fascinating historical backdrop, Forgotten Vilcabamba is an important addition to the annals of archaeological exploration in the high Andes of Peru by an architect/explorer who set out to find and record the ruins of lost Vilcabamba, the once-powerful Inca Empire's mysterious redoubt in the jungles of the Upper Amazon.

Cloud Road

By John Harrison,

Book cover of Cloud Road: A Journey Through the Inca Heartland

Like the Stevenson book, this is also about travelling with a donkey, but what makes this narrative special is the author’s hatred of his pack animal. This will sound instantly off-putting but John’s descriptions of Dapple’s transgressions are very, very funny and his fury is never translated into violence towards the animal. There are lyrical descriptions of the landscape in northern Peru, but it is for the humour that I return to this book from time to time. I’m a sucker for any book about Peru, the subject of my early adventures and very first guidebook, and this is one of the most enjoyable


Who am I?

Until I did my own animal-accompanied journey with Mollie and Peggy in 1984, my only association with animals on the trail was inadvertently with a collection of cockroaches in my backpack. It was when Bradt decided to add to their anthologies with a collection of stories about travelling with animals in 2018, Beastly Journeys, that I was able to read a wide variety of books on the topic. A delightful exercise!


I wrote...

A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

By Hilary Bradt,

Book cover of A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

What is my book about?

In 1984 I fulfilled a childhood ambition to do a long-distance ride. I chose the west of Ireland for this adventure, and equipped myself to be completely independent without any backup support. Set against the history, legends, landscape, and above all, the people of a now-vanished Ireland, this is a story of joy and tragedy, and particularly of the bond with my two Connemara ponies, Mollie and Peggy.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu

By Mark Adams,

Book cover of Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

This is a fun, evocative account of the author retracing the steps of Hiram Bingham, the “discoverer” of the Inca citadel, Machu Picchu, published 100 years after its discovery. It’s also about the cast of characters that the author meets along the way. If you’ve ever wanted to take a long trek in the Andes in extremely rugged terrain, stumbling across Inca ruins all along the way--then this is the book for you.


Who am I?

I lived in Peru for five years, working as a writer, filmmaker, and anthropologist. For part of that time, I lived with a recently-contacted tribe in the Upper Amazon, visited Maoist Shining Path “liberated zones” and later made a number of documentaries on the Amazon as well as have written a number of books, most of which are on some aspect of Peru. Peru remains one of the most fascinating countries on Earth--a kind of dense amalgamation of ancient civilizations, archaeology, immense biodiversity, incredible beauty, and lots and lots of adventure. Although there’s no substitute for visiting Peru yourself--reading about it is a great way to begin your adventure!


I wrote...

The Last Days of the Incas

By Kim MacQuarrie,

Book cover of The Last Days of the Incas

What is my book about?

The Last Days of the Incas tells the epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of the Incas’ bloody civil war. It also tells the story of the Incas’ 36-year-long rebellion after the conquest, during which they relocated their capital from the Andes to a hidden place in the Amazon jungle, learning to fight the Spaniards on horseback and nearly succeeding in pushing them back into the sea from whence they came.

The book also relates the more recent discovery by the American explorer Hiram Bingham of Machu Picchu, which he stumbled upon while searching for The Incas’ lost guerrilla capital, hidden in the upper reaches of the Amazon.

The Last Days of the Incas

By Kim MacQuarrie,

Book cover of The Last Days of the Incas

If you don’t know the story of the Spanish conquest of the Incas, read this book. For me, it is as good as Game of Thrones—except this is no fantasy. The events are real, the history meticulously researched. MacQuarrie’s narrative style is sweeping and engaging, giving readers a ground-level view of the dramatic final days of the Inca empire. Palace drama. Epic battles. Heroic resistance. How can you refuse?


Who am I?

I am a professor of Latin American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My teaching and research focus on Andean history, and I have written several books on the period of political violence that pitted guerrillas of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) against Peruvian security forces and peasant militias during the 1980s and 1990s. I have been researching in Peru for twenty years, from Lima’s shantytowns, to the Andes mountains, to the Amazon jungle. A Peruvian-American, I maintain strong family ties to the region and am a proud, yet frequently heartbroken, supporter of the national soccer team.


I wrote...

With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

By Miguel La Serna,

Book cover of With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

What is my book about?

My gripping history of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) provides vital insight into both the history of modern Peru and the link between political violence and the culture of communications in Latin America. Smaller than the well-known Shining Path but just as remarkable, the MRTA emerged in the early 1980s at the beginning of a long and bloody civil war. Taking a close look at the daily experiences of women and men who fought on both sides of the conflict, this fast-paced narrative explores the intricacies of armed action from the ground up.

In this sense, the history of the MRTA is the story of the euphoric draw of armed action and the devastating consequences that result when a political movement succumbs to the whims of its most militant followers.

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