Best Books to Read Before a Peru Trip

Peru is my favorite country in South America, & at this point, I’ve read several books about Peru, the Incas, & the Spanish Conquest ~ books that combine history with modern-day adventures to hidden ruins (one of which even inspired the Indiana Jones character)!  Reading these books not only made my time in Peru much more fascinating ~ but it helps keep Peru in my mind, long after returning home.  So whether you’re headed to Machu Picchu, Cusco, or anywhere in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, here’s my list of the top three “Best Books to Read Before a Peru Trip!” 

Best Books to Read Before a Peru Trip, Girl Who Travels the World

These are my three top picks for great reading about Peru! Learn who the modern-day model was for Indiana Jones…

Best Books to Read Before a Peru Trip

Reading any of these books will make your Peru travels sooo much more enjoyable, as you walk through the living history of Incan ruins ~ whether in Pisac, Sacsayhuaman, or at the mother of all Inca sites: Machu Picchu.  They’re listed in order, with the easiest (& shortest) read first

1. Turn Right at Machu Picchu, by Mark Adams

I love this book…& it even had me laughing out loud in spots (like when the author accidentally pooped on the trail instead of in the bushes)!  Of the three books, I found this the easiest read, with short chapters that really keep it moving.  Adams goes back-and-forth in time between legendary explorer Hiram Bingham’s journey, & his own in present-day ~ with his rather gruff, Indiana Jones-like guide.  Because Adams isn’t in the best shape, & isn’t exactly what you’d call an “outdoors-man,” this makes for pretty funny stuff. 

If you like a fast, funny read: this is the Machu Picchu book for you. 

Perfect For: Armchair travelers who may (or may not) ever make it to Peru…who like to laugh!

Best Books to Read Before a Peru Trip, Girl Who Travels the World

If your travels take you to Machu Picchu: Adams’ book is a hilarious must-read.

2. The White Rock, by Hugh Thompson

This is my favorite book on this list ~ perhaps because I read it while in Peru, which made it more relevant.  Thompson takes off on an expedition into the Peruvian Andes, in search of answers about the mysteries surrounding Machu Picchu.  During the process, he & his team discover an ancient ruin called Llactapata, almost directly across from Machu Picchu: which had been hidden under jungle overgrowth for decades.  This is a fascinating book, with lots of well-placed insights about expeditions & Inca history, set against the backdrop of modern-day Peruvian mystery. 

Highly recommended!  

Perfect For: Well-traveled, Indiana-Jones types who love a good mystery-adventure story. (This is the book I made the most notes in, & the first I’d re-read!)

3. The Last Days of the Incas, by Kim MacQuarrie

This is the longest book of the three, & most dense, in terms of historical information.  But MacQuarrie’s effortless writing style really brings you into the action; certain facts that had escaped me while reading the other two books suddenly became crystal clear.  For example, can you guess how many Spaniards first arrived on the coast of Peru, & what the odds were against them?  Spaniards: 168.  Incas: 10 MILLION!!!?  The fact that the Spaniards ended up winning this battle is still, in some ways, inconceivable ~ & yet this book gives you the best insight as to HOW that actually happened. 

Perfect For: True history lovers who love a well-penned, immaculately-researched read.

Best Books to Read Before a Peru Trip

 I’ve visited Peru three times now, & Machu Picchu twice…& I enjoy it more each time I visit.  The article below details my special love for Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu….with many photos of this special place.

xoxo Noelia 

Read Next: Why Cusco is One of My Favorite Cities in the World