5 Books To Read Before Going To Cusco
Cusco is a city filled with interesting culture, intriguing stories and history. These aspects, among others, make Cusco such a popular tourist destination. However, some of these stories and history can’t be seen in a glance of an eye. With more knowledge, it is easier to see the hidden history and secret stories of Cusco. A great way to gain this knowledge is to read books that have taken place in the old Inca capital or Peru in general. So, get your basic travel guides out of the way and pick up some novels! This list contains some must-reads to pick up before or during your travels to Peru.
Lost City of the Incas
A visit to Peru isn’t complete without a trip to the old Inca Citadel Machu Picchu. This site is considered as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World for good reasons. The location of the Lost City of the Incas is stunning and its history is even more mysterious. It is easy to imagine that Machu Picchu was built by an exotic culture that is from out of this world.
Nowadays we know better, and we know that the Incas built the city high up in the mountains. However, how would the first foreigner that discovered Machu Picchu have felt when he stumbled upon the Lost City of the Incas? Fortunately, we can read this in the travel log of Hiram Bingham, the American that (re)discovered Machu Picchu.
Many people say that Hiram Bingham is the closest that one can ever come to the famous movie character Indiana Jones. There is a real sense of adventure in the stories he has written during his time in Peru. In addition, his log creates a realistic image of the various ancient Inca traditions as well, which helps to get a better understanding of Cusco as well.
Bingham’s book was written in the ‘50s, and some things written down have been debunked since the release of the book. Nevertheless, it is still a good read to prepare for your trip to Peru.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time
This book was written more recently and thus contains more real Machu Picchu facts. To write this book, the author Mark Adams followed the footsteps of Hiram Bingham. The image that Adams creates tells a lot about the status quo in Peru.
One can truly get the sense that this book has been written by a journalist, as he prioritises facts and his goal is to teach the readers. Contrary, the funny passages in the book make sure that this is not a hard pill to swallow. The readers get engaged with Adams, and due to his clear description the readers can taste the coca leaves, feel the sun and smell the eucalyptus as if they are in Peru themselves.
Another strong point about this book is that it describes the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in a fun and factual way. It does not only cover the city of Machu Picchu, but it takes readers along the most famous trail of South America. Many people want to visit Machu Picchu in their lives, but we can guarantee you that after reading this book you want to hike the Inca Trail.
Death in the Andes
The books that are mentioned previously were all written by foreign writers. Death in the Andes is written by the famous Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. Additionally, this book is set in the Peruvian Andes where the city of Cusco is located too.
However, this book doesn’t take place in Cusco itself, but in a small, remote mountain community. In this village, there is a mysterious case with disappearing bodies, and no one is certain who is responsible for these murders. Did these people get kidnapped by the guerilla fighters of the ‘Shining Path’, or are other people at large?
This detective lets you meet intriguing and unforgettable characters along the way. Because of this, Llosa illustrates the Peruvian life as it is nowadays and it offers readers with a panoramic view of Peruvian society, both of the past and present.
The Motorcycle Diaries
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara might be one of the most famous men if Latin America. We mainly know him as a revolutionary that played a big role establishing the regime of Fidel Castro in Castro. But but in his early life, he was a doctor with the dream to discover the continent. He followed his dream and thus planned to travel from Argentina to Colombia by motorcycle. During his travels, he also passed Cusco, and it is fun to read the thoughts of such a famous person about Cusco.
The images that Che Guevara describes are lively and creates a good picture about life on the South American continent and, especially the life of the indigenous people. Che Guevara himself sees three sides of Cusco: the one of the suppressed indigenous people, one of the courageous Spaniards that ‘discovered’ South America and the one of the submissive conquered.
The Last Days of the Incas
This may be the best history book ever written about the Incas. The Last Days of the Incas draws a clear image of the life of the Incas and is filled with various facts. Nevertheless, the book reads like a novel and doesn’t get long-winded at all.
The Last Days of the Incas describes the conquest of Pizarro and his 167 soldiers. The Inca empire just had its golden age in the 15th and 16th century when people came from overseas without good intentions. The Spaniards stumbled upon this highly developed empire and were seeking for a way to exploit it. The conquest is described with vivid images. Reading this book is like watching a movie about the same subject.
However, the strongest point of this book might be that it raises a lot of questions. How would the world have been if the Spanish never conquered the Inca empire? How would the Incas have developed themselves in the future? How was it possible that the Incas had such an advanced view on astrology? Things like these make Peru a mysterious country and definitely worth visiting.
(Thanks to Goan Booij)