A complete review of a book that gives the reader all the information required for a successful self-guided tour in Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru

Machu Picchu Guidebook cover (book review)

My friends at Big Earth Publishing were kind enough to send me a free copy of The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour Revised Edition by authors Ruth M. Wright and Dr. Alfredo Valencia Zegarra (ISBN: 1555663273). With 192 pages, full of illustrations and pictures, both in black and white and in color, one of the first things that I notice was its size, 8 inches long and 5.5 inches wide, I realized its primary function was not to be displayed in a bookcase, but to be carry on, along medicines and water, through each building and trail in Machu Picchu.

I had a small concern before asking the publisher for this book. Even though it is highly rated (4.5 out of 5) in Amazon by the readers, I wasn’t completely sure about its information being up-to-date. You see, the revised edition was published on 2004. But I thought about their subject for a minute, Machu Picchu, a guide to Machu Picchu… When was the last time Machu Picchu actually changed? 1527? 1532? Anyway, you get the idea. I was glad not to be disappointed because the book shows features and trails that are as true now as it was back in 2004.

Machu Picchu Guidebook (book review)

The authors experience in the subject, Machu Picchu, rapidly shows. Ruth M Wright and Alfredo Valencia Zegarra had team up before, along Kenneth R Wright and Gordon McEwan, to write Machu Picchu: A Civil Engineering Marvel in 2000.The chapters’ arrangement and its contents are layout superbly. Very easy to follow and jump from chapter to chapter if your path around Machu Picchu suddenly changes. Technical jargon is kept at the very minimum, instead buildings, doors, walls and temples are explained with a mixture of historical data and observation notes. Special attention is given to narrate this book as a continuous walk around Machu Picchu, providing notes to the hikers of where to turn or where to look for the hidden gems of the Inca city.

Machu Picchu Guidebook Revised Edition Table of Contents:

– The Guardhouse and the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock

The Western Urban Sector
– The Main Gate and Conjunto 1
– The Temple of the Sun, the Royal Mausoleum, and Conjunto 2
– The Royal Residence (Conjunto 3)
– The Rock Quarry
– The Sacred Plaza (Conjunto 4)
– The Intiwatana (Conjunto 5)

The Eastern Urban Sector
– The Sacred Rock (Conjunto 6), the Unfinished Temple, and the Petroglyph (Peripheral Area C)
– Conjuntos 7 and 8 and the Unfinished Wall
– The Three Doorways (Conjunto 9) and the Artisans’ Wall
– Group of the Mortars (Conjuntos 14, 15, and 16)
– Conjuntos 10 and 11
– Conjunto 12
– Conjunto 13 and Intimachay
– The Temple of the Condor (Conjunto 17) and Conjunto 18

Various Sights on the Way Out
– The Mummies
– Inca Water Management
– Recently discovered Inca Trail Down to the Urubamba River

Side Trips
– Inca Drawbridge
– Intipunku (Gate of the Sun)
– Huayna Picchu, including Uña Picchu and Alternate Trail to the Temple of the Moon
– Temple of the Moon
– Machu Picchu Mountain
– Wiñay Wayna

– The Birds of Machu Picchu
– Included at the end of the book is a Machu Picchu foldout map.

There are lots of chapters with not very descriptive names, but grouping the chapters mirroring the “conjuntos” or grouping of buildings makes walking through Machu Picchu much easier to follow. Remember the Inca ruins were not serving only one purpose like a zoo or museum or bus terminal but were a majestic city build on top of mountains.

Machu Picchu Guidebook illustrations (book review)

Each chapter contains illustrations of the “conjunto” showing all buildings and features in Machu Picchu. Walking clues are provided to help you maneuver through the buildings and to point particular architectural details sometimes missed when rushed through the tours. The narration includes historical data as well as possible usages and significance, for example, in chapter “Group of Mortars” (page 72) I was told to notice a doorway made wider by the Inca. Yes, the detail given on this book is amazing. Descriptions are concise and well written with no wasted words. The authors do a good job explaining the construction details and historical use of each feature, houses, temples, pyramids and waterways.

The abundant black and white photos nicely help the reader make a “mental picture” of each section. With the photos I was able to make a list of “must see” artifacts, like the Intiwatana (page 52, 54, 55 and 56) and the Two Mortars (page 74). There are also 2 sections of color pictures, adding more than 45 photos and illustrations of Machu Picchu. A separate mention is the 4-page color foldout Archeological Map of Machu Picchu at the end of the book depicting each shrine, temple, observatory, the tourist route, walls, stairs, fountain, room numbers, agricultural areas, canals and drainage information. In the back, sharing 3 of the pages is a rendition of Machu Picchu by artist Robert Guisti.

An exceptional chapter is dedicated to Huayna Picchu (the mountain show in the background on every Machu Picchu photo). Includes detailed instructions like when and until what time you can sign in to participate on the tour and what trails to follow up the mountain. An archeological map of Huayna Picchu that shows staircases, terraces and location of the summit and an alternate trail to the Temple of the Moon is also included in this chapter.

Final Thoughts: I was really impressed by the completeness of this book. The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour Revised Edition delivers on its promise to be just that, a self guided tour to the majestic city allowing the tourist or visitor to navigate the ruins with expertise and without missing anything. If you are traveling to Machu Picchu make yourself a favor an order Machu Picchu Guidebook, you can get it at Amazon for less than 15 dollars.

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