At a time when the ability to travel is somewhat restricted, reading can be one of the greatest salvations – and a much welcome virtual escape from the couch! In the non-travel times, post big adventure or during the planning for the next one, far-flung adventures can only be achieved in our fantasies. So whether you’re an avid bibliophile or a sporadic reader, there has been no better time to kick back with some of the best travel books of all time.
To help you out, we’ve compiled over 40 great travel books especially for you. From much-loved travel classics to coffee table non-fiction, memoirs and novels, and destination-specific books to transport you around the world – here’s our run-down of the very best travel books to get lost in right now.
Disclaimer: Almost all posts on this site contain Affiliate links, and this one about The Best Travel Books to Inspire Wanderlust is no different. This means that if you click on any of the links in this post (and make a purchase) I may receive a small commission at absolutely no cost to you. Each post is carefully crafted to (hopefully!) answer all your questions and recommendations are made where we believe they will improve your trip and help with your planning. As such we thank you in advance should you decide to click & buy. Read my full Disclosure here.
In This Post
- 1 Best Travel Books: Travel Classics
- 2 Best Travel Books: Coffee Table Books and Non-Fiction
- 3 Best Travel Books: Biographies & Memoir Novels
- 3.1 Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- 3.2 Walking the Nile by Levison Wood
- 3.3 The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
- 3.4 Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
- 3.5 The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner
- 3.6 The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron
- 3.7 The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
- 3.8 In a Sunburned Country / Down Under by Bill Bryson
- 3.9 Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy
- 3.10 Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
- 3.11 Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
- 3.12 Holy Cow: An India Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
- 3.13 Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step At A Time by Mark Adams
- 4 Best Travel Books for Wanderlust-Worthy Escapism
- 5 Best Travel Books To Transport You to Far-Off Lands
- 5.1 RWANDA: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
- 5.2 PERU: Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa
- 5.3 MOROCCO: The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah
- 5.4 AFRICA: Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Theroux
- 5.5 CAMBODIA: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
- 5.6 USA: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
- 5.7 ITALY: The Name of The Rose by Umberto Eco
- 5.8 LEBANON: The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine
- 5.9 IRAN: Land of the Turquoise Mountains by Cyrus Massoudi
- 5.10 CONGO: The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett
- 5.11 BOLIVIA: Marching Powder by Rusty Young
- 5.12 CUBA: The Old Man & The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Best Travel Books: Travel Classics
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a spiritual and heart-warming story, has become a classic modern-day fable about following your dreams and listening to the heard. Following the life of a young shepherd from Andalucia, the plot unveils the beautiful characters he meets on his travels. With themes of serendipity and folklore, The Alchemist has the power to inspire your next adventure. His other books such as The Pilgrimage and Eleven Minutes are also worth a read.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
A much-loved story about the ultimate relocation. Peter Mayle’s revered memoir novel strips back the romantic notions of moving abroad. After buying an old farmhouse in the Lubéron Valley, Peter and his wife embarked on a journey which sees them adopt a new way of life, enjoying the food, the quirks and eccentricities of rural Provence.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Made popular by the 2012 release of the film of the same title, Jack Kerouac’s classic is definitely worth a read. Following the journey of Sal, who ventures back and forth across the United States, the plot unveils his coming of age experience with hedonistic debauchery, musical awakening and the discovery of personal freedom.
The book which has become known as a trailblazer of the Beat Generation depicts a wonderful portrayal of 1950s underground America.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
It’s difficult to pick just one book by the legendary travel writer, Bill Bryson, but this is one of his earlier works and is a much-loved classic. Bill embarks on the epic Appalachian trail which spans the eastern coast of the USA with his friend Stephen at the age of forty-four.
They encounter interesting characters and critters along the way, making it a highly entertaining read and also a major film starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and, Emma Thompson.
Venice by Jan Morris
Written in 1960, Venice is a young man’s vision and interpretation of the famous city following his visit as James during World War Two, and later as Jan when she was a roving reporter and foreign correspondent. Detailing the city’s interesting past, quirky characters and, stunning architecture.
It’s a testament to the beauty of the writing and the enduring descriptions of the multilayered city that despite multiple republications it has not been revised.
Beautiful Fact: As a transgender pioneer, Jan accomplished much and following her death in 2020 at the age of 94, her ashes were scattered over a slate gravestone which states: “Here lie two friends, at the end of one life“.
Best Travel Books: Coffee Table Books and Non-Fiction
While we can only dream of these at present, the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022 showcases some of the most sought-after experiences and destinations of this year. Covering some of the best value, most unforgettable and Instagramable countries, destinations and cities, this beautiful hardback is a great accompaniment for a sunny afternoon of wanderlust-worthy reading.
Co-written by the famous hiking extraordinaire, Julia Bradbury, this book will quickly become the avid hiker’s bible. From the epic mountain hike of The Pitons in St Lucia to long-distance pilgrimages like The Camino de Santiago and UK coastal walks, the book is a compilation of stunning short walks, mountain hikes and long-distance adventures – the perfect book for walkers and hikers of all levels and those planning for their next big adventure – near or far.
Perfect for the money-wise traveler, this book is a great one to flick through simply for inspiration and ideas or as a pocket-sized accompaniment on your backpacking adventures. Revealing the saving money and cheap hotel tips and tricks of long-time budget traveler – Nomadic Matt Kepnes, this book divulges the secret to comfortable travel on a budget – without sacrificing some of our favorite home comforts along the way.
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
The Art of Travel is a philosophical look at the activity of traveling ‘for pleasure.’ It includes thoughts on airports, landscapes, museums, holiday romances, photographs, exotic carpets and even the contents of hotel mini-bars. The book mixes personal thought with insights drawn from some of the great figures of the past, and dares to ask the question – ‘what is the point of travel?!’
1000 Places To See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz
Originally published in 2003 (but revised a few times now), 1000 Places to See Before You Die is the perfect book to flip through if you just can’t decide where to go or need a little inspiration for your bucket list.
Or if you have already traveled a fair bit – it is great to have on hand to remind yourself of your adventures, or if you want to, quickly show people where you’ve been.
Best Travel Books: Biographies & Memoir Novels
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Also featured in our 40 of the BEST Travel Movies to Inspire Wanderlust, the original book by writer Cheryl Strayed is worth reading first. Following the troubled life of a recent divorcee, the story starts as Cheryl begins an epic solo journey, setting out to hike 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail that flanks the west coast of the USA.
Starting from the Mojave Desert, she ventures through California and Oregon, and into Washington state as she reaches the lesser trodden corners of her memory, reaching redemption and forgiveness along the way. It’s a life-affirming book with a theme of the healing powers of hiking.
Walking the Nile by Levison Wood
Adventurer and heartthrob Levison Wood put pen to paper to document his journey from the source of the great Nile to where it meets the sea. Following vicariously in his footsteps and the great river’s current- the reader is transported through 7 different countries, challenging terrain and several encounters with dangerous animals on this 4,250-mile heroic journey. This one is highly recommended. A truly humbling and enriching story of real adventure.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
A must-read for anyone who loves the West Country (and not just according to author!). After an unprecedented, almost unbelievable spate of misfortune, Welsh couple Raynor and Moth decide to embark on a 630-mile trek following the UK’s coast path from Somerset to Dorset. (It is a great account of real-life couples travel – and everything that goes with it – too!)
This is a heart-wrenching but life-affirming true story which highlights the restorative powers of walking, the importance of unwavering hope in the face of adversity and the incredible magnitude of human resilience.
Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
The entertaining and popular travelogue of the writer Kate Harris is well worth a read. Setting off on two wheels to follow the iconic Silk Road from East to West, the story pursues Kate and her cycling buddy Mel on this epic journey. Picking up awards including the Banff Adventure Travel Award and a Nautilus Award, this one is set to be a well-established classic.
A fascinating tale of psychology, geopolitics, science, travel and humor, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader across the globe to investigate not what happiness is, but WHERE it is – asking questions about whether their geographic position and therefore lifestyles and political bias intrinsically affect their happiness levels.
The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron
In 1933 and 1934 Robert Byron spent ten months traveling around Persia and Afghanistan. The Road to Oxiana is his account of that trip. Taking the form of a diary, it weaves descriptions of people and places and the mechanics of travel together with architectural and historical digressions.
First published in 1937, it is considered by many to be the first example of great travel writing and the start of travel literature.
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
Published in 1869, The Innocents Abroad chronicles what Twain called his “Great Pleasure Excursion” on board the chartered vessel Quaker City through Europe, Egypt, the Middle East & the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867.
For Twain, the trip turns out to be a microscopic study into the nature of human beings, his remarks on which are both insightful and humorous.
In a Sunburned Country / Down Under by Bill Bryson
From one of the best writers to ever tell travel tales, In A Sunburned Country (sold under the title of ‘Down Under – Travels in a Sunburned Country‘ in the UK) is the Australia travelogue written by Bill Bryson in the year 2000. A funny, fact-filled adventure that will have you looking at Australia in a whole new way – even if you live in the country yourself!
Read about his encounters with the friendliest locals, the hottest, driest weather and some of the most deadly native wildlife in the world.
Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy
Can you imagine hopping on a bicycle in Ireland and riding all the way to India – as a solo female traveler – back in 1963?! Well, that is exactly the adventure that Dervla Murphy takes you on in her highly individual account of what the journey was like.
Published in 1965 and based on her daily diary, one of the trailblazing women of the time travels across frozen Europe, through Persia and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan, and into India in what was considered one of the worst winters in human memory. It’ll be the ride of your literary life!
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work published by George Orwell in 1933. A memoir in two parts, focusing on the poverty in the two cities, Orwell’s intention was to educate the upper and middle class about the lives and plight of those who were destitute.
The writing was inspired in part by the experience George himself had after money was stolen from his lodging in Paris, leading him to spend his final 10 weeks tramping and taking on casual work. On returning to England he went straight home to his parents but went on more tramping adventures for the London portion of his book.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Holy Cow: An India Adventure by Sarah Macdonald
But in a circular fashion, over 10 years after her first visit, she returns and again toils with the religious and spiritual offerings of India as she experiences the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, visits the Our Lady of Health Basilica at Velangani in Tamil Nadu, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, resides at Mata Amritanandamayi’s Ashram in Kerala (and many more) in an attempt to search for her soul, save her love life and find some sanity.
An adventure travel writer and editor who has never actually been on an adventure decided to recreate the original Machu Pichu expedition – can you imagine the stories that would result? Well, no need to. Turn Right at Machu Picchu does that and more.
Best Travel Books for Wanderlust-Worthy Escapism
Finding Henry Applebee by Celia Reynolds
This is a heart-warming tale of an elderly man who boards a train from London to Edinburgh on a quest to find an old love. Depicting an unlikely friendship, between two people from different generations and different worlds, this sweet story is the perfect tonic for quarantine gloominess.
Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche
Love can make a person do crazy things. A city girl with a morbid fear of deep water, Torre DeRoche is not someone you would ordinarily find adrift in the middle of the stormy Pacific aboard a leaky sailboat – total crew of two – struggling to keep an old boat, a new relationship and her floundering sanity afloat.
The Summer House in Santorini by Samantha Parks
The perfect read for anyone dreaming the Greek Isles- The Summer House in Santorini features in Amazon’s Best Seller List and has scooped some rave reviews. The ideal escapism, the book tells the tale of Anna who inherits a slightly ramshackle abode on the island of Santorini. Rebuilding the house and a new life for herself, Anna uncovers intriguing family secrets along the way.
It’s on the Meter by Paul Archer & Johno Ellison
The perfect way to vicariously embark on an ambitious and fun adventure around the world- this book follows the journey of Paul, Johno and Leigh who purchase a London cab and set off on an incredible adventure- end destination- Sydney. Encountering some dangerous destinations and with a number of close-shave experiences, it’s an entertaining read for budding adventurers and road-trip fans.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Now a cult classic movie, Liz Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) became every woman’s favorite traveler after Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia first hit the screen. Based on the 2006 memoir by American author Elizabeth Gilbert, the memoir chronicles the author’s trip around the world after her divorce and what she discovered during her travels.
The Beach by Alex Garland
Now this famous travel book by Alex Garland may inspire you to visit Thailand to experience the exotic East and idyllic beaches – but you’ll probably hope for a different outcome than the one in the book (and movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio)!
With rave reviews across the board, The Beach by Alex Garland is undoubtedly a page-turner. Expertly crafted to have you thinking, ‘just one more chapter’ as you become invested in Thailand, the beach and its visitors.
Best Travel Books To Transport You to Far-Off Lands
An inspirational book containing an unforgettable firsthand account of a people’s response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity. With curated dramatic intensity, Gourevitch frames the genesis and horror of Rwanda’s ‘genocidal logic’ in the anguish of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the impossibly crowded prisons and refugee camps and subsequent war in the Congo.
PERU: Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa
In an isolated community in the Peruvian Andes, a series of mysterious disappearances has occurred. Army corporal Lituma and his deputy Tom believe the Shining Path guerrillas are responsible, but the townspeople have their own ideas about the forces that claimed the bodies of the missing men.
MOROCCO: The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah
Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Tahir Shah dreamed of making a home in that astonishing country. At age thirty-six he got his chance. Investing what money he and his wife, Rachana, had, Tahir packed up his growing family and bought Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea in Casablanca that once belonged to the city’s caliph (spiritual leader).
Both hilarious and harrowing at different points, The Caliph’s House is the story of his family’s move from the gray skies of London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tradition and African folklore converge – and nothing is as easy as it seems.
AFRICA: Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Theroux
Although I may not have personally done the full epic Cairo to Cape Town journey (just Nairobi to Cape Town), this book resonates with me in a way not many other travel books do.
Traveling by bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train, Paul’s story about life on the road on this incredible content is engaging, eye-opening (to the Africa novice), laugh out loud funny (in various places) and insightful from start to finish – with multiple moments being the embodiment of the mantra, TIA. (This is Africa – used as an excuse for everything!) And every page just makes me want to be back there.
CAMBODIA: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
Loung Ung is 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge assumes power over Cambodia in 1975. They soon begin a four-year reign of terror and genocide in which nearly 2 million Cambodians die. Forced from her family’s home in Phnom Penh, Ung is trained as a child soldier while her six siblings are sent to labor camps. This book is her personal account of her life under the Khmer Rouge.
USA: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
I’m sure every traveler already knows this story, if not from the book then the film starring Johnny Depp, but just in case: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they descend on Las Vegas to chase the American Dream through a drug-induced haze, all the while ruminating on the failure of the 1960s countercultural movement.
ITALY: The Name of The Rose by Umberto Eco
Published in 1980, The Name of the Rose is a contemporary classic which takes you through a world of intrigue, mystery and crime during the Middle Ages. The mystery itself grips you from the start and holds you tight throughout the revealing whodunnit process and the accompanying Philosophical discussions that are at the heart of the book.
LEBANON: The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine
An inventive, exuberant novel that takes us from the shimmering dunes of ancient Egypt to the war-torn streets of twenty-first-century Lebanon. In 2003, Osama al-Kharrat returns to Beirut after many years in America to stand vigil at his father’s deathbed.
As family stories start to be told, Alameddine spins a honeycomb of fable, family history, and Lebanese lore which is one of the most insightful accounts of life and culture in Lebanon available today.
IRAN: Land of the Turquoise Mountains by Cyrus Massoudi
Land of the Turquoise Mountains reveals a world beyond the propaganda-driven, media-fuelled image of fractious, flag-burning fundamentalism and provides a compelling glimpse both into the heart of the deeply misunderstood nation that is Iran and into what it is to seek out and discover one’s history and heritage.
CONGO: The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett
Set around a defining moment in modern African history; the 1961 death of Patrice Lumumba, the man many Congolese view as their Nelson Mandela. Unlike the South African leader, Lumumba was not jailed but murdered. He was half beaten to death before being shot against a termite mound, buried, disinterred and dissolved in barrels of mining acid.
Washington’s fingerprints were all over a political assassination that condemned the Congo to decades of dictatorship.
BOLIVIA: Marching Powder by Rusty Young
This is one of my favorite travel books – and one that I’ve read countless times. Based on the true story of Small-time drug smuggler Thomas McFadden, who found himself inside one of the most notorious prisons in South America after trying to take 5kg of cocaine out of Bolivia.
Marching Powder is the story of how he navigated this dark world of gangs, drugs and corruption to come out on top – even running prison tours in the late 90s, making it one of the most unusual and unlikely destinations for tourists in the world!
CUBA: The Old Man & The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea is Ernest Hemingway’s only book written in and inspired by his life in Cuba. After reading the book you’ll be able to see many of the elements described in Havana: the fishing village in Cojimar, its people, the local restaurant and the sea where everything happens.
With books now flying off the virtual shelves- its time to jump on the bookish bandwagon, set up a reading corner in your home, balcony or garden, live vicariously through some of the greatest adventurers of all time or simply get lost in some of the best, indulgent escapism with best travel books of all time!
Hopefully reading any of the best travel books of all time will inspire you to explore the world or ignite a desire for world travel – or maybe a bit of both.
And if you know of someone who needs more literature in their lives or could do with new books about traveling for their Amazon book club – or just needs to start reading in general(!), please be sure to share this article with them or on social media: Facebook, Flipboard, Twitter or grab one of the images from below for Pinterest. And remember – sharing is charing (and we thank you in advance!)
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