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21 Best Travel Books to Inspire the Traveller in You

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  • The best travel books can help you discover a new destination from the comfort of your home
  • From practical handbooks to Boy’s Own-style adventures and novels – there’s a travel book for all occasions
  • Browse our selection of the 21 best travel books to inspire your next adventure

Whether you’re planning a trip or just dreaming of an adventure, a good travel book can inspire, inform and most definitely entertain. The best travel books have the ability to transport you to another location as you leaf through their pages, so even armchair travellers can enjoy a new destination. Here are our favourite 21 travel books to read when looking for inspiration for your next holiday.

The top 21 best travel books
Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places (National Geographic)

Need inspiration for your next holiday? Look no further than this photographic tour of the world’s most spectacular destinations, which is deemed as one of the best travel coffee table books. Illustrated with large, full-colour images, the book features many of the world’s wonders from ancient monoliths, jewel-like islands and breath-taking forests to dynamic cityscapes and modern architecture. More than a visual treat, it details when to go, where to stay and eat, and what to do so you can be sure to enjoy the best possible experience.

best travel books destinations of a lifetime

The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia

In this modern travel classic, author Paul Theroux chronicles his journey from London through Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia aboard famous trains such as the Orient Express, the Frontier Mail, the Mandalay Express and the Trans-Siberian Express. Theroux’s detailed-filled writing, including the people he meets and the unfamiliar food he eats along the way, makes for a fascinating travelogue. One of the best travel books for train lovers and those interested in taking an iconic rail journey.

best travel books the great railway bazaar

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

This classic travel adventure is the tale of Eric Newby and Hugh Carless – two young, inexperienced Englishmen – who set out to walk through Afghanistan to the Nuristan Mountains in the 1950s. The pair were completely unprepared but full of Boys’ Own-style confidence and optimism. It’s a funny, thrilling account of adventure, complete with acute observations of the characters they meet along the way and the fascinating geography of the region.

best travel books a short walk in the hindu kush

Vagabonding

Whether you’re planning a trip of a lifetime or a few months on the road, this inspirational handbook provides essential information for those new to long-term travel. Veteran travel writer Rolf Potts offers valuable insights and lots of practical information, from saving and planning for a big trip to life on the road. It also explores the philosophy of long-term travel.

best travel books vagabonding

Travels with Charley in Search of America

Author John Steinbeck recalls his road trip across the United States in 1960 with his French poodle Charley. Travelling through 40 states, they traversed woods and deserts, dirt tracks and highways to cities and remote wildernesses on a journey of discovery. Along the way, Steinbeck reflects on America and the American character.

best travel books travels with Charley

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders

This 470-page compendium of the world’s most obscure places will appeal to the ardent adventurer and armchair traveller alike. Its pages are stuffed full of wonders and oddities – sparkling glow-worm caves in New Zealand; a baobab tree in South Africa that’s so large it has a pub inside; Escher-like stepwells in India; a 40-year-old burning hole of fire in Turkmenistan; and a garden devoted to poisonous plants. With compelling descriptions, photographs, charts, and maps, every page reveals the world at its strangest.

best travel books atlas obscura

Down Under: In a Sunburned Country

It’s hard to pick just one book for a list of best travel books by hugely popular travel writer Bill Bryson. In a Sunburned Country sees Bryson tackle Australia – a country with the hottest, driest weather, friendliest inhabitants and the most dangerous wildlife to be found on the planet. Bryson chronicles his journey from east to west Australia, through tiny towns, coastal cities, and forgotten forests. Funny and fact-filled, this rollicking ride across the land down under will have you booking flights to Oz for your next holiday.

best travel books down under

A Year in Provence

If you’ve ever been tempted to sell up and move to the South of France, then A Year in Provence is essential reading and one of the best travel books to read. Having moved into a 200-year-old farmhouse, Peter Mayle’s memoir of his first year in Provence offers a deeper insight into the South of France than many a guidebook. Filled with anecdotes of marathon lunches, bumbling builders, boules and goat-racing, this delightful book serves up an enchanting slice of Provençal life.

best travel books a year in provence

In Patagonia

If you’re planning a trip to the southern tip of South America, then Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia is a must-read. Charting his six-month journey across this remote and mysterious land, the book is a jumble of travel stories, full of evocative descriptions, fascinating history and encounters with the people he met on the way. An instant classic when published in 1977, In Patagonia inspires with its zest for adventure.

best travel books in patagonia

Where To Go When

Trying to decide where to go on your next holiday? This beautifully illustrated book can help. Described as the ultimate trip planner, it offers 30 suggested destinations and experiences for each month of the year, ranging from city breaks and tropical beach holidays to adventurous road trips and wildlife-watching expeditions. Accompanying each recommendation are beautiful photographs and graphics depicting the climate, value for money and family friendliness.

best travel books where to go when

The Solo Travel Handbook

If the thought of going solo is stopping you from achieving your travel goals, then this book is for you. Packed with practical advice and tips, it aims to provide first-time solo travellers with the confidence and know-how to explore the world on their own, whether it’s a short city break, a river cruise or an exotic long-haul adventure.

best travel books the solo travel handbook

Great Hiking Trails of the World

Karen Berger’s Great Hiking Trails of the World is one of the best coffee table travel books for the avid hiker. Beautifully illustrated, it details the world’s most iconic hiking trails, from Mount Kenya and subarctic hikes in Scandinavia to the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails. The book features practical information, such as the length of the trail and the best season to go, along with maps and a photo gallery for each hike.

best travel books great hiking trails of the world

The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World

This 448-page reference guide features a bite-sized profile on every country in the world. Stunning photography and concise descriptions of each country’s culture, along with what to see, do, eat and drink when visiting makes it the perfect starting point for trip-planning.

best travel books the travel handbook

Turn Right At Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

This book documents Mark Adams’ attempt to retrace the steps of American academic and explorer Hiram Bingham’s 1911 expedition to the Andes in Peru and his discovery of the famed archaeological Inca site Machu Picchu. An informative and entertaining read, Adams’ account of his travels in Peru is interwoven with the history of the Incas and the Bingham’s exploits. Perfect reading before taking a holiday to Peru to visit Machu Picchu.

best travel books turn right at machu picchu

Under the Tuscan Sun

More than 20 years ago, cook and travel writer Frances Mayes bought and restored an abandoned Tuscan villa and wrote a book about it. With glorious, lyrical descriptions of the markets, food, wine, local characters and the vibrant Italian landscape, Under the Tuscan Sun inspired a love affair with Tuscany that continues today.

best travel books under the tuscan sun

Seven Years in Tibet

This fantastic travel book recounts the adventures of the renowned Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer who was imprisoned by the British in India when World War II broke out. He escaped across the Himalayas to become one of the first Europeans to visit Tibet. Living in Lhasa as a confidant to the Dalai Lama, Harrer spent the next seven years learning about Tibet, observing its religion, politics and people.

best travel books seven years in tibet

The Road to Oxiana

This real-life tale of Robert Byron’s travels in the Middle East in the 1930s has inspired countless travellers and travel writers. In search of architectural treasures, Byron undertook a journey through Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Teheran to the ancient Oxus river – which borders Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. The Road to Oxiana is not only an entertaining account of his adventures but a fascinating insight into a region now inaccessible to many travellers.

best travel books the road to oxiana

Round Ireland with a Fridge

If you like your travel books to entertain as well as inspire, pick up a copy of Tony Hawk’s hilariously funny tale of his adventures around Ireland. In an attempt to win a drunken bet, Hawks hitchhiked his way across the country with his trusty travelling companion – a domestic fridge. Mixing travelogue with humour, the book captures both the scenery of Ireland and the national character of the Irish along with the absurd shenanigans Hawk and his companion got up to on their month-long adventure.

best travel books round ireland with a fridge

The Geography of Bliss

Having spent years travelling to troubled countries, veteran foreign correspondent Eric Weiner set out to find the happiest places on earth. Travelling through The Netherlands, Iceland, Moldova, Switzerland, Qatar, Thailand, Bhutan and many places in between, his funny and philosophical attempt to discover the happiest country in the world offers some insight into potential travel destinations.

best travel books the geography of bliss

The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho’s bestselling novel is the tale of Santiago, a Spanish shepherd boy who embarks on a journey to cross the Mediterranean and the Sahara in search of an Egyptian treasure. Santiago’s journey to Egypt is a spiritual discovery too – his life is profoundly changed by the people he meets along the way, the things he sees and the wisdom he learns. This simple yet magical fable reinforces the key message that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most.

best travel books the alchemist

On the Road

No list of the best travel books would be complete without featuring Jack Kerouac’s timeless classic On the Road, considered by many to be one of the best travel books of all time. Largely autobiographical, the novel follows two friends, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, who in 1947 leave New York City and head west in search of freedom and fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz. A literary embodiment of the Beat generation, the tale of their hitch-hiking and train-hopping adventures encapsulates the rebellion and exuberance of American youth in the post-war years.

best travel books on the road

Best travel books to inspire your next adventure

Inspired by the vivid and enchanting pages of some of the best travel books of all time? Follow in the footsteps of these authors by planning your very own literary adventure. Riviera Travel has escorted tours and river cruises that bring travel to life.


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