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30 Best Travel Books of All Time

The holidays are upon us and you’re looking for something for the one in your life who likes to roam, whether paperback or e-book any of the following books would make a great gift or even add them to your personal reading list to inspire your own wanderings.

30 best travel books of all time

Based on my own extensive reading habit and inspired by the lists of many influential media here is my list. I have divided this list into three sections for ease of reference.


The Beach – Alex Garland

After discovering a seeming paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behaviour tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain.

Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene

An espionage thriller and a political satire that still resonates today. It tells of MI6's man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity.

Into the Wild - John Krakauer

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.

Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende

Orphaned at birth, Eliza Sommers is raised in the British colony of Valparaíso, Chile. Just as she meets and falls in love with the wildly inappropriate Joaquín Andieta, gold is discovered in the hills of northern California. Joaquín takes off for San Francisco to seek his fortune, and Eliza, pregnant with his child, decides to follow him.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsia

An unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America's Northwest, undertaken by a father & his young son. A story of love & fear--of growth, discovery & acceptance--that becomes a profound personal & philosophical odyssey into life's fundamental questions.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S Thompsom

The best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.

Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson

After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill decided to return to the United States but before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

A Walk across America - Peter Jenkins

Twenty-five years ago, a disillusioned young man set out on a walk across America. This is the book he wrote about that journey. A classic account of the reawakening of his faith in himself and his country.

Dark Star Safari - Paul Theroux

Irascible Paul Theroux takes readers the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train. In the course of his epic and enlightening journey, he endures danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances.

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning – Laurie Lee

1934, a young man walked to London from the security of the Cotswolds to make his fortune. Then, knowing one Spanish phrase, he decided to see Spain. For a year he tramped through a country in which the signs of impending civil war were clearly visible.

Non Fiction:

Coasting – Jonathan Raban

Sailing around the serpentine, 2,000-mile coast of England. In this acutely perceived and beautifully written book, Raban turns that voyage–which coincided with the Falklands war of 1982-into an occasion for meditations on his country, his childhood, and the elusive notion of home.

Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East - Pico Lyer

Mohawk hair-cuts in Bali, yuppies in Hong Kong and Rambo rip-offs in the movie houses of Bombay are just a few of the jarring images that Iyer brings back from the Far East.

In a Sunburned Country - Bill Bryson

Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a funny, fact-filled, and adventurous.

The Great Railway Bazaar – Paul Theroux

Theroux recounts his adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia's fabled trains -- the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express- are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London's Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian.

Among the Russians – Collin Thubron

A fresh perspective on the last tumultuous years of the Soviet Union and an exquisitely poetic travelogue. With a keen grasp of Russia's history, a deep appreciation for its architecture and iconography, and an inexhaustible enthusiasm for its people and its culture, Colin Thubron is the perfect guide to a country most of us will never get to know first-hand.

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush – Eric Newby

No mountaineer, Newby set out with a friend to explore the formidable peaks of the Nuristan Mountains in northeast Afghanistan. His witty, unorthodox report is packed with incidents both ghastly and ecstatic as he takes us where few Western feet have trod.

Tracks – Robyn Davidson

Robyn Davidson's opens the memoir of her perilous journey across 1,700 miles of hostile Australian desert to the sea with only four camels and a dog for company with the following words: “I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there's no going back."

Touching the Void – Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, how both men overcame the torments of those harrowing days is an epic tale of fear, suffering, and survival.

Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck

1960, John Steinbeck embarked on a journey across America. He felt that he might have lost touch with the country. To reassure himself, he set out on a voyage of rediscovery of the American identity, accompanied by a distinguished French poodle named Charley; and riding in a three-quarter-ton pickup truck named Rocinante.

The Snow Leopard - Peter Matthiessen

When Matthiessen went to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and, possibly, to glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard, he undertook his five-week trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes.

Journeys - Jan Morris

Describes a succession of journeys undertaken in the early 1980s, some to places far away and exotic, some to places more familiar. Whether writing about Aberdeen or Shanghai, Morris captures the flavour of the places she visits with wit and perceptiveness.


On the Road – Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience.

Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne One ill-fated evening at the Reform Club, Phileas Fogg rashly bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days - and he is determined not to lose.

Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell

In 1936 Orwell went to Spain to report on the Civil War and instead joined the fight against the Fascists. This famous account describes the war and Orwell’s experiences.

The Road to Oxiana – Robert Byron

In 1933 the eccentric Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Teheran to Oxiana -the country of the Oxus, the ancient name for the river Amu Darya which forms part of the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union.

In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin

An exhilarating look at a place that still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, Chatwin’s exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history. Fuelled by an unmistakable lust for life and adventure and a singular gift for storytelling.

The Sun Also Rises – Earnest Hemingway

The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.

Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger

Thesiger's record of his extraordinary journey through the parched "Empty Quarter" of Arabia. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Thesiger was repulsed by the softness and rigidity of Western life. In the spirit of T. E. Lawrence, he set out to explore the deserts of Arabia, travelling among peoples who had never seen a European and considered it their duty to kill Christian infidels

Kon-Tiki - Thor Heyerdahl

Five men in search of a mythical hero journey from Peru to Polynesia in this classic account of nautical adventure.

Through the Brazilian Wilderness - Theodore Roosevelt

Through the Brazilian Wilderness describes Roosevelt’s expedition into the Brazilian jungle in 1913 as a member of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition. The book describes all of the scientific discovery, scenic tropical vistas and exotic flora, fauna and wild life experienced on the expedition, as well as the exciting human dramas which occurred during the expedition.

(Descriptions via

Hope you found a book to inspire or just to while away a quiet afternoon.


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