17 Best Travel Books: To Expand Your Travel Writing World

Posted on Sep 15, 2023

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It is often said that travel broadens the mind. But can that still be the case when a traveler relays their tales to a secondary audience? Can the essence of the traveling experience still be captured and maintained when writing a book?

These are the key questions for travel writers, who have the difficult but not impossible task of turning their experiences that are often sensory into the written form.

So how is this task done successfully? Well, in today’s article, we will be taking a close look at 17 of the best travel books ever written, focusing on both what makes them great as well as what lessons can be learnt for aspiring writers of this genre.

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

In Patagonia is an iconic travelogue that takes readers on a remarkable journey through the landscapes of Patagonia.

Chatwin’s prose mixes history, personal anecdotes and vivid descriptions which offer a multifaceted exploration of the region’s stark beauty and cultural richness. 

The book is not just a travel narrative but also a reflection on the human spirit’s desire for discovery. Chatwin’s ability to blend storytelling with wanderlust has made In Patagonia a timeless classic. 

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is a delightful adventure tale that invites readers to join the author on a comically ill prepared journey into the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.

Newby’s witty narrative and self deprecating humor make this travelogue a joy to read. 

As he encounters eccentric locals and faces numerous challenges, the book becomes a charming account of human resilience and the spirit of exploration, thanks in large part to Newby’s candid storytelling.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

The Great Railway Bazaar is a quintessential travel classic that follows the author’s epic train journey across Asia.

Theroux’s sharp observations, cultural insights and keen eye for detail breathe life into the characters and landscapes encountered on his journey.

The book’s blend of adventure, humor and thoughtful reflection immerses readers in the diverse and ever changing world of the countries he visits. 

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley is a heartwarming American travel memoir. The Pulitzer Prize winning author embarks on a cross country road trip with his loyal poodle, Charley, in search of the essence of his homeland.

Steinbeck’s descriptive language and insightful observations capture the diversity of America’s landscapes and its people. The book combines the simplicity of a road trip with profound reflections on society.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild is a gripping and tragic real life adventure. The book recounts the journey of Christopher McCandless, a young man who leaves behind a conventional life to explore the wilderness of Alaska.

Krakauer’s meticulous research and storytelling bring McCandless’s compelling, enigmatic character to life. This narrative is an exploration of idealism, self discovery and the untamed power of nature. 

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

The Art of Travel is a philosophical reflection that the profound impact of travel has on the human psyche. De Botton combines his eloquent writing with insights from history, art and literature to explore the reasons behind our desire to see the world. 

This introspective travel book encourages readers to embrace the art of observation, mindfulness and self discovery while on their own journeys.

Tracks by Robyn Davidson

Tracks by Robyn Davidson is an extraordinary tale of personal growth and adventure. Davidson’s memoir recounts her courageous solo trek across the unforgiving Australian Outback with a team of camels.

Her writing delves into the isolation and solitude of the desert, the bonds formed with her camels and the challenges faced as a woman in a male dominated world. 

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry Garrard is a gripping account of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill fated Antarctic expedition.

Cherry Garrard, a survivor of the journey, vividly describes the harsh conditions, personal sacrifices and relentless pursuit of scientific discovery that defined the expedition.

The adventure classic offers a glimpse into the extreme challenges faced by early explorers and their unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of human endurance. 

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z is a riveting story that plunges readers into the heart of the Amazon rainforest in search of a hidden civilization.

The book chronicles the adventures of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared during an expedition in the early 20th century.

Grann’s careful research and engaging storytelling not only unravel the mystery of Fawcett’s fate but also provide a compelling examination of the allure and dangers of the uncharted wilderness. 

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air by is a gripping and haunting account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Krakauer, a journalist and mountaineer, was part of the expedition and provides a firsthand perspective on the tragedy.

His book explores the physical and emotional challenges of high altitude mountaineering while shedding light on the decisions and circumstances that led to the catastrophe. 

The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux

The Old Patagonian Express is a classic travelogue that takes readers along for the ride as Theroux travels from Boston to the southern tip of South America.

Theroux’s sharp wit and keen observations bring to life the diverse landscapes, cultures and characters he encounters along the way.

The book is somewhat of a tribute to the transformative power of travel, revealing both the beauty and challenges of life on the road. 

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

The Snow Leopard is a stirring and spiritual journey through the Himalayas in search of the elusive snow leopard.

As Matthiessen grapples with personal loss and existential questions, his story combines together the physical and metaphysical aspects of his trek.

The book is a profound meditation on the human connection to nature, inner exploration and the mysteries of the natural world. 

The Places in Between by Rory Stewart

The Places in Between is a captivating memoir of the author’s solo journey on foot across war torn Afghanistan in 2002.

As Stewart travels through the remote villages and confronts the harsh Afghan winter, he provides a unique perspective on the country’s complex history, culture and people.

The book can be seen as a tribute to how we can all help to bridge cultural divides.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild is a wonderful memoir that recounts the author’s transformative solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Faced with personal loss and self destructive behavior, Strayed embarks on a 1100 mile journey in order to get her life back on track and find a way to heal.

Her candid and raw storytelling focuses on the physical and emotional challenges of the trail, making it a particularly engaging story of strength and resilience. 

Into Africa by Martin Dugard

Into Africa is an exhilarating historical account of Dr David Livingstone’s daring exploration of Africa and journalist Henry Morton Stanley’s epic quest to find him.

Set against the backdrop of 19th century colonialism, the book portrays the untamed beauty and perilous challenges of the African continent.

Dugard’s writing, expertly combines together two remarkable journeys, offering readers’ a tale of adventure and discovery.

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

The River of Doubt is an account of Theodore Roosevelt’s perilous expedition down the uncharted River of Doubt in the Amazon rainforest.

Facing treacherous rapids, disease and the harsh jungle, Roosevelt’s journey becomes a test of endurance and leadership.

Millard’s storytelling combines history and adventure, bringing to life the adventurous spirit of one of America’s greatest leaders. 

Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips by National Geographic

Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips is an awe inspiring compilation of travel experiences and destinations.

Lavishly illustrated with transportative photographs and rich descriptions, this book offers readers a pathway to adventure from the comfort of their armchair.

It explores diverse cultures, landscapes and activities, making it an invaluable source of inspiration for any traveler.

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