The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time

Lists: The definitive list of travel books that travel writers, editors, bloggers and readers love best

06.15.10 | 9:07 AM ET

How did we come up with our list? We scoured the web and dug up every “best travel books” list we could find, from writers, bloggers and publications like Salon, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler and Transitions Abroad. (Naturally, we consulted our own top 30 list, too). Then we pulled out the books that were cited most often and added a few bestsellers.

You’ll find that a few books don’t fit the most rigid definition of travel memoir; we didn’t want our list to be too narrow or fussy. Rather, we wanted it to be broad and inclusive. Also, although we numbered the books from 1 to 100, we didn’t rank them; they appear here in alphabetical order. (You can find the 10 most celebrated books here.) The lists we drew from are noted below the book titles. The numbers in brackets after each book title on the list correspond to the source lists on which that title appears; a dollar sign in brackets indicates that a book was included based on extremely high sales. (Read the fine print for more detail on how we determined the 100 most celebrated travel books of all time.)

1) A Dragon Apparent, by Norman Lewis (5, 7)
2) A House in Bali, by Colin McPhee (4, 11)
3) A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway (4, 6)
4) A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby (1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15)
5) A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (1, 2, 7, 8, 12)
6) A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul (1)
7) A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson ($)
8) A Winter in Arabia, by Freya Stark (5)
9) Among the Russians, by Colin Thubron (3, 7)
10) An Area of Darkness, by V.S. Naipaul (2, 7, 8)
11) Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger (1, 2, 3, 4)
12) Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez (4, 11)
13) The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton (5, 12)
14) As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, by Laurie Lee (3, 5)
15) Baghdad Without a Map, by Tony Horwitz (1)
16) Balkan Ghosts, by Robert D. Kaplan (4, 6)
17) Beyond Euphrates, by Freya Stark (7)
18) The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, by Eric Hansen (2)
19) Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, by Lawrence Durrell (2, 7)
20) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West (2)
21) Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin (13)
22) Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon (2, 4, 8, 11, 12, 13)
23) Brazilian Adventure, by Peter Fleming (4, 5, 8)
24) Chasing the Sea, by Tom Bissell (2)
25) City of Djinns, by William Dalrymple (1, 4)
26) Coasting, by Jonathan Raban (3)
27) Coming Into the Country, by John McPhee (4, 9, 10, 11)
28) Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux (2, 11)
29) Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey (4, 11, 12)
30) Down the Nile, by Rosemary Mahoney (2)
31) Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert ($)
32) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe (13)
33) Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing (2, 11)
34) Facing the Congo, by Jeffrey Tayler (1)
35) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson (2, 3, 6, 13)
36) Four Corners, by Kira Salak (6)
37) Full Circle, by Michael Palin (4, 11)
38) Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy (5)
39) Golden Earth, by Norman Lewis (1)
40) Great Plains, by Ian Frazier (2, 11)
41) The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
42) Holidays in Hell, by P.J. O’Rourke (12)
43) Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (3, 4)
44) Hunting Mister Heartbreak, by Jonathan Raban (1, 7)
45) In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson (1, 2, 4, 11, 14)
46) In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
47) In Siberia, by Colin Thubron (4, 12)
48) In Trouble Again, by Redmond O’Hanlon (2, 4)
49) The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain (1, 2, 6)
50) Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer (6, 11)
51) Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer ($)
52) Iron and Silk, by Mark Salzman (2, 4)
53) Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl (15)
54) The Lady and the Monk, by Pico Iyer (12)
55) Life on the Mississippi, by Mark Twain (2, 13)
56) The Log From the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck (11)
57) The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz (2, 11)
58) The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson (4, 8, 12, 13)
59) Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, by Suketu Mehta (2, 6)
60) The Motorcycle Diaries, by Ernesto “Che” Guevara (14)
61) The Muses Are Heard, by Truman Capote (2)
62) No Mercy, by Redmond O’Hanlon (1, 2, 10, 12)
63) Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson (3, 5)
64) Nothing to Declare, by Mary Morris (4, 8)
65) Old Glory, by Jonathan Raban (2, 4, 7)
66) The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux (4, 12)
67) Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen (4, 7, 11)
68) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard (9, 12)
69) The Pillars of Hercules, by Paul Theroux (2, 11)
70) The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart (2, 11, 15)
71) Riding to the Tigris, by Freya Stark (1)
72) The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald (2, 15)
73) The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester (4)
74) River Town, by Peter Hessler (1)
75) Road Fever, by Tim Cahill (1, 4, 12)
76) The Road to Oxiana, by Robert Byron (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
77) Roughing It, by Mark Twain (2, 4, 11, 13)
78) Sea and Sardinia, by D.H. Lawrence (2, 4)
79) Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer (4, 6, 11, 14)
80) The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost (6, 12)
81) The Size of the World, by Jeff Greenwald (1, 6, 12)
82) Slowly Down the Ganges, by Eric Newby (2, 4)
83) The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen (1, 4, 9, 10, 11)
84) The Soccer War, by Ryszard Kapuscinski (1)
85) The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin (1, 2, 4, 12)
86) Terra Incognita, by Sara Wheeler (4, 11)
87) Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue, by Paul Bowles (2)
88) Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson (11)
89) Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck (1, 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13)
90) Travels With Myself and Another, by Martha Gellhorn (2, 15)
91) Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, by Jan Morris (1, 5)
92) Two Towns in Provence, by M.F.K. Fisher (2, 4, 7, 10)
93) Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes (6)
94) Video Night in Kathmandu, by Pico Iyer (1, 4, 6, 10, 12)
95) West With the Night, by Beryl Markham (2, 4)
96) When the Going was Good, by Evelyn Waugh (1, 7)
97) The World of Venice, by Jan Morris (3)
98) The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (2, 5, 11)
99) Wrong About Japan, by Peter Carey (2)
100) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig (10, 13)

MORE: The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time: By the Numbers | The Fine Print | Mapped | Five Great Covers

Source Lists

1) World Hum’s Top 30 Travel Books
2) Conde Nast Traveler’s 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time
3) The Telegraph’s 20 Best Travel Books of All Time
4) National Geographic Traveler’s Ultimate Travel Library
5) The Times Online’s 20 Best Travel Books of the Past Century
6) Brave New Traveler’s 50 Greatest Travel Books of All Time
7) From Salon, Tom Swick’s Top 20 Travel Books of the 20th Century
8) The International Society of Travel Writers’ Top 10 Best Travel Books of the 20th Century
9) From Salon, Don George’s Favorite Travel Books
10) Salon’s Top 10 Travel Books of the 20th Century
11) NileGuide’s Top 50 Adventure Books of All Time
12) From Transitions Abroad, Top 10 Travel Books lists from a variety of travel writers: Jim Benning, Michael Shapiro, Rolf Potts, Ron Mader, Rory MacLean, Tim Leffel and Ayun Halliday.
13) Smithsonian’s Great Road Trips in American Literature
14) Nomadic Matt’s Best Travel Books
15) The Travel Bookshop’s Top 10 Travel Books

36 Comments for The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time

Boomergirl 06.15.10 | 11:05 AM ET

I loved The Drifters by James Michener. Maybe not the traditional travel read but it sure whet my appetite for backpacking through Europe.

Vera Marie Badertscher 06.15.10 | 12:17 PM ET

Your list indicates that some WOMEN should get busy and write about travels in South America and in Africa. What else appears to be missing? And the list should be the Most Celebrated English-language Travel Books of All Time, shouldn’t it?
This is a fascinating project, and I love that you shared your metrics.

Eva Holland 06.15.10 | 12:21 PM ET

Hi Vera - Though we’ve listed their titles in English translation here, a few of the books on the list were originally written in other languages: Kon-Tiki, The Long Walk, The Motorcycle Diaries, Out of Africa and The Rings of Saturn, if I’m remembering right.

Gregory Hubbs 06.15.10 | 12:58 PM ET

Quite a list.

How about giving props to at least one of the original travel writers - Homer, for example? The Odyssey may be one of the greatest travel books ever written, in my opinion.

Even in our travels we even found locations as described in the classic, though we were fortunate never to encounter any cyclops.

Yes, it is “mythology,” but is what is the difference between mythology and reality in the human imagination (I certainly can’t tell when I am dreaming or even day-dreaming)? And such distinctions in the post-modern world would appear moot.

“Both Odysseus and Gilgamesh are known for traveling to the ends of the earth, and on their journeys go to the land of the dead.”

I’d they that was some pretty serious traveling…

Matthew Stone 06.15.10 | 3:54 PM ET

Great list!  I’m trying to read through a travel book a week this summer & put reviews on my site (globalpostmark).  It’s tough to have a top 100 when Jan Morris, Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer, & Bill Bryson could take up the top 50.

Here is another I enjoy:  Off the Map (only $2 at crimeth inc.).  I picked it up at an alternative bookstore in Portland, Oregon many years ago… and I’ve bought over 50 copies since then to pass along to friends. 

Andre Aciman is one of my favorite authors who didn’t make the list.  Also, Thurston Clarke (Searching for Paradise and Equator: A Journey)

Josep 06.15.10 | 4:27 PM ET

I have not really had a chance to read all, but now I do…....

Thanks for the bibliography exposed

Mikeachim 06.15.10 | 7:06 PM ET

Nice one. Fantastic reading suggestions.

I love that Eric Newby ranks highly. I’ve seen lists elsewhere that neglected him, which is their massive, massive loss. And Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air”: terrific, haunting, angry writing…

There’s much on here I haven’t read, but I’d still want to squeeze Sofka Zinovieff’s “Eurydice Street: A Place In Athens” in there for its unusually urban focus, and also the fact that it’s rather wonderful.

Larry J. Clark 06.15.10 | 9:19 PM ET

I just finished “A Time of Gifts” and am now reading “Between The Woods and The Water”.  “A Time of Gifts” is an amazing work which, I guess, is a travel book.  But it is also one of those books that manages to remain relevant while taking tangential approaches to travel, art, architecture, history, culture, politics, etc.  I suspect that Fermor’s second book in the series didn’t make the lists because the author does wander even wider in his narrative.  That said, still highly recommended.

With regards to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (and as a former BMW motorcycle owner), I have to smile every time I use beer can aluminum for a shim or patch.

Trevor Wright 06.16.10 | 12:22 PM ET

“Papillon” by Henri Charričre
“Flash” by Charles Duchaussois (available in French, Spanish, and Italian)

These are my two favorite travel books of all time and should be included on the list:

NKufo 06.16.10 | 2:16 PM ET

Eric Hansen—his book of short stories makes it in but no mention of - Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea.. one of the greatest travel reads ever in my opinion.

read the reviews on Amazons site

Also Jupiters Travels - Ted Simon

Tim Cahill’s Road Fever is one of the most over rated cliche’ filled books of all time

Jonathan Hall 06.16.10 | 5:31 PM ET

I’d have liked to have seen Bouvier’s The Way of the World, but otherwise, great list!

Nancie 06.18.10 | 1:57 AM ET

There are some good books on this list. Others I would have a difficult time associating with the phrase “most celebrated”.

Bob Berwyn 06.18.10 | 11:48 AM ET

I’m a big fan of Monkey Dancing, by Daniel Glick, as a modern classic that addresses current environmental, social and cultural topics in the context of travel. Nothing against some of the classics on the list, the writing is good, but the world has changed. Travel writing can’t remain in a time warp, otherwise it will become irrelevant. Loved the comment about Michener’s The Drifters. It may not be the greatest travel literature, but it also helped inspire me to take that first backpacking/Eurail trek.

Ketill Sigurjónsson 06.19.10 | 6:12 PM ET

Amazed that Theroux’s Happy Isles of Oceania is not on the list. Should be in top 10. However, I am happy to see Theroux others best books on the list. He is the great grumpy master!

DBrashier 06.19.10 | 7:39 PM ET

I’m surprised on to see Kerouac on there.

DBrashier 06.19.10 | 7:41 PM ET

That would be “...not to see…”

Kevin Evans 06.21.10 | 10:20 AM ET

Thank you WorldHum - you have just ruined my marriage and maxxed out my credit card! I’ll be reading for months now!

Check out A Picador Book of Journeys, an amazing anthology of travel writing, and writing that just happens to have a travel element (e.g. Hemingway, Gore Vidal…). Edited by Robyn Davidson. Brilliant.

Here are a few of our favourite travel books

Kevin Evans 06.21.10 | 10:22 AM ET

Also, the two best travel bookshops in the world are and

Both are in London

dogBreath 06.21.10 | 7:57 PM ET

@NKufo, I agree 150%: “Jupiter’s Travels” by Ted Simon should definitely be on the list.  As should Carl Franz’ “The People’s Guide to Mexico”, which is not not really a guide, and only incidentally about Mexico, but one of the best travel books I’ve ever read.

Tania 06.22.10 | 11:47 PM ET

Great travel-read suggestions!
I highly recommend you add Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.
It was an incredible read - and a nice chunky novel to last several long train rides.

Just a super-quick synopsis: Shantaram is a story about a convicted Australian bank robber and heroin addict who escaped from Pentridge Prison and fled to India where he lived for 10 years. The book is about the author, Gregory David Roberts, though it is mentioned in the first few pages that only some events are actual while most are fictional.
Either way, it was a lot of fun to read, very touching, and will soon be a movie starring Johnny Depp.

Laura 06.23.10 | 8:14 AM ET

What about Ébano, the Kapuscinsky most popular book??? Well, if I had to choose, more than ten would be by Ryszard :D

Richard Trillo 06.23.10 | 8:19 AM ET

Agree with DBrashler. Where is Kerouac? On the Road must have inspired more people to travel than any other single piece of writing.

Mark 06.29.10 | 7:44 PM ET

“Caravans” and “The Drifters” both by Michener.

Arthur E. Perkins Jr. 07.03.10 | 7:37 AM ET

I am surprised to see none of the travel books of Sir Richard Burton, the greatest travel book writer ever. the problem is that he traveled and wrote primarily in the second half of the 19th century, so many of todays’ traveleers havae never hear od him.  Here are the major books of Sir Richard Burton:


  * Goa and the Blue Mountains (1851)
  * Scinde or the Unhappy Valley (1851)
  * Sindh and the Races That Inhabit the Valley of the Indus (1851)
  * Falconry in the Valley of the Indus (1852)
  * A Complete System of Bayonet Exercise (1853)
  * Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and Meccah 3 Vols. (1855-6). See also PDF facsimile
  * First Footsteps in East Africa (1856). See also PDF Facsimile .
  * The Lake Regions of Central Equatorial Africa (1859)
  * The Lake Regions of Central Africa (1860)
  * The City of the Saints, Among the Mormons and Across the Rocky Mountains to California (1861)
  * Wanderings in West Africa (1863)
  * Abeokuta and the Cameroon Mountains (1863)
  * A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahomé (1864)
  * The Nile Basin (1864) With James McQueen.
  * Wit and Wisdom From West Africa (1865)
  * Stone Talk (1865)
  * The Guide-book. A Pictorial Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina (1865).
  * Explorations of the Highlands of Brazil (1869)
  * Letters From the Battlefields of Paraguay (1870)
  * Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry (1870). See also PDF Facsimile.
  * Unexplored Syria (1872)
  * Zanzibar (1872)
  * Ultima Thule (1872)
  * The Lands of Cazembe. Lacerda’s Journey to Cazembe in 1798 (1873). Edited and translated by Burton.
  * The Captivity of Hans Stade of Hesse, in A.D. 1547-1555, Among the Wild Tribes of Eastern Brazil. Translated by Albert Tootal and annotated by Richard F. Burton.
  * A New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry (1876)
  * Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo (1876) See also PDF Facsimile.
  * Etruscan Bologna (1876)
  * Sind Revisited (1877)
  * The Gold Mines of Midian (1878)
  * The Land of Midian (revisited) (1879)
  * Os Lusiadas (The Lusiads) (two volumes 1880)
  * The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi (1880). See also PDF Facsimile.
  * A Glance at the Passion-Play (1881).
  * To the Gold Coast for Gold 2 Vols. (1883). See also PDF Facsimile.
  * The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (1883) (with F. F. Arbuthnot).
  * Camoens: His Life and His Lusiads (1883)
  * Camoens. The Lyricks 2 Vols (1884)
  * The Book of the Sword (1884)
  * The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (ten volumes 1885)
  * The Perfumed Garden of the Shaykh Nefzawi (1886)
  * The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night (six volumes 1886 – 1888)
  * The Jew, the Gypsy and El Islam (1898)
  * The Sentiment of the Sword: A Country-House Dialogue (1911)

My favorite single travel book, after my own “Circumnavigating the Globe” (2009), is the Royal Road to Romance, Richard Halliburton’s first book in 1925.

Arthur E. Perkins Jr. 07.03.10 | 7:58 AM ET

I have discovered as a result of exploring the works of Sir Richard Burton listed above that there are a few on-line at ebooks@Adelaide -
The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments (Alf laylah wa laylah)
Personal narrative of a pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah [1855]
First footsteps in East Africa; or, An Exploration of Harar [1856]The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi (18—)
Two Trips to Gorilla Land [1876]
The Land of Midian [1879]
The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana [1884]
The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night [1885-88]
Vikram and the Vampire (18—)

Melissa Montoya 07.06.10 | 11:19 AM ET

We just finished “THE BULL CATCHERS - A Unique Journey Into the Wild Heart of Oz” by Jim Sayles and cannot believe that it is not on your list of all time great travel books. Most travel writers are in love with their own words and have to write elegantly to make up for a lack of REAL experience. This author, who lived and worked with aborigines and caught wild cattle and buffalos in “Crocodile Dundee” country, transported us into the scenes with real action, real situations, and real characters in a way that made us feel like we were right there with him. Amazing, amazing travel book. Someone on the committee needs to read this book before the next survey.

Stella 07.06.10 | 11:43 AM ET

Great suggestions!!  I always find a new book for every new destination…  & this list has me set up with a few new ones for future travels!!  :)
♥ Stella

Darrel Schoeling 07.08.10 | 10:48 AM ET

Great List and comments. If 100 is too many, try the Longitude Books Top 25 at We provide recommended reading for travelers.
All Best, Darrel

Ric Hernandez 07.30.10 | 11:57 PM ET

Alexandra David-Neel’s My Journey to Lhasa is missing.

Jason Crabtree 10.06.10 | 8:58 AM ET

“A Sentimental Journey” by Laurence Sterne is a classic of its kind; as is, for different reasons, Smollet’s “Humphry Clinker” (peevish Englishman does the Euro tour thing, 1700s, and moans at everything). Other striking omissions are WH Davies “Autobiography of a Supertramp”, Jean Genet’s “Thief’s Journal”  (travelogue of sorts) - both unorthodox travel diaries.

pragmatic mom 10.07.10 | 5:13 PM ET

wow!  great list.  is it possible to repost your list on my blog, linking back to you and crediting you , of course?

AnnieJames 06.04.11 | 4:14 AM ET

Its really great listing.I have got an opportunity to go through some of the books mentioned above .Annie

Infovoyeur 06.04.11 | 11:29 PM ET

Great list, but the one book which made me feel quite immersedly totally-dimensionally “there,” tho I have not been south of Tiajuana, is a book A VISIT TO DON OTAVIO.  Mexican back-country. I forget the author, perhaps a relative of Hemingway.  Its paper pages were doors right into the utter atmosphere of the place.  “Later…”

Sardinia 07.12.11 | 4:26 AM ET

Hi all

is someone knows if there is any good book about Basque Country.

G for

Darrel 07.12.11 | 8:46 AM ET

I’d start with Mark Kurlansky’s The Basque History of the World

Longitude Books, Recommended Reading for Travelers

alvin 09.05.11 | 5:31 PM ET

As noted in a recent issue of Ultima Thule, a publication of Geographic Exeditions , the “greatest Travel Writer of All Tme” is Richard Halliburton.
After almost seventy years of reading and traveling - although there are some great books on your list -  I agree that Halliburton’s Book ok Marvels is the best.

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