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I may be a Kindle convert, but there’s one type of book I miss as a full-time traveller and that’s coffee table travel books. The large, hardback type with glossy pages filled with wanderlust-inducing photos of exotic locations and descriptions of adventures around the world.
I can’t fit travel coffee table books into my luggage, but I do like giving them as gifts—they are perfect for travel lovers to inspire their next journey.
These are the best travel books that I recommend as gifts for anyone looking for travel inspiration. Some are classics (you can’t go wrong with a Lonely Planet bucket list book), while others are more unusual and will take you off the beaten track.
I’ve included ideas for globetrotting foodies, artists, nature lovers, beach bums, hikers, road trippers, and even kids.
While I’ve included links to the books on Amazon for convenience, I encourage you to support your local book store where possible. You can also find all these books to purchase on the Never Ending Voyage Bookshop.org shop—this website is a non-profit that splits proceeds among independent bookstores.
This post was originally published in November 2018 and last updated in December 2020.
The ultimate travel bucket list. Lonely Planet’s travel experts rank 500 amazing places to visit around the world. Big name attractions like the Taj Mahal battle it out with lesser-known hidden gems. It’s fun to see how many of the places you have visited (we’ve only been to 6 of the top 10), as well as get inspiration for future travels.
As you’d expect from Lonely Planet, the photography is beautiful and there are interesting details about each place. This second version, published in 2020, is updated to reflect the latest travel tastes and trends.
I love the Atlas Obscura website for finding unusual places to visit. Their book is full of off-the-beaten-track and quirky travel destinations including cemeteries, secret gardens, oddball museums, natural wonders and much more.
It’s divided by continent and country and includes over 700 locations with details on how to reach each sight. It inspires both wonder and wanderlust, and even if you don’t make it to any of the places, it’s a fascinating read.
This updated version includes over 100 new places, lots more photos, and 12 city guides.
National Geographic’s beautiful photographic tour of the world includes spectacular natural and human-made places, many of them I’ve never heard of (but now want to visit!).
There’s a good amount of information about each place including when to go and how to get there, so it’s a useful starting point for planning a trip. Or just enjoy the photos and dream!
Another stunning (and massive) Lonely Planet book, this one covers every country in the world with photos, a short overview, the top things to see and do, when to go, and how to learn more about the culture through books, films, music and food recommendations.
This would be fantastic for someone planning an around the world trip or anyone who wants to learn more about our beautiful world.
There’s also a kid’s version for budding explores aged 8 and up. It’s less photo focused and includes more interesting facts.
Travel couples will love this round up of 75 destinations, written by the couple behind HoneyTrek who have been on a honeymoon around the world since 2012.
Chapters are organised by interests (mountains, beaches, deserts, lakes etc.), and for each place, there are practical tips and ideas for couple adventures. It’s both informational and inspirational.
This book makes us want to go on an epic US road trip! It covers every state in the US with ideas on where to go, what to eat, local festivals, and little-known facts. It also includes 10 Canadian provinces. It’s not a guidebook but is a great starting point for planning a US adventure.
This unique coffee table book showcases 70 sketchbooks kept by explorers through history including Charles Darwin and Sir Edmund Hillary and less well-known adventurers like Adela Breton, who trekked through the jungles of Mexico to record Mayan monuments.
It would be an ideal gift for historians, artists, adventurers, and armchair travelers.
This is the foodie version of the travel bucket list—the world’s 500 best food experiences, ranked. From sushi in Tokyo to kushari in Cairo, this book will leave you drooling. Each listing includes tips on where to try it.
Another one for foodies, this book highlights the rise of street food around the world and shows readers where to hunt down the best food-on-the-go from Bangkok to Stockholm. It includes 70 recipes so you can try them at home too.
This beautiful coffee table book by photographer Gray Malin features aerial photos of beaches in more than 20 cities across six continents. Descriptions are brief so it’s more inspirational than practical.
Hikers will love this collection of the best walking routes around the world with beautiful landscape photos, maps, and trail details.
This beautifully illustrated book includes 50 classic road trips including the Great Ocean Road in Australia, a self-drive safari in Zambia, and the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam. Each trip includes a write-up of the experience, map, photos, directions, and three additional suggestions for similar trips.
If you know someone who has dreamed of living life on the road, this book by Foster Huntington is ideal. It showcases hundreds of funky vehicles and perfectly designed interiors where tiny spaces in the backs of vans have been transformed into cosy living spaces.
It also includes interviews with solo travellers, couples, and families who are living the van life.
Stunning illustrated vintage posters of all the US National Parks with a brief history of each park.
A unique guide to the best secret gardens, courtyards, rooftop terraces, and tiny parks tucked away in more than 150 cities around the world. They are all open to the public and are a great way to get off the beaten track and find an oasis in a busy metropolis.
This gorgeous collection of maps created by illustrators would be ideal for artists, designers, and travel lovers. It’s not a practical travel guide as there’s no information about the places, but you will find inspiration here with maps such as the Babylonstoren Gardens which we visited in South Africa. It’s a beautiful, fun book for browsing.
If you’re looking for an atlas for kids, these 52 illustrated maps include iconic animals and plants, cultural events, local personalities, historical sights, and quirky facts as well as geographical features. Adults love browsing it too.
This unusual book for nature lovers features 50 tree species from 13 countries on four continents. The author Julianne Skai Arbor, a.k.a. TreeGirl―photographer, certified arborist, conservation educator, and forest ecotherapist, photographed herself nude with each tree (in a non-provocative way). She provides information about each tree and explores the relationship between humans and trees.
As she says, this book is an invitation for you to rediscover your bond with wild nature.
You’ll never run out of inspiration with these 1000 unique travel experiences. Entries are divided by region and go way beyond the usual tourist attractions to include quirky festivals, beautiful hikes, local bars, and other hidden gems. It’s not as photo heavy as other books on this list.
A travel bucket list with a difference. Discover the 500 most colourful (and Instagram-worthy) places in the world from natural phenomena like the pink lakes of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to architectural wonders like the vibrant houses of Cobh, Ireland.
A photograph of each destination is accompanied by a brief description and the best time to visit.
Those who love travel and interior design will adore this look through 20 homes of designers influenced by their adventures abroad in Marrakesh, Paris, Cuba, Tokyo, Portugal, and beyond.
The photos and interviews will give you ideas on how to decorate your own home with global flair.
If you enjoy nature but don't want to give up your comforts for traditional camping, this beautiful coffee table travel book is for you.
It includes roundups of unique outdoor accommodations at vineyards, wildlife sanctuaries, hot springs, state parks, and more. These unconventional places to stay are perfect for immersing yourself in nature and escaping everyday life.
I'm a big fan of Moon Travel Guides as they focus on off the beaten path destinations. This bucket list coffee table book is perfect for finding inspiration for your next travel destination.
It's organised around themes such as the most beautiful lakes, grand national parks, idyllic islands, wine trails, best diving spots, and where to stargaze. It also features unique cultural experiences and festivals around the globe.
Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York social media page began as a photographic census of life in the city and has become a storytelling phenomenon.
In his latest book, the creator moves beyond New York and shares hundreds of photos and stories of the people he met in over forty countries while travelling the world. A moving reminder of how we are all connected.
I hope this post has helped you find the perfect present for the travel lover in your life (or ideas to inspire your own wanderlust!).
You can also check out our guide to the 50 best gifts for travelers with ideas for every budget.
Here are some more roundups of my favourite travel books:
- 9 Best Books About Hawaii to Read Before You Visit
- 10 Travel Memoirs to Inspire Your Next Trip
- 15 Fascinating Books to Read Before Visiting Japan
- 10 Best Books About Iceland to Read Before You Visit
- 12 Books to Read Before Visiting South Africa
What are your favourite travel coffee table books? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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