4 mins

The best travel books of 2021 (so far)

From slow adventures across Britain to tips for solo travellers and beautiful boutique hotels in Iran, we round up the most inspiring travel books of 2021... so far

The Mittens, Monument Valley, Arizona, USA (Shutterstock)
Epic Train Journeys by Minisha Rajesh

Epic Train Journeys by Minisha Rajesh

Epic Train Journeys
By Minisha Rajesh

Mixing the spectacular with a good selection of the niche and little-known, the 40 journeys is this well-presented photobook take you from the Andean Explorer in Peru through to The Ghan in Australia.  

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Tales from the Tillerman by Steve Haywood

Tales from the Tillerman by Steve Haywood

Tales from the Tillerman
By Steve Haywood

With the pandemic sending a surge of traffic to Britain’s 4,828km of canals, it’s a good time to reap the benefits of Steve Haywood’s 50 years of exploring the UK’s waterways. A warm, nostalgic celebration of a lifestyle, an island and its often eccentric inhabitants.

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Journeys to Impossible Places by Simon Reeve

Journeys to Impossible Places by Simon Reeve

Journeys to Impossible Places
By Simon Reeve

Picking up where Step-by-Step left off, Journeys takes us behind the scenes of Reeve’s career in adventurous travel and acclaimed TV, and the lessons he learned along the way. But while his job sends him across the planet, from the Galápagos to Madagascar and taking in some of its most dangerous spots in between, Reeve discovers that the most impossible places are often much closer to home.

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The Amir River by Colin Thubron

The Amir River by Colin Thubron

The Amur River
By Colin Thubron

One of the grandees of travel writing, Thubron enters his 9th decade by following the ‘almost impassable’ 4,500km Amur river along the Mongolia-China-Russia borders, encountering mistrust, resentment, tension and baffled, thuggish authorities. He also meets the locals, their cultures under threat from the political weight bearing down on them. It’s a powerful, relevant tale worthy of his very best work.

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Black Girls Take World by Georgina Lawton, Hardie Grant

Black Girls Take World by Georgina Lawton, Hardie Grant

Black Girls Take World
by Georgina Lawton

What’s it like to travel the world solo as a Black woman? As well as travel tips on practical matters such as eating alone, this book addresses the issue of passport privilege. It also features interviews with the plus-size Instagrammer Annette Richmond from Fat Girls Traveling; Rhiane Fatinikun, who founded the Black Girls Hike group, and Jessica Nabongo, the first Black woman to travel to every country in the world.

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Winter Pasture by Li Juan, Astra House

Winter Pasture by Li Juan, Astra House

Winter Pasture
by Li Juan

What inspired Li Juan to join Kazakh herders on their annual migration from Ulungur River to the Heavenly Mountains? Even she’s not sure once the sub-zero weather kicks in. However, her warm yet scalpel-sharp observations depict a fading lifestyle, a growing generation gap and vast, rugged landscapes.

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West with the Light by Brian Jackman, Bradt Travel Guides

West with the Light by Brian Jackman, Bradt Travel Guides

West with the Light
by Brian Jackman

Having spent an estimated three years of his life under canvas in the African bush, travel writer Brian Jackman’s autobiography recounts a lifetime of nature adventures – charting the changing post-war travel industry as he does so. Beautifully and evocatively written, you'll picture yourself in the moment with Jackman. 

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Windswept by Annabel Abbs, Hodder & Stoughton

Windswept by Annabel Abbs, Hodder & Stoughton

Windswept: Walking in the Footsteps of Remarkable Women
by Annabel Abbs

A series of trails – from Scotland to Texas – are the opportunity for Abbs to reflect on the women who once walked them, and the reasons why they strode out into what was regarded as a strictly male preserve. Not only do we get an insight into influential creatives such as Gwen John and Simone de Beauvoir, but Abbs’ own reflections on the trails today.

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Life Lessons from the Amazon by Pip Stewart, Summersdale

Life Lessons from the Amazon by Pip Stewart, Summersdale

Life Lessons From the Amazon
by Pip Stewart

Following her gruelling world’s-first 1,014km journey following Guyana’s Essequibo River from source to sea, Pip Stewart bring home with her a lot of life lessons and a flesh-eating disease. In this absorbing read, she shares the story of her encounters with caiman, jaguars and the indigenous Waî Waî community – and the life-changing perspectives that the experience gave her.

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Park Life by Tom Chesshyre, Summersdale

Park Life by Tom Chesshyre, Summersdale

Park Life: Around the World in 50 Parks
by Tom Chesshyre

The one thing the pandemic has taught us is to appreciate our green spaces more – and Tom Chesshyre is no exception. This timely guide to a half-century of urban escapes will not only add dozens more to your to-do list, but help you appreciate your own little local wonder a little more, too.

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Sustainable Travel by Holly Tuppen, White Lion Publishing

Sustainable Travel by Holly Tuppen, White Lion Publishing

Sustainable Travel
by Holly Tuppen

How can we see the world without ruining it at the same time? Sustainability expert Holly Tuppen answers that difficult question positively but realistically, helping travellers understand the underlying causes of climate change and the ways they can tackle the issue on their own journeys. It’s an illuminating read that shows how travel be a force for good.

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See more from Holly Tuppen

Great Cities, Dorling Kindersley

Great Cities, Dorling Kindersley

Great Cities
by Dorling Kindersley

DK bring its strong visual flair to this overview of 50 culturally and historically important cities, ranging from Cusco, Athens and Persepolis – to the modern metropolises of LA, Dubai and Tokyo, with another 50 key cities rounded up in brief.

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The Hero's Way by Tim Parks, Vintage

The Hero's Way by Tim Parks, Vintage

The Hero’s Way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna
by Tim Parks

Back in 1849, Garibaldi retreated with his forces from Roma, across the Apennines to the Adriatic Coast. His followup to the excellent Italian Ways, Parks turn this loss into a victory as he follows the revolutionary’s footsteps, using the journey to tell a lesser-known tale about the man who would eventually unify Italy.

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Australia: The Cookbook by Ross Dobson, Phaidon

Australia: The Cookbook by Ross Dobson, Phaidon

Australia: The Cookbook
by Ross Dobson

A cookbook and history lesson all in one, this hefty tome celebrates three periods of Australian culinary culture – the ancient past, the colonial era and its diverse, multi-cultural present – as well as its regional tastes.

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Mad Travelers by Dave Seminara, Post Hill Press

Mad Travelers by Dave Seminara, Post Hill Press

Mad Travelers
by Dave Seminara

One of the travel phenomena of modern times has been the growth in ‘country collecting’. As Dave Seminara tells the strange tale of ’billionaire heir’ William Baekeland – who was later accused of taking money from travellers determined to reach the planet’s trickiest areas, which Baekeland denies – the writer explores the passion that ignites this sub-culture.

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Minarets in the Mountains by Tharik Hussain, Bradt Guides

Minarets in the Mountains by Tharik Hussain, Bradt Guides

Minarets in the Mountains
by Tharik Hussain

On his ‘journey into Muslim Europe’ Tharik Hussain visits the vibrant, 600-year-old communities of Eastern Europe, which rarely raise an eyebrow from visiting travel writers. Along the way, Hussain also explores ideas of identity, nationalism and the roots of the current wave of Islamophobia.

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Treasured Islands by Peter Naldrett, Bloomsbury

Treasured Islands by Peter Naldrett, Bloomsbury

Treasured Islands
by Peter Naldrett

British travellers looking at local getaways or staycations often overlook just how many islands these shores actually boast – whether picturesque, historic, remote or sparse. To help you with your planning, this guide outlines 200 of the most intriguing isles – including the Orkneys, Lundy, Foulness in Essex and London’s Eel Pie – complete with useful travel link information.

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The Passenger: India, Europa Press

The Passenger: India, Europa Press

The Passenger: India

Dedicated to great local writing, The Passenger series’ latest entry of stereotype-confounding stories comes from India. Acting as a great primer for those looking to visit the authentic country, it finds an India wrestling with change – the climate, its sexual politics
and the caste system, the latter essay written by Arundhati Roy.

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Come Fly The World by Julia Cooke, Icon Books

Come Fly The World by Julia Cooke, Icon Books

Come Fly The World
by Julia Cooke

Busting any naff preconceptions about the little-sung heroines of travel, Julia Cooke talks to the flight attendants of Pan American Airways who served while the sexual revolution unfolded and the Vietnam War raged – in which they’d play an unheralded role in evacuating 2,000 children during the fall of Saigon.

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Coasting by Elise Downing, Summersdale

Coasting by Elise Downing, Summersdale

Coasting
by Elise Downing

What do you do if the life you thought you wanted is making you miserable? Well, Elise Downing’s solution was to become the first woman to run around the 8,000km coast of Britain – despite having no ultra-running experience – taking in that unappreciated scenery and meeting helpful locals on her sometimes-painful way.

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World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain, Penguin Random House

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain, Penguin Random House

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide
by Anthony Bourdain

The final work from the late chef, writer and TV presenter gets a helping hand over the finishing line from his friends, supplementing Bourdain’s typically sharp-scribed rough guides to some of his favourite places.

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I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi, Bloomsbury Wildlife

I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi, Bloomsbury Wildlife

I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain
by Anita Sethi

After being the victim of a race-hate crime on a train, Anita Sethi sets out to explore the rugged Pennines’ wildlife, geology and history, as well as Britain’s undergrowth of racism and misogyny – reclaiming her rightful place not only in the UK but also in its wild places.

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Slow Trains Around Spain by Tom Chesshyre, Summersdale

Slow Trains Around Spain by Tom Chesshyre, Summersdale

Slow Trains Around Spain
by Tom Chesshyre

Spain’s train service doesn’t get much attention but, as Tom Chesshyre finds out in the latest of his slow-railing travelogues, it’s a fine way to get beyond the beaches. Taking an ‘S-shaped’ route through Spain’s little-visited centre, he finds a country at a crossroads and wondering which track to take.

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Handmade in Japan: The Pursuit of Perfection in Traditional Crafts Ed by Robert Klanten & Lincoln Dexter, Gestalten

Handmade in Japan: The Pursuit of Perfection in Traditional Crafts Ed by Robert Klanten & Lincoln Dexter, Gestalten

Handmade in Japan: The Pursuit Of Perfection in Traditional Crafts
by Robert Klanten & Lincoln Dexter

One of the joys of visiting Japan is seeing millennia-old artisanship in action. Taking us through the regions and highlighting the handicrafts associated with them – pottery in Ishikawa, fishing boats in Gifu, embroidery in Kyoto – we get an insight into one of travel’s great cultural experiences.

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Slow Adventures by Tor McIntosh, National Trust Books

Slow Adventures by Tor McIntosh, National Trust Books

Slow Adventures
by Tor McIntosh

With people reconsidering how they journey around their home, former Wanderlust-staffer McIntosh creates 36 inventive itineraries across Britain that encourage you to not only get outside but to do so at a pace that allows you to rediscover its phenomenal nature, too.

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Pilgrimage: Journeys of Meaning by Peter Stanford, Thames & Hudson

Pilgrimage: Journeys of Meaning by Peter Stanford, Thames & Hudson

Pilgrimage: Journeys of Meaning
by Peter Stanford

The concept of the pilgrimage has found itself back in vogue, even as the original religious purposes of these journeys have become blurred. Here, Stanford walks us through the history behind 12 of the most celebrated treks – from Mecca to Machu Picchu – and why they still resonate with travellers today.

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Hidden Beaches: Spain by Lola Culsan and John Weller, Wild Things Publishing

Hidden Beaches: Spain by Lola Culsan and John Weller, Wild Things Publishing

Hidden Beaches: Spain
by Lola Culsan and John Weller

The adventurous publisher’s new (and updated) title is perfectly timed to help those looking to try something different – and dodge the crowds – in those Euro-staples. Watching whales in the Gulf of Cadiz? Yes, please.

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Camping Road Trips: France & Germany by Caroline Mills, Bradt Travel Guides

Camping Road Trips: France & Germany by Caroline Mills, Bradt Travel Guides

Camping Road Trips: France & Germany
by Caroline Mills

All-in-one slow travel facilitator and isolation-bubble? Bradt successfully capitalise on ‘glampervanning’s’ post-Covid makeover with this practical guide to getting your show on the road, steering you through some of Western Europe’s most striking and dramatic routes, taking you right to the Polish border.

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How to Travel Solo: Holiday Tips for Independent Adventurers, Welbeck

How to Travel Solo: Holiday Tips for Independent Adventurers, Welbeck

Wanderlust How to Travel Solo: Holiday Tips for Independent Adventurers
by Lyn Hughes

Exploding the myths about solo travel, Wanderlust’s new book from founder Lyn Hughes is full of tips on everything from suitable destinations and packing to ways to combat loneliness. You’ll discover that you already have all the resources to take the plunge and strike out on your own.

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How to Travel Guilt Free: Holiday Tips for Ethical Travellers, Welbeck

How to Travel Guilt Free: Holiday Tips for Ethical Travellers, Welbeck

Wanderlust How to Travel Guilt Free: Holiday Tips for Ethical Travellers
by Hazel Plush

Want to do some real good in the world as you travel through it? Putting our 28 years of responsible travel to good use, Wanderlust has compiled 100 essential tips to make sure your next adventure is a ‘good’ one.

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Penguin: A Story of Survival by Stefan Christmann, teNeues

Penguin: A Story of Survival by Stefan Christmann, teNeues

Penguin: A Story of Survival
by Stefan Christmann

Well, you had us at penguins. However, as well as dramatic imagery, this coffee-table book by the acclaimed photographer Christmann also provides an insight into the uphill battle facing the Antarctic charmers, from predators to climate change.

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99 Maps to Save the Planet by Katapult; intro: Chris Packham, The Bodley Head

99 Maps to Save the Planet by Katapult; intro: Chris Packham, The Bodley Head

99 Maps to Save the Planet
by Katapult

The creatives at Katapult put climate crisis data into pointedly sharp visual context. It’s impressively imaginative and effectively alarming.

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The Gardens of Mars: Madagascar, an Island Story by John Gimlette, Head of Zeus

The Gardens of Mars: Madagascar, an Island Story by John Gimlette, Head of Zeus

The Gardens of Mars: Madagascar, an Island Story
by John Gimlette

John Gimlette’s latest thoughtful study sees him explore the relatively recent human history of the world’s fourth largest island. He travels across Madagascar to discover that the people who live there are every bit as extraordinary as its unique flora and fauna.

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Red Sands by Caroline Eden, Quadrille Publishing

Red Sands by Caroline Eden, Quadrille Publishing

Red Sands
by Caroline Eden

Using food as her window into the lives and culture of the people of Central Asia, Caroline Eden once again successfully mixes travel writing with recipes, providing a tasty insight into this wild sweep of land.

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How to Shit Around the World by Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, Travelers’ Tales

How to Shit Around the World by Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, Travelers’ Tales

How to Shit Around the World
by Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth

Wanderlust’s regular medical expert has updated her guide to staying clean and avoiding illness while on the road. Often just as funny as it is plain speaking and practical, it’s much more than just a bathroom read.

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Pilgrim Pathways by Andy Bull, Trailblazer

Pilgrim Pathways by Andy Bull, Trailblazer

Pilgrim Pathways
by Andy Bull

You don’t have to head to Spain, Italy or the Holy Lands to enjoy a spiritually minded wander. These detailed guides to 20 one- or two-day walks from across Britain provide some great getaway ideas to let you become a weekend pilgrim.

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Lion: Pride Before the Fall by George Logan, Born Free

Lion: Pride Before the Fall by George Logan, Born Free

Lion: Pride Before the Fall
by George Logan

A beautifully crafted coffee-table book celebrating the endangered King of the Plains from top photographer Logan. All proceeds go to Born Free’s Last Lions of Meru conservation programme in Kenya.

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Sacred Spaces – The Holy Sites of Buddhism by Christoph Mohr and Oliver Fülling, teNeues

Sacred Spaces – The Holy Sites of Buddhism by Christoph Mohr and Oliver Fülling, teNeues

Sacred Spaces – The Holy Sites of Buddhism
by Christoph Mohr and Oliver Fülling

This hardback book packs 240 colour and black and white photographs of Buddhist culture across Asia into its 192 pages, which include Buddhist monasteries, temples and sacred mountains.

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Mountain Escapes - The Finest Hotels and Retreats from the Alps to the Andes by Martin Kunz, teNeues

Mountain Escapes - The Finest Hotels and Retreats from the Alps to the Andes by Martin Kunz, teNeues

Mountain Escapes - The Finest Hotels and Retreats from the Alps to the Andes
By Martin Kunz

From treehouse cabins to jungle retreats and tents styled on tribal huts, the images from this beautiful photography book will inspire you to escape to the hills.

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Persian Nights by Thomas Wegmann, teNeues

Persian Nights by Thomas Wegmann, teNeues

Persian Nights - Amazing Boutique Hotels & Guesthouses in Iran
by Thomas Wegmann

This beautifully illustrated book shines a spotlight on Iran's most stunning boutique hotels and their surrounds, capturing a side of the country many travellers don’t see.

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