14 Best Travel Authors of All Time

Here are some of the best travel authors that you will want to read to gain inspiration about the art of traveling.

There are times when we simply want to escape the mundanity of everyday life and explore an exotic location like Arabia or Mexico. Yet when travel is not possible, a book can take us where we want to go. Exploring the world through the writing of travel authors can give us a sense of wonder, even when we have to stay at home.

If you are hoping to learn more about the world, put down the guidebook and pick up a more engaging work by one of these top travel authors. You will read a great story while also gaining some travel experience. These 14 authors are ones you will want to grab from Amazon to read today.

Best Travel Writers

1. Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is an American and British author whose book Notes from a Small Island, showcasing travel in Britain, brought him to prominence among travel writers. His travel books include works about travel in America, England, Australia, Africa, and other countries in Europe.  

Bryson started his adult life as a student at Drake University, but he dropped out to backpack in Europe after two years. Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe chronicled these adventures. This trip caused him to move to Europe permanently, settling in Britain in 1977.

Early in life, Bryson worked as a journalist and copy editor. In 2014, he took the citizenship test to earn dual citizenship in the UK and America. Bryson’s extensive work earned him several honorary doctorates from schools in America and the UK.

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Notes from a Small Island
  • Bryson, Bill (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 324 Pages - 05/15/2001 (Publication Date) - William Morrow Paperbacks (Publisher)

2. Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux was born in Massachusetts in 1941, and he earned his acclaim as a novelist and travel writer. The Great Railway Bazaar is one of his most famous works in the travel genre. 

Throughout his career, Theroux experienced some controversy. For example, Singapore banned his novel, Saint Jack, for over 30 years because of its content.

Throughout his life, Theroux lived in several countries, including Uganda, Singapore, and England, in London specifically. He returned to the United States in the 1990s and continues to write today.

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The Great Railway Bazaar
  • Theroux, Paul (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 06/01/2006 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

3. Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin considered himself a storyteller, not a travel writer, but his first book, In Patagonia, solidified him in the genre. He got to travel much of the world working as a reporter for The Sunday Times Magazine, interviewing political figures. This helped him gather more tales for his travel books.

Chatwin was born in England and went to Marlborough College. He worked for a time at Sotheby’s, where he gained knowledge of and appreciation for art. 

Throughout Chatwin’s body of work, the theme of human restlessness is clear. He believed humans had a genetic predisposition to wanderlust, and his works helped fuel that. 

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In Patagonia (Penguin Classics)
  • Bruce Chatwin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 03/01/2003 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

4. Eric Newby

Eric Newby was an English travel writer known for A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, The Last Grain Race, and A Small Place in Italy. He was born in London in 1919 and died in 2006 at 86. His famous travel work The Last Grain Race chronicled his experience on a Finnish ship that took part in a voyage from Australia to Europe past Cape Horn. 

Newby was a prolific writer, with 25 books to his name. His travel writing included some of his stories from being captured as a prisoner of war in the Adriatic during World War II, which he wrote about in Love and War in the Apennines. 

Newby continued writing until 2003, three years before his death. Many of his works included his own photography.

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
  • Newby, Eric (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 12/21/2010 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins Publishers (Publisher)

5. Ernest Hemingway

Best Travel Authors: Ernest Hemingway
EH2723PMilan1918.jpg: Portrait by Ermeni Studiosderivative work: Beao and Fallschirmjäger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ernest Hemingway was a Nobel Prize-winning author who wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, which spoke of the Civil War in Spain. His travel books include Green Hills of Africa, which talks about his time on safari.

Hemingway grew up in Illinois and joined the military during World War I. He got his first taste of international travel on the Italian front of the war. He also served during WWII, working as a journalist and foreign correspondent. 

He fell in love with Paris and chose to live there as an ex-pat for some time. His time there was the story behind The Sun Also Rises, another of his famous works. In addition to traveling and writing, Hemingway was a keen sportsman.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Hemingway, Ernest (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 07/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

6. Graham Greene

Graham Greene was a British writer who lived from 1925 to 1991. He often brought conflicting moral and political issues into his writing, and he earned the Shakespeare Prize and the Jerusalem Prize for his works. 

Greene traveled extensively to find subject matter for his books, which led him to get recruited for MI6, the British espionage agency. As a result, many of his works, including The Comedians and his memoir My Silent War, include settings pulled from his travels. 

Greene often wrote about remote places, which earned him a spot as one of the best travel writers, but he was more prominently known as a thriller and political writer. 

The Comedians (Penguin Classics)
  • Greene, Graham (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 01/25/2005 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

7. Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac was an American poet and novelist known for Big Sur and The Dharma Burns. His prose is known for its spontaneity, and he covers a wide range of themes in his writing. Though he grew up in Massachusetts, his home was French-speaking, so he often spoke with a French accent. 

Like many travel writers, Kerouac got his taste for international travel during World War II, where he served as a Marine. He published a total of 14 novels during his lifetime and also several volumes of poetry. 

On the Road is one of his most famous travel works. It chronicles a road trip Kerouac once took with Neal Cassady. A heavy drinker, Kerouac died from an abdominal hemorrhage at the age of 47. 

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On the Road
  • Jack Kerouac (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 293 Pages - 06/01/1999 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

8. Freya Stark

Freya Stark was an explorer and travel writer who lived in the early 1900s. She had dual British and Italian citizenship and lived in many parts of Europe, including Italy and France. The book One Thousand and One Nights, which she received for her ninth birthday, inspired a love for Asia and the Orient, which later fueled her passion for exploration. 

Stark took many excursions into the Middle East, including dangerous countries like Lebanon, Baghdad, and Iraq, and these became part of her writings. The Valleys of the Assassins, which she published in 1934, is one of her famous works, and it describes some of her early travels. 

Throughout her life, Stark continued to travel extensively. She helped the British in both World War I and World War II. Her adventure travel writings earned her the Founder’s Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.

The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels (Modern Library (Paperback))
  • Stark, Freya (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 07/24/2001 (Publication Date) - Modern Library (Publisher)

9. Jan Morris

 Yet another English travel writer, Jan Morris, lived in Great Britain and Wales. She was born James Morris, and while living as a male, she was part of the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition – the first time the mountain was traversed. 

Last Letters from Hav was one of Morris’s most engaging travel novels. She described it as an imagined travelogue and political thriller. She also published several books on travel to Trieste and Venice. 

Morris died in 2020 at the age of 94. She was famous for being one of the first high-profile individuals to make a gender transition. She traveled to Morocco for the necessary surgery when British doctors refused to perform it. 

Last Letters From Hav
  • Morris, Jan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 203 Pages - 02/18/1989 (Publication Date) - Vintage Books / Random House (Publisher)

10. John Steinbeck

Best Travel Authors: John Steinbeck
Sonya Noskowiak, CC BY 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

American author John Steinbeck is most famous for his novels The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1940. The Grapes of Wrath sold 14 million copies in just the first 75 years of publication. 

Not all of Steinbeck’s works are travel works, but in 1943 he became a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. A role that took him overseas. This gave him new settings for his stories beyond California, and some of his works became known as travel books. For example, his A Russian Journal included photographs and first-hand accounts of his visit to the Soviet Union in 1947. 

In 1960 Steinbeck embarked on a road trip with his dog, Charley, which created the scenes for Travels with Charley: In Search of America. This piece of travel literature is a travel memoir that perfectly captures what it means to be American, even the different flavors of America seen across the country. 

Travels with Charley in Search of America
  • Steinbeck, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 277 Pages - 01/31/1980 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

11. Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle is the author of the New York Times bestseller A Year in Provence. He has 14 books to his name, including both non-fiction works and travel novels. A Year in Provence was his first book, and it has six million copies in forty languages to date. 

Mayle was born in 1939 in England, and he started his literary career writing educational books, not travel stories. However, he eventually moved to southern France as an expatriate, which served as fodder for his most famous works. In 1989 the British Book Awards called A Year in Provence the Best Travel Book of the Year.

Mayle died in 2018 at the age of 78. He was still living in Provence at the time. In addition to his work as an author, he also worked as an advertising copywriter. 

Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.)
  • Great product!
  • Bourdain, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 312 Pages - 01/09/2007 (Publication Date) - Ecco (Publisher)

12. Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain is a chef who also traveled the world. He writes on both cooking and travel, and A Cook’s Tour is one book that combines both into one interesting tour of the dining and culture of the world. 

Bourdain’s books are known for their whit, and his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly hit the New York Times bestseller list in 2000. Many of his works tied in with his television series. 

In addition to writing, Bourdain hosted several travel shows for television. His work for these shows fueled some of his great travel and cooking books. 

Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.)
  • Great product!
  • Bourdain, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 312 Pages - 01/09/2007 (Publication Date) - Ecco (Publisher)

13. Elizabeth Gilbert

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert takes the reader to Italy, Indonesia and India. The book’s theme is finding self-love and inner devotion, but it fits the travel genre because of its exploration of these locations. 

Gilbert was born in Connecticut in 1969 and grew up on a Christmas tree farm. She started writing short stories while in college, and she traveled throughout America during her young adult years, which provided some ideas for her books.

The popularity of Eat, Pray, Love, and the movie based on the book earned her a spot on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. 

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Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
  • A balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence
  • Gilbert, Elizabeth (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 01/30/2007 (Publication Date) - Riverhead Books (Publisher)

14. Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer was a close friend of the Buddhist leader Dali Lama, which comes into play in his book The Open Road. In this book, he encourages readers to look into the themes of Buddhism as they relate to life. 

Iyer traveled to Cuba, Ethiopia, and Kathmandu throughout his life, and those places influenced his writing. Though he was born to Indian parents and raised in California, he currently resides in Western Japan. His Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World showcases his travel writing style as he explores places not often found in travel guidebooks.

Because of the Buddhist influence in his life, Iyer’s works are very introspective. Often causing the reader to think about human nature just as much as they inspire thought about travel. 

The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (Vintage Departures)
  • Iyer, Pico (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 03/10/2009 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

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