Around the World in 10 Books: Top 10 Classic Travelogues

“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.”

– Roman Payne (The Wanderess)

Mankind has an inherent wanderlust. Exploring and discovering new places incite a joy that is indeed rare. The excitement of travel lies in new people, learning about myriad cultures, tasting varied cuisine, and enjoying the vista of nature. Very few of us have the opportunity to travel the world. It is true that it takes a lot of courage, time, and resources to take on any journey. However, all it takes for us bibliophiles to wonder at the wonder of this world is a book. For centuries now, there have been people who have chronicled their travels in treatises. These travelogues help us see the world through the author’s eyes without even lifting a finger.

Let us have a look at 10 engrossing tales of travel that would take you on a tour from the comfort of your home.

The First Travel Story

Book: Histories

Author: Herodotus

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Greek writer, Herodotus is widely regarded as the Father of History and Cultural Travel. Way back in the 5th century BC, he roamed the Mediterranean to research the material for his enthralling treatise, Histories. At its core, the Greek Classic, Histories, is the story of the quarrelsome Greek states defeating the barbarian Persian Empire. In addition to chronicling this momentous event, Herodotus delves into detailed accounts of myriad ancient cultures. We get to know about the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Scythians, Androphagi, Atarantians, Arabians, and Indians, among many others. Being a consummate storyteller, Herodotus manages to have our rapt attention throughout his vast book. The vivid descriptions of long-lost nations, their flora and fauna, and their cultures make this treatise a rare treat. Penned in the Classical Ionic Greek Dialect, this 440 BC book is not only one of the earliest tomes of history but also a record of ancient geography, politics, traditions, and wars. Even today, it ignites the modern man’s traveling spirit by highlighting the perks of exploration.

An Unbelievable Foray into the Far East

Book: The Travels of Marco Polo

Author: Marco Polo

Marco Polo, Il Milione, Chapter CXXIII and CXXIV

The Travels of Marco Polo is undoubtedly one of the most renowned travelogues written due date. Marco Polo was a 13th-century Venetian merchant who spend 2 decades exploring China, Persia, and Indonesia. 1271 marks the beginning of his journeys. After his first visit to China, he was sent on various diplomatic missions by Kublai Khan. The account of his travels into the unknown Eastern lands was so fascinating that his western contemporaries denied believing him at first. As per legend, only when he and his brothers showed them their gems did people believe their tales. When Marco Polo became a prisoner of war if the Genoans, he decided to pen his experiences with the help of his fellow cellmate, Rustichello da Pisa, a romance writer.  From then on, The Travels of Marco become a resounding bestseller. The book shaped the Western view of the Oriental World. Fun fact, it was Polo’s book that inspired Christopher Columbus to undertake his journey to discover India.

World Through the Eyes of a Revolutionary

Book: Voyage of the Beagle

Author: Charles Darwin

PSM V57 D097 Hms beagle in the straits of magellan

Charles Darwin is the Father of Evolution. An insight into the journey that shaped his thinking is indeed fascinating. Hence, his Voyage of the Beagle is a rare treat. Darwin’s charming writing style makes this book all the more interesting. At the age of twenty-two, Charles Darwin set out on a life-changing voyage aboard the Beagle. The Englishman’s five-year journey to the distant parts of the world pushed his intellectual horses and resulted in the writing of The Origin of Species. Darwin’s first impressions of slavery, race, colonization, civilization, savagery, and most importantly the concept of the survival of the fittest are discussed in detail in Darwin’s own words in The Voyage of the Beagle. This is one book that continues to astound us even today.

The Great Pleasure Excursion

Book: The Innocents Abroad

Author: Mark Twain

Mark Twain - The Innocents Abroad

Mark Twain is one of the greatest authors of the 19th century. Naturally, his travel escapades are one of a kind as well. In 1867, Twain, along with a group of American tourists, undertook a cruise aboard The Quaker City. He chronicled his visits to Europe and the Holy Land in a series of humorous columns published in the newspaper called Alta California. Later, he compiled this column into the bestselling travel book, The Innocents Abroad. The book is full of wonder, slapstick comedy, cynicism, and self-depreciation.  Twain perfectly captures the naiveté of his fellow Americans while traveling abroad. Twain’s funny descriptions and underlying reverence for the sights of the Old World make this an engrossing read that continues to inspire people to undertake journeys around the world.

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When Fiction Becomes Reality

Book: The Sinbad Voyage

Author: Tim Severin

At one point or another, we have all heard of Sinbad. Though fictional, his marvelous voyages as described in the One Thousand and One Nights, are some of the best travel stories of all time. Tim Severin decided to undertake the monumental task of recreating Sinbad’s legendary voyages. He even went as far as to build an exact replica of an Early Arab trading ship. Severin captained a crew of eight Omani sailors and some European scientists and volunteers as his ship, Sohar, began its recreation of Sinbad’s journeys. The daring experiences like swimming in the sea with sharks among others that the crew underwent make it a remarkable read. I am sure that both history buffs and travel enthusiasts would love this book.

A Naturalist’s Excursion

Book: My First Summer in the Sierra

Author: John Muir

If not for John Muir, the majestic beauty of the Yosemite and Sequoia National Park might not be still preserved today. In My First Summer in the Sierra, the renowned naturalist describes his first foray into the Yosemite River Valley in the year 1869. At the age of thirty-one, Muir tagged along a group of shepherds and a flock of sheep as they made their journey to the beautiful valley. He sketched and observed the flora and fauna and waxed poetic about the natural vista of the land in his journal entries. His awe of nature is clearly evident in his scientific records. His philosophical musings about the valley make it both an informative and a romantic read for readers.

An Epistolic Journey 

Book: Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark

Author: Mary Wollstonecraft


Mary Wollstonecraft was a woman way ahead of her time. Her 1796 travel book, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, is a collection of twenty-five letters addressed to her then-husband, Gilbert Imlay, while she undertook an unconventional journey to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden with her baby. This collection is fraught with Wollstonecraft’s commentary on politics and vivid descriptions of the lifestyle of the places she visited. Her tumultuous private life adds a darkly somber undertone to this account of travels. Her letters give us an insight into the proto-feminist’s life, love, and views. 

A Daring Exploration

Book: Sailing Alone Around the World

Author: Joshua Slocum


I cannot think of a man braver than Joshua Slocum. He was the first man to sail around the whole world all alone with no crew at all. Even today, very few people have the daring to accomplish such a feat. In April of 1895, set off on his sole voyage aboard the Spray. His Sailing Around the World is the account of his remarkable three-year voyage. His true-life tale is as daring and innovative as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Be it pirates, Indians, coral reefs, or sea storms, Slocum encountered it all. Sailing Around the World is indeed a hair-raising tale of adventure which is recommended to adrenaline junkies and traveling spirits.

A Woman Can do it All

Book: The Valley of the Assassins

Author: Freya Stark

In the 1930s, Freya Stark took on a journey that was practically unthinkable for women of her time. She traversed the treacherous yet astounding world of the Middle East all alone. She not only lived through it but also chronicled her travels in The Valley of the Assassins. Journeying through Lustran with a meager budget and often a single guide, she proved to be a role model for women around the world. Her lush descriptions of the ethnic nomadic people and the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East make her book an enthralling read. Freya Stark was indeed an intrepid explorer whose journeys around the world continue to astound us.

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A European Escapade

Book: A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

Author: Laurence Sterne


First published in 1768, Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy is one of the most influential books in the genre of travel writing. The narrator’s Grand Tour to Europe was amazingly unconventional. Instead of visiting all the monuments and cathedrals, he decided to meet diverse people and seek out novel experiences. Filled with witticisms and humorous observations, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy indeed perfectly captures the wanderlust of a traveling spirit.


Travelogues have played a significant role in the evolution of human beings. Books about exploration have made the world come closer. People became aware of locales that nobody knew of before. Travel stories turned many formerly obscure places into popular tourist destinations.

Travelogues give wings to our wanderlust and make us more aware as humans. I would love to know your favorite travel story.

Note: The cover image came from Pexels used with permission from WordPress. Product images and information were provided by Amazon. All other images used belong to the public domain, unless stated otherwise.

2 thoughts on “Around the World in 10 Books: Top 10 Classic Travelogues

  1. Traveling, as you say is one of the most enriching experiences. I think most of us talk about Darwin without actually having read about the trips that inspired his whole theory. But I’d rather start with “The Valley of the Assassins.” That’s one inspiring woman!


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