12 of the Best Travel Novels to Inspire Wanderlust in You

[su_heading size=”23″ margin=”110″]Warning these travel novels may cause intense uncontrollable wanderlust and leave you with itchy feet to travel![/su_heading]

Have you ever read a book which has left a lasting impression and made you anxious to visit the place where the story was set?

I love it when a travel novel transports you away from your living room and to far off lands. When a travel book allows you to feel like you can see, feel, smell and hear the sights and sounds described within the pages. It’s almost as though you travel with the author and experience the same things they did when they were inspired to write the story.

There are some months when finances do not allow me to go abroad and in some small way, reading a travel novel set somewhere exotic can quench my travel thirst.

So I decided to ask some of my fellow travel bloggers about the best travel novels which inspired them to travel. Here are 12 travel books – one for each month of the year to inspire your year of travel.

Credit to Dmitri Popov

*Please note that this post does contain affiliate links. This means if you purchase a book through these links, I will gain a small commission but it will not cost you any extra. This helps contribute towards the running of this website! *

What you can expect from this article…

  • 1 The Best Travel Novels as Voted by Travel Experts…
    • 1.1 Have mercy on us all, Fred Vargas
    • 1.2 East of the Sun, Julia Gregson
    • 1.3 Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
    • 1.4 The Beach, Alex Garland
    • 1.5 On The Road, Jack Kerouac 
    • 1.6 Love with the chance of drowning, Torre DeRoche                                           
    • 1.7 The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas                                                    
    • 1.8 The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy         
    • 1.9 Inferno, Dan Brown 
    • 1.10 A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens                                                               
    • 1.11 Wild, Cheryl Strayed                                      
    • 1.12 The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk         
    • 1.13 Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier                                                               

The Best Travel Novels as Voted by Travel Experts…

Have mercy on us all, Fred Vargas

Review by Lena, www.salutfromparis.com

Paris, Montparnasse. Mysterious signs are appearing on doors and residents are showing up dead – covered with flea bites and blackened flesh. A Breton sailor, who’s earned his living as a town crier, announces in cryptic messages the return of the plague. A case for Commissaire Adamsberg – the quirky head of the brigade of the 14th arrondissement.

Fred Vargas takes you to Paris. A Paris without tourists, without sights. But with originals and eccentrics, through neighbourhoods and corner pubs. A Paris that you can’t wait to see for yourself after finishing the novel.

East of the Sun, Julia Gregson

Review by myself

What I love even more than a book set somewhere exotic which allows me to travel in my imagination to that place, is a book also set in history which also allows me to also travel in time.

This book has it all. Set in my 1920’s it follows 3 young women who travel to India in search of love and contentment.

It’s a great insight into the Indian high society history and culture but also gave a colourful detailed descriptive image of India which captured my imagination and intrigued and inspired me to plan my own visit to India. For this reason, I think it is justified on this list of the best travel novels!

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts

Review by Moni, www.omtripsblog.com

Why should I tell you to read more than 900 pages? Because every single page of Shantaram is worth reading and I believe it is one of the best travel novels out there!

You will find everything you need – a love story, criminal activity and real inspiration to travel across India. Besides my passion for yoga, this book is one of the reasons why I want to explore this country, the colours and its endless stories.

Shantaram could be a real guide to all these secret cafes and restaurants, places and streets described by Gregory David Roberts. With this very good written prose, you will purify your mind. The book will give you a sense of freedom, freedom to be yourself and follow your own path.

If you’re thinking of visiting India, check out this Interview with a Local : New Delhi Guide

The Beach, Alex Garland

Review by James, www.worldwideshoppingguide.com

It may be a cliché, but The Beach by Alex Garland is the travel book that inspired me to visit Thailand.

For those who haven’t read it (or seen the film adaptation), The Beach is a fictional account of a young British backpacker who visits Thailand and discovers a secret community of travellers who live on a Thai island.

The story recounts his journey to the island, the incredible life he discovers there, and how it all eventually falls apart. Anyone who has ever travelled, but been disillusioned with the experience, will enjoy the idyllic picture Garland paints of life on The Beach.

On The Road, Jack Kerouac 

Review by Pip, Pipandthecity.com

When I was a teenager, I could be ever so serious. I loved complicated sci-fi films, had an interest in politics, obscure poetry, art house films and was also mildly obsessed with Jack Kerouac.

I read his book ‘On the road’ over and over again, I loved the idea of being in constant motion, of shifting landscapes, meeting interesting people and to just keep driving west. I had always dreamed of driving across the states and at 21 I jumped at the chance to go and work in a summer camp in America, not realizing that to hire a car and drive 2000 miles would be prohibitively expensive for a 21-year-old earning summer camp wages.

Still, Kerouac’s poetic words inspired a real sense of wanderlust in me and I have now travelled to over 50 countries and 270 cities since I first read his book as a wide-eyed teenager in a leather trench coat.

I have yet to drive across the states, it’s still a dream, a goal, an unquenchable desire that dances in my dreams. I’ll get there, one day, as Kerouac says, “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”

Love with the chance of drowning, Torre DeRoche                                           

Review by Kristina & Charlie, maptrotting

I read ‘Love with the Chance of Drowning’ by Torre DeRoche while living in Bangkok. It’s an inspirational autobiography of an Australian city girl who agrees to cruise the Pacific with her lover, despite her fear of the ocean.

What kept me captive whilst reading this travel-themed book is the constant struggle and compelling descriptions of the amazing tropical islands they have visited on their boat, Amazing Grace.

A year later, these descriptions and her courage are still vivid in my memory and inspire me not only to explore the world but also face my own fears.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas                                                    

Review by Eoin, dollysquest.com

This book is a period piece set in the years of 1815-1839 detailing the life of Edmond Dantes/The Count. A man who is falsely accused, sentenced to prison, escapes and attempts to enact revenge upon his enemies. The book brings you on a journey through France, Italy and the Mediterranean and through the social classes of this time in history.

The details of both the countries and locations visited provide inspiration for any would-be travel but especially those with an interest in literature and history. Many readers can only hope their adventures are half as interesting as those in this travel novel.

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy         

Review by Sarah, asocialnomad.com

Set in the glorious South Indian State of Kerala, the Booker Prize-winning “The God of Small Things” from Arundhati Roy not only inspired me to visit but also to look at what I was seeing differently.

Roy doesn’t just describe foliage as green, but as spring, effervescent or mossy.  Her evocatively descriptive account of the childhood of fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel is eloquent and mesmerising. 

The descriptions of the backwaters of Kerala are comparative only to the beauty of the state itself.   The profound loss that I felt at the end of the novel a match only to the longing that I feel on a regular basis to return.

Inferno, Dan Brown 

Review by Jen, www.jenonajetplane.com

I’m ashamed to admit that Florence, Italy, was not on my short list of places to visit prior to reading Dan Brown’s mystery thriller, Inferno.

There’s nothing like accompanying scholar and adventurer Robert Langdon on a high-speed chase through the streets of Firenze to gives readers a whole new appreciation for the city.

From the hidden Vasari Corridor to the whimsical Boboli Grotto, this book accurately describes places you can visit in real life, providing the ideal blend of fact and fiction.

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens                                                               

Review by Somnath, www.travelcrusade.org

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens inspired me to visit Paris and London in 2013 on my trip to Europe. 

I found Paris beautiful – as I expected after reading Charles Dickens description of Paris in this novel. There were places of architectural importance, a few mausoleums, and enjoyable river cruise and so on. Not to mention the Eiffel Tower which inspires millions to travel to this romantic destination in the evening hours and enjoy the hidden beauty of spending some time near the river.

I loved London, partly for the London buses and being able to travel throughout the city enjoying the sights. The famous coffee shops and the markets which add to London’s character.

When I look back at A Tale of Two Cities, I relate to the novel that tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to life in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met.

If you want to visit Paris, check out this Interview with a Local: Paris Guide

Wild, Cheryl Strayed                                      

Review by Claudia, myadventuresacrosstheworld.com

One of the best travel novels is Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. Recollecting the story of how the author embarked on a life-changing long distance hike (the Pacific Crest Trail.)

This story beautifully describes the environment and the atmosphere of the places that the trail goes through – especially California and Oregon.

The scenery described is enchanting: mountains, desert, forest. The challenges recollected are many, yet they capture the reader and make one want to follow in those steps.

More than that, however, it is the story of an inner journey, one that all of us need to take at some point in life.

The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk         

Review by Marya, www.thebeautraveler.com

This book set in Istanbul from 1975 to 1983, tells the story of a love affair of a wealthy businessman Kemal with his distant relative, Fusun, which becomes an obsession.  Kemal begins collecting things and stealing from Fusun’s home leading him to build a museum as a tribute to his lover. The Museum of Innocence or Masumiyet Müzesi can be visited in the Cukurcuma area in Istanbul.

When I discovered there was a real Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, (with free entry for anyone who attends with the book,) I knew I had to visit Istanbul again. I wanted to see the museum to see if the artefacts exhibited are aligned with the ones told in the story.

A year later, I made it to Istanbul for a few days to have a short getaway and I made it to the museum on Monday only to find out that the museum was closed. I had to fly back to Jeddah later that evening, I came back home with disappointed still not to have visited the museum!

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier                                                               

Review by Stephanie, theworldasiseeit.me

Sweeping views of Lisbon’s terracotta rooftops are what first piqued my interest to visit Portugal’s capital city. But it was the travel novel, Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon, that solidified my desire to travel to Lisbon.

Night Train to Lisbon follows an odd Latin teacher from Switzerland as he sets out on an unexpected and life-changing journey to Lisbon. Serendipitous encounters with a Portuguese woman and a book he picks up about a Portuguese doctor send him on a search.

Following his story, as he wandered the streets of Lisbon on his journey, both inward and outward, it made me fall in love with Lisbon before I even stepped foot there, and inspired me to take my own journey to Lisbon.

Credit to Mint Owl

So there we have it, 12 great travel novels for every month of the year that will fuel your wanderlust and give you itchy feet to travel again! If you prefer travel guidebooks instead of travel novels, check out my Valentines Gift Guide which includes several great books such as the World Atlas of Street food

Now that you’ve been inspired, why not check out my Cheap Flight Guide or my Trip Planning Guide to kickstart those travel plans?!

What’s your favourite travel book? I’d love to hear about it in the comments – I’m always looking for new books that inspire travel to download on my kindle!

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