8 Literary Travel Destinations You'll Want to Visit
When it comes to the world's greatest escapes, traveling and reading are right up there. And because they go together so well, we merged the two to compile our ultimate literary travel bucket list featuring the destinations you need to visit and the books you need to take along. Think of it as a glorified wine-and-cheese pairing.
Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway in the great outdoors or you're due for an adventure overseas, this will satisfy your inner bookworm and inherent wanderer alike. Read on to discover your dream book/travel pairing, and good luck refraining from booking all eight of them. (The only thing that'll be more difficult will be pacing yourself to avoid finishing the entire book before your flight lands.)
In the Tropics
The Book: Karen Russell creates a magical world in which her protagonist, Ava, grows up in Swamplandia!, a theme park in the Florida Everglades. The book traces Ava's adventures as her family beings to unravel. With its magical realism, clever humor (the rival theme park is called The World of Darkness), and buoyant, energetic language, Russell's story will captivate you.
The Destination: Spend a day in the Everglades to spot some alligators lurking beneath the murky surface. Don't worry: You don't need to live up to Ava's gator-wrestling past. Before you leave the area, explore the charming Florida Key towns. Once you've had enough adventure there, head to Miami. For accommodations, stay at La Faena (there's an incredible Damien Hirst statue on the property). If you'd prefer a more casual hotel, try the Freehand. Be sure to check out the art in Wynwood and eat at Mandolin Aegean Bistro.
On the Classic Road Trip
The Book: On the Road is based on Beat Generation novelist Jack Kerouac's experiences driving across the country. You'll join Sal and Dean in their many adventures that take them to cities around Virginia, New York, Denver, San Francisco, and beyond. If you do choose to read it while on a road trip, you may have difficulty putting it down while behind the wheel.
The Destination: If you'd like to replicate the route that inspired Kerouac, this detailed map may come in handy. Or if you'd rather limit your On the Road–inspired trip to a single destination, we recommend the San Francisco Bay Area. Drive through Big Sur to soak in the gorgeous views on your way to San Francisco. This city is an important landmark for the Beat movement, so if you love Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, you'll appreciate what it has to offer. Check out the historic bookstore City Lights, and then walk to Leo's Oyster Bar for drool-worthy interiors (and dishes to match).
Through Eastern Europe
The Book: At the crux of it, The Unbearable Lightness by Milan Kundera is a philosophical story about love and fate. It explores the complexities of choice and how our decisions shape us and those around us. Exploring the personal lives of four very different individuals within the historic setting of Prague Spring in 1968, Kundera challenges the reader to think about the interconnectedness between personal and public life.
The Destination: Visit the Czech Republic and stay at The Boho Hotel in Prague. It's a modern, minimalistic, chic spot in the heart of medieval city of Old Town. The scenic views are endless and a little bit like Disneyland, only much more authentic and beautiful. Keep your camera on hand as you explore the enchanting neighborhoods. For more literary history, check out the Franz Kafka Museum.
When You’re Off the Grid
The Book: Wild, a celebrated memoir by Cheryl Strayed, is nothing short of inspiring. The author writes about her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on her own, starting her 1100-mile journey in the Mojave Desert and ending it in Washington. She has a charming voice with plenty to say, which makes this book rewarding and enjoyable.
The Destination: If you can’t make it to the Pacific Crest Trail, opt for a national park closer to home. And if you don't want to commit to the entire thousand-mile trek, we recommend choosing one spot to camp in. If we had to choose one location along the trail, it'd be Mount Hood in Oregon. Whether you choose to camp or glamp is up to you, as long as your backdrop is the wild.
By the Italian Seaside
The Book: Historical fiction fans, this one is for you! Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter opens on the rocky Italian coast in a quiet hotel. Walters takes his lovable characters (and the reader) through midcentury Hollywood; Florence, Italy; and contemporary Portland, Oregon. Each character's narrative eventually overlaps in this romantic, triumphant tale. Even though it does an incredible job mentally transporting you to each location, it's even better if you read it while you're there yourself.
The Destination: Walter's representation of the Italian coast gave us serious wanderlust. Our of our favorite destinations off the Italian coast is Capri. We suggest you stay in one of the quaint hotels nestled into the cliffs about a 10-minute walk from the center of town; we love Villa Brunella for families and poolside views. You'll never eat, people-watch, hike, and swim better than you will while visiting Capri. Pro tip: Hang out on the rocky beach of Da Luigi as you read Beautiful Ruins.
During a City Escape
The Book: Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion features the best opening line since Moby Dick: "What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask." Didion employs tight, controlled language to convey the disturbing actions that unfold. It takes place in 1960s Hollywood and is told in first-person vignettes that will enthrall and haunt you. As a California native, Didion eloquently captures both the beauty and danger of Southern California.
The Destination: Los Angeles is arguably the most anthropomorphized place that's ever been written about, often taking on a more central role than any of the human characters, and Play It as It Lays is no exception. You can choose to explore Venice, California, like a local and stay at Parachute Hotel, or get to know downtown L.A. while staying at the Ace Hotel. And even though the protagonist of Play It as It Lays doesn't make it sound appealing, you should visit Palm Springs to bask in the sun and see its iconic midcentury design.
To Bring to the backwaters
The Book: The God of Small Things is the kind of book you’ll remember forever for its relentless brilliance and beauty. Its author, Arundhati Roy, writes with such poignancy that the setting of Kerala, India, is sure to top your travel bucket list. It's nicknamed "God's Own Country" because of its natural beauty (hence the novel's title). This story has a little bit of everything, from family tragedy to forbidden love, political unrest, and alliteration galore.
The Destination: Getting to Kerala is a bit of a trek, but the journey is very much worth it. Kerala is well-known for its backwaters, which you get a sense of in The God of Small Things, so stay at the Marari Beach Resort or Brunton Boatyard. Both of these options have unparalleled access to the most gorgeous views. For a truly authentic experience on the water, consider renting a houseboat for your vacation. We recommend The Lotus. Whether you're feasting your eyes on the endless sea of paddy fields or drifting through the lagoons, you'll experience the wonder of Kerala.
For that Romantic Rendezvous
For that Romantic Rendezvous
The Book: James Baldwin is most known for his life-changing essays, but he's an equally talented novelist. The best part about his writing is that he manages to be both accessible and prolific. For an entertaining narrative that incorporates romance, sexuality, and murder, read Giovanni's Room. It's a coming-of-age story narrated by David, an American expat living in Paris, as he navigates his new life abroad. David's musings on the meaning and value of home are unforgettable, providing us with zingers like this one: "Perhaps home is not a place but an irrevocable condition."
The Destination: Having attracted so many writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and James Baldwin himself), Paris is a literature lover's paradise. For art buffs, we recommend staying at Le Roch Hotel by the Louvre or L'Hôtel Particulier Montmartre. Aside from the usual tourist destinations, take advantage of the gallery scene and the charming cafés and bistros the city offers. For intimate drink spot and fun nightlife options, head to Candelaria or Andy Wahloo.
Once you've ordered the books, shop our travel picks below.
What are your favorite travel destinations and book combinations? Can you think of any more that we should add to our bucket list? Bon voyage!