The 13 Best Travel Coffee Table Books of 2022

From collections of out-of-this-world aerial photography to tomes on aquatic culture, we’ve selected the best coffee table books to grace your home.

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Courtesy of Amazon

"Armchair travel” via thoughtfully written and beautifully photo-illustrated coffee table books brings the farthest-flung corners of the globe to the comfort of your living room. Curling up with a good book and losing yourself is inspiring, soothing, and downright restorative. Plus, these carefully curated books add a touch of sophistication to your home decor.

Whether you’re a foodie, adventure-travel aficionado, or animal lover, these 13 coffee table books will have you zig-zagging across oceans and continents, contemplating different cultures, salivating over dishes, and admiring mother nature while igniting the travel bug within. If you’re an avid traveler who has already been to some of the featured locations, you'll enjoy flipping through a book that sparks precious memories. On the other hand, you may prefer daydreamy reading material focused on a long-desired destination.

“I like to focus on aspirational books versus places I've already visited,” says Ariel Johnson, principal and founder of Ariel Fox Design Inc., which is based in Los Angeles and known for its story-driven spaces. According to Johnson, travel- and joy-based experiences are the foundation of home aesthetics and inspiration. Coffee table books “can act as a vision board, you can set a powerful intention or vibration with an image,” she tells Travel + Leisure.

From adventure trekking in Iceland to eating one's way through Paris, there’s something special for everyone to vicariously enjoy on our list of the best travel coffee table books:

Best Aerial Photography: "Overview: A New Perspective of Earth"

Overview: A New Perspective of Earth

Amazon

Ever heard of the “overview effect”? It’s a feeling of stewardship and cosmic connection that has turned many an astronaut into an environmental advocate after experiencing the awe-inspiring sight of our planet from up above. Based on the popular “Daily Overview” project on Instagram, this profoundly beautiful book features a collection of over 200 high-definition satellite photographs of Earth. The aerial images highlight a big-picture perspective, inclusive of industry, agriculture, architecture, and nature, thus creating awareness of what connects us to the world and why it’s worth saving. This unique and stunning book may change your outlook on our global landscape and the effect humans have upon shaping it. Breathtaking and emotionally impactful, author Benjamin Grant’s project has been called a research “tour de force.” 

Price at time of publish: $33

Dimensions: 10.7 x 1.2 x 11.3 inches | Pages: 288

Best Bucket-list Inspiration: "Bali Mystique"

bali-mystique

Amazon

Assouline Books is founded on the French concept of “savoir vivre,” or “knowing how to live,” and the company is renowned for collaborating with world-famous designers, photographers, artists, and architects. “We love Assouline as a trusted resource,” says Johnson. “We know the quality and visual impact will be there.” This new linen hardcover tome by Canadian-born, Bali-raised sustainable designer and architect Elora Hardy focuses on the magical spaces and natural beauty of the magnetic Indonesian island and frequent bucket-list topper. It’s not hard to understand why it's nicknamed the "Island of the Gods." A hub for surfers, amazing bamboo architecture, and tourists seeking a faraway tropical paradise, Bali attracts millions of people in search of the perfect mix of adventure, culture, and a serene oasis for spiritual meditation. Considering the many breathtaking, dramatic images of black-sand beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls, rice terraces, cliffside villas, and vibrant locals, placing this book front and center may just inspire the journey of a lifetime sooner versus later.  

Price at time of publish: $94

Dimensions: 10.7 x 1.2 x 11.3 inches | Pages: 312

Fine art photographer and New York Times author Gray Malin has shot more than 30 global series, from remote Antarctica to mysterious Bhutan, but in his latest bestseller, Gray Malin: Italy, he explores not only the gorgeous coastal landscapes of Amalfi and Cinque Terre, but also all the retro glamour. Inspired by his beloved photo series “La Dolce Vita,” this book celebrates the country’s stunning sun-kissed beaches, sparkling blue waters, romantic seaside villages, and languorous Mediterranean lifestyle. Colorful beach umbrellas, luxurious boats, and more sun-drenched scenes evoke the enviable lifestyle of the Italian coastline. His timeless, whimsical photographs, including inventive aerial images, are displayed in collectors’ homes, fancy hotels, and public spaces around the world, but this dreamy book brings the essence of the Italian Riviera right into your living room. Ciao bella!

Price at time of publish: $31

Dimensions: .25 x 1 x 13.35 inches | Pages: 144

Best Water-themed: "Thermal: Saunas, Hot Springs & Baths"

thermal-saunas-hot-springs--baths

Amazon

We’ve all heard the term athleisure…now introducing a book focused on “bathleisure.” We love this new phrase, which is a natural extension of the self-care movement. Lindsey Bro, the curator behind the popular Instagram account @CabinLove, invites readers to explore the concept of bathing through healing rituals and the tranquility of bathing culture around the globe. Featuring over 150 photographs plus recommended calming practices, this breathtaking collection of images celebrates the locations, mythologies, and traditions of its subject. From a snowy sauna in Alaska to the holy ancient baths of Turkey the pages overflow with idyllic landscapes and wanderlust inspo for wellness gurus and outdoor adventurers alike. It's also chock full of research, recipes, and remedies. If you prefer serenity, escape, hot springs, hammams, and a little steam time over screen time, immerse yourself in this coffee table book that doubles as a sensual boudoir fixture.

Price at time of publish: $30

Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.88 x 9.5 inches | Pages: 256

Best Road Trip-themed: "The Modern Caravan: Stories of Love, Beauty, and Adventure on the Open Road"

the-modern-caravan-stories-of-love-beauty-and-adventure-on-the-open-road

Amazon

Celebrated Airstream builder and designer Kate Oliver’s gorgeous and eye-opening new book invites you along to contemplate the adventure of a lifetime while roaming the world in a tiny yet chic rolling home. Travel, adventure, stylish interiors, and awesome vistas await in this collection of travelogues featuring over 100 images and 35 different stories from solo travelers, couples, and families. For anyone who has ever dreamed of leaving it all behind and setting out on the open road, this beautiful coffee table book allows you to vicariously experience life as a modern nomad. It’s fascinating to see how differently each modern caravan is decorated—from a trailer reminiscent of its desert landscape to a vintage camper filled with plants and natural wood finishes, each functional motorhome is built with  long-held dreams, ingenuity, and imagination. 

Price at time of publish: $13

Dimensions: 7.48 x 9.37 x 1.02 inches  | Pages: 224

Best on Beaches: "Captured by the Sea"

captured-by-the-sea

Amazon

Seattle-based landscape photographer Jessica Cantlin’s new book captures the intersection of human beach culture and the coastal environments we so enjoy.  Not just focused on tranquil blue waters and rows of colorful umbrellas, this collection of images conveys how the seaside offers peace, fun, sport, escape, adventure, and meaning for everyone regardless of age, race, or class. As a silent observer focusing on the facial expressions and body language of her human subjects, she discreetly tells their stories of aquatic adventure and oceanic intrigue. These details bring meaning to fleeting moments, making them transportive for all who gaze upon the waves—or this artful book.

Price at time of publish: $36

Dimensions: 1.25 x .75 x 7.5 inches | Pages: 128

Best on Parks: "The Art of the National Parks"

the-art-of-the-national-parks

Amazon

In a list full of photography-focused books, this art-forward tome of U.S. National Park posters is a stand-out addition to any coffee table collection. Part of the Fifty-nine Parks Print Series, each image was created by a renowned contemporary artist or designer in celebration of the original WPA (Works Project Administration) posters made in the 1930s. The result is a one-of-a-kind tribute that celebrates the unique beauty and majesty of each of the 59 parks. Every print is accompanied by a captivating summary, including facts about the park’s flora, fauna, best sights to see, and seasonal travel tips. If you’re already a fan of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Acadia, Grand Teton, Olympic, or Glacier (i.e. the “Top Ten Most Visited” parks, according to the National Park Service), you’ll find your sweet spot in here—or perhaps become intrigued by a new location you want to visit. The book is a delightful gift for nature lovers, park enthusiasts, campers, and anyone with an eye for contemporary art. Plus, each poster is available for purchase, and a portion of each sale supports American public land conservation.

Price at time of publish: $31

Dimensions: 9.5 x .9 x 12 inches | Pages: 176

Best Wildlife: "How I Make Photographs (Masters of Photography)"

how-i-make-photographs

Amazon

Are you an aspiring wildlife photographer? Even if you’re an amateur shutterbug or take purely iPhone-based photos of, say, birds in your backyard, this new book by world-famous conservationist and photographer David Yarrow is an expert instructional guide. For over 20 years, Yarrow has pushed the boundaries of his approach, managing to snap an incredible assortment of endangered species in their natural habitats. Full of key lessons, practical pointers on composition and perspective, tips on using remote cameras, advice on dealing with dangerous animals, and Yarrow’s personal philosophy on capturing memorable wildlife images, this non-fiction book is brimming with breathtaking pictures and doubles as a how-to manual. Although it’s smaller in size and not a traditional “coffee table book,” How I Make Photographs is full of visual and instructional gems, and we think it would look perfect on top of a stack of larger books. Alternatively, you can toss it in a carry-on or camera bag to bring as inspiration on your next wildlife travel adventure.

Price at time of publish: $16

Dimensions: 5.6 x 7.9 x .5 inches | Pages: 128

Best for Foodies: "In Love with Paris: Recipes & Stories From the Most Romantic City in the World"

in-love-with-paris-recipes--stories-from-the-most-romantic-city-in-the-world

Amazon

Is it a coffee table book, a cookbook, or a travelogue? C’est les trois! Cookbook author and food stylist Anne-Katrin Weber invites readers on a culinary walk through the City of Love, where you’ll see classic mouth-watering dishes—from croque madames to coq au vin—alongside heart-melting tales of Paris. Filled to the brim with romantic stories, sweet and savory recipes, and, of course, iconic locations, this coffee table book is the definition of savoir vivre. Whether you flip through it while relaxing and sipping a café au lait or put its recipes to good use at your next dinner party, there’s something for every bon vivant who picks up this pretty French food bible. 

Price at time of publish: $25

Dimensions: 8.15 x .9 x 10.65  inches | Pages: 176

Best Adventure Travel: "Stunning Iceland: The Hedonist's Guide"

stunning-iceland-the-hedonists-guide

Amazon

Hedonists get a bad rap; there’s nothing wrong with pleasure-seeking—in fact, we believe everything is right about seeking joy, inspiration, and spectacular vistas while flipping through the pages of this special coffee table book. A gorgeous tribute to the adventure and stunning beauty of Iceland’s fjords, highlands, Western Islands, and capital city of Reykjavik, it is filled with extraordinary color photography, insider tips, and must-see attractions, cultural information, and highly detailed maps. A travelogue and guidebook in one, Stunning Iceland is the perfect browse (or in-depth study) for the adventure seeker, digital nomad, or modern tourist. Readers will discover unique walking routes, luxury ecolodges, Arctic surfers, polar foxes, blue whales, waterfalls, natural hot springs, the “new Nordic” gastronomy, and much more. As the first entry in the Hedonist’s Guide travel series, this book will transport you from your living room to the land of fire and ice to tour glaciers and active volcanoes all from the safety and comfort of your couch. 

Price at time of publish: $20

Dimensions: 8 x 1.25 x 10.5 inches | Pages: 256

Best on Hiking: "You Are Here: Hikes: The Most Scenic Spots on Earth"

you-are-here-hikes-the-most-scenic-spots-on-earth

Amazon

Oh, take a hike! And we mean that in the very best way possible. This “choose your own adventure”-esque guidebook features a slew of beautifully curated hikes from across the globe. Whether you’re actively planning a trek or just vividly daydreaming about an enchanting forest, coastal trail, rocky alpine summit, or some other awe-inspiring jaunt, this coffee table collection of breathtaking photos will serve you well. Inspirational yet attainable, each hand-picked hiking itinerary and accompanying image represents a unique journey, complete with geo-information to help bring you from spot to spot. This photo collection has something special in mind for hikers of all experience levels, and those planning everything from far-off, once-in-a-lifetime hikes to close-to-home day hikes.

Price at time of publish: $23

Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 7.55 inches  | Pages: 160

Best on Nature: "Nature Swagger: Stories and Visions of Black Joy in the Outdoors"

nature-swagger-stories-and-visions-of-black-joy-in-the-outdoors

Amazon

From author Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, a top organization for the promotion of Black activism, conservation, and exploration of the natural world and outdoor spaces, comes an elegant and awe-inspiring collection of photography and stories. This exquisite coffee table book encourages Black and Brown communities and travelers to visit and reclaim healing, sacred spaces in nature. Through its beautiful imagery and compelling storytelling, profiles, and spotlights on the connection between Black history and a unique, broader approach to education, this artful and educational tome is meant to motivate people who’ve historically been excluded from and less represented in the great outdoors. A showcase for Black joy, strength, and celebration of the land and elements, Nature Swagger is an uplifting and meaningful addition to your coffee table decor, or a wonderful gift selection for an outdoorsy friend interested in hiking, camping, backpacking, birding, and more.

Price at time of publish: $25

Dimensions: 7.8 x 8.8 x 1.4 inches | Pages: 192

Best Cause: "Endangered"

Endangered

Amazon

London–based author and wildlife photographer Tim Flach highlights the vibrant faces and astonishing stories of many of the rarest and most vulnerable animals on Earth in this vivid and emotionally compelling coffee table book. An honorary Royal Photographic Society fellow, Flach shares portraits that capture the vivid and often human-like expressions of a range of endangered species. With the help of renowned zoologist Jonathan Baillie, Flach traversed the globe to find his furry, feathered, and finned subjects and record their modern challenges. From the primates facing habitat loss to the elephants still hunted for ivory, big cats losing their battle with human encroachment, and the crowned sifaka lemur of Madagascar who graces the cover (they’ve been poached for food and also suffer devastating habitat loss), these noble yet threatened species represent numerous ecosystems. With this incredible, multi-year collection of more than 180 photographs of unique forest, savannah, coral reef, and polar sea creatures, Flach offers a profound visual record of the multi-layered dilemmas experienced by non-human animals at odds with people all over the planet.

Price at time of publish: $65

Dimensions: 10.5 x 1.5 x 13.4 inches | Pages: 336

Tips for Buying a Travel Coffee Table Book

Consider your interests, travels, and overall decor

Here’s a little interior design hack: Coffee table books are the “secret weapon” of home styling. Useful, beautiful, versatile, and often colorful, they provide visual interest to any flat surface, as well as insight into your unique personality wherever they rest—on the coffee table, sure, but also shelves, end tables, and more. 

When choosing coffee table books, consider your overall decor, such as the color scheme of the room, or you can embrace an eclectic aesthetic and pick books that speak to your personal interests. An intriguing display of design-forward books is an easy way to showcase your travels and hobbies, inspire conversation with guests, and add a touch of sophistication and elegance to your home living space. Consider buying ones that not only have pretty covers but also correspond to past travels or upcoming adventures.

“I recommend choosing a book that inspires or reflects a desired vibe,” Johnson tells T+L. “For example, high-contrast and bold colors can create energy in a space. While more muted and soft-focus imagery can produce a relaxing tone. The great thing about a coffee table book is you can change it up depending on your mood!”

Indeed, if you’re a nature and wildlife lover, seek out photography-focused books by a favorite famed shutterbug. For fashionistas, foodies, and art lovers, there are also a ton of options and many offer a combination of travel, cuisine, and global style and culture.  

Choose to browse or lose yourself for hours

Should you pick coffee table books you can browse for a short period of time or ones you can lose yourself in for hours? Why not a combination of both? 

“It's a real luxury to have the time to curl up with a book for hours,” says Johnson. “My lifestyle edges more to an appreciative glance at an open page on my coffee table. To each their own!” 

We agree with Johnson. Sometimes you only have 10 minutes to relax, sip a latte, and flip through the pages of a favorite artsy book. Other times, you may find yourself gladly relaxing inside on a rainy weekend night exploring the pages of a beloved book and mentally planning your next exotic escape.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How should I display my coffee table books?

    Sure, they’re called “coffee table books,” but there’s no hard and fast rule that says you must display them only on a coffee table. Entryway tables, end tables, nightstands, desks, shelves, mantles, benches, baskets, and ottomans are all fair game. Similarly, look beyond the living room for bare spots of interest in the bedroom, kitchen, family room, home office, den, guest room, bathroom, enclosed porch, or sunroom, really anywhere you might add an eye-pleasing stack or want to pick up a book to browse while lounging. That said, Johnson offers a handful of smart styling tips for traditionalists who prefer their coffee table books displayed on, you guessed it, coffee tables.

     

    “For round or organic-shaped tables I like to keep the book open, displaying a particular page and image,” she says. “If the book doesn't want to stay open, I weigh it down with a crystal or a small desk weight.”   

     

    For square tables, she says, “I like to stack the same-sized books, one, two, three, and four high in a grid. Change up the heights for a dynamic look and top the books with small objects or candles.”   

     

    Similarly, for a rectangular table, she ascribes to the rule of three: “Two stacks of books followed by an arrangement or table sculpture. Again, top one of the stacks with a candle or crystal.”    

     

    And for those who own a round coffee table, try imaging the space like a triangle with three potential spots to add visual interest. A vase, candle holder, or heirloom objet d’art on top of three book stacks may lend a personal touch, giving the surface a more dynamic feel in an otherwise flat area of the room.

  • How many coffee table books should I have?

    The answer to this question is dependent on you and how comfortable you are with visual design. The “right” amount of books doesn’t exist, but finding a balance that’s right for you and your space does. You can go the minimalist route and only display a handful of books, or you can go the maximalist way and stack to your heart’s delight all over the house. 

     

    “My advice is to play around with layering your books with accessories and plants,” says Johnson. “As a general rule, I never stack higher than 10 inches. If you're new to styling, I recommend starting with one book and opening it to an inspiring page. An open book creates great impact in a room and invites you to keep turning the page.”

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

​​T+L writer Saryn Chorney used her personal experience, professional expertise, and tester’s recommendations to research and select the best travel coffee table books. She also turned to her art background, sustainable lifestyle, and eco-travel knowledge to curate a list of books about nature, wildlife, national parks, and more.

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