Under Eastern eyes

The Ottoman Empire inspired great travel books as well as great architects. Travellers like George Sandys, Richard Pococke or the Chevalier d’Arvieux in the 17th and 18th centuries were curious, erudite and less arrogant than their 19th-century successors.


All these Indias

David Gilmour enjoys an idiosyncratic journey around this vast country of sometimes unbearable contrasts

In the lap of the Gods

The Oxus, that vast central Asian river that rises somewhere in the Afghan Pamirs, has fascinated explorers for centuries. Its…

Turkish time travel

Harry Mount looks across the Dardanelles and sees yesterday’s weather today


Wonders of the world’s fare

Apart from knowing your onions, you should be widely travelled, and preferably artistic, to cut the mustard these days, Fay Maschler suspects

In a Greene shade

Some travel writers, in an attempt to simulate the hardship of Victorian journeys, like to impose artificial difficulties on themselves.


Tangerine dreams

Before tourism came travel; and before travel, exploration.

The lure of adventure

A few minutes’ walk from Paddington Station is a drinking den and restaurant called the Frontline Club, a members’ club for foreign correspondents.


Animals without Backbones

What is a Bug? For this book, any animal that is not a Beast: the whole invertebrate realm, from the humble amoeba, through insects (more than half the book), to octopuses and sea-squirts (the distant forbears of you and me, lords and ladies of creation).


The poetry of everyday life

In an age when it is fashionable to travel with a fridge, Nicholas Jubber’s decision to take an 11th-century epic poem as his travelling companion to Iran and Afghanistan can only be admired.


Whither America?

At the beginning of The Ask, Horace sits with Burke and proclaims that America is a ‘run down and demented pimp’.


Not every aspect pleases

Half a century ago I read W. G. Hoskins’s book, The Making of the English Landscape, when it first came out. It was for me an eye-opener, as it was for many people.


To strive, to seek, to find . . .

In 1931, a 23-year-old Englishman called Henry ‘Gino’ Watkins returned from an expedition to the white depths of the Greenlandic ice cap.


Casualties of war and peace

John Simpson quotes Humbert Wolfe’s mischievous lampoon but makes it clear that, in spite of the somewhat disobliging title of his book, he does not accept it as fair comment.


Progress at a price

I was sitting recently with a former US marine by one of the huge open windows on the top floor of the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon.


Land of eternal euphemism

If it wasn’t for the sheer misery of most of its luckless inhabitants, wouldn’t the world be a duller place without North Korea?


Beyond pretty

For the last 30 years John Lister-Kaye has lived at Aigas, in the valley of the River Beauly, seven or eight miles from the sea and half an hour west of Inverness.


Indian snakes and ladders

Award-winning poet Ruth Padel established her prose credentials with her autobiographical travel book, Tigers in Red Weather.


Paris of the gutter

Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, lies on a marshy bay encircled by mountains.

Agony and ecstasy

Twenty years ago, when William Dalrymple published his first book, In Xanadu, travel writers tended to follow the example of Paul Theroux, whose huge success then dominated the genre, and to cast themselves as the heroes of their narratives.

Acute observations

In the 1950s, when I was 14, I spent a winter fortnight with my parents at the Villa Mauresque, which Somerset Maugham had lent to them to entertain the recently widowed Rab Butler and his daughter, Sarah.

You can go home again

Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands, by Aatish Taseer


On the waterfront

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer


The romance of the jungle

The Lost City of Z, by David Grann

Time out in Tuscany

The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy, by Rachel Cusk