50 Must-Have Coffee Table Books for the Armchair Traveler 

For those who know exactly what they would do if they won the lottery (buy a gorgeous house, quit working, and travel the world!), this collection of books is a passport to colorful daydreams, exotic foods, and amazing experiences that can only be found far from home. But if your day job is still your job job, take a virtual trip via one of these classic photography books. You’re sure to return, if not rested, at least inspired.

Atlas Obscura, by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, and Dylan Thuras
From the creators of the popular website comes a book with profiles of 700 of the strangest (and most interesting!) places on Earth. Covering everything from a pub inside a baobob tree to a bone museum in Italy, each entry is sure to disgust, intrigue, amuse, delight, or amaze you.

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel, by Lonely Planet
So many places and so little time to see them…so let the experts at Lonely Planet rank them for you. Never worry about whether you should see Budapest before Birmingham again!

1000 Places to See Before You Die, by Patricia Schultz
If for some reason you’ve run out of places to see, consult the ultimate checklist and get back out there. This guide will inspire budget travelers, thrill seekers, and cultural anthropologists alike.

Humans of New York: Stories, by Brandon Stanton
Profound, real, and empathetic, Stanton has a talent for turning interviews into heart-to-heart sessions that reveal just how similar we all are, whether we spend our days in New York City, abroad, or in our armchairs.

Paris in Bloom, by Georgianna Lane
Take the most beautiful city in the world and add flowers? Ooh la la! This gorgeous collection of photographs celebrates the flower markets, gardens, and other floral focal points of the city. Très belle!

Wild Beautiful Places, by National Geographic
Step into the National Geographic archives with this collection of vintage photographs that capture Nature at her best. Including interviews with the photographers, this book will inspire you to improve your own skills.

Beaches, by Gray Malin
Photographed by a favorite in the fashion industry, The Hamptons, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and more are all on display in these masterful aerial shots that show off the easy breezy glam that is life at the beach.

Drives of a Lifetime, by National Geographic
Whether you’re flying solo or with someone you love, there’s nothing better than a road trip. As much a collection of gorgeous photographs as it is a travel planner, this book will guide you onto the open road with expert advice, solid maps, and the detours dreams are made of.

Both Sides of Sunset, by Jane Brown and Marla Hamburg Kennedy
Photographs from masters like Julian Schulman and Lee Friedlander come together to reveal the many layers of Los Angeles, a city that can be as sinful as it is sunny. This book is the next best thing to landing at LAX.

Secret Journeys of a Lifetime, by National Geographic
Top Ten lists, large photographs, maps, and informative sidebars make this a practical guide to deeper travel. With chapters titled “Spiritual Havens,” “Hidden Treasures,” and “The Road Less Travelled,” you’ll step into a world that is missed by many but never forgotten by those who discover it.

The National Parks, by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns
This is a behind-the-scenes look at the PBS special that celebrates Acadia, Denali, the Everglades and more national treasures, as well as a lavish visual history of the parks themselves. With the same democratic spirit as the TV series, this is a book for everyone.

Paris in Color, by Nichole Robertson
Bleu, rouge, vert, gris, noir! They’re all found in Paris. Take a colorful tour of artists’ favorite city. Organized by color, this book is sure to have you seeing even your own neighborhood with new eyes!

Treasured Lands, by Q.T. Luong
Having logged over 300 trips to the national parks, Luong is an expert on capturing their beauty and majesty. This collection of hundreds of photographs includes captions that explain his process and vision for protecting this magnificent land.

This Land, by Jack Spencer
Inspired by the attacks on September 11th, Spencer committed to creating a portrait of America. The project took him to churches, monuments, and the vast landscapes this country is known for. The resulting variety represents the diversity and wonder that is found here.

Abandoned Places, by Kieron Connolly
There’s something magnetic about images of ghost towns, rusty amusement parks, and abandoned hospitals. Both haunting and peaceful, they each tell a story, and Connolly’s more than 200 photographs are exceptional examples of the genre.

Castles from the Air, by Giampiero Gianazza
Often a favorite on any itinerary, castles represent our ability to create great things: community, architecture, and history. This book presents these ancient buildings with a fresh aerial perspective that will leave you eager to roam the real thing and admire their ingenuity and grace in person.

Overview, by Benjamin Grant
Using satellite images to make the astronaut perspective available to Earthbound armchair travelers, this collection of over 200 images reveals our planet in ways we’ve never seen before. Distant views of familiar buildings, landscapes, and more are sure to inspire you to see the world with new eyes, wherever you go.

Bridges, by David Plowden
Like a building or a monument, a bridge says something about the people who built it. This tour of American bridges celebrates the beauty, engineering, and spirit of collaboration they embody.

12 Photographic Journeys: Iran in the 21st Century, by Anahita Ghabaian
A variety of photographers come together to reveal the people of Iran, who live at the crossroads of traditional and modern life found in malls, cafes, mosques, and more. This is a thoughtful look at a beautiful country that is often misunderstood by outsiders.

Passage to Israel, by Karen Lehrman
Inspired by the land, light, and people of Israel, this book captures the deserts, cities, and spirit of this ancient place. Seen from the perspective of over 30 photographers, this collection will have you longing to see the country for yourself.

London’s Waterfront, by Nicholas Waldemar Reed
Some coffee-table books are sweeping in scope. Others reveal the intimate details of a hidden world. This book shines a light on a favorite section of London that’s so familiar, it’s easy to take it for granted. Instead learn the history of this area and study detailed drawings, so you’ll never pass by unaware again.

Africa, by Sebastião Salgado
With a photojournalist’s eye for truth, this collection of black-and-white photographs reveals the many people, places, animals, and truths that make up Africa. Text by African writer Mia Couto provides a perspective that foreigners must hear.

The New Paris, by Lindsey Tramuta
Of course, the traditions we know and love are alive and well in France. But Paris is also home to a vibrant, blossoming culture that welcomes new ideas, cultures, and people. Discover the new Paris with this warm collection of photographs and essays.

The Japanese Garden, by Sophie Walker
At over 300 pages, this book handles 800 years of Japanese gardening with the same deft elegance the masters bring to their gardens. Essays examine the meaning, technique, and care that is found in small and large landscapes that are expertly curated. Prepare to be inspired.

Earth From Above, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Created in partnership with UNESCO, this collection of aerial photographs is designed to evoke wonder and awe for our beautiful planet. And with over 200 images that present the Earth from a new, sometimes tender, other times grand, perspective, mission accomplished.

The Hidden Himalayas, by Thomas L Kelly
Travel where few Westerners have been before. The struggles, spirituality, and strength of the people of Humla are all on display in this evocative book that captures a hidden world that only the most intrepid travelers have seen.

Spectacular Scotland, by James Gracie
If you can tear yourself away from the Outlander series long enough to contemplate actually visiting Scotland, this book will have you longing to book a ticket straight away. The highlands, lochs, castles, glens, and villages are all captured here with Gracie’s sharp eye.

New York, by Gabriela Kogan
This is the New York that feels at once intimidating, inspiring, and utterly familiar all at once. It’s the New York you can only come to know by living in the city. And it’s here for admiring. Or not. New York doesn’t care. It’s just going to keep doing its thing, and Kogan will record it with her camera.

59 Illustrated National Parks, by Nathan Anderson and Joel Anderson
Designed in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, this book includes keepsake posters, historic photographs, maps, tips on making the most of a visit to the parks, and a look at the history of these special places that belong to all of us.

India, by Eric Meole
India is an epic country, and at nearly 300 pages, this book honors the variety, magic, and history of the country. Meole took nearly 25,000 photographs (and curated them ruthlessly) to capture this place that has inspired people for thousands of years, including the writers who have contributed poems, essays, and more for this book.

The World’s Great Wonders, by Lonely Planet
If you’ve ever wondered “How did they do that?” Or “What could cause that?”, read on in this expansive yet informative book that reveals the how and why behind famous sites like the Grand Canyon, Stonehenge, and even the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Then impress your tour mates, or at least whoever you’re sharing the dinner table with.

Ireland: A Luminous Beauty, by Peter Harbison and Leslie Conron Carola
The stunning soft light of Ireland is at the center of this book. Everything from castle ruins to vast meadows appears nearly magical in this gorgeous glow. Prepare to sigh with pleasure.

EarthArt, by Bernhard Edmaier
Taking a cue from the color wheel, Edmaier has traveled around the world to capture the land from above in all its many hues. The natural beauty of Iceland, New Zealand, Chile, and more are proudly on full display, like a peacock unfolding his feathers.

California the Beautiful, by Galen Rowell
If you can’t afford a trip to the west coast, enjoy this road-trip-in-a-book that’s filled with sunsets, beaches, valleys, and that famous Sunshine State sparkle. Words by John Muir, Maya Angelou, Joan Didion and other luminaries add meaning to the experience.

100 Places to Go Before They Disappear, by Co+Life
If you don’t already feel excited to take a trip, perhaps a sense of urgency will push you to take action. Tragic but true, many of the world’s most beautiful and interesting places are sinking, being buried, or otherwise destroyed by human activity. Add the Great Barrier Reef, French vineyards, and of course, Venice to your list—quickly. The gorgeous photographs in this book will remind you why.

Cairo Illustrated, by Michael Haag
A unique mix of ancient and modern, sacred and commercial, gritty and beautiful, Cairo is a place that deserves a special spot, either abroad or on your bookshelf. This guide includes 150 dazzling photographs and informative introductions to mosques, markets, mosaics, and more.

Steve McCurry: The Iconic Photographs, by Steve McCurry
You may not know his name, but legendary photographer Steve McCurry’s images are unforgettable. Taken during his travels around the world, this collection reveals his unique vision of the human condition and what makes us, along with the world, so very beautiful.

Great Houses of Havana, by Hermes Mallea
With the travel ban lifted, it’s time to indulge in all things Cuba, including this gorgeous celebration of Havana architecture. Stately, colorful, and stylish, sugar plantations, mansions, and grand houses are on display here, as is a sophisticated look inside Cuba’s culture.

My Nepenthe, by Romney Steele
Even more compelling after the recent landslides in the area, this personal take on Big Sur and Nepenthe, the restaurant with the famous lookout, is one to savor. The recipes, family stories, and musings on what makes Big Sur so very special will transport you.

Bhutan, by Matthieu Richard
Richard has been invited into some of the world’s most isolated places. Here he reveals the color, courage, and creativity that are part of daily life in Bhutan, the land of the thunder dragon and national happiness.

One Planet, by Lonely Planet
You can almost hear Bob Marley singing “Let’s get together and feel alright,” as you flip through the pages of this book. It’s a beautiful gallery of images that makes a simple but important point: Wherever you go, we’re more similar than different.

Spectacular China, by Nigel Cameron
The best Chinese photographers have come together to show off their homeland with 180 colorful images, including many that unfold into panoramic posters. From ancient treasures to contemporary cities, you’ll never look at this country the same way again.

Italy, by Ettore Pettinaroli
Wander through the hills of Tuscany, the museums of Florence, and the canals of Venice in this stunning ode to Italy. With an insider’s knowledge, you can plan a Roman holiday or simply escape into the gorgeous vistas that Italy is beloved for.

Tony Hillerman’s Landscape, by Anne Hillerman
Author Tony Hillerman’s daughter has captured the New Mexico and Arizona deserts that play such a strong role in her father’s detective novels. With quotes from Tony, a history of the region, and insights into traditional Native American ceremonies, this book adds layers to his own writing and invites readers to venture beyond the page.

Stone Offerings, by Mike Torrey
Torrey’s admiration for Machu Picchu’s beauty and demanding nature, pour from the pages of this book. With a thoughtful history of the region, 120 photographs, and personal details that can only be learned by making the climb, armchair travelers will be inspired (perhaps simply to take an appreciative oxygen-rich breath, but still).

Galapagos, by Tui De Roy
Penguins, volcanos, iguanas, and more are all captured with De Roy’s compelling camera work, while her personal narration encourages urgent conservation. Like the island itself, this book never lacks for drama.

The Summer Palace of the Romanovs, by Emmanuel Ducamp
When you’re craving opulence, there’s nothing more glorious than living vicariously through the Romanovs. Step inside the Agate room, admire the gilded mirrors, hail the porcelain. Nothing is too fine for this palace, and Ducamp lavishes attention on every detail.

The Most Scenic Drives in America, by Reader’s Digest Editors
The American highways stretch from coast to coast, but it’s the backroads, winding detours, and secret exits that this book will guide you toward. With maps, seasonal advice, itineraries, and more, you’ll be ready to roll the windows down and take the long way home—or simply dream about it from the comfort of your chair!

By the Sea, by Peter Guttman
With the ocean as inspiration, Guttman travels to Maine’s granite coast, the floating markets of Southeast Asia, and even the North Pole. The result is a new understanding of the vital water that makes up more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface.

Chic Stays, by Melinda Stevens
Learn where celebrities like Kate Winslet prefer to stay as they introduce you to their favorite getaways. Hotels in Lisbon, Scotland, Sri Lanka, and more are featured here. Prepare to experience major room-service envy.

What coffee table books would you recommend to armchair travelers?

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