Passports and page-turners: the best destinations for book lovers
Books are a backpacker’s best friend. How would we cope on those 30-hour bus journeys and mind-numbing airport stopovers without them? Sure, we see your smart phones, but what about flat batteries, rubbish connections and roaming charges – would our beloved books ever do this to us? Plus, every bookworm traveller knows that they’re best way to escape when you haven’t got an adventure on the cards! To take our obsession to the next level, we’ve put together the best destinations for book lovers where we can explore our favourite stories in real life.
Santiago, Chile @leti389
London, England – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
There’s no doubt that London is one of the best destinations for book lovers, having been the home of the likes of Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and George Orwell. But no address is as famous as 221B Baker Street, the apartment shared by the world’s best loved detective and his trusty sidekick Watson. Created way back in the 1880s, the popularity of Sherlock Holmes has stood the test of time, with international fans heading to London on the trail of the legendary sleuth.
The first place you should look for clues is Sherlock’s real life address, that’s now been turned in to a museum with interiors that exactly match Doyle’s description. Take a stroll by the nearby Langham Hotel, a place that hosted dinners between Doyle and Oscar Wilde which resulted in the creation of Dorian Gray. Then, nip across to The Sherlock Holmes Pub in Charing Cross, a traditional British boozer that’s got a recreation of Holmes and Watson’s study upstairs, filled with objects and photographs that the landlord has been collecting since the 50s. The British Library is a bibliophile’s dream and is also where Holmes carried out his detective research, so you can follow in his footsteps while swooning over a beautifully organised book collection. If you’re after a more low-key bookstore, Word on the Water is an adorable little shop on a river barge with a resident dog. And although they’re not Sherlock related, no true book nerd should go to London without visiting the Charles Dickens Museum or King’s Cross’ Platform 9¾!
Word on the Water @astaclivoCheck out all of our hostels in London
Transylvania, Romania – Dracula by Bram Stoker
Say the word Transylvania and most people immediately think of vampires, thanks to one of the most iconic baddies of all time: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That’s because this mystical region of Romania provides the setting of the novel’s opening, when Count Dracula lures poor unassuming Jonathan Harker to his castle and precedes to keep him prisoner, feast on his blood and just be downright creepy before sailing across the sea to wreak havoc in England.
Bran Castle @nomadicjulien
Of course, that’s all just a story – right? But then what made the Irish author choose the peaceful Romanian countryside as the setting of one of the most terrifying tales ever told? Well, the Count was loosely based on the bloodthirsty 15th century Romanian ruler Vlad The Impaler, named after the fact that impalement was his favourite method of execution (*shudders*). He was born in the town of Sighi?oara, which is anything but scary with its rainbow-coloured buildings, old-fashioned walled town and cobbled streets. You can visit the bright yellow house where the real Vlad was born, which now doubles up as a museum and kitschy vampire restaurant. The nearby city of Bra?ov is where you’ll find Bran Castle, the towering monument that’s thought by some to be the inspiration for Drac’s castle, as it’s the only one in Romania to fit Stoker’s description. Whether you’re a believer or not, visiting Bran Castle, getting creeped out in its dark hallways and imagining you’re Jonathan trapped in its turrets is a must in Transylvania.
Check out all of our hostels in Romania
The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is a Brazilian novel turned international classic that follows a Spanish shepherd named Santiago on a spiritual journey. He travels from his home in Andalusia across Morocco via the city of Tangier, through the Sahara Desert into Egypt and on to his final destination, The Pyramids of Giza. Erm, hello to our dream backpacking route! Much like us on our first round the world trip, Santiago discovers truths about himself, learns from the people he meets and returns home with his mind and soul enriched. Hands up who can relate!
Luxor, Egypt @micaellcgorge
The Pyramids of Giza aren’t just one of the best destinations for book lovers, these ancient wonders are a must-see for every traveller. You could even follow the trail of Santiago himself! If you want to start in Andalusia, Seville is a quintessentially Spanish city that’s all about tradition, with tiled lanes, architecture straight out of Game of Thrones (literally) and a whole lot of tapas and sangria on the menu. Tangier will be your gateway to Africa, a coastal city of white buildings, surfing spots and wicked hostels, like hippy haven The Melting Pot Rooftop Hostel that’s got killer views of the medina and the bay. Then it’s on to the Sahara Desert, and seriously, if camping out here under the stars isn’t on your travel wishlist then it needs to be updated immediately! The last remaining ancient wonder of the world is a fitting finale to such an epic adventure. Magnificent and mysterious, seeing these icons for the first time is a moment you’ll never forget.
Pyramids of Giza @protonomousCheck out all of our hostels in Egypt
Paris, France – Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Les Misérables is one of the greatest stories ever told, a 1200 page beast of a book that follows the life of heroic Jean Valjean and a cast of other characters in 19th century France, against a backdrop of poverty, rebellion and revolution – do you hear the people sing? Prepare to shed some tears and workout your biceps lifting this whopper (we won’t tell anyone if you take a shortcut and watch the film…)
Paris has changed a lot since Hugo’s days – it’s more fashion and macarons than barricades and cannon fire – but thankfully there are some parts of the city where you can still channel your inner revolutionary. The bistros of the Latin Quarter have always been a favourite student hangout and it’s not hard to imagine Marius and co. plotting to bring down the upper classes here. Le Marais is a cool neighbourhood, today packed with vintage boutiques and coffee shops, that held a special place in the writer’s heart. You’ll find the church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, which is not only where Marius and Cosette tied the knot, but where Hugo’s own daughter was married too – cuteness overload! Just around the corner, Maison de Victor Hugo is the writer’s old home that’s now a museum showcasing his life’s works and passions. The Musée des Égouts (sewer museum) might not sound glamorous, but it offers a fascinating walking tour through the underground tunnel system. You know the scene where Valjean drags Marius through the sewers to safety? That, but with less ick.
Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris @suitcaseonmysleeveCheck out all of our hostels in Paris
Las Vegas, USA – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
If you’ve been to Vegas, chances are you remember more of it than Raoul and Gonzo did in Fear and Loathing… or maybe not! This bizarre novel pieces together the hazy memories of a drug-fuelled adventure that involves car crashes, wrecked hotel rooms and insane hallucinations in no particular order. Like most trips to the City of Sin, it’s a wild ride that doesn’t make too much sense. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas – especially if you can’t remember it!
Las Vegas @daniilvnoutchkov
You’re bound to have seen a million pictures of Las Vegas, but there’s no comparison to the real deal. LSD isn’t required to feel psychedelic underneath the dazzling lights of the strip or amid the neon jungle that is Fremont Street. You might even think you’re on another continent when you spot Vegas’ very own Eiffel Tower, or the gondolas cruising along the ‘canals’ of the Venetian hotel (super touristy, yes, but at $16 a ride they’re a lot cheaper than the real thing!) To explore the locals’ favourite side of Vegas away from the glitzy casinos, head to the Arts District and discover pop-up galleries, cute independent boutiques and an eclectic mix of bars. Speaking of art, make sure you check out the Seven Magic Mountains. No you’re not tripping, those really are seven fluorescent boulder towers in the middle of the desert!
Seven Magic Mountains @jannaonajauntCheck out all of our hostels in Las Vegas
Kerala, India – The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Many people call Kerala India’s most beautiful state, and it jumps right off the pages in this enchanting story. Arundhati Roy’s descriptive writing can transport you across the globe – the bright colours of saris swooshing past, the smells of coconut and banana frying, the taste of red-hot curries and the sound of waves hitting the river’s banks. The God of Small things is stunning and tragic at the same time, as it tackles tough issues like poverty and the Indian caste system. We won’t give anything away, but if you’re planning a trip to India this is recommended reading!
Allepey backwaters @kyranlow
Although it’s set in a fictionalised version of a village the writer grew up in, there are some real-life places you can visit from the book. The real home of character Kari Saipu is guarded by parrots, kingfishers and cormorants in the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, and the all-important History House is a colonial bungalow now tucked away in a swanky retreat that’s not exactly budget-friendly – damn! However, so many other awesome things to do in Kerala are cheap as chips. Cruising on a rice boat along the Alleppey backwaters or hiking the hills of Munnar are our top picks for wildlife spotting and incredible views. Kovalam is a tiny town with a hippy vibe that’s full of surfers and has the best beach in the entire state, which is saying something. Don’t leave without visiting a spice farm, or you’ll never be able to recreate that fish curry you ate watching the sun set over the ocean…
Munnar @thelosthostelsCheck out all of our hostels in India
Tehran, Iran – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is a set of graphic novels that tell the story of creator Marjane Satrapi’s childhood growing up in Iran through the Islamic revolution in the 1980s. She and her family suffer under the rise of extremism and are devastated to see their city and country destroyed by war. As a teenager, Marjane discovers philosophy and feminism, rebels by skipping school and visiting the black market, before moving to Vienna and eventually returning to Iran in the series’ second novel.
Tehran Public Library @omidarmin
Today’s Tehran is thriving and resembles the vibrant, exciting city that Marjane’s parents remember. It’s the most progressive and secular part of the country that’s home to world-class universities, museums and cultural sites. Young Marji would have been thrilled to seen Iran’s first female-owned hostel, HI Tehran Hostel, opening in her city! As Tehran has become more liberal its café culture has boomed, with the city full of cosy coffee shops perfect for an afternoon reading. Bookworms have to visit Tehran Book Garden, one of the world’s largest bookstores that stocks texts of all genres, languages and eras. It’s even got a leafy reading garden on the roof and a food truck zone! If you want to learn about the Tehran that Persepolis depicts, the Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense Museum provides an immersive and creative lesson in Iranian history. Of course, no visit to Tehran is complete without getting lost in the Grand Bazaar, a sprawling maze of market stalls selling everything from Persian carpets to lamb kebabs. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s a must just to check out the colourful tiles and people-watch from a tea house.
Tehran Grand Bazaar @omidarminCheck out all of our hostels in Tehran
Moscow, Russia – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
A list of the best destinations for book lovers that didn’t feature Russia would be outrageous. It’s the homeland of literary greats: Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Gorky and of course Tolstoy, author of War and Peace (we promise we’ll read it one day!) and the masterpiece that is Anna Karenina. Anna Karenina is a huge novel that follows its title character between Moscow and St. Petersburg as she navigates Russian aristocracy in the 1870s.
St. Basil’s Cathedral @nikolayv
150 years on, Moscow isn’t abit less majestic than Tolstoy described it. At the heart of the city the Red Square feels frozen in time, and it isn’t hard to imagine Anna sashaying past the magical domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. For an encounter with Tolstoy, bookworms should visit the Tolstoy Estate-Museum, the writer’s home where he penned several novels, as well as the Tolstoy Literary Museum, which has a whole exhibit dedicated to Anna Karenina as well as manuscripts, letters and family photographs from Tolstoy’s life. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Anna herself, there are several places from the novel that you can visit in today’s Moscow. There’s the ice rink outside the Moscow Planetarium where Lenin and Kitty skate together, the train between Moscow-St. Petersburg where Anna often travels deep in thought, and of course, Moscow’s train station, where the story meets its heartbreaking end (don’t worry, no spoilers). There’s even a ballet adaptation of the novel that you can watch at Moscow’s world-famous Bolshoi Theatre – life made.
Moscow Izmailovo Market @okhairaniCheck out all of our hostels in Moscow
Cartagena, Colombia – Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Paris might be known as the most romantic city in the world, but Cartagena gives it a run for its money. Colourful colonial houses with floral draped balconies fill the walled city, where horse drawn carts trot down narrow lanes. The sounds of salsa music and bells chiming drift through the air, and if you’re in town on a Saturday you might spot a white wedding spilling out of one of the churches. Seriously, it’s impossible not to fall in love with this city. It’s no wonder Cartagena inspired Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez to pen his romantic epic!
Walled City @luisvidal_18
Cartagena’s historic walled city is beyond beautiful, but you should expect big crowds and big prices. To explore the real Cartagena, hang out in García Márquez’s beloved Getsemani neighbourhood, the part of the city where he lived as a young writer. It has a bohemian feel with street art everywhere, musicians playing and locals drinking outside in the plaza and the city’s coolest hostels. Check out Café Havana, a legendary nightlife spot with Cuban beats and some of the best mojitos you’ll ever taste. The nearby Plaza Bolívar is somewhere García Márquez spent a lot of time thinking and writing, as Venezuelan revolutionary Simón Bolívar was one of his heroes. This is where you can find the novel’s ‘Arcade of Scribes’, the spot where Florentina wrote love letters for people who couldn’t write! And if you head to Plaza Fernández de Madrid, AKA Park of the Evangels, you can spot Fermina’s home – the vine-covered white house with a leafy balcony and parrot door knocker.
Getsemani @gardnerjorgeCheck out all of our hostels in Cartagena
Has our rundown of the best destinations for book lovers got you headed for the library, or browsing for flights? If you need us, we’ll be doing both. If you’ve ever taken a literary inspired adventure, we want to hear about it in the comments!
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