There are so many ways to use literature as travel inspiration. You can go the self-guided route and make a visit to your favorite author’s home, or try a trip to a writers museum. This is not to mention the countless literary walking tours around the world.
But sometimes it’s nice to let someone else worry about the planning. Here are eight literary trips you can actually book, be you an Outlander superfan or an Agatha Christie aficionado.
See the Scotland of Outlander
Diana Gabaldon’s series is about Claire Randall, a British woman honeymooning in post–World War II Scotland who inadvertently travels back in time to the 18th century and has a steamy love affair with a Highlands warrior, Jamie Fraser. Since the first book’s publication in 1991, it has become one of the best-selling book series of all time; Gabaldon is currently working on the ninth installment. With the success of the Starz television adaptation of the books, Gabaldon’s stories have enchanted even more readers.
So for those itching to explore the rolling hills and historic homes and palaces of Scotland where Jamie and Claire have had many an adventure, be sure to book a spot on the 17th Annual Outlander Tour run by Celtic Journeys. For company founder Judy Lowstuter, establishing a guided trip to Outlander book locations, after taking a powerful trip to the country nearly 20 years ago, has been a labor of love. “[I wanted people] to see Scotland and feel the emotive kind of experience I felt and connection with people who did exist,” Lowstuter says. “Not to chase Jamie through the Highlands but to experience the reality of what Scotland was like in that time frame.”
The extended 2020 itinerary (11 nights long instead of its typical 7-night trip) includes spots from the books in places like Edinburgh, the Isles of Skye and Lewis, and Inverness. Visit standing stones like the mythical ones of “Craigh na Dun,” where Claire’s journey to the past began; see the Culloden battlefield; and sleep in a manor where Jacobite soldiers hid. The tour also offers plenty of ways to learn about Highland history and culture, with events like Gaelic music and folklore performances and a performance by a Jacobite soldier.
At the heart of the itinerary is a true fondness for the Outlander books. Readers who want to prove their mettle can participate in a trivia contest, and there’s an opportunity to dress up in 18th-century garb for a dinner, too. “[This trip] has always been based on the Highlands of Scotland—wrapped in a dust jacket,” Lowstuter says.
17th Annual Outlander Tour
Celtic JourneysJune 25–July 6, 2020$4,995/person
You might also like The Outlander Classic Tour by Clans & Castles. Up to seven guests travel the Scottish countryside (and Edinburgh) to see filming and book locations; guides are experts in Highland history.
Navigate the Nile like Agatha Christie
British mystery writer Agatha Christie first went to Egypt in 1910 as a young woman. But it wasn’t until she returned more than a decade later with her second husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, that she sailed down the Nile on the SS Sudan. Their journey on the steamship inspired her to write one of her most notable works, Death on the Nile (which she penned while staying at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan).
On Original Travel’s private cruise on the steamship Sudan, you can do the same (well, maybe minus writing a best seller). On this 10-day trip, guests arrive in bustling Cairo and enjoy outings like a private guided tour of the Pyramids of Giza and a visit to the Sphinx, before heading onward to Aswan. There, travelers board the SS Sudan—yes, the same Belle Epoque steamship Christie herself sailed on all those years ago—for a five-night journey along the Nile. The restored Sudan brings guests in antique style (and air-conditioned comfort) to Luxor, with stops in places like Dendera and the Temple of Karnak.
Beyond the history and culture of Egypt, a trip on the Nile on such a vessel serves as the perfect way to unplug. “[Some of my favorite parts about the trip were] just time slowing down and being on the top deck,” says Amelia Steward, brand ambassador for Original Travel. “Seeing water buffalo wading in the river on the shoreline, the call to prayer, members of the crew who were utterly delightful and attentive, ferrying little glasses of hibiscus juice, making sure anything you need is not too much trouble.”
Though travelers can book trips on the SS Sudan basically year-round with Original Travel, on this departure, leading British journalist and Egyptophile Anthony Sattin joins to contribute his insights gained from decades of traveling in and writing about Egypt and the Middle East.
A Private Cruise on the Steam Ship Sudan
Original TravelSeptember 30–October 9, 2020$8,941/person
You might also like Classic Mystery Lover’s England itinerary with Smithsonian Journeys. Amateur gumshoes will not only enjoy visiting locations throughout England important to authors like Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but they’ll also get to meet with contemporary mystery writers working today.
Fight windmills in Cervantes’s Spain
The Miguel de Cervantes 400-Year Tribute Tour, an eight-day journey, originally launched in 2016 for the anniversary of Spanish author’s death, but travelers can still customize this luxury journey with Zicasso. Don Quixote fans can visit Cervantes’s hometown of Alcalá de Henares and indulge in a literary tapas tour of Madrid that stops at Cervantes’s landmarks and tasty taperías, before heading further afield to La Mancha. There, battle windmills yourself (well, go inside them at least), maybe sleep in a medieval castle, and experience the magic of some of Spain’s less-visited villages in the region, which serve as the setting for the surreal adventures of Don Quixote.
The Miguel de Cervantes 400-Year Tribute Tour
ZicassoDates customizableStarting at $4,336/person
You might also like Spain: Age of Adventure with Kensington Tours. You may not stop exactly where Cervantes did, but the trip seeks to capture the same spirit of exploration that his protagonist exudes.
Sail the Seas of Greece like Odysseus
In Homer’s ancient epic The Odyssey, the hero Odysseus departs Troy after the Trojan War for his home of Ithaca. But he has angered the sea god Poseidon, and his trip back to his wife and son takes a lot longer than he expected. Mapping the poem is a bit tricky given that the characters and places Odysseus and his crew encounter are fictional, but the story certainly takes him throughout the Mediterranean.
For the three-week trip Odyssey in Greek Waters, Sail in Greek Waters cofounder Kostas Gkekas and his team have put together an itinerary that takes travelers from Homer’s possible home of Chios Island to Odysseus’s home of Ithaca, while stopping at other beaches and islands pertinent to the Odyssey and Iliad, incorporating different parts of Odysseus’s story into every day of the expedition.
Odyssey in Greek Waters
Sail in Greek WatersFrom $11,825/personDates customizable (Note: Gkekas doesn’t recommend the trip for the months of July–August due to high seasonal winds)
You might also like The Greek Odyssey Tour: Vacation to Greece & Turkey with Zicasso. The customizable tour takes guests over land and sea from historic sites in Athens to Turkey, where the fabled Troy may have stood.
Craft your own literary itinerary with a travel advisor
The trips above are just a few examples of the literary trips that are available. But for travelers who are more passionate about less-renowned authors (or who want to have a more deeply personalized experience), a travel advisor may be able to craft the right itinerary for you.
“Arranging a literary trip is like any kind of special interest trip,” says Roxana Lewis, a luxury travel advisor with Protravel International, based in Beverly Hills. “It starts with the budget, the time frame and all of the logistics.” Lewis has arranged literary tours for clients in past; for example, a James Herriot–focused trip to England for a client, as well as a Jane Austen sojourn for another. Some travelers may start with a good idea of where they want their trip to take them—Lewis’s Jane Austen client already had prepared a list of all the sites she wanted to visit.
Travelers can tack on a literary side excursion to a bigger trip; a Maltese Falcon fan attending a conference in San Francisco, for example, may want to take the Dashiell Hammett walking tour. But if a literature fan wants to meet a living author, that “adds another dimension,” Lewis says. She would then use her various longtime travel industry connections to arrange an introduction where possible.
The advantage of working with a travel advisor like Lewis, or someone on AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council, is the personalized itinerary that can emerge for an unforgettable literary trip.