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11 BEST Travel Guides for 2024 [Websites & Guidebooks]

* This article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you.

TL;DR: The two best travel guides are Rick Steves for first time travelers—especially anyone going to Europe—and Bradt Guides for off-the-beaten-path destinations and “Slow Travel.” Both are reliable, will give you ideas for what to do, and help you plan the best trip.

The way we travel has changed drastically in my lifetime. Information is more readily available in the digital age, a massive plus for traveling. 

Everyone, including myself, wants to make the most of every trip abroad. That’s why I love reading travel guide books or online guides. 

Some of these guide books help you get off the beaten path. Others give information on tours you can take on your own to learn the history of a certain destination you’re visiting. 

But which are the best?

After years of reading and doing research, I have found the best travel guides for you to use when planning your next trip abroad!

Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

A smiling brown-haired woman wearing sunglasses and a backpack slung over her shoulder, holding an example of one of the best travel guides in the form of an open book, with an out of focus city square behind her.

Here’s a quick look at our recommendations

  • DK Eyewitness
  • Bradt Guides
  • Rick Steves
  • Lonely Planet
  • Blue Guides
  • Footprint Guides
  • Frommer Guides
  • Tripadvisor
  • Rough Guides
  • Moon Travel Guides
  • Insight Guides

Table of Contents

#1 DK Eyewitness

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of DK Eyewitness books.

DK Eyewitness is one of the best travel guide books on the market today. But they offer more than just travel information. 

After publishing books for over 45 years, DK Eyewitness Books cover everything from travel, science, history, pop culture, and children’s topics.

Their travel guides give the information you desperately need for travel– such as maps, itineraries, accommodations, where to eat, and more! 

I also love how easy their visuals are to look at. I sometimes get lost in their maps and start imagining myself there (I’m a big daydreamer if you can’t tell!).

DK Eyewitness Travel guide books might not be the most in-depth on a particular location, but they help with travel inspiration. 

If you want more information, DK Eyewitness has a podcast called ‘Where to Go,’ which is another excellent way to get your travel information on the go!

  • 100+ destinations
  • Heavy on history
  • It has both outdoor and city guides
  • Amazing visuals
  • Not as in-depth as other guides

#2 Bradt Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Bradt Guides Books.

A Bradt travel guide is perfect if you’re interested in visiting countries that are less traveled to— written by experienced travelers with fantastic insider tips. 

Bradt travel guide books has a reputation as the “World’s leading independent travel publisher.” They are also the best India travel guide company.

Some unique destinations include Iraq, Sri Lanka, Galapagos Islands, and Grenada. But don’t worry. Bradt Guides also has a British series for those interested! 

Lately, I’ve been striving to travel like a local. Bradt has a ‘Slow Travel’ guidebook series, which I love using these days because it helps me travel like a local. 

The trip ideas are great in detail but might not be for your preferred country to visit. 

Bradt Guides prides itself on being the most comprehensive on the market. Their authors give cultural insights and expressions of interest and knowledge.

You can support Bradt’s Guides even further by subscribing to their Patreon! Here you can pay monthly for a specific tier and earn different things like one free e-book a month.

  • More off-the-beaten-path destinations
  • Slow travel series
  • Has a Patreon page
  • Unique style of travel not for everyone

#3 Rick Steves

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Rick Steves Books.

Rick Steves books are the guide books your mom hands you when traveling to your dream destination in Europe. And that’s a good thing! They’re trusted by many for a reason.

These travel guide books are always up-to-date, thanks to Rick Steves’ research partners. 

Rick’s books will have you feeling like you’re on guided tours! He ensures you’ll have some fantastic cultural experiences. 

I love Europe, but there are many other cultures throughout the world that I’m even more interested in. So, since Rick Steves’ guidebooks are primarily Europe-focused, I’m not as drawn to them.

Also, traveling in Europe long-term can get expensive. His books cater to a more wealthy crowd. 

Pick any European country, and you will have high-quality content on that destination. Rick has visited Europe countless times, and other travel websites can’t compete. 

Rick’s bestseller is his Italy guide, which isn’t surprising. In that guide, he goes over the best places to eat and sleep and how to beat the crowds. 

It’s a good idea to grab a Rick Steves’ book simply for the detailed maps.

  • Best guides for Europe
  • It gives in-depth information for solo tours
  • Perfect for a beginner traveler.
  • Catered to upper and middle-class travelers

#4 Lonely Planet

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Lonely Planet Books.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Lonely Planet , as they’ve been a dominant force in the travel scene for quite some time now. Their goal is to make travel planning easy, and they’ve succeeded!  

I loved using Lonely Planet books when I first started traveling. These books helped me up my game as a budget traveler. 

Lonely Planet dominates the internet with a wealth of online resources. While the information they offer online is easy to access, it can be vague. 

You can subscribe to Lonely Planet on their website for free. I’ve done this, but I’ve found that there tends to be some destinations/articles that are low in detail. 

Considering Lonely Planet’s sheer amount of content, it’s not too surprising that they sometimes gloss over details. 

Their claim to fame is their numerous experts located worldwide. These experts cover adventure travel, family holidays, food and drink, and much more. 

Plus, a Lonely Planet magazine is an amazing coffee table piece, am I right?

  • Backpacker friendly
  • An extensive collection of guides for the entire world
  • Free information is available
  • Some of their content is outdated or not detailed

#5 Blue Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Blue Guides Books.

If you love the art and history of Italy, then Blue Guides is for you! People often plagiarize Blue Guide books due to the amount of accurate information each book has. 

With over 14 books on Italy alone, you won’t find more detailed information on a particular destination than with Blue Guides– they deliver it all! 

Italy was the first country that I visited outside of the United States, and I’m so glad that I had a Blue Guide book with me. 

Their award-winning maps and exceptional attention to detail made it feel like I was on a private tour! 

Be aware: there aren’t a lot of online articles from Blue Guides or many countries to choose from, which could be an issue if you like to visit more unusual locations.

Blue Guides’ first publication date was in the early 1900s, so it’s undoubtedly a top guidebook for a travel junkie!

  • Helps travelers understand art and history
  • Multiple guides on Italy
  • Extremely thorough in their research
  • Not a lot of destinations

#6 Footprint Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Footprint Guides Books.

Footprint Guides is the go-to source for Latin American travel tips for all budgets! My love for this region of the world has only grown since I started using their books.

Even if Latin America isn’t one of your top destinations, they do offer other print books. All Footprint Guides are written by experts who have lived in that destination. 

Unfortunately, for North American travelers looking to plan a dream road trip, you won’t find much helpful information here, as their focus is decidedly on the south. 

Alongside their practical information, Footprint adds a layer of imagination to their guidebooks, giving them an edge that makes them one of the best travel guide series available today!

  • Wide range of budgets
  • Specializes in Latin America
  • Practical information
  • Not much content on the United States

#7 Frommer Guides

Frommer Guides

Does traveling on $5 per day sound appealing to you? Arthur Frommer thought so when he set out to create his Frommer travel guides . 

Alongside some of the best guidebooks, Frommer also offers other forms of information, including podcasts, online articles, and hotel deals!

I love using Frommer guides on road trips because they help me in many different situations. 

I usually like to have a podcast for when I’m driving , a guidebook on specific destinations while I’m in a hotel room, and online sources when on the go. 

Having Frommer guides in all their varied forms is essential since each one typically doesn’t go into heavy detail. 

If purchasing travel guide books doesn’t interest you, then keeping up to date with Frommer’s online travel guides is the way to go.

  • Many styles of information are available
  • Updates information frequently
  • Offer hotel deals
  • It covers only the main details

#8 Tripadvisor

Screenshot of the of the Tripadvisor website homepage.

Tripadvisor is an online source that most travelers have heard about. It’s unique on this list of travel guides because you interact with other travelers!

If you’re looking for help with trip planning, look no further than the Tripadvisor forum . Here you can talk with fellow travelers about your upcoming trip! 

When I have a specific question that needs answering, I always check Tripadvisor first. They have information on most countries, but some info on the forums can be outdated. 

Tripadvisor is great because it’s free! But they’re more than just a review and forum-based platform; you can also book different travel deals and tours through their website.

Sometimes the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming to click through.  If that sounds relatable, you might want to purchase some guidebooks instead. 

Tripadvisor started the wave of online travel planning. They’re worth browsing, even if you just want to write down a few travel tips!

  • Multiple reviews from other travelers
  • Travel deals available
  • Forum can be out of date
  • The massive amount of information can be overwhelming

#9 Rough Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Rough Guides Books.

Rough Guides has grown into a leader in the travel industry with its amazing travel guidebooks and online travel guides. 

What I love about these books is their authenticity. Their recommendations from locals helped to grow them into who they are today.

It all started with their Greece travel guide, and it quickly blew up. Demand increased for more and more Rough Guide content; they released a guidebook series for people who were eager for more. In 2017, Rough Guides expanded even further.

Today Rough Guides are more than just a travel guide company that sells books. They offer tours, custom-made itineraries, and more! I love using their website when planning my next trip. 

These custom-made itineraries and tours are expensive but for a reason. Rough Guides’ experts are located worldwide to give you the best travel experience ever. 

Rough Guides best selling guides offer a ton of background information and local tips, making them worth the high price!

  • Detailed itineraries
  • Personal recommendations from locals
  • An extensive list of countries
  • High prices for tours and custom itineraries

#10 Moon Travel Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Moon Travel Guides Books.

Moon Guides are my favorite guidebooks for traveling around the United States. Planning that perfect road trip is challenging but Moon Guides makes it easier.

Moon’s travel guidebooks are all about traveling sustainably. I’ve used them countless times in the Americas and have found them super helpful.

But Moon Guides don’t focus on the Americas only– they also offer some of the best travel guides for Japan in particular.

I’ve learned to use these books more for research instead of bringing them on my travels– they don’t always hold up with how rugged traveling can get for me.

Moon’s detailed maps are so good in their guidebooks that I fill my phone library with them. They are easy to read and use, which is what I think makes a good map. 

The best travel tips are from locals, and that’s what Moon’s travel guidebooks bring. They don’t have a fancy touring app or anything, but they don’t need it. 

If you want one of the best travel guides for families, then there’s no better choice than making Moon Guides your tour guide when traveling. 

Find your dream destination, get travel inspiration from their maps, and book that plane ticket.

  • Emphasis on the Americas and the Pacific
  • Easy-to-understand maps
  • Many pages of information solely for hotels/accommodations
  • Guidebooks aren’t durable

#11 Insight Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Insight Guides Books.

Insight is one of the best travel guidebooks on the market for a reason. The beautiful photographs in these travel guidebooks will have you daydreaming for days.

Insight guides are perfect for those history buffs out there like me. They combine great information with also some off-the-beaten-track activities. 

Insight has produced over 200 guidebooks and language books. Their books provide information on nearly any country you can think of (besides Mexico).

I love their books because they also have a mini-series.

During the Covid years, I was in the mood to read a lot. I picked a different destination each week and bought a new e-book. 

I could do this because they only cost five to ten dollars! Most of the best travel guidebooks are double this.   

Besides its guidebook series, Insight offers a handmade trip planned by experts to the destination of your choice. What more could you ask for?!

  • Multiple countries in each continent
  • Has language guides
  • Sells hand-picked vacation packages put together by locals
  • Offers mini versions of guides to sell for cheap
  • No Mexico guide

Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Travel Guide

A man wearing a red and black checkered shirt reading an open guide book holds hands with woman in a black and white striped tank top, jeans, and a wide-brimmed hat while walking down a European-looking cobblestone street.

What to Look for in Travel Guides

Is the information up to date.

Picking the best travel guidebooks can be an overwhelming process. But the most important thing to watch out for is making sure the information is up-to-date.

Compared to online sources, guidebook information tends not to get updated as quickly for obvious reasons. 

You don’t want a travel guide taking you to a restaurant that doesn’t exist anymore, do you? No. You want to get off the beaten track but not THAT off that it gets you lost.

Pick Locally-Based Travel Guides

My ideal travel style is meeting locals, living, and eating like a local. I have the best travel experiences when I dive deep into the culture.

The best information about a destination comes from locals. When you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, wouldn’t you want to consult someone who has lived there for many years?

When you rely on locals’ recommendations, you’ll truly have an experience of a lifetime. 

Know What Type of Traveler You Are

A young woman in a peach tank top and sunglasses holds a travel guide book under one arm, and checks her phone.

This next tip can be difficult for some, and it can change from year to year. I have gone from being a true budget traveler to somewhere in the middle. 

I used to love history (I still do) and would base my travels around that. Now I seek adventure activities. 

Different types of guides will focus on different things, such as budget travel, adventure, expensive tours, food, or history. 

Finding the travel guide that fits your style will be more beneficial in the long run.

Know Which Destination You Want to Visit the Most

The best world travel guidebooks are often better for certain locations than others. For example, Rick Steves has a reputation for being the best travel guide for Europe and, specifically, the best travel guide for Italy. 

So, choose your travel guide based on which one specializes in the area you’re curious about.

Other Helpful Travel Guides

Travel is a huge industry which means there are more guides than you could ever possibly use. 

If you prefer your travel content in video form, one of the best travel guide Youtube channels is Ryan Shirley . 

His videos showcase the top places to visit in different countries with some of the best drone shots you’ll ever see. 

FAQs About Travel Guides

A woman with short brown hair wearing a black and white striped tank top squints as she opens a Lonely Planet book on Myanmar in front of a blurred background.

Should You Even Buy a Travel Guide?

A travel guide has its place. It may seem outdated to use one, but you can find some of the best information in them. 

Some guides take years to make and are very specific in the details they write for certain locations. The maps tend to be better and easier to read in these types of guides as well.  

Which is better: Lonely Planet or Rough Guide?

It depends on the style of travel you prefer. I prefer budget travel and tend to take fewer tours, so I like Lonely Planet. Rough Guide also has amazing tours if you’re interested in those.

What is the difference between Fodor’s and Frommer’s travel guides?

Frommer travel guides are excellent for those who want an easy read. Fodor is typically the better choice if you want more details about your activities. 

Fodor also has one of the best travel guides for Ireland, so check out Fodor if that’s your destination.

Is it better to travel with a tour guide or alone with a travel guide?

The answer differs from person to person! If you want your trip planned, then a tour guide is perfect. Going alone with a travel guide is nice because you can go at your own pace. 

Do people still buy travel guides?

Absolutely! There’s something different about having a travel guidebook to look at rather than scrolling through a website. 

Rick Steves and Bradt are my favorite travel guides.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phillip Anderson Profile Pic

Phillip Anderson

Phillip Anderson is a freelance travel writer, personal trainer, and adventure enthusiast. With years of travel experience under his belt, Phillip is an expert in finding the best deals through travel apps and websites. He knows how to find cheap domestic and international flights, like a flight to Peru for as low as $350.

When looking for cheap accommodations, Phillip combines his knowledge of websites like Airbnb, Booking.com & Hostelworld with more unique sites like TrustedHousesitters, for even more savings. Whether it’s flights, accommodations, or local experiences, he teaches travelers to make informed decisions, ensuring their adventures are both memorable and economical. For more from Phillip, check out his website, JaywalkTheWorld.com.

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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Tour guide and bioengineer Stéphane de Greef, in Cambodia

Travels with locals: 10 of the world’s best tour guides

The best tour guides bring a destination to life with their passion, storytelling and wit. Guardian writers pick guides who love taking visitors beyond the obvious to shed new light on the places they call home

Stéphane de Greef, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Charleroi-born bioengineer, cartographer and photographer Stéphane de Greef may look every bit as Belgian as he sounds. But it is around the temples of Angkor, the famous “lost” city of Cambodia, that he is most at home, chatting with locals in fluent Khmer, flying drones over remote ruins, or passionately studying wildlife and culture. His tours focus on the hidden aspects of the site, covering not just the wealth of temples everyone ignores (the majority of the two million visitors each year focus on the same four ruins) but also the stunning biodiversity around them. His comprehensive study of the insects of Angkor earned him the nickname of Ant Man, but Indiana Jones would be just as fitting. In 2012 his hi-tech, laser-assisted explorations of the forest floor helped uncover the ancient cityscape of Mahendraparvata , an ancient Khmer city reclaimed by jungle predating Angkor by about four centuries, and once the size of modern-day Phnom Penh. stephanedegreef.com Jurriaan Teulings

Lillian Chou, Beijing

Lillian whites.jpg

“Beijing as a food city encompasses the greatest range of Chinese provincial cooking in all levels,” Lillian Chou . In 2009, after proving her mettle in New York – as a pastry chef at Le Cirque and food editor at the now-defunct Gourmet – Chou packed her bags and her appetite and set off for the Chinese capital. During her time as an editor at Time Out Beijing, Chou learned Mandarin and painstakingly refurbished a hutong apartment to call home. After two years of networking with chefs and scouting out the best markets, she began leading private tours catering for adventurous eaters. Anything from a dumpling-making class to a hunt for the metropolis’s namesake brittle-skinned duck or a home-style dinner with a local family in the countryside is possible on her unconventional culinary forays. “I like to take visitors through the hutongs , historic lanes that offer a view of local life mingled with traditional architecture, and to the Great Wall, where we walk through chestnut and walnut orchards,” she says. Customised itineraries with Bespoke Beijing can arranged online: one-day tours from £9pp, one-day hutong tour £16pp, Bespoke Beijing Diana Hubbell

Felix Maltsev, Moscow

Felix3.jpg

Whether he’s re-enacting famous scenes from Soviet movies, on a tour of the Mosfilm Studios , or peering short-sightedly at the well-thumbed text of a Russian classic, Felix Maltsev has spent decades enlivening the Moscow experience for thousands of expats and tourists. His enthusiasm for the city’s palatial metro system or the grimmest Soviet memorials has provided generations of visitors with a unique way into Russian culture and history. An eccentric intellectual and long-term tour guide for Patriarshy Dom Tours in Moscow, Felix combines knowledge and stamina. His specialised tours on themes such as Stalin’s Moscow or Jewish Moscow will have clients running to keep up with him, then travelling from the looming, riverside House on the Embankment to obscure sights in far-flung suburbs. One of many regular beats is the Patriarch’s Pond, close to the tour company’s HQ, the scene of the opening chapters of Mikhail Bulgakov ’s The Master and Margarita. On a frosty, weekday afternoon you can find him, with a band of Russophile disciples, retracing the footsteps of Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelshtam, or quoting his own, careful English translations of the verses of acclaimed Soviet poet Marina Tsvetaeva, as he shows them round her house. Patriarshy Dom Tours’ public tours start from £15pp, toursinrussia.com Phoebe Taplin

Jo Buitendach, Johannesburg

Jo Buitendach outside Chancellor House

A walking tour of Johannesburg? It would have been unthinkable five years ago, when the city’s reputation as a crime zone prevailed, but things have changed. Shiny new Gautrain and Rea Vaya public transport services slice across the city, and the central districts have been spruced up with public art. In Ferreirasdorp, the ground floor of a once-derelict office building, Chancellor House , is now a mini museum honouring the fact that Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo practised law here in the 1950s. It’s one of the key stops on the inner-city walking tour that Jo Buitendach has devised, taking in everything from mining monuments to shops selling vintage vinyl and traditional potions. Jo, a young archaeology graduate, is convinced that urban tourism has a key role to play in the regeneration of her home city. She leads you through smart business districts and former no-go areas with equal confidence. “The big tourist site that everyone knows, the Apartheid Museum, is way out of the city centre, next to a theme park,” she says. “I’d much rather show visitors places where people live and work, where historic events took place and the future’s unfolding before our eyes.” Jo Buitendach is founder of pastexperiences.co.za . A two-hour “ Joburg Inner City” walking tour costs from £23pp Emma Gregg

Sean Baxter, Staithes, North Yorkshire

Sean Baxter with his lobster pot on Staithes beach.

What do I want from a guide? Inside knowledge, of course. Then I want entertainment, stories, some sort of cast-iron connection to the place, and the feeling that a day spent together is not just some financial transaction, but the start of an adventure and, hopefully, a friendship. When I first met Sean Baxter in the fishing village of Staithes, north of Whitby, there was that sense of embarking on an adventure. Outside his cottage he handed me a creel. “You grab that. How are your sea legs?” And off we went to his boat for a quick check of the lobster pots because our beach walk – the main feature of the day – was to involve cooking a lobster at the foot of the cliffs. From that moment on the day was a miracle of experiences, information and wonderful stories: shipwrecks, smugglers and sharks. He showed us how to find the semi-precious stone jet, where the best fossils were, how to catch lobsters from the shore, and a hundred other things. As with all the best guides, Sean is a man driven by a bigger picture, a mission. He wants to revive his beloved village. He wants visitors to understand how tourism can destroy a place, or revive and strengthen a community. A day with him is a marvel. Sean and Tricia Baxter’s company, realstaithes.com , provides various fishing and wildlife courses and walking day tours. A one-day course, including three-course lobster lunch, costs from £75pp Kevin Rushby

Neno Novakovic, Sarajevo

Tourists in costume at the street corner in downtown Sarajevo where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

Sarajevo has seen its share of conflict. But when viewed through the eyes of the young Bosnians behind Free Sarajevo Walking Tours, the city comes to life in all its decaying beauty – and tragedy. Affable thirtysomething-founder Neno grew up during the Bosnian war and recounts his memories of growing up under siege with verve and black humour. Each landmark they visit in their meandering 2½-hour walk through the city is infused with personal, as well as historical, significance: from the site of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand to the market site of the 1994 massacre. The tours are free, but tips are welcome – and well-deserved. sarajevowalkingtours.com Tara Isabella Burton

Molly McIlwrath, Florence

Molly

Avoid getting overwhelmed with Stendhal syndrome the next time you’re in Florence by letting an expert lead you through the best parts and weave the stories together for you. Licensed tour guide Molly McIlwrath does just that. She’s from California but has been based in Florence for the past decade, and her warm personality, storytelling expertise and contagious passion will bring Florence’s history to life for you, whether you’re wandering laneways of artisan workshops or the Uffizi gallery. She’s also one of the few guides to specialise in family travel, offering creative and interactive tours that children and adults will love. She gives tours privately or through Context Travel . For private tours visit letterartemente.com . Three-hour group tours with Context Travel cost from £52pp Emiko Davies

Suzy Szoke, Budapest

Suzy Szoke

A guide to the Hungarian capital Budapest can be as surprising as the city itself with the funky Underguide organisation. I took one of their tours with Suzy Szoke, who greets her clients on the Chain bridge over the fast-flowing waters of the Danube. Suzy, who has since branched out as an independent guide, does not come with any kind of must-see plan, but says: “My tours are like a pizza, where the guests tell me what toppings to add. Of course, you need to know about the culture, the arts, the museums, but I prefer to show my visitors the people, so they actually get to meet locals – shopkeepers, artisans, chefs, an artist, a fashion designer.” Say you are interested in craft ale and she’ll whisk you over to meet the owner of the latest artisan brewery. Foodies always want to tour Budapest’s Great Market Hall, but Suzy also leads guests down backstreets to discover locals-only delicatessens stocked with pungent smoked sausages and cheeses. Ask for her own favourite tour and she replies: “I love revealing old abandoned buildings with architectural details and ancient stories that a tourist would never discover on their own.”

Budapest Underguide, underguide.com . Three-hour walking tours of downtown Budapest €25pp. Three-four hour private tours with Suzy from £40pp, [email protected] .

John Brunton

Mr Okada, north-eastern Honshu, Japan

Mr Okada with Jamie

Mr Okada does nothing fast. As he ambles around the Unesco world heritage site of Hiraizumi in his native Iwate prefecture on Japan’s east coast, he moves at such a glacial pace that dragonflies are prone to landing on him. Looking not unlike Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, this lovely, liver-spotted pensioner has made tour-guiding a second career in retirement. Though he has never left Japan, he has an impressive mastery of English, which he uses to convey a broad and deep knowledge of his homeland. The septuagenarian can talk for hours about the ludicrous lives of the Fujiwara family, who ruled here and built many of the 900-year-old temples and pagodas that still stand today, including the golden temple of Chūson-ji . Having lived through one of the bloodiest phases of feudal Japan, the Fujiwara clan has a rich history of heroics, betrayals and at least one execution by blunt sword. Okada-san knows about it all, and he’s so affable that it’s worth making the journey to the Tōhoku region just to meet him, but Iwate prefecture was also one of the worst damaged during the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and, five years on, it still needs all the help it can get. iwate-guide.sakura.ne.jp , two-hours with a guide costs £55 Jamie Lafferty

Edwin Rey, the Lost City, Colombia

The central area of the Lost City, Colombia.

Edwin Rey’s surname translates as King, but that’s about his only regal attribute. As a leading guide for treks to the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) in northern Colombia, his job is to hike hard, sweat plenty and make sure no one falls down the many ravines en route. He doesn’t say much along the muddy paths, but catch up with him during the four-day trip and he has some incredible stories. For one thing, his father was among the first Hispanic Colombians to rediscover this ancient city in the jungle, and so Edwin found it easy to follow in his footsteps. For another, in 2003, he was part of a group kidnapped by guerillas while visiting the Lost City. Most of the foreign tourists were held hostage, but Edwin, keenly aware that a local guide’s life didn’t carry much political currency, made a daring escape, disappearing into the undergrowth and scrambling all the way back to the city of Santa Marta alone. Amazingly, it was only a few months before he was back in the jungle, again leading treks to Ciudad Perdida. Turcoltravel.com , four-day treks from £200pp Jamie Lafferty

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  1. 11 BEST Travel Guides for 2024 [Websites & Guidebooks]

    Our guidebooks & travel books. Whether you’re interested in traveling to a new city, going on a cruise, or cooking a new dish — we’re committed to inspiring you to experience travel in a whole new way. Lonely Planet’s collection of 825+ travel and guidebooks is sure to inspire the traveler within. View All Books.

  2. Travels with locals: 10 of the world’s best tour guides

    Lillian Chou, Beijing. Food tours on the move with Lillian Chou. “Beijing as a food city encompasses the greatest range of Chinese provincial cooking in all levels,” Lillian Chou. In 2009 ...