DK Eyewitness Travel: My Favorite Guide Books

I first discovered books from DK Publishing when my children were babies. We had a picture book from DK called My Big Book of Everything. This book had very sharp pictures of every day objects and I credit it as being a great early vocabulary builder for both of my children. They are now middle school age and travel with us on many of our cruises. I have again turned to the DK Publishing company for guide books that help me both plan my shore excursions and educate my children about the places we will be visiting.

My recent collection now includes Barcelona, Madeira Top 10, Mexico, The Canary Islands and Rome. The “travel guides” are full size books, vary from just over 200 pages to about 500 pages, and are the most comprehensive. The “Top 10” books are tall pocket sized, about 120 or so pages, and provide the highlights of the top ten attractions in a range of categories. Both books contain hundreds of photographs, helpful maps, phrases and practical traveler’s information.

Features of Full Size Books
Perhaps what I like most about the full size books is the way that they utilize graphics and illustrations as well as text to present what is unique and worth seeing at your destination.


Sometimes the books will use these techniques to convey geological or biological highlights of the destinations. In the Canary Islands book they use graphics to illustrate the islands’ volcanic beginnings and unique flora and fauna. They even feature a graphic of the undersea environment and a great two page spread with both an illustrations and pictures highlighting all the sights in Lanzarote’s volcanic Timanfaya National Park.

Culture and History

In other books the publishers use this format to teach about culture and history. The Mexico books begins with a “Portrait of Mexico” that introduces the reader to the countries culture, landscape and wildlife, architecture, indigenous people, festivals, art and music. Then the book goes on on to give an approximately 20 page history of the country utilizing illustrations and pictures of historic artifacts. Each page also has a time line depicted on the bottom margin of this section. Then the book goes on to detail the sites in Mexico City, and then different regions of Mexico including those visited most often by cruise ships including the Mexican Riviera in the “Northern Mexico” section and the Myan Riviera in the “Yucatan” section. The book includes Acapulco in the “Southern Mexico” section. Each of these sections contains cut out illustrations to demonstrate both pre-Colombian and Spanish architectural techniques.

The city based books provide information in much more detail. The Rome and Barcelona books begin with an at a glance planning section called “Four Great Days In Rome or Barcelona”. They then follow a format similar to that of the Mexico book including a history section with complete with informative time lines and photos of great Roman or Catalan artifacts. The city books then break down the destination in to seperate sections and provide maps, graphics and pictures as well as text to describe attractions. For example pages 78 and 79 of the Rome book includes a drawing of the West Roman Forum, surrounded by pictures and illustrations and descriptions of some of the ancient temples with a line showing where it is located in the illustration. A full page of text couldn’t give you as good a description of what their illustrations and photos convey. In the pages following that illustration the book then goes on to describe the ancient sites in more detail, again with each entry headed by a photo of the actual site. These books also include suggested walking tours and again provide critical traveler information.

Features of the Pocket Sized Books
The “Top 10” pocket size books also feature maps, hundreds of pictures, but not in the same level detail. For example in the Madeira Book their history sections is called “The Top 10 Moments In History” and doesn’t include the detailed time line on the bottom border of the page. However the smaller size and high lights format may actually be better for a cruiser who would just be visiting for the day and only able to take in a few of the hight lights of a particular destination.

Food and Drink Illustrations
Perhaps one of my favorite features of these books is great pictures of food and drink in these books. In all of the larger books they have a section with descriptions and pictures of regional specialties. Since people do tend to taste with their eyes first, it will give you a good idea of what dishes you might want to try when visiting. My mouth just waters when I look at the pictures of authentic tacos, Saltimbocca, or Catalan specialty sausage. The books will also give you information on popular beverages including local beers, soft drinks, coffees, and liquors. Again this information is presented with both text and pictures.

I like to learn as much as possible about my destinations when we cruise because we don’t always take guided tours. The knowlege I have gained from the DK books has been invaluable to me as they allow me to take the place of a tour guide and educate the rest of my family. If you are interested in learning more about DK Eyewitness Travel guides, you can visit their web site. You can also find their travel books at most major book retailers and online book retailers.

(Editor’s Note: This is not a paid endorsement of DK Publishing)