Just as travel has always been a great way to escape, travel jigsaw puzzles have become the escape of choice during the pandemic.
Jigsaw puzzles, in general, have become the activity for the pandemic, with sales doubling and tripling as people have found it a relaxing and satisfying way to escape the news, de-stress and create beautiful pieces of art in the process.
New puzzle companies are thriving, thanks to vibrant, unexpected images that transport you somewhere else, literally leave those boring old landscapes in the dust. They’re creating puzzles that will let you experience some of your favorite destinations in a whole new way.
“I asked myself what people were fantasizing about and realized it was travel: being far away in space and time from where we all were,” said Mia Galison, founder of Piece & Love by eeBoo. “The smell of food not cooked by you, the sounds of crowds, airplane solitude, sleepy taxi rides to unexplored destinations. It was all about traveling somewhere while staying put, disconnecting from the now for a little while, absorbed in the calm, pleasing act of putting together a beautiful jigsaw puzzle.”
Eric Dowdle, who’s been creating travel puzzles for more than two decades, agrees. “Unlike a picture that hangs on your wall, puzzles keep you engaged. For hours, you examine and study each piece and every detail. I’ve found that people love art that exposes them to new beauty, new feelings and even great memories. What better way to relive that fabulous vacation or time spent in a different part of the world? If it’s a place you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet, spending hours assembling a puzzle of that location can transport your imagination into the image and allow you to connect in memorable ways.”
Here are some of the best travel puzzles and puzzle companies out there. All of these puzzles will become treasured gifts, and you may want to pick up a couple for yourself to get you through this time of staying home without going stir crazy.
Botany from Cloudberries
This gorgeous 1000-piece puzzle will send visions of flowers and mountains and piazzas dancing through your head. Featuring art by Japanese painter, Naomi Okubo, its strong linen-coated pieces have a premium matte finish that looks great and feels good as you snap them together. The UK-based Cloudberries puts an emphasis on design, and plants a tree for every puzzle sold. Price: $24.95
Roadtrip from Wander Puzzle Co.
This woman-owned business supports international female artists, like Ana Hard from Bilbao, Spain, who created this girl-powered puzzle that will bring a smile to the face of any woman who has ever gone on a music- and snack-filled road trip with her BFF. In fact, it’s such a fun puzzle, it just may inspire another trip. Wander Puzzle Co. donates a portion of all sales to African Social Enterprises, Feeding America and the Women’s Center for Advancement. Price: $27.95
Swim Club from JIGGY
You’ll want to dive right into this beautiful puzzle designed by Isabelle Vandeplassche, a Belgian illustrator based in Ericeira, Portugal, for JIGGY, a female-founded company that supports women artists. Each puzzle comes in a reusable glass jar and includes a tube of puzzle glue, a straight-edge tool to spread the glue and a print of the artwork. JIGGY has turned every part of the puzzle process into an art in itself. Price: $40
Troy Litten Vintage Motel Signs from Galison
Galison makes an amazing variety of high quality puzzles, and montages like this one are some of the most fun to do. Photographer Troy Litten has traveled the world, taking pictures for his themed collections. He traveled over 2000 miles to photograph one of the iconic signs in this puzzle, all of which you’ll enjoy piecing together. Price: $13.99
A Night at the Opera from New York Puzzle Company
If you’re craving a taste of the Big Apple, these legendary New Yorker magazine covers are the way to go. A Night at the Opera, by artist Arnold Roth, was originally published on November 16, 1992, and finishing this puzzle may start an obsession with collecting and doing them all. New York Puzzle Company also has a great selection of travel puzzles from National Geographic, Paul Thurlby and National Public Radio. Price: $19.95
Feeling Flushed from Piecework
Cheaper than a trip to Las Vegas, this stunner of a puzzle is a sure bet when it comes to a satisfying way to spend some chill time. Piecework is a woman-owned company that makes some of the most irreverent and Instagrammable puzzles you’ll find. They even feature a playlist to accompany each one. Price: $36
Cavallini & Co. National Parks Vintage Puzzle from Paper Source
Take a tour through the National Parks – Yosemite! Bryce Canyon! Yellowstone! – with this 1000-piece puzzle featuring vintage logos and designs. The puzzle pieces come in a muslin bag inside a decorative cardboard container, and give you a real appreciation of some of our country’s most beloved and protected spaces. Price: $19.96
Cats in Positano from Piece & Love by eeBoo
Head to the Amalfi Coast with this aspirational puzzle that will make you dream of Italy. Illustrator Anisa Makhoul has created a magical image in 1000 pieces for Piece & Love by eeBoo, a woman-owned, mother-run, sustainably-sourced company. Their puzzles are glossy and gorgeous and are likely to become some of your favorites. Price: $21.99
Rosie Lee Tompkins Puzzle from Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Store
You’ll want to see Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective in person at the magnificent BAMPFA one day but, meanwhile, try your hand at piecing together the quilt that stars on the exhibition catalog. The puzzle is only 300 pieces so it’s a quickie but it’s so rewarding to do and will give you a sense of Tompkins’ masterful use of color and placement. If only it were actually made of fabric. Price: $16.95
Desert Sunset from Modern Puzzles
Graphic designers Gavin Levy and William Logan founded Modern Puzzles during the pandemic because they couldn’t find puzzles that fit their aesthetic or their passion for mid-century modern architecture. A successful Kickstarter proved that they weren’t the only ones feeling that way, and the result is a collection of great-looking retro puzzles that they describe as “The Jetsons meets Mad Men at a swingin’ cocktail party!” Award-winning illustrator Christian Musselman has created puzzles that depict the kinds of houses you would happily pay money to tour. $24.99
Best of the World from Dowdle
It’s pretty much impossible to just pick one puzzle from folk artist Eric Dowdle because the man is a master of travel puzzles. He’s traveled around the world for more than 20 years, painting the sights he sees, and you can experience them through his eyes via his acclaimed puzzles. Choose from dozens of destinations as well as from traditional or wooden puzzles and from 500 or 1000 pieces. Best of the World is a good option because it literally offers just that. Price: $24.99
Tropical Vases from Werkshoppe
This lush image from artist Anna Valdez is so rich in eye-popping colors and patterns, it brings the tropics right into your home, brightening up a dreary winter day. Werkshoppe is all about art and design, and every puzzle is frameworthy. Price: $29
The Gray Malin at the Parker Two-Sided Puzzle
Twice as beautiful and double the challenge, this two-sided 500-piece puzzle features two of fine art photographer Gray Malin’s best-selling images from his iconic series, Gray Malin at the Parker. This fantasy of a journey takes place at his favorite hotel, the Parker Palm Springs, and you’re invited along for the trip of a lifetime. Price: $25
Beach Day from BetterCo.
Designer Vin Thomas launched BetterCo. as a way of bringing a new aesthetic to puzzles and, along the way, discovered they’re a great way to unplug and escape. Nothing represents that better than Beach Day, illustrator Adam Grason’s tribute to Anna Maria Island off the Florida coast. It’s so peaceful and calming, you can almost smell the sea air. Price: $25
City Maps from Rifle Paper Co.
You’ll want to get lost in this montage of maps of a dozen of the greatest cities in the world, from New York to Tokyo. Perfect for reminiscing about trips you took or planning trips you want to take, this 500-piece puzzle is a highlight reel that will inspire you to piece together an itinerary for your future travels. Price: $34
Vacation by Katherine Dunlap from Very Good Puzzle Company
Don’t you feel more relaxed just looking at Katherine Dunlap’s painting-turned-puzzle? The rich colors and attention to detail evoke memories of the best vacations, and the linen pieces have a matte finish to reduce glare. You can rest assured the Very Good Puzzle Company is aptly named. Price: $24
Pop Art Puzzle from Laurence King
Missing museums? This artsy puzzle illustrated by Andrew Rae is like a who’s who of the Pop Art movement, featuring everyone from Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali to Frida Kahlo and Yayoi Kusama. It’s delightfully packed with surprising details like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull, and putting it together is like preparing an art gallery for a must-see exhibit. Price: $19.99
Chinese Lanterns from MicroPuzzles
These tiny beauties – 150 pieces transform into a 4” x 6” completed puzzle – prove that good things really do come in small packages. Each MicroPuzzle is packed in a test tube, making it easy to take on an actual trip. Until then, let it take you on a trip – to destinations around the world through images like this one of Yokohama China Town, Japan taken by Steve Marshall. MicroPuzzles also offers monthly subscription boxes filled with surprises and exclusive puzzles, and a portion of online sales are donated to a different charity each month. Price: $7.99
Busy Bodies from Whiled
Alisha Ramos founded Whiled to slow down and return to a time when “whiling away” the hours was encouraged. Busy Bodies is the work of London-based illustrator Tess Smith-Roberts, and a lovely reminder that it’s okay not to be traveling and rushing around right now. All Whiled puzzles are printed on 100% recycled paper and come with a cotton drawstring bag to store or separate your pieces. Price: $37
Little Boxes on the Hillside from Puzzledly
Puzzledly’s glossy pieces enhance the blues, purples and golds of these charming houses on the hill, giving you a whole new scenic view from your own home. Repeating patterns make for a soothing – and challenging – puzzle, which has become a Puzzledly signature. Four women started the company as family, and that’s just how you may want to start – and finish – their puzzles. Price: $23
Doors of the World from Ravensburger
The bestselling puzzle brand worldwide, Ravensburger has been making puzzles for more than 130 years. Each piece is unique and handcrafted and they offer dozens of destination and travel-related themes. One of their most beloved designs is Doors of the World. These images, taken by photographer David Stern, will appeal to travelers, who may recognize some of them from their own travels.
Chihuly Pure Imagination Icicle Tower
If you’ve seen master glass artist Dale Chihuly’s Icicle Tower at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, you know how breathtaking it is. If you haven’t seen it, this puzzle captures the sculpture’s vivid colors and the seamless partnership between art and nature. Price: $22