A handful of intelligent start-up travel magazines are taking an iPad-first approach, with apps designed specifically for the device’s interactive features.

Apple is estimated to have sold 60 million iPads to date, so it’s not surprising that many traditional travel publishers – such as Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler and Travel + Leisure to name a few -- are re-packaging their magazines specifically for the tablet computer.

But a handful of smaller, equally intelligent start-up travel magazines are taking an iPad-first approach, with apps designed specifically for the device’s interactive features, including pages that can be flipped with a finger swipe, photo-heavy visual designs and a high-resolution screen that displays video beautifully. In fact, it often seems the only thing missing from these virtual magazines is a scented strip that advertises a perfume.

Here are a few free glossies to download:

Most of the 63 issues of TRVL, a near-bi-weekly iPad travel magazine, have had location-specific themes, such as recent editions focused on Cape Town and Laos. And its articles tend to be eco-conscious, like a past feature on how to whale watch in a way that doesn't harm the animals or ecosystem. High-quality photography can be viewed with captions in portrait mode or full-screen in landscape, and recent issues of the magazine have used video in clever ways, such as complementing a feature story on conservative religious sentiment in the Maldives with a video of a vacationing couple being unwittingly mocked in the local language by a minister during their vows ceremony. A half-million users have downloaded copies of TRVL, making it the most popular of the apps mentioned here.

Free for individual downloads, or an ongoing subscription is available via the iPad’s Newsstand feature for $0.99 a month.

Travel by Handstand
Traditional travel magazines aim to inspire people to plan trips, and Travel by Handstand takes that concept one innovative step further by enabling readers to plan an itinerary as they read its destination-oriented articles. Updated daily, the app allows readers to easily save relevant information -- some of which is news curated from other top travel magazines -- to what is essentially a trip-planning folder. Readers can add notes or maps and then share the bundle of information with others via e-mail or Facebook. Travel by Handstand's original articles are also the best edited of the travel apps I have surveyed so far.

Not quite an iPad magazine, but close — and popular enough — to mention. New this year, Jetpac is an app that lets users save and organise the images that their friends and contacts upload to social media networks such as Facebook, Flickr and (soon) Instagram.  Imagine if Pinterest were focused exclusively on the travel photography of people you know, and you'll get the concept behind this app. Jetpac uses algorithms to remove photographs that are unlikely to be relevant -- such as photos of the parents of a friend -- so that a manageable sliver of travel photos is presented. Create a bucket list of destinations you want to see, and then contact friends who have been to those places for their opinions.

Fotopedia Magazine
Fotopedia Magazine is a stream of original travel articles and photos updated daily in a Web browser -- not an app -- yet the content is presented in a way that is best appreciated on the iPad's landscape orientation. The publisher also offers free iPad apps for seven destinations, including Burma, Morocco and the US National Parks, that are like basic guidebooks with spectacular photos and links to maps. Fotopedia’s photography was the best-presented of all of the magazine apps I reviewed.

Other iPad travel magazines coming in the next few months include Departful and Ditch City. We'll be keeping our eyes out for these and others. Let us know about your favourite digital travel magazines via our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.

Sean O'Neill is travel tech columnist for BBC Travel