If you enjoy watching travel shows (whether for inspiration or research) you are in for a treat with this selection of the best travel documentaries on Netflix in 2021
This eclectic list of Netflix travel documentaries and series will take you across every continent to meet the people, cultures, history and geography, natural wonders and wildlife that make up our beautiful planet.
Chosen by travel bloggers this is a selection of the best travel documentaries available on Netflix around the world.
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- 23 Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix
- Taco Chronicles
- Dark Tourist
- Down to Earth
- Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands
- Expedition Happiness
- Chef’s Table
- Somebody Feed Phil
- Extreme Engagement
- Joanna Lumley’s India
- Chasing Coral
- Magical Andes
- Cuba and the Cameraman
- Jack Whitehall Travels with My Father
- Restaurants on the edge
- Below Deck
- Tales by Light
- Christiane Amanpour: Sex & Love Around the World
- The Serpent
- The Dawn Wall
- My Octopus Teacher
- Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
- Street Food Series (Latin America and Asia)
- More TV shows & movies from countries around the world
23 Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix
If you didn’t love the idea of eating tacos in Mexico City already, Taco Chronicles will make sure you do! In fact, you’ll discover that there’s even more to authentic Mexican tacos than you ever knew about.
In Taco Chronicles, you’ll go on a taco journey to Mexico City and beyond, to discover the unique types of tacos eaten in Mexico’s various regions and states. The show does start off in Mexico City, with the king of Mexican tacos — the taco al pastor.
From Mexico City, enjoy a virtual Mexican culinary food tour to its neighbouring state of Hidalgo, home of barbacoa (BBQ) tacos. Beyond Central Mexico, this food and travel documentary takes you all over Mexico.
In subsequent episodes of this two-season show, you’ll discover cochinita pibil (slow-roasted suckling pig) tacos in the Yucatan Peninsula, fried fish tacos in Baja California state on the west coast, cabrito (goat) tacos in Northern Mexico, and more.
Places/countries featured – Mexico
Chosen by Shelley of Travel Mexico Solo
Over recent years, the public’s fascination with dark tourism destinations has boomed. Sites such as Chernobyl and Auschwitz draw in thousands of tourists every year. With so many of the population sharing a fascination for dark history, it is no wonder that so many have tuned into Netflix’s ‘Dark Tourist.
The show follows journalist David Farrier as he travels around hoping to experience the most macabre destinations that the world has to offer. Farrier’s quest to unearth the morbid takes him to several high profile dark tourism destinations, including the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, on a JFK assassination tour and he even witnesses an exorcism in Mexico City.
Although Farrier sometimes comes across as a mediocre Louis Theroux, this thought-provoking travel show succeeds in its aim and transports you into the unknown. The result is an interesting series that explores the darker side of life (and death).
Chosen by Sheree of Winging the World
Down to Earth
In the Netflix series Down To Earth, actor Zac Efron and wellness author Darin Olien travel across the globe learning about the wellness and sustainability efforts being made in numerous destinations.
Each of the eight episodes focuses on a different location and aspect of sustainability or personal wellness.
In the first episode, you’ll learn all about harnessing the earth’s energy in Iceland. From there, travel to Paris to see their efforts to reduce bottled water impacts, learn about sustainability in Costa Rica, and nutrition in Sardinia.
Also included in the series are food education in Lima, post-hurricane sustainability in Puerto Rico, London pollution reduction efforts, and Iquitos wellness in the Peruvian Amazon.
In one of the most intriguing segments, they learn about tap water differences from a water sommelier. The series lends a glimpse into some beautiful destinations and what locals are doing to keep them beautiful for decades to come.
Chosen by Samantha of PAonPause.com
Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands
Historian and film-maker Paul Murton brings you on a fascinating journey to many Scottish islands over four seasons. He meets with locals; finds hidden gems; and explores the rich, unique, and sometimes tragic history of each of the islands.
You may be surprised to find yourself binge watching this relaxing travel documentary series. You will get caught up in Murton’s contagious curiosity about its people and his great admiration for its beauty. Every episode is filled with stunning scenery. The high production quality and engaging soundtrack heighten the enjoyment of the show. Fans can follow this up with his three other Scottish travel series.
Queue up, Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands to enjoy some dreamy armchair travel or to gain a deeper understanding of the islands as you plan your trip to Scotland.
Places featured: Isle of Skye, Islands of Loch Lomond, Hebridean Islands, Orkney Islands, and many more
Contributed by Erica at Trip Scholars
Expedition Happiness is a home movie/travelogue that follows the story of a German couple as they give up their life in Germany to do an epic road trip in the Americas with their dog Rudi.
The couple, whose names are Selima and Felix, purchased a yellow school bus in Florida for 9500 USD. After working on it for three months, they transformed it into their “Loft on Wheel”, a comfortable, spacious, and well-equipped adventure bus.
The itinerary was to start in Alaska near Denali National Park, drive all the way down to Central America, cross over to South America, and finish in Argentina.
On their adventure, they documented all the incredible landscapes they saw, the people they met, and more.
Whether they were able to finish their epic adventure or not, you will have to find out on Netflix!
Chosen by Sean of Living out Lau
Even if you’re not a foodie but love to travel, be sure to watch Chef’s Table on Netflix. This documentary series features renowned Chefs from around the world who are creating inspired culinary experiences.
Now in its 6th season with 30 episodes, the series doesn’t just showcase a chef’s creations, but takes you on a journey through each of their personal stories that has led to their creativity.
World renowned chefs like Italy’s Massimo Bottura will inspire you with how he came from humble beginnings to being on the world culinary stage. But one chef in particular has inspired us to travel for her food — Chef Ana Rôs, owner of Hiša Franko restaurant in Kobarid, Slovenia.
After initially pursuing a career track in business, she spent years honing her craft and experimenting with the local foods of her native Slovenia. Today, she is now one of the top chefs in the world, Hiša Franko is one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World and newly Michelin-rated — and our dinner there on my birthday might possibly be the best meal of my life.
Watch the series and decide where your next culinary adventure will be.
Chosen by Lori of travlinmad.com
Somebody Feed Phil
In “Somebody Feel Phil”, the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Phil Rosenthal, travels the world to indulge in the scrumptious local cuisine and to learn more about the culture of these destinations.
There are currently four seasons on Netflix and each episode features a different city around the world. This documentary does a great job of portraying local customs and traditions and viewers will feel like they’re actually in that city with the locals.
Phil has a childlike wonder to him when he’s learning about the different cultures and he answers basically any potential questions the viewers could have about the destination. One of the best parts about the documentary is watching Phil turn the strangers he meets into his family.
Places featured – Bangkok, Saigon, Tel Aviv, Lisbon, New Orleans, Mexico City, Venice, Dublin, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Cape Town, New York City, Marrakesh, Chicago, London, Seoul, Montreal, Rio De Janeiro, San Francisco, Singapore, the Mississippi Delta, and Hawaii.
Chosen by Disha of Disha Discovers
While most people get engaged and then begin planning their perfect wedding, Tim and PJ, stars of the Netflix show Extreme Engagement, do anything but that. Instead, Tim and PJ get engaged and then set out on a worldwide exploration of marital traditions around the world.
The couple journeys to places such as Mongolia, Brazil, China, Nigeria, and Papua New Guinea facing challenging experiences along the way that has them questioning their relationship and each other.
You get to see a glimpse inside the cross-cultural challenges associated with a new romance along with an interesting insight into how other cultures celebrate love and marriage.
Chosen by Michelle Snell from That Texas Couple
International travellers Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach cross the world and push their limits on an expedition to find genuine, unforgettable experiences.
DEPARTURES is an international award-winning and inspiring television travel series that will take you on the journey of a lifetime and beyond. From epic landscapes to unforgettable culture, learn what it takes to make it all happen through personal successes, crushing disappointments and memorable new friendships that could only be made by travelling abroad.
With two episodes for every continent, DEPARTURES will arm and reassure your wanderlust with hours of riveting programming that captures the beauty, drama, wonder and humor of taking a leap abroad.
DEPARTURES covers every aspect of world travel, showing you exactly what to expect at destinations around the globe. From beaches in Bali and cruising in the South Pacific Islands, to trekking on Mt Kilimanjaro and sailing up icebergs off Greenland, DEPARTURES takes you straight into a location’s unique atmosphere… giving viewers insight into a whole new way of life.
Places featured – Nearly 30 countries around the world including Japan, New Zealand and Russia
Chosen by Casandra of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel
Joanna Lumley’s India
Joanna Lumley is a British actress probably most well-known for her role as the outrageous Patsy of Absolutely Fabulous. What is perhaps less known about her is that she was born in Kashmir, India, in 1946, and the descendent of British colonists in India going back to 1777.
Originally aired in 2017 with three episodes, Joanna Lumley’s India takes viewers on a personal trip across the country where she explores modern India and finds connections to members of her own family and the experience of being and speaking English in India.
Lumley has also hosted travel shows on Japan, the Silk Road, the Caribbean, and the Trans-Siberia express train.
Places featured: Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Gujarat, Mumbai, Ranthambhore National Park, Delhi, and Srinagar, Kashmir.
Chosen by Mariellen of Breathedreamgo
Chasing Coral is a fascinating documentary about the disappearance of coral around the world. In this chasing coral, a team of divers, researchers and photographers set out on an ocean adventure to document the bleaching of Coral in warming seas. This phenomenon is when corals lose their beautiful and vibrant colors to become white, dying shortly after.
The point of this documentary is to show that the coral’s death is the result of climate change and the rise in temperatures that are absorbed by the oceans.
The documentary takes us to some of the most beautiful destinations in the world such as the Florida Keys, Hawaii and the Bahamas. More than that, this documentary also shows the important damage climate change has done to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
I definitely recommend this documentary to anyone who wants to really understand the impact of human activity on the ocean’s ecosystem.
Chosen by Camille from Everything Yoga Retreat
Magical Andes is one of the best travel documentaries on Netflix if you are looking to learn about the natural gems of South America. When searching amongst the 100’s of other documentaries you’ll find this particular docuseries created by Luis Ara and Alexandra Hardorf concentrates solely on the magical landscape of the Andes mountain range.
This docuseries not only shows you all about the longest continental mountain range in the world, but talks about the wildlife, lakes, and forests, deserts, volcanoes, and other Mother Earth creations that exist in that region.
Magical Andes focuses on truly stunning imagery and gives you a look into some of the best places to visit in South America that you simply wouldn’t see passing through in a car.
Places featured – In season one, the Netflix documentary features spectacular views from Argentina and Chile. Then from the Aconcagua desert in Bolivia over to some of the more ancient cultures in Peru. The lush mountain of Colombia and Ecuador are also featured.
Chosen by Daniel of LayerCulture.com
Cuba and the Cameraman
If you’ve ever thought of visiting Cuba there are many Cuban movies and documentaries to help you to research your trip, but none are as epic as this one.
Many people believe that Cuba is a country frozen in time, but this Netflix documentary features Jon Alpert’s travels to Cuba over a span of nearly five decades.
And while the relationships between the United States and Cuba has been fragmented at times, he visited each time as an American journalist. It starts in 1970s, just over a decade since the Cuban revolution when the country was thriving.
Instead of giving his perspective on Cuba, he interviews three families who share their own stories of every day life. He continues to visit Cuba to find these families to update their stories. Over the decades the political situation and relationship with the United States changes quite dramatically.
And while he also interviews Fidel Castro, most of the film is really about everyday Cubans and their highs and lows.
Chosen by Ayngelina of Baconismagic.ca
Jack Whitehall Travels with My Father
Jack Whitehall is a British comedian who attended private school and has a somewhat disjointed relationship with his father Michael because of this. Jack also never got to take a gap year before going to university so season one of Travels with my Father is all about Jack finally embarking on a traditional ‘gap year’ trip to Southeast Asia. The twist is he takes his father with him so they can strengthen their bond.
The series takes place in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and highlights some of the gap year activities that can be done including full moon parties on the beach and visiting Angkor Wat. By the end of their travels, they reflect on what they have learned about each other and themselves.
The show continues in a similar fashion in the subsequent seasons where Michael takes Jack on a culture and history tour around Europe, Jack shows Michael everything the US has to offer, and both his mother and father join him for a road trip in Australia.
Chosen by Steph from Book It Let’s Go!
Restaurants on the edge
If you love travel, design and food, Restaurants on the Edge needs to be on your Netflix list. In each episode, the show highlights a restaurant in a stunning location.
The restaurants get a makeover from a design expert and the menu often gets an upgrade from the show’s chef, the goal is to take struggling restaurants and make them sustainable for the business owners.
There are currently two seasons of Restaurants on the Edge on Netflix, with locations throughout the world.
In season one, you’ll be treated to beautiful ocean views in Malta, as well as stunning architecture. The views continue with a cliff side restaurant in Costa Rica.
Season two will take you around the world again, with restaurants in Finland, St. Croix and Arizona.
Not only is it fun to see the upgrades these restaurants go through, but it’s also inspiring to see the impact the changes have on each person’s life making this show a must-watch.
Chosen by Alenis of seasaltandfog.com
If you are a fan of Italy, Italian art and History, then watch the gorgeous and surprisingly brutal history of the famous Medici’s of Florence.
The Netflix show is so well done with gorgeous cinematography, beautiful costumes and stage settings. The show includes all the surrounding countryside and historic sites that document the Medici Family and their major influence on Florence, Venice, and even Rome (two popes were related to the Medici family).
It also showcases early Catholic power and greed. The Pope had absolute power and a religious mission that seemed corrupt whichever person was Pope and ruler.
The Medici focus really hits the major sites of the city and also the start of the Renaissance period in Italy. The crowning of the main dome in the cathedral was a major achievement during this time frame and it was really fascinating to see how this was depicted and shown in development and the struggles of the Medici family to get this undertaking done.
Also, it was interesting to see how easy it was during that time frame to create wealth and also lose it depending on your affiliations and business relationships with the pope and other influential rulers of that time.
Watch the Medici’s on Netflix and if you visit Florence, you’ll gain a better understanding of the Medici fame and fortune in the area.
Chosen by Noel of Oahu Travel Now
Below Deck is a series of reality TV shows. Each show is set on a luxury yacht which is rented out by wealthy charter guests, but the real action is with the young yacht crew, or yachties, who serve them, the characterful captains who lead them and the stunning locations. The original Below Deck was so successful that it rapidly gained two spin offs, Below Deck Mediterranean and Below Deck Sailing Yacht.
The original Below Deck saw the crew sail around Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, followed by seasons in the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, the US Virgin Islands, Tahiti, Thailand and Antigua.
Below Deck Mediterranean’s locations have included Mykonos in the Greek Islands, Split and Cavtat in Croatia, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, the Cote d’Azur in the south of France and Mallorca in Spain’s Balearic Islands. Below Deck, Sailing Yacht has only had one series, set in Corfu.
Contributed by Helen of HelenOnHerHolidays.com
Tales by Light
The documentary series “Tales by Light” follows renowned professional filmmakers and photographers as they visit worldwide destinations and capture fascinating content which highlights different features of the natural world.
Every episode focuses on a different subject such as wildlife, the oceans, landscapes, adventure activities, or cultural practices and traditions. The distinct approaches of the featured photographers really help to bring the stories to life and this program presents many less well-known countries and regions in a compelling way using panoramic landscapes and stunning visuals.
The first season explores multiple destinations per episode, with visits to Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Alaska and Colorado in the United States, Vanuatu, the Himalayas, Antarctica, Ethiopia and Uganda.
The second season covers Kenya, Norway, Brazil, the Bahamas, India and Namibia, and the third season highlights Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Australia.
This series presents a journey across the globe and is sure to inspire travellers who are looking for their next adventure.
Contributed by Claire from Claire Pins Travel
Christiane Amanpour: Sex & Love Around the World
In this cultural travel show, CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour (who in the past has covered major stories from countries like Iran, Rwanda, and Pakistan) travels to six different cities around the world to explore women’s love lives across multiple cultures. She talks to experts in the field as well as everyday people — revealing facts and details that give a very insightful glimpse into the culture and values of women around the world.
Christiane is a natural at asking just the right questions and at shining a spotlight on the stories of the women in each city.
While this show focuses heavily on love and sex, viewers will get to learn a whole lot about the overall mentality and life approach of each country — making this a perfect travel show that fosters deeper cultural appreciation.
Places featured – Tokyo (Japan), Delhi (India), Beirut (Lebanon), Berlin (Germany), Accra (Ghana), Shanghai (China)
Chosen by Jiayi of The Diary of A Nomad
Released at the beginning of 2021, The Serpent is not a travel show in and of itself, but it will inevitably allure travelers into visiting the many places explored by the main characters.
Aired on Netflix, the series tells the real story of Charles Sobhraj, a French serial killer of Indian and Vietnamese origins who in the mid-1970s drugged, robbed and killed a large number of backpackers travelling between Thailand, India and Nepal.
Sobhraj and his Quebecoise girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc were finally identified as the authors of the crimes thanks to the work of Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg, who, albeit the many reservations of the Dutch ambassador to Thailand, set to investigate the disappearance of a Dutch couple and through a series of lead eventually managed to uncover the culprits.
Places featured: Over the course of 8 episodes you will be taken to Bangkok, the coast of Thailand, the peaks of Nepal, the streets of several Indian cities and even to Paris.
Chosen by Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World
The Dawn Wall
When Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climbed the Great Wall of the El Capitan rock face in the Yosemite National Park in 2018, the news spread like wildfire.
Dawn Wall is a US documentary about this story of perseverance and adventure.
Cameras follow these legendary free climbers as they undertake this nearly impossible task. It took Cadwell 7 years to reach the goal and we are given a detailed look into the events that led to this decision and the struggles that were involved throughout the journey.
There’s one constant theme that runs throughout the story and that is the strength of the human spirit.
This captivating documentary with great visuals should not be missed. The documentary is in English, but subtitles are available in different languages that include Spanish, French, and Chinese.
Places featured: Yosemite National Park
Chosen by Rai from A Rai of Light
My Octopus Teacher
My Octopus Teacher is an award-winning and very heart-touching documentary on Netflix that covers how a filmmaker spent a year trying to capture a wild octopus on camera and also form a friendship with it.
For about a year, Craig Foster films a wild octopus he came across while trying out free-diving through an underwater kelp forest in South Africa.
Over the period, Craig and the octopus develop a bond with the octopus almost showing Craig around and not being uninhibited by his presence as he follows it.
Craig watches as it protects itself, loses an arm to an attack and then regrows it too. At the end of the documentary, the octopus naturally passes away after mating and trying to protect its eggs.
Filmed entirely near Cape Peninsula in South Africa, this beautiful documentary is not to be missed as it covers an offbeat relationship between man and nature.
Places featured – A kelp forest off False Bay near Simon’s Town in South Africa
Chosen by Lavinia of Continent Hop
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
For the foodies of the world, who travel the world, and are strident realists about the world, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” is an absolute must-watch.
Rugged, painfully honest, internationally renowned chef Anthony Bourdain travelled the globe in search of authentic food, people and life experiences. With no time for nonsense and all the time in the world for simple food done to perfection, he takes the viewer to eating establishments from tiny street food stalls to the finest of fine dining.
In his search for amazing food in amazing places, he guides you from the brutality of the Bornean jungle to the madness of Seoul’s foodie nightlife and the pure joy of a perfectly cooked steak in an Argentinian steakhouse accompanied by a glass of locally bottled Malbec.
Parts Unknown leaves you an appetite for dinner and a bigger one for travel. Wanderlust is baked into every episode.
Chosen by Rosie of the Flying Fluskeys
Street Food Series (Latin America and Asia)
The Street Food series is one for foodie lovers around the world to enjoy! Each episode follows the story of a local chef and how they started their now-famous street food shops.
From family restaurants to cultural fusions, you learn about a destination through food from the people who make it possible.
Volume one takes place in various Asian destinations, such as Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Delhi (India), Seoul (South Korea), and others.
The second volume takes place in Latin America, highlighting food in Salvador (Brazil), Bogota (Colombia), Lima (Peru), Oaxaca (Mexico), and more.
It is a delicious docuseries that will keep you salivating and also inspire you to understand how food and travel are one. Street Food will also encourage you to get out of your comfort zone if you normally avoid street food!
It is the ideal blend of travel and food for everyone to indulge in from home.
Chosen by Sojourner of Sojournies.com
More TV shows & movies from countries around the world
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