The Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix (and Other Services) to Stream Right Now

travel documentaries netflix

While the world prepares to spend a whole lot of time indoors, those of us who love to travel are stuck reading about it and watching shows about it instead. So let’s make the best of the situation and watch some great travel documentaries!

This collection of documentary shows, available on all the major streaming outlets, includes classics from respected names like Anthony Bourdain and Rick Steves, plus serious examinations of life in difficult places around the world, plus some comedic relief from the likes of Conan O’Brien.

Read on for my list of the top travel documentaries on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other services that you can stream on your laptop or phone at this time.

NOTE: If you enjoy the drama and craziness of reality television more than documentaries, check out our list of the Top Travel Reality Shows to Stream!

Best Travel Documentaries on to Stream Right Now on Netflix and Hulu

Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations / Parts Unknown

There are exactly one million food & travel documentaries in existence (I counted), but few will able to compete with Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. For several years, the Emmy-winning series followed the celebrity chef as he toured the globe and tried the world’s most exotic foods.

Why not binge all 142 episodes? Come on, what else have you got to do? Watch Anthony taste feral pigeon in Egypt, deer tendon in China, and even a still-beating cobra heart in Vietnam. Though I love the show, I still disagree with his assertion that Iceland’s fermented shark is the worst food on the planet.

Once you finish No Reservations, move on to Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, which is more of a straightforward travel show without the culinary focus.
Currently streaming on: Hulu & TravelChannel.com (No Reservations); YouTube & Amazon Prime (Parts Unknown)

Basic vs Baller

Here’s a cool premise for a travel show: Two brothers arrive in a city and challenge each other in a quick trivia contest. The winner gets to be a baller, meaning they get a massive budget (think $1000/day) to live a life of luxury, visiting expensive restaurants and attractions. The loser has to travel around on a small, basic budget (less than $100/day.)

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In the Hong Kong episode, the baller sips champagne from an infinity pool in his private penthouse, while the basic dude eats cheap food, wanders a public market, and sleeps in a funky hostel dorm bed. Almost inevitably, basic dude has a cooler experience.
Currently streaming on: Hulu, YouTube

Our Planet

When it comes to wildlife, scenery, and the general beauty of our planet, the BBC nature documentary series Our Planet is second to none. Legendary narrator David Attenborough takes viewers to African deserts, tropical rainforests, and the frozen habitat of the polar bears to give us a glimpse into animal life as we’ve never seen it before.

Unlike many nature documentaries, this one has a larger purpose, as it specifically focuses on climate change. It repeatedly notes how humans and the wildlife of our planet will be affected if people worldwide do not make changes to address this problem.
Currently streaming on: Netflix

Conan Without Borders

Conan O’Brien has been known for his unique brand of goofball humor since the ‘90s, but over the past few years he’s quietly put together one of the best travel shows around. It started in 2015 when he became the first U.S. talk show host to film in Cuba in 55 years, putting together an hour-long special full of segments that showcased the island nation’s culture and history.

Since then, Conan has brought his quirky charm to Mexico, Haiti, South Korea, Israel, and Italy, filming segments in which he jokes with local citizens and tour guides while trying to learn about their country. Make sure to seek out the four most recent episodes of Conan Without Borders – Japan, Australia, Ghana, and Greenland – which are only available for streaming on TBS.com.
Currently streaming on: Netflix, Amazon Prime, TBS.com

Tales By Light

One of the best ways to experience cultures from around the world while sitting in your living room is the new-ish Netflix series Tales By Light. The show documents filmmakers and photographers as they highlight a particular area of interest: for instance, indigenous people who still live by their traditional customs, and Indian photographers who scrape together a living by selling family members photos of their relatives taken during funerals.

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The two-part episode “Children in Need,” which focuses on young children working in horrible conditions in third-world countries, is especially compelling. The story isn’t necessarily uplifting, but it’s incredibly insightful.
Currently streaming on: Netflix

Rick Steves’ Europe

If you’re a regular traveler to Europe, surely you’re familiar with Rick Steves’ PBS documentary series, which has been documenting the continent’s most interesting spots for ten seasons now. He has covered just about every inch of Europe, from the Alps of Switzerland to the islands of Greece to the heartland of Portugal.

Follow along with Rick and reminisce about the days when it was still possible to dine outdoors in Vienna, cruise the Danube River, and explore the Amalfi Coast of Italy.
Currently streaming on: Hulu, RickSteves.com

Dark Tourist

On Dark Tourist, a New Zealand journalist investigates the topic of dark tourism, which deals with morbid and death-related sites. These sorts of tourist attractions are quite popular nowadays. David Farrier tours the Milwaukee locations of Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders, the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the former testing site for nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union, and the location of the Manson Family murders in Los Angeles.

He also attends ceremonies related to death and the afterworld. This sort of show isn’t for everyone, but the program does attempt to explain why folks are interested in these kinds of tours and ceremonies.
Currently streaming on: Netflix

Gaycation

Gaycation produced just eight episodes during its 2016 run, but they earned two Emmy nominations for their snapshots of LGBT life in countries like Japan, India, and France. Out and proud actress Ellen Page and her friend Ian Daniel hosted the show and immersed themselves in their destinations, interviewing local residents, many of whom had to hide their identity since being open about their orientation is still unsafe in many parts of the world.

Among the most moving and informative episodes were Page and Daniel’s visits to Ukraine, Jamaica, and Brazil, three of most dangerous countries for LGBT people right now.
Currently streaming on: Hulu

Magical Andes

The six-episode doc series Magical Andes (Los Andes Magicos) focuses on the people and history of the Andes Mountains in South America. The show boasts beautifully-shot footage of the scenery of these countries. I took special interest in episode 4, which reveals the highlights of Peru, including Machu Picchu, Puno, and Lake Titicaca – aka, the places that I was supposed to visit this summer, before the world got canceled. 🙁
Currently streaming on: Netflix

Pedal the World

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Another of the best travel documentaries on Netflix is Pedal the World. This film follows a German guy as he bikes more than 11,000 miles through 22 countries in one year. He passes through Greece, Serbia, Turkey, Thailand, and many more. There isn’t really much of a narrative arc or an overarching theme, but if you want to see follow one person’s challenging journey as he bikes past some famous landmarks mixed and rural areas of countries you’ve never visited, it’s worth a viewing.
Currently streaming on: Netflix

Can you suggest other great travel documentaries on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime?

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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