13 Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix (April 2018)

Bitten by the travel bug? These Netflix documentaries about travel will pacify your wanderlust between trips as you explore the world from the comfort of your couch.

Here are 13 of the best travel documentaries on Netflix streaming in the US as of April 1, 2018; many are also available in other countries. Watch them while you can, because content disappears as licensing agreements expire.

1. Residente (2017)

Amazing story of Puerto Rican rap icon Residente’s global voyage inspired by a DNA test revealing his African, European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Native American ancestry. He dissolved his massively popular band Calle 13 and visited 10 countries to trace his roots and record a unique album based on his heritage. A moving reminder of how interdependent and interconnected we are.

Countries: China, Russia, Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Armenia, France, Spain, UK, Antigua, Puerto Rico (United States), among others

2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Delightful story of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old world-renowned sushi master with a tiny restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station, the first of its kind to be awarded three Michelin stars. This beautiful and thoughtful film portrays Ono’s lifelong pursuit of perfection while exploring the toll his obsessive dedication exacts on his relationships. A fascinating glimpse into Japanese culture.

Country: Japan

3. Chef’s Table (2017)

Each episode of this Emmy-nominated docuseries visits a different international location for an in-depth interview with one of the world’s most renowned chefs. Creator David Gelb also directed the critically acclaimed Jiro Dreams of Sushi (see above), and the two productions share a similar emotional and artistic sensibility.

Countries: Various

4. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2016)

Captivating series that follows outspoken TV personality Anthony Bourdain as he travels the globe exploring the cuisine and cultures of off-the-beaten-path places. Before my trips I always check if there’s an episode or two about my destination. Bourdain’s show digs deeply into not just local food but also the economic, arts, and political scenes of each region. Stunning visuals and entertaining interviews with local characters add to the fun.

Countries: Various

5. Tokyo Idols (2017)

Fascinating and sometimes creepy look at the bizarre world of teen idols in Japan and their fanatical middle-aged devotees. Reveals how otaku (pop culture geeks) choose the escapist fantasy provided by these budding starlets, some as young as 10, over relationships with real women.

Country: Japan

6. 180° South (2010)

This docu follows adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraces the epic 1968 journey to Patagonia of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, legendary founders of The North Face and Patagonia sportswear and pioneering conservationists. Along the way Johnson gets shipwrecked off Easter Island, surfs the longest wave of his life, and attempts to climb a Patagonian peak.

Countries: Mexico, Chile

7. The Trader (Sovdagari) (2018)

At only 23 minutes, this award-winning documentary short provides a fascinating and poignant window into impoverished rural life in post-Soviet Georgia. The camera follows a traveling trader as he sells secondhand goods in exchange for potatoes. Beautiful cinematography that captures the breathtaking Georgian landscape. More of these short docus, please, Netflix!

Country: Georgia

8. Ugly Delicious (2018)

Irreverent chef David Chang leads his buddies on a mouthwatering, cross-cultural hunt for the world’s most satisfying grub. Each episode highlights one popular food, examining its cultural and culinary history and visiting different countries to compare how it is made.

Countries: Various

9. Lucha Mexico (2016)

Enormously entertaining peek into the lives of Mexico’s legendary wrestlers and at the colorful spectacle of lucha libre, a form of freestyle fighting performed by masked superheroes and villains.

Country: Mexico

10. Beyond Bollywood (2013)

Engaging behind-the-scenes look at the world’s largest film industry. Filmed over four years, this documentary follows four Bollywood artists: an Australian backpacker who stumbles upon an acting career as “the white extra,” a union leader fighting corruption and the exploitation of set laborers, a diva make-up artist popular for creating the glamorous look of Bollywood actresses, and a small-town girl holding onto her hopes of becoming a superstar.

Country: India

11. To Be a Miss (2016)

Compelling documentary that exposes the dark side of Venezuela’s pageant industry and the country’s obsession with female beauty. Profiles three young models whose hopes and dreams are exploited as they strive to become the next Miss Venezuela. Particularly timely since the Miss Venezuela pageant was suspended in March 2018 due to allegations of prostitution and corruption.

Country: Venezuela

12. Cartel Land (2015)

OK, maybe this isn’t the best film to watch right before your Mexico trip. But this riveting Oscar-nominated documentary provides unprecedented access to the chilling, brutal conflict between vigilante groups and murderous Mexican drug cartels. It helped me grasp the soul-crushing futility of a struggle in which the lines between good and evil are so hopelessly blurred.

Country: Mexico

13. Into the Wild (2007)

Not a documentary, but based on the powerful true story chronicled in John Krakauer’s best-seller about a young man’s search for meaning in the Alaskan wilderness. Tragic but inspiring.

Country: United States

Have feedback on these or more Netflix travel documentary recommendations? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

All images © Netflix

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Bitten by the travel bug? These Netflix travel documentaries will pacify your wanderlust between trips as you explore the world from the comfort of your couch.

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