18 Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix (2019)

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 18 of the best travel documentaries on Netflix streaming in the US as of July 1, 2019; many are also available in other countries. Watch them while you can, because content disappears as licensing agreements expire.

1. Residente (2017)

Residente – Residente (Trailer)

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. Dark Tourist (2018)

Dark Tourist | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Netflix meets Vice in this travelogue by New Zealand filmmaker David Farrier, who sets his sights on the world of dark tourism. From a nuclear lake to a haunted forest, he visits macabre — and sometimes dangerous — tourist destinations around the world.

Countries: Various

3. Street Food (2019)

Street Food | Official Trailer | Netflix

Experiencing street food culture is one of the joys of travel. This inspiring series from the makers of Chef’s Table is as much about the compelling survival stories of these talented street chefs as it is about their signature dishes.

The first season takes the viewer to nine Asian destinations; future seasons will visit other regions.

Countries: Thailand, Japan, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam

4. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Trailer

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

5. Pedal the World (2015)

Pedal The World / An Adventure Around The World On A Bike

Over the course of one memorable and adventure-filled year, German-born Felix Starck documents his 18,000-kilometer bicycle journey across 22 countries.

Countries: Various

6. Under an Arctic Sky (2017)

Under An Arctic Sky – Official Trailer #1

Six surfers set sail along the frozen shores of Iceland, knowing that the worst storm to hit the country in 25 years is about to arrive. Enduring constant darkness and stormy seas, they discover perfect waves and make history by surfing under the Northern Lights.

Country: Iceland

7. Chef’s Table (2017)

Chef's Table | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

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, and the two productions share a similar emotional and artistic sensibility hallmarked by compelling narratives and mesmerizingly beautiful cinematography.

Countries: Various

8. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2016)

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Trailer

RIP to someone who inspired so many with his curiosity, empathy, and humility. 🙁 Now extended on Netflix for the foreseeable future, this captivating travel show follows Anthony Bourdain around the globe as he explores 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 enjoyment.

Countries: Various

9. World’s Busiest Cities (2017)

ABC Promo: World's Busiest Cities (2017)

This four-part BBC documentary takes us to Hong Kong, Mexico City, Moscow, and Delhi to delve into the inner workings of some of the most burgeoning metropolises on Earth.

Countries: Various

10. Tokyo Idols (2017)

TOKYO IDOLS Trailer- Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

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

11. India’s Frontier Railways (2014)

Moving short BBC series about trains crossing borders in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, reconnecting families, cultures, and history. Focuses on touching individual stories of the daily struggles of the passengers and workers on the train.

Countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

12. The Trader (Sovdagari) (2018)

The Trader (Sovdagari) | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

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 stark Georgian landscape.

Country: Georgia

13. The Mind of a Chef (2016)

The Mind of A Chef | New series premieres on PBS – November 9, 2012

Anthony Bourdain narrates this thoughtful and entertaining PBS series exploring the cuisine of different regions of the world with a variety of chef presenters. The first season with irreverent chef David Chang is excellent.

Countries: Various

14. Ugly Delicious (2018)

Ugly Delicious | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Smart-ass chef David Chang leads his buddies on a mouthwatering, cross-cultural hunt for the world’s most satisfying grub. Each episode of this highly original show tackles a topic like tacos, pizza, or dumplings, examining its cultural and culinary history and visiting different countries to compare how it’s made.

Warning: Chang can be obnoxious, and racial and political commentary is liberally sprinkled throughout the show, which may not be to everyone’s taste.

Countries: Various

15. Beyond Bollywood (2013)

Beyond Bollywood | Trailer | Available Now

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

16. To Be a Miss (2016)

IDFA 2016 | Trailer | To Be a Miss

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

Also check out: Three Weeks in Colombia

17. Conan Without Borders (2018)

"Conan Without Borders: Made In Mexico" Cold Open

Late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien hits the road in this series that brings him and his sense of humor to far-flung destinations.

Countries: Various

18. Period. End of Sentence. (2018)

Period. End of Sentence Official Trailer 2018

This Oscar-winning documentary short takes us to rural India, where local women fight the stigma surrounding menstruation by manufacturing low-cost sanitary pads.

Country: India

Bonus: Travel Documentaries on Netflix DVD and Amazon Prime

Subscribers to Netflix’s DVD service may be dwindling, but for movie buffs it remains a great way to access a large catalog of mostly older content. If you have a DVD subscription, don’t miss these documentaries on travel. They are also available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

Note that these films may also be found at your local library!

I hope you love my travel documentary recommendations! Just so you know, I may get a small commission from any purchases made using Amazon links on this page at no extra cost to you.

A Map for Saturday (2007)

A MAP FOR SATURDAY trailer

Classic travel documentary that follows a variety of solo budget travelers — from teens to seniors — through 26 countries on four continents. Young filmmaker Brook Silva-Braga trains his inquisitive lens on backpackers lending a hand to tsunami victims, trekkers forming brief but intense relationships, and fascinating moments of self-discovery and adventure.

Also available for rental on Amazon Prime Video.

Countries: Various

Maidentrip (2013)

Maidentrip (2014) Official Trailer – Laura Dekker – Dir. Jillian Schlesinger

This documentary follows the record-breaking round-the-world voyage of Dutch teen Laura Dekker, youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.

Also available for rental on Amazon Prime Video.

Countries: Various

180° South (2010)

180 South – Official Movie Trailer 2010 [HD]

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.

Also available for rental on Amazon Prime Video.

Countries: Mexico, Chile

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

All images © Netflix

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