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 21 of the best travel documentaries on Netflix streaming in the US as of September 1, 2019; many are also available in other countries. Watch them while you can, because content disappears as licensing agreements expire.
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.
Residente 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
Note: No English subtitles available for YouTube trailer; click to watch subtitled trailer on Netflix
Warning: Don’t watch if you’re hungry. Explore the deeply complex histories of the world’s most beloved tacos in this love letter to the iconic handheld food.
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.
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
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.
Over the course of one memorable and adventure-filled year, German-born Felix Starck documents his 18,000-kilometer bicycle journey across 22 countries.
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.
The Oscar-nominated heart-rending true story of the rangers risking their lives to save Africa’s most precious national park and its endangered gorillas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Take an in-depth look at the technology and logistics of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, India, the busiest railway station in the world. Hosts explore the inner workings of the colossal station, from its control rooms to its lunch couriers.
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.
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.
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.
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 dreaming of stardom.
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.
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.
This Oscar-winning documentary short takes us to rural India, where local women fight the stigma surrounding menstruation by manufacturing low-cost sanitary pads.
Based on Samin Nosrat’s best-selling book, this visually stunning series travels to the home kitchens of Italy, the southern islands of Japan, the heat of the Yucatán, and to Berkeley’s Chez Panisse.
Samin’s contagious laugh and genuine passion for cooking inspire as she explores the central principles of what makes food delicious.
Countries: Italy, Japan, Mexico, United States
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!
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.
This documentary follows the record-breaking round-the-world voyage of Dutch teen Laura Dekker, youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.
Now available for free to Prime members on Amazon Prime Video!
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
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Ingrid took early retirement from software engineering at 43 to pursue her passions for language learning and travel. Her goal is to learn a new language to fluency every two years. Currently, she speaks English, German, and Spanish, and is learning Portuguese.