15 Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix (November 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 15 of the best travel documentaries on Netflix streaming in the US as of November 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. Dark Tourist (2018)

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. Pedal the World (2015)

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

4. 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 (now sadly removed from Netflix), and the two productions share a similar emotional and artistic sensibility hallmarked by compelling narratives and mesmerizingly beautiful cinematography.

Countries: Various

5. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2016)

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

6. 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

7. 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

8. 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 stark Georgian landscape.

Country: Georgia

9. The Mind of a Chef (2016)

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

10. Ugly Delicious (2018)

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

11. 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

12. 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

Also check out: Three Weeks in Colombia

13. 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

14. Escape to the Continent (2014)

Escape to the Continent - Netflix travel documentary series

No trailer available. Image © BBC.

If you like House Hunters International, check this one out. Enjoyable series that follows Brits looking to start new lives in other European countries as they go house hunting and learn the pros and cons of each locale.

Countries: France, Austria, Spain and other European countries

15. 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.

2 Comments on “15 Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix (November 2018)

    • Definitely… Netflix travel shows provide some of my best inspiration! 😉

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