Travel documentaries for the culturally curious

Siobháin Spear
Mar 25, 2020

Ten of the best travel documentaries that allow you to live vicariously through other people.

You might not be able to travel right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and WAVO, we have the world at our fingertips, so grab the remote and get going.

Here are ten of the best travel documentaries to add to your watch-list while you socially distance yourself to help the world recover from COVID-19:

1. Losing Sight of Shore

Life is short; you really do have to live it. ‘Losing Sight of Shore’ is a docu-film that tracks the journey of four brave women who set out to row across the Pacific Ocean from America to Australia. As they row over 8,000 miles during their nine months at sea, they must overcome extreme mental and physical challenges to make history. This is story of grit, determination and the fight to overcome anything. Everyone has their own Pacific to cross; what’s yours?

2. An idiot abroad

This is one of the best travel documentaries for those in need of some continuous laughter. Imagine sending you best friend around the world and making them try the most extreme experiences that are completely out of their comfort zone. If that sounds like your idea of the fun, then ‘An Idiot Abroad’ is for you; the hilarious series sees co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send Karl Pilkington around the globe – against his will. Put it this way: with friends like these, you’re better off self-isolating.

3. Street Food

The creators of ‘Chef’s Table’ take to the streets in a food-centric series that brings viewers to some of the world’s most vibrant cities to discover the rich culture of street delicacies. From the hawker stalls of Singapore to the food carts of India, ‘Street Food’ highlights the stories of perseverance and culture that bring life to a country’s cuisine.

4. Dark Tourist

New Zealand filmmaker David Ferrier is drawn to “the weirder side of life”. Ferrier redefines the definition of ‘tourism’ in ‘The Dark Tourist’ as he ventures to offbeat destinations to discover experiences that the darkest corners of the internet have unearthed. From nuclear tourism in Japan to the most extreme haunted house experience, expect to see and hear the stories of those who seek out the weird, the whacky and the most absurd travel experiences around the world.

5. Free Solo

Winning an Academy Award for the Best Documentary, Free Solo shares the incredibly intimate story of free soloist climber Alex Honnold and his unwavering determination in preparing for the climb of his life. In the documentary, Honnold prepares to achieve his lifelong dream of scaling the world’s most famous rock: the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park… and he intends to do it without a rope. If you’re looking for a gripping adventure tale, this is it.

6. Our Planet

If you haven’t already watched ‘Our Planet’ , then there really is no better time; this is truly one of the best travel documentaries that you will ever watch. From exotic jungles to the deepest seas, each stunningly-captured episode will open your eyes to the connections we all share. Within each cinematographic journey, Sir David Attenborough shares the humbling reminder that “this is the story of our changing planet and what we can do to help it thrive”.

7. Tales By Light

Voicing a passion for travel, this series is geared towards reminding us that we should get out and see the world in order to experience different cultures and different perspectives. ‘Tales by Light’ shares the stories of photographers and filmmakers who travel the world capturing incredible images of people, places, creatures and cultures from new, and previously unseen, angles.

8. Pedal The World

If you like your travel documentaries a little more ”rough and ready”, then Pedal the World might just be for you. In the 90-minute documentary, a young millennial from Germany pedals across 22 countries, over 20,000kms, to find the meaning of life. What would you do if you could let go of real-life responsibilities?

9. Roll With Me

If there was ever a time to put our problems in perspective, it’s right now. While we may have tendencies to feel sorry for ourselves as we socially distance from normality, let’s take a second (or 90 minutes in this case) to watch the story of a newly-sober paraplegic as he attempts to bounce back from rock bottom through a 3,100-mile wheelchair trek across the United States.


In this docu-film, directed by Keith Malloy, FISHPEOPLE tells the stories of 6 individuals who have dedicated their lives to the sea. Exploring how we can leave our limitation behind and find deeper meaning, this film shares the transformative effects of time spent in the ocean. If this doesn’t inspire you to dedicate your time to things that truly matter, then skip back to number two above and carry on with your day.

Once you have finished watching the best travel documentaries, keep that wanderlust alive with more travel tips and inspiration from World Traveller Middle East. For the latest health updates regarding coronavirus, ensure that the information you are consuming is from an official source