We all need a bit of inspiration for travel and these best travel documentaries (IMO) will give some wanderlust and understanding of the regions of the world involved.
These are my 10 personal favourites that have inspired my past 20 years of travel around the world.
1. Himalaya With Michael Palin (2004)
Michael Palin is my all time favourite travel presenter, writer, and hell just awesome person in general.
His sense of humour, interest in the places he visits, how he interacts with the local people, and the way he presents himself is what makes this travel journey one of the best.
Add to that epic Himalayan scenery and adventure and you have the perfect combination for the best travel documentary.
You can watch it here as well as some of his other travel documentaries.
2. The Endless Summer (1966)
Surfs up! And also lot’s of fun, fun, fun, in the sun.
Set in the mid-sixties it follows two surfers from California as they travel around the world, including countries like South Africa, Australia, Ghana, in search of the ‘perfect wave’.
It’s very laid back to watch and entertaining and a good insight into surfer travels in the sixties.
I would love to hit up some of the waves they found!
3. Encounters at the End of the World (2009)
Want some cold weather viewing, beautiful scenery in the vast expanse of Antarctica, and some fun with scientists?
This is it.
Filmmaker Werner Herzog tackles this perfectly, exploring the desolate and vast wilderness of Antartica around the US base of McMurdo Station, and the people who live and work there.
This will make you want to go to a remote and cold place.
4. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013 – 2018)
Anthony Bourdain was one of my travel heroes. He died in 2018.
His style of reporting and meeting the people where he visits around the world, and the coming together around a common theme worldwide, food, brought a personal approach to the travel genre.
Parts Unknown is a must see travel documentary series to watch.
In fact the other series with Anthony Bourdain exploring world cuisine, such as No Reservations is also worth watching.
5. Under An Arctic Sky (2017)
This is a short documentary coming in at only 40 minutes, but worth the watch for sure.
I had been recommended this by a fellow travel blogger and was glad about it.
It’s beautifully shot in Iceland in winter, following a group of surfers looking for (as usual) the perfect waves.
But a storm comes through during this time and they have to outrun it.
The first time surfers have been filmed under the Northern Lights.
This has made me want to return to Iceland again to explore more of the country in the Arctic darkness.
See what it’s like surfing under the Northern Lights!
6. Sahara With Michael Palin (2002)
Yes, another Michael Palin travel documentary. I can’t help it his journeys are just so good.
This time he’s out exploring the Sahara Desert, getting into remote adventures with tribal nomads, and so much more.
This will inspire you for a desert adventure.
Watch the epic Sahara journey here.
7. Billy Connolly’s World Tour of Australia (1996)
Billy Connolly is one of the great all time stand up comedians.
He also travels a lot and his ‘world tour’ series has taken him to lots of different countries around the world, with Australia being the best.
It’s a combination of him exploring Australia and what is there, with a great sense of humour for everything, as well as some short clips of his stand up performances in each area he visits with views and opinions about his experience in Australia.
Must see for anyone interested in Australia with a very amusing outlook on travel there.
It ain’t cheap but if you’re a Billy Connolly fan, or want to give a gift to someone who is, this is the Billy Connolly box set of all his world tours.
8. Dark Tourist (2018)
For some people (myself included) there’s a strange and weird fascination with some of the ‘darker’ tourist spots to visit and dark tourism has become more popular.
From nuclear disaster zone tours to death worshipping cults, this travel documentary covers them all.
It can be disturbing given the tragedy behind some of the events, but it is history, and it is part of humanity.
To escape the ‘normal’ tourist spots this will give you an idea of an alternative travel experience.
Right or wrong it is fascinating.
9. Given (2016)
This is such a unique and refreshing take on a travel documentary as it’s narrated by a six year old boy.
It follows a family from Kauai (part of Hawaii) on a journey through 15 countries around the world.
A really good insight into family travel and the life teaching experiences travel can have on young children.
Watch at their website for the documentary.
10. Stephen Fry in America (2009)
Stephen Fry is one of my favourite comedians and in this travel series he travels across the U.S. in search of what makes America.
Just like Billy Connolly and Michael Palin there is lots of humour involved.
It gives a great insight into American culture.
A must see if planning a trip to the U.S.
The Best Travel Documentaries
And there’s the list of the best travel documentaries that will hopefully give you some inspiration.
Interested in more travel-related movies? Check out 10 movies to watch before traveling to Japan.
And for some travel reading 20 books to read set in the Arctic and Antarctic.
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