If you are like me and always yearning to travel, then one of the best ways to do this from home is to watch amazing travel shows on TV.
Over the years I have spent way too much of my spare time consuming every travel show under the sun. And, I thought it was high time I shared some of them with you.
So, without further ado, here are some of the best travel shows on TV – whether it be DVD, Netflix or Amazon.
I remember watching the Long Way Round years ago (2004), which is still clear in my memory. The world-famous Ewan McGregor and one of his best friends Charlie Boorman, pursue their passion for BMW motorbikes and adventure travel and head east from London, as far as possible.
The journey was nearly 19 thousand miles (33,000 kms) and took them through Europe, overland through Asia (Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia) to the USA and New York.
Of course, they do take a crew with them, but this is hardcore overland travel at its best. No script, all the hardships are shown. Boy, they had a difficult time in some parts of Asia!
Update: They have the latest episode in this series, Long Way Up, which features the boys riding from Ushuaia in Argentina to Los Angeles. This is more or less the classic Pan-American Highway route that travelers love!
Following on from the 2004 success, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman set out again in 20017. This time North to South from Scotland to Cape Town in the Long Way Down. This is yet another infamous overland route and also not a simple one.
Many of the roads and countries in Africa are not in the same state as their European counterparts, so they had some challenges with their suspension. They also had quite some adventures and exciting visits, even with presidents!
If you liked the first one of the series, then this is an equally good follow-up.
It’s also available on Amazon.
Below is a quick intro to the show. It’s worth taking a look.
With the sad news of his recent passing, how can I not include one of the food travel show classics from Anthony Bourdain and his team at CNN? This series was still being filmed at the time of this death, and they have since tried to finalise it without being able to use him for voiceovers. However, there is so much material in this series, you won’t be stressed looking for things to watch.
Anthony was actually made famous by his book, Kitchen Confidential, where he revealed how things work in the restaurant business. I actually read this book over 20 years ago, long before I even realised he was on TV.
Parts Unknown is a unique take on travel from Anthony where he visits various countries around the world that interest him and explores all the great food they have on offer. But, he does not go for the classy restaurants and showy food, he looks for the best of what locals enjoy.
And dives right in himself! It’s super-inspiring to see someone so famous get down and dirty and have absolutely zero pretence. He loves food. He loves people. And he loves to travel. What more could you ask for in a TV Show.
Some of the series from Parts Unknown is available on Amazon.
And here is a quick preview of season 7 from CNN.
Two best friends from Canada decide they need a little excitement in their lives and head off for a year of adventure. They end up exploring vast areas of the world and looking for as many unique experiences as possible.
The series is quite in-depth, covering 43 episodes, and almost as many countries. And by the time you have finished it, I will be surprised if you don’t just get up and go traveling yourself.
You can grab it on Bluray on Amazon.
Here is a quick intro to the series.
I absolutely love to watch Louis Theroux on TV. His bumbling, almost nerd-like charm somehow disarms all the crazy nut-jobs that he interviews.
Simon Reeve, at least to me, seems like his equal in the BBC travel world. He is not a gung-ho daring, Tom Cruise look-alike. He is a down-to-earth, easy-to-like, bumbling reporter who takes to the most interesting places on earth. And makes you fall in love with them all as much as he does.
We have started watching some of his earlier shows. We have started with his crazy trip around the Equator. But some of the others are available on the BBC (if you live in the UK) including such trips as: the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Australia, Africa, Colombia and many more.
Here is a quick intro to the Caribbean series.
Another prolific traveler and creator of travel-related content both on and offline is Rick Steves. If you type in many European-related travel searches in Google, you will often find his website in the top ten.
He seems to have been everywhere worldwide and made a TV show about most of it. He appeals to an older demographic in my opinion, as his commentary is a little stiffer, but you can certainly learn a lot from this guy.
You can check them out on his website.
And below is an intro to Season 9 of his European series.
Michael Palin, a former Monty Python member and Jon Cleese, has been producing top-notch travel series for years and is a little more old-school than Rick Steves. His shows focus on longer adventures, similar to A Long Way Round, although perhaps not as challenging.
They are fun to watch, and you certainly get to see some of the lesser-explored regions of the world. Although some of these series will be a little dated by now – I remember watching some decades ago!
And just as I said that I took a look and saw he has since made some new series on Channel 5 in the UK, including a trip into the forbidden land of North Korea!
Venturing into a little bit of Travel Comedy, An Idiot Abroad is the brainchild of the creator of the British (original) The Office, along with a few co-creators. The idea is to send someone who has almost never left their town, let alone lifestyle and send them to some very foreign destinations.
Along the way, they experience some extremely challenging destinations and situations all in the name of broadening their horizons. Karl Pilkington will never be the same again, and maybe neither will you.
Here is a quick Best Of from the China episode to give you a taste of the show.
Another long-running comedy travel show from the UK, Travel Man is very short episode focused on 48 hours in various cities, mainly in Europe. Of course, now that he is on about his 10th season, he has started to venture a little further afield. Apart from his sarcasm, one of the best things about the show for me is the wacky things he (or his team) finds in every location. Not your run-of-the-mill tourist attractions.
Each episode is extremely sarcastic and accompanied by another usually British comedian, so people outside the UK may have trouble laughing or even understanding what he is saying. His accent is strong and his vocabulary is broad. You might have seen him as one of the wacky IT experts in the IT Crowd (which you can see on Netflix), a little like the British version of Silicon Valley, albeit filmed years before.
There are various seasons up for grabs on Amazon.
If you want to see if it’s up to your alley, here is a quick taste of Richard with some of his fellow comedians on the show.
Intended as a bit of a petrolhead’s show about cars, Top Gear has also done a significant amount of travel-related shows over the years too. From the drives down the most dangerous roads in the world to almost killing themselves in places like Switzerland. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May will show you a great time on the road and while traveling.
You can check out Season 1 here on Amazon and other seasons that follow.
Joanna Lumley became famous back in the 70s, but for me, she became even more famous for her role in Absolutely Fabulous. Since then, she has traveled and filmed it all for us. She has also done a “making of” series that I enjoyed. She may seem very posh and British when you first see her shows, but if you love sarcasm and comedy then just wait a bit and she will deliver!
Here is a list of her extensive travel shows you can catch on BBC or other online streaming services:
Netflix is a bit of a special category in this post because they don’t have many of the more famous shows above at the moment.
One of the more recent and perhaps more infamous trends in travel right now is called Dark Tourism. With the recent airing of the series about Chornobyl, it seems to have accelerated even more.
One wacky New Zealand traveler, David Farrier heads to some quirky and sometimes dangerous locations in eight episodes of Dark Tourist, which sees him head to most continents. From the recent Japanese nuclear disaster to perhaps shooting a cow in Cambodia, he tries it all.
If you like to combine mouth-watering food and travel, a popular past-time, then this is a recent addition to Netflix that I am currently devouring. It shows you some amazing chefs who are almost always out on the street and serving the locals with something of an obsession. From Thailand to India, you get to see it all – no-frills cooking from some of the best street food vendors in the world.
Another show I have been checking out lately is Tales By Light, a travel and photography-based series up to season 3. It follows a famous Australian photographer all around the world, delving into the lives of the people he meets and how he experiences travel through the lens.
A show I have not had a chance to see, but it certainly looks like a travel comedy worth checking out. It involves a comedian and his stuffy father taking far-flung adventures to foreign lands and trying to teach each other a thing or two.
A more modern version of a travel & food show, Somebody Feed Phil, is about exploring the places and food no one talks about. Phil is quite the quirky and loveable character, so you will either love him or loathe him. I watched half the first season and did not fall in love with it. However, given that Netflix has commissioned 6 seasons of the show, there must be a lot of people who love it.
Following famous TV night show host Conan O’Brien to some adventurous destinations around the world, this is yet another travel and comedy combination you won’t want to miss. From Haiti and Cuba to K-Pop in South Korea this is as wacky as it is travel.
“Restaurants on the Edge” is a Canadian reality TV series premiered in 2020. It showcases chef Dennis Prescott, designer Karin Bohn, and restaurateur Nick Liberato assisting struggling restaurants in scenic, remote locations like seashores, lakes, and mountains. This is a little like Gordon Ramsay’s old show Kitchen Nightmares, but more travel related.
The goal of the visits on this show is to rejuvenate these places by integrating them with the local culture. Additionally, the show offers a travel experience, with episodes featuring the experts exploring local areas, meeting artisans, and tasting authentic local foods.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!