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 in fact) and it 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 they can.
The total journey was nearly 19 thousand miles (33,000 kms) and took them through Europe, overland through Asia (Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia) all the way to the USA and New York.
They do take a crew with them of course, but this is hardcore overland travel at its best. No script, all the hardships shown. And boy did they have a difficult time in some parts of Asia!
You can check out the first episode on Youtube below, although the quality is pretty bad.
It’s probably better to buy the DVD like I did, or watch it online on Amazon Prime.
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. 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 all about how things really 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.
As are some of his older series like No Reservations, A Cook’s Tour, The Layover
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 they can.
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, kind of 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.
Anna is currently reading his biography and loves it. And as a result, 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. In fact, 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 almost everywhere in the world 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 along with Jon Cleese, has been producing top-notch travel series for years and is also a little more old-school than Rick Steves. His shows tend to focus on longer adventures, similar to A Long Way Round, although perhaps not quite 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 of them 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!
Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days
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 indeed.
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.
You can grab Season 1 and Season 2 on Amazon.
Here is a quick Best Of from the China episode to give you a little taste of the show.
Another long-running comedy travel show from the UK, Travel Man is very short episodes 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. One of the best things about the show for me, apart from his sarcasm, 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), which is 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.
Actually 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, along with 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 the world and filmed it all for us. She has also done a “making of” series that I also really enjoyed. She may seem very posh and British when you first see her shows, but if you love some 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 actually 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 very 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 that 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 that is up to season 3 already. 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 you, 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 all 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.
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!