Binge-watching or beach hopping? Most of us would choose the latter, taking an exotic destination over time spent slumped on the sofa any day. But what if you can’t see those far flung, exotic destinations up close? Your best bet is to flick on one of the many first-rate travel series, transporting yourself out of your living room and transplanting you in your favorite foreign land.
From slightly sardonic travelogues to marvellously more-ish food shows, we count down some of the best series and travel shows, to help keep that wanderlust at bay.
Best for humor – Travels with My Father
Following the antics of British father and son duo, Jack and Michael Whitehall, this hilarious series is set in some of the world’s best destinations and not only showcases these incredible locations, but will have you giggling at the anecdotes of the two travellers.
With travel styles that couldn’t be any more different, young comedian Jack is keen on backpacking and dodgy hostels while Michael, a refined English gent, is more at home in the Four Seasons and wearing snappy suits while navigating the sweaty streets of Bangkok.
The series is into its third run, covering destinations in Southeast Asia, Europe and the US, offering comedic insights into some of the most interesting cities in the world.
Best for foodies – Ugly Delicious
Love travel and tasty food in equal measure? Then switch on Ugly Delicious, the acclaimed series hosted by award winning chef, David Chang, for your dose of appetizing viewing.
Chang and his friends travel the globe looking to explore the origins and different influences of famous dishes. Think exploring the culture behind crusty pizzas in Naples, Connecticut and Tokyo or the key differences between a barbecue in Korea and one in the USA.
It’s a light-hearted (although thought-provoking) look at meals across the world, showcasing as much about the differences between cultures as it shows how connected countries and cuisines really are.
If you love Ugly Delicious, also try Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner as your next Netflix binge. This series is Chang’s later foray into food and travel where he also hangs out with some particularly famous friends in different cities like Phnom Penh and Vancouver.
Best for the visuals – Tales by Light
The tagline, “behind every powerful image is a powerful story” tells you everything you need to know about this breath-taking documentary series.
If you’re fascinated by photography and love escaping reality by delving into painfully beautiful cinematography, then Tales by Light is for you.
A venture between Canon and National Geographic, this series follows professional photographers in search of the most stunning shots: Their quest for the perfect photograph and the adventure that comes with their journey to capture it.
Go behind the lens in a Bhutanese fire blessing, in the marine depths of Raja Ampat or documenting the conditions of young children in Bangladesh.
Best feel good travel series – The Kindness Diaries
What would happen if you travelled the world without a cent in your pocket? That’s the premise behind The Kindness Diaries, a travel series chronicling former broker Leon Logothetis’ journey across borders without a dollar to his name.
Instead, Leon relies on the kindness of strangers for everything: food in his belly, a bed for the night and even fuel for his vintage motorcycle.
The idea is intriguing, showing you the inherent empathy of people across the social, economic and cultural divide. Luckily, the kind strangers do get something in return – for every kindness paid to him, Leon returns the favour. From building a house for a homeless man to helping stray dogs on the streets, he gives back to the communities that help him on his way.
It’s heart-warming stuff (have those tissues at the ready!), and a wonderful showcase of places like Alaska and Argentina, where Leon leaves an indelible trail forged with favours.
Best for nature lovers – Our Planet
Narrated by one of the world’s pre-eminent conservationists and international treasure, David Attenborough, Our Planet is a documentary series that will not only wow you with its sweeping cinematography and jaw dropping destinations but its message around human’s impact on the environment.
You’ll travel through frozen worlds, marvel at the orangutans of Sumatra, follow elephants through the desert, watch wildebeest and wild dogs on the plains of the Serengeti and dive into the depths of the waters in Indonesia.
It’s a dazzling exploration of nature and life on this planet that will have you transfixed but also teach you a few lessons, reminding you of your impact on this fragile place that is our planet.
Best for design – The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes
Architecture enthusiasts will feel right at home when clicking ‘play’ on the first episode of international home and travel show, The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes.
From a cube-shaped creation in the Swiss Alps to the mountains of Santa Monica, with a house constructed from the wings and fins of disused Boeing 747 aircraft, the show features the weird and wonderful designs of extraordinary houses in countries around the world.
You’ll travel to a tiny home in Norway via speedboat, a circular house in Spain or ‘underground homes’ in Greece, New Zealand and the Netherlands. It’s a fascinating take on a travel show as you’ll not only explore captivating cities the world but delve a little deeper into the stand-out designs that are so special to the locations they feature.
Best for those who love the bizarre – Dark Tourist
It had to make the list: The macabre, often uncomfortable travel series, Dark Tourist. Now this series is definitely reserved for those with stronger stomachs as it deals with some very dark, sometimes dangerous subjects.
Essentially Dark Tourist looks to visit places you wouldn’t find on the pages of a holiday brochure; places like war zones or murder crime scenes. He travels to Tomioka, the radiation-riddled site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he dabbles in voodoo in Benin, checks out a funeral rite in Indonesia, and meets wannabe vampires in New Orleans.
If things of a more sordid nature tickle your travel fancy, this might be one to add to your watchlist. Just approach with caution.
Didn’t find your type of travel show on the list? Whether you’re more into travel talk show hosts (try Conan without Borders), or need even more mealtime inspiration (then watch Street Food), there’s a travel-inspired series marathon with your number on it. Or, remember to switch off that screen, grab a good travel book and dream of the next exotic destination you want to tick off that never ending bucket list…