Travelling Welshman
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Entertainment,  General Travel

20 Amazing Travel Shows To Inspire Your Adventures!

Just like any other modern-day explorer, my love for travel has been heavily influenced by endless amounts of movies and TV shows. Through the eyes of beautifully crafted documentaries and travel series, we’re exposed to landscapes and cultures we could only dream of, which ultimately gives us the inspiration to see them for ourselves!

In my many years of travel, countless numbers of series have crossed my path. Some were so influential that they actually inspired me to start backpacking in the first place! As such, I’ve compiled a list of the best travel shows which will hopefully infect you with the travel bug too!

Departures (2008 | 3 seasons)

travel series departures

If there’s one series that will instantly give you the travel bug, it’s this one!! The iconic and beautifully shot Departures follows the journey of two Canadian travellers (and one camera guy) as they travel across the world a year at a time.

The stunning videography of the series beggar’s belief and despite its age, it’s still one of the most eye-catching travel shows ever made! The main protagonists have such a fun dynamic as the pensive intellectual has to travel alongside a playful happy-go-lucky fool, keeping things entertaining across all 43 episodes.

Departures set the prototype for the oversaturated travel vlogs we find on YouTube today…including my own work, which you should check out at Travelling Welshman!

How to watch: Available on Amazon Prime. Luckily, you can save a lot of money by watching all the episodes for free on their YouTube channel!

Check out the trailer here…

Parts Unknown (2013 | 12 seasons)

anthony bourdain travel series

A man who has since gained travel and culinary infamy, Anthony Bourdain is yet another travel show pioneer. Travelling his way across the world to share some incredible cuisine with a number of extraordinary individuals, he seemingly lived the perfect life!

Despite his profession, the series doesn’t just focus on delicious eats. Instead, it gives a closer look at local life and customs while also exploring topics relating to history, culture and even political issues.

Across the 12 incredible seasons, the series wonderfully alters its creative approach based on the location, whether it’s set in the vibrant streets of LA or in a Vietnamese side-street shack. Though the series came to an end following the tragic death of Bourdain in 2018, he continues to leave an impression to this day.

How to watch: You can find the series on HuluHBO Max and Amazon Prime.

Check out the trailer here…

Long Way Round (2004) / Down (2007) / Up (2020)

travel series long way

Another timeless classic, yet this one comes with a motoring twist! The Long Way series follows the adventures of Hollywood star Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman as they take their motorcycles on epic journeys across the world.

While the first series follows their travels from the UK to the US, the second follows them from the top of Scotland to the bottom of Africa. For their latest instalment, the adventurous pair rode electric motorcycles from the tip of South America to the top of their Northern neighbour!

Despite the world-famous cast, the show is shot in a very basic guerrilla format with basic GoPros and handheld cameras which chronicle every mile and hiccup along the way!

How to watch: The first two series are available on Amazon Prime, while the third series is found exclusively on Apple TV+.

Check out the trailer here…

By Any Means (2008 | 2 seasons)

While McGregor focused on duties as Obi-Wan, his travel companion Charley Boorman set off on his own adventures. This series focuses on Boorman’s journeys as he makes his way from his hometown in Ireland to Australia (1st series) and from Sydney to Tokyo (2nd series) By Any Means…except for flying!

From riding tuk-tuks to tractors and everything in between, it’s certainly a truer representation of the challenges facing backpackers in a pre-smartphone world!

How to watch: All episodes can be found on YouTube.

Check out the trailer here…

Joanna Lumley’s Travel Shows (2008 | Too Many!)

joanna lumley travel series

Dear old Joanna Lumley is one of Britain’s greatest national treasures! Gaining popularity in numerous films and the comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, in her later years, she became prevalent for her elegant travel shows.

The slower-paced explorations are amplified by Lumley’s witty personality and soothing eloquent tones as she guides us through the beauty of her locations. There are a ridiculous number of series available, many of which focus on one given area or historical event, which include Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure and Joanna Lumley’s India.

How to watch: Some series can be seen on ITV in the UK, while others are available on Apple TV+, Google Play and Netflix.

Check out the trailer here…

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Anthony Bourdain: A Cook’s Tour (2002), No Reservations (2005), The Layover (2011)

anthony bourdain travel series

If one badass cooking/travel show wasn’t enough for you, then Bourdain has plenty more as part of his legacy. Though Parts Unknown is certainly his masterpiece, Bourdain’s other series’ No Reservations, The Layover, and A Cook’s Tour are some great rabbit holes to disappear into!

Sadly for travel-nuts, these series lean a little more on the culinary side of things, though nonetheless they still take you on adventures across the world to explore some local cultures from a whole new perspective.

How to watch: All three series are found on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play or Apple TV+.

Check out the trailer for No Reservations here…

Top Gear (2002 | 30 seasons) / The Grand Tour (2016 | 4 seasons)

As a young acne-covered boy, following the adventures of Clarkson, Hammond and May became a daily routine. Little did I realise just how much of an impression it had left on me as I watched the trio go on some incredible road trips across every corner of the earth.

Though of course there’s a very strong automotive theme across both shows, it’s those epic road trips that really get your travel fix kicking! Whether it’s riding scooters across Vietnam, tackling African deserts in dune buggies or cruising around the Middle East in convertibles, there are plenty of gorgeous locations and peculiar adventures to enjoy!

How to watch: Top Gear is available on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Apple TV+ and the BBC iPlayer. Grand Tour is notoriously only available on Amazon Prime.

Check out the trailer here…

An Idiot Abroad (2010 | 3 seasons)

travel series idiot

Sometimes you get a whole new perspective when you look at the world through someone else’s eyes, and that’s no truer than with Karl Pilkington. In this comedic brainchild of Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant, a clueless bald uneducated Manc is sent out into the world to expose himself to different cultures which he would rather avoid entirely

Throughout the many miles of moaning, whining and flustered rants, it’s pure gold to see a non-traveller be put through the wringer. From visiting frozen tundra to diving with sharks, there are plenty of opportunities to laugh at his misery!

How to watch: Available on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Apple TV+.

Check out the teaser here…

The Moaning of Life (2013 | 2 series)

Having now achieved superstardom, Karl Pilkington took the reigns in his own series, The Moaning of Life. Each episode follows the balding anomaly on a journey of self-discovery as he tries to answer some of life’s toughest questions. The series delves into different aspects of society and how they vary between different cultures, including marriage, the secret to happiness and even death.

Where the Idiot Abroad is more of a torture chamber for our amusement, in this series Pilkington takes a step back and acts as an observer while giving his own unique Mancunian perspective.

How to watch: Available on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Apple TV+.

Check out the trailer here…

Travel Man: 48 Hours in… (2015 | 7 seasons)

travel series richard ayoade

It seems we British have full control of the travel series market! In this series, comedians Richard Ayoade and Joe Lycett each take their turn to host a travel show with a unique format. In each episode, the dry and witty hosts are paired up with a random celebrity guests as they explore a given city within 48 hours.

Rather than a simple tourist guide, each episode takes the celebrity guest to a not-your-run-of-the-mill tourist attraction for their discomfort and our viewing pleasure. Just like with Pilkington, it’s fascinating getting to see the world from a non-traveller’s perspective!

How to watch: Many series are on All 4 while others are available on Amazon Prime.

Check out the trailer here…

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Madventures (2002 | 3 seasons)

travel series finland

Though this is by far the most obscure title on this list, it was actually what FIRST inspired me to start backpacking! Where most other shows on this list have the luxury of a camera crew and financial backing, these two Finns are true backpackers in every sense of the word!

Filmed in a gritty guerrilla style with handheld cameras, the pair travel to some of the most dangerous and fascinating places on Earth. The show tends to focus more on the darker R-rated side of travel, such as taking Ayahuasca, exploring Japan’s sexual underworld and eating a delicious piece of placenta. Yummy!

As it’s pretty obscure, it’s hard getting a hold of a copy these days, especially one with English translations (as the first 2 series were shot in Finnish), but well worth the effort to find it!

How to watch: You can find a couple of episodes on YouTube and can buy the DVDs on their website.

Check out the trailer here…

David Attenborough’s Documentaries (1951 | +100 series)

We’ve all grown up listening to the silky tones of Sir David Attenborough. A man who has brought us closer to nature than any other person in history, his countless documentaries take viewers to some of the most extraordinary places on Earth to take a closer look at the world in action.

For nature lovers as well as travel fanatics, it’s the perfect combination! The stunning cinematography and dramatic storytelling rival any Hollywood movie, and provide more than enough inspiration for where to go next!

How to watch: Available on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Apple TV+.

Check out the trailer for his latest docu-series here…

Around the World in 80 Days (1989 | 1 season)

Rolling back the years with this one, but iconic nonetheless! The Monty Python star Michael Palin set the standard for what would become modern-day travel shows. In the series, the naturally charming Palin follows in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg, the protagonist of the cultural classic Around the World in 80 Days.

Though admittedly it can sometimes be challenging watching a piece of work so out of touch with modern-day travel and society, but it’s still a fascinating look at how travelling has changed over the last 30 years!

How to watch: Available on Google Play and Apple TV+.

Check out the very retro trailer here…

Simon Reeve Series (2003 | 26 series)

Yes, another Brit! And just to make sure we cover the spectrum of personalities, Simon Reeves brings to the table a more mild-mannered and often awkward approach to travel presenting. In many ways, it’s refreshing to see a pure, heart-felt reaction rather than a heavily scripted piece to camera!

Though you may not have heard of him (neither had I for the longest time), he certainly is prolific! With 26 separate series spread across the globe, there’s plenty for you to stick your teeth into.

How to watch: Available on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Apple TV+ and BBC iPlayer.

Check out the trailer to one of his latest docu-series here…

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Man vs Wild (2006 | 7 series)

Improvise, adapt, overcome! Three wise words that Mr Bear Grylls has drilled into us over the years. The former SAS-man turned all-around explorer has travelled to some of the world’s most difficult terrains with some harsh conditions. Rather than focusing on travel, the series shows you how to survive in a life or death situation.

Sure, people claim that the stunts are set up or some of the advice given is pretty questionable, but that doesn’t matter. The real joy is the sense of adventure that the series brings, giving you that itch to get into the wild…with a reliable guide of course…

How to watch: Available on Google Play and Apple TV+.

Check out the trailer here…

Tales By Light (2015 | 3 series)

travel series netflix

Netflix has recently discovered the potential of travel shows with a number bursting onto the scene in dramatic fashion. None are more cinematic and eye-catching than the series Tales By Light, which follows various artists and creators around the world as they search for that perfect shot.

It’s not only a fascinating look at places across the world but it’s also an interesting look at the world of travel photography. Better yet, it proves that it really is possible to finance a life on the road if you set your mind to it!

How to watch: Available on Netflix.

Check out the trailer here…

Dark Tourist (2018 | 1 series)

travel series netflix

Yet another Netflix creation, though this has much more of a seedy undertone. Many explorers have a fascination with a travelling sub-culture known as dark tourism. Whether it’s abandoned theme parks, primaeval tribal rituals or stomach-churning religious practices, there are plenty of horrific experiences to be a part of around this crazy old world.

The series isn’t actually as heavy as its sounds, so don’t expect any scenes of cannibalism! That being said, some of the traditions and customs can be quite disturbing for the uninitiated.

Learn more about the dark tourism site on the island of Okinawa by reading The Ultimate Travel Plan: Todoroki Cave.

How to watch: Available on Netflix.

Check out the trailer here…

Ugly Delicious (2018 | 2 series)

Continuing on from Bourdain’s legacy, culinary/travel shows have become the latest trend on the Netflix front. This series follows chef David Chang on his journey around the world as he uses food to tackle misconceptions and break down cultural barriers.

Honestly, the actual travel part of the show takes a back seat. Yet much like Bourdain, chef Chang has the privilege of meeting some fascinating individuals from all walks of life!

How to watch: Available on Netflix.

Check out the trailer here…

Street Food (2019 | 2 series)

Netflix certainly comes up with some original ideas…Yet another cooking show with a travelling twist, Street Food focuses on the beautiful and fascinating art of street cuisine!

As any good backpacker knows, the true flavour of the country is sold from the back of side-street carts, and the series goes out of its way to show that!

How to watch: Available on Netflix.

Check out the trailer here…

Survivorman (2005 | 8 series)

Last but not least, we have the arch-rival of Bear Grylls, Survivorman Les Stroud. This Canadian outdoorsman is just that in every sense of the word! While Grylls faced accusations of trying to fool his viewers, Stroud prides himself on having no supporting staff or any safety nets to fall back on. All he has is a set of cameras and a couple of days to figure out a plan!

Though of course you’re probably not going to know how to make a makeshift raft in the middle of the Pacific anytime soon, it at least shows some incredibly beautiful places nonetheless. Plus it can’t hurt to know some basic survival skills!

How to watch: Available on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.

Check out the trailer here…

Thank you so much for reading 20 Amazing Travel Shows To Inspire Your Adventures! Now check out these other helpful articles!

TravellingWelshman

A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.

One Comment

  • Ben Zabulis

    Absolutely agree that Lumley, Palin and Attenborough have presented some very watchable TV travel programmes. I’ve also been impressed in recent years by the great railway adventures of Michael Portillo who as a politician I had very little time for but, somehow, he comes across really well in these – funny old world !

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