14 of the best travel TV shows to watch on demand

Epic landscapes, interesting characters and cool cultures – we transport you to the best places in the world right from the comfort of your sofa, with these top travel shows on Netflix, iPlayer and others…

7 mins

While you may be hitting pause on your adventures, you can still be transported somewhere wild – using your TV remote as your passport to exotic climes, instead.

Chances are you’ve seen everything travel legends David Attenborough and Simon Reeve have done, but if you’re looking for inspiration for your next trip, sweeping landscapes and interesting characters to meet, take a look at our round-up of the best travel documentaries available to stream right now…

Best of all, you can start this journey on the couch.

Here are the best travel TV shows to watch on Netflix or on demand now...

1. The Americas with Simon Reeve (2019)

What you’ll watch: It topped the list for best TV show at our 2020 Reader Travel Awards, but if you haven’t yet seen The Americas with Simon Reeve, put it straight on top of your must-watch list.

And when you’ve binged on his journeys hiking through the Rocky Mountains, hanging out with the US Border Patrol in Texas and discovering a tropical paradise in Costa Rica, you can turn to his other documentaries: the Caribbean, Australia, the Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean.

If there’s anywhere this man hasn’t been or seen, we challenge you to find it.

Where to watch it: The Americas with Simon Reeve is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer. Plus see Simon accept his Wanderlust award!

2. Race Across The World (2020)

What you'll watch: Limited cash, no smartphones and forget about internet access – basically all the ingredients for an epic off-the-grid adventure.

In the latest series of the BBC's Race Across The World, you can follow five teams as they race the length of Latin America, starting in Mexico City and ending in Ushuaia in Argentina, the most southerly city in the world.

Married couples and familial bonds are put to the test, as they weave friendships in the most unexpected of places on their way to the finish line. And if you can't wait until next week's episode, you can binge on series one as well. What's better than that?

Where to watch it: Catch up on series two of Race Across The World on BBC iPlayer. And read our filming locations guide.

3. Joanna Lumley's Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti (2020)

Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti is on ITV Player now (ITV)

Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti is on ITV Player now (ITV)

What you'll watch: She's one of our favourite tour guides, taking us everywhere from India to the mighty Silk Road  – it is, of course, the absolutely fabulous Joanna Lumley.

Let her lead you into a lesser-seen side of the Caribbean in her new two-part documentary, Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti, which begins in a boxing gym in the lively Cuban capital.

Keep watching as she wanders the streets of Havana, discovers Hemingway’s favourite beach and explores Fidel Castro’s hometown, before making her way over the Windward Passage to end her adventure with trips to ancient mountain fortresses and a mystical voodoo ceremony in Haiti.

Where to watch it: Catch up on Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti on ITV Player now. 

4. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (2018)

What to watch: If delicious food is at the very top of your reasons-to-travel list, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is the Netflix show to tune into.

Culinary capers abound as loveable chef Samin Nosrat takes us to Italy, Japan, Mexico and California to show us how the title elements are key to the cuisine of each country.

Where to watch it: See Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix now. 

5. Ugly Delicious (2020)

What to watch: Hungry for more? Try Netflix's Ugly Delicious – there are two series to devour, as chef David Chang takes us to culinary hotspots across the world, showing us why good cooking is universal.

He meets everyone from pizza purists in Brooklyn and Naples to trying Viet-Cajun fusion cuisine in Houston. 

Where to watch it: Catch the new series of Ugly Delicious on Netflix

6. Night on Earth (2020)

What to watch: Even when you're travelling, you don't get to see some of the most incredible sights - because some of them happen under the very cover of darkness.

In Netflix's Night on Earth, you can see this world open up before you, witnessing the secret lives of lions, bats and monkeys. Eerie and visually compelling stuff.

Where to watch it: Night on Earth is on Netflix now. 

7. James May: Our Man In Japan (2020)

What you'll watch: We know you loved Japan with Sue Perkins, but now that's it not available on iPlayer… how about racing through the island country with James May, instead?

Starting on the chilly northern island of Hokkaido, James embarks on a journey south to the balmy beaches of Shikoku and Kyushu, while meeting samurai in Honshu, sampling street food in Osaka and, of course, tackling the Suzuka Circuit on his way. 

Where to watch it: Watch James May: Our Man in Japan on Amazon Prime now. 

8. Travel Man: 48 Hours in… (2019)

What you'll watch: Richard Ayoade's droll two-day jaunts through cities across the world has provided us all with laughs since 2015.

While 2019's series was his last as lead presenter, we can still look forward to more Travel Man in the future as Hugo Boss – aka the the comedian formerly known as Joe Lycett – takes over the role.

If you haven't seen 48 Hours in… Amsterdam, it's the perfect episode to get a feel for Hugo's personality and learn more about the city's culture, cuisine and canals. 

Where to watch it: Find the past ten series of Travel Man: 48 Hours in… on All 4.

9. Great Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo (2019)

What you'll watch: Thousands of British commuters have plenty to say about UK train travel, but in the hands of Michael Portillo, the divisive subject matter seems to take on a golden glow of nostalgia.

You know best, after all – you voted for the BBC's Great Railway Journeys as one of your top TV programmes in the last year.

Delving into the history of British rail, Michael reveals things we never knew about our local stations, including how an unlikely collaboration between London’s Crossrail railway project and a conservation charity is helping to protect birdlife in Series 11's Limehouse to Rochford episode. 

Where to watch it: Look out for your local station on Great British Railway Journeys on iPlayer. 

10. Around the World in 80 Days (1989)

What to watch: It's an oldie, but definitely a goodie – what could be better than staying in and getting a glimpse of how the world used to be with TV icon Michael Palin?

In Around the World in 80 Days, Michael follows in the footsteps of its main character Phileas Fogg, setting off on an epic adventure from London's Reform Club across the world.

Close shaves, missed connections and inevitable delays await as he desperately attempts to meet the 80-day deadline in time. A delicious throwback to a simpler time. 

Where to watch it: Watch Around the World in 80 Days on iPlayer

11. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013)

What to watch: The late Anthony Bourdain's Emmy-winning travel series is a must-watch for any traveller whose adventures are driven by a passion for excellent food.

Parts Unknown sees the world-renowned chef and documentarian delve into cuisines, cultures and politics in countries across the globe. Essentially, he eats his way around the world. 

With 12 seasons covering countless destinations (Vietnam and New York said to be two of his favourites), the later seasons take viewers on an off-the-beaten-track culinary journey through Armenia, Uruguay, Myanmar and beyond. 

Where to watch it: You can stream the series on Amazon Prime now.

12. Dark Tourist (2018)

What to watch: If you've watched the majority of travel TV already, here's one that may have slipped by you.

TV presenter David Farrier deep dives into so-called 'dark tourism': worldwide interest in visiting sites of nuclear disasters, destinations marred by danger or even death. If you've been to Chernobyl and Pripyat in Ukraine, you'll understand the fascination.

You can expect to see a trip to Turkmenistan, a visit to Pablo Escobar's former playground, Medellin in Colombia, as well as an excursion to Tomioka in Japan, the ghost town left behind after residents were evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. 

Where to watch it: You can stream one season of Dark Tourist now on Netflix.

And… anything narrated by Sir David Attenborough

13. Our Planet (2019)

14. Seven Worlds, One Planet (2019)

What you'll watch: Of course, no list of travel documentaries is complete without an appearance from the legend that is Sir David Attenborough.

Most of his back catalogue is listed on Netflix, including the original Our Planet and the BBC's iconic Planet Earth and Frozen Planet. 

You can also listen to Sir David's dulcet tones on BBC iPlayer - as he takes us through Seven Worlds, One Planet, introducing us to some of the globe's most hostile habitats and remote landscapes, while narrating the fascinating behaviour of the local creatures, such as golden snub-nosed monkeys and grey-headed albatross chicks

Where to watch it: Find Our Planet along with most of Sir David's past shows on Netflix or catch up on Seven Worlds, One Planet on iPlayer now. 

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