Today we share our 7 favourite travel documentary series to inspire your slow travel adventures abroad or right at home.
Even when we aren’t on the road, we’re still thinking about travel. We talk about travel, we read travel books and websites, and look over maps, planning our next big adventure. One of our favourite things to do together, besides actually travelling, is watching travel documentaries.
Over the past few years, we’ve watched many travel programs on destinations around the world. One thing we’ve discovered is, by far, the BBC produces the best quality travel documentaries, as well as the greatest variety. While we’ve found a few programs we enjoy on both American and Canadian networks, the vast majority of the travel shows we like are British.
We’ve compiled the following list to share our favourite travel documentaries with you. We hope they transport you and inspire you to plan your own journeys, as they have with us.
[Note: The links below are affiliate links for Amazon.co.uk, unless otherwise noted. If you purchase anything through our links, you’ll be adding a few pence to our travel fund, without costing you anything extra. You’ll be helping us to continue sharing our free travel content here and we’ll be super grateful. Where possible we’ve added the Amazon.com links also, but as most of these videos are British, they aren’t widely available in the US marketplace.]
Without further ado, here are our 7 favourite travel documentary series:
1. The Story of India – Our passion for India is no secret and this excellent BBC series presented by Michael Wood shares India in all her crazy, colourful glory. The series includes 6 episodes covering India’s history from its very beginnings to its freedom from British rule and the modern day. If you want a taste of Incredible India, this series is for you. [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com]
Other great India travel series we’ve enjoyed: Ganges [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com] and Indian Hill Railways [on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com]
2. Travels with Palin – Michael Palin is probably best known abroad as one of the members of Monty Python. He may not spring to mind as a likely travel documentary presenter, but in fact, he has done eight travel series covering destinations from the Himalayas to the Sahara. This particular boxed set includes six of Michael’s series: Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Hemingway Adventure, Sahara, Himalaya, and Great Railway Journeys. [on Amazon.co.ukand a slightly different version is available on Amazon.com]
More Michael Palin – If you don’t want to spring for the whole boxed set, our favourites were Around the World in 80 Days [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com] and Himalaya [on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com]. Michael’s newest series is Palin’s Brazil [on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com], which is on our wish list.
3. German Wanderlust – This four episode series was a great surprise. Host Julia Bradbury follows some stunning walking trails in various parts of Germany, stopping at fascinating sites along the way. We aren’t avid hikers but this series made us want to lace up our hiking boots and hit the trails. From fairytale castles to natural wonders, this series is a winner. [on Amazon.co.uk]
Julia has also done series on walks in South Africa [on Amazon.co.uk] and Britain’s canals and railways [on Amazon.co.uk].
4. Francesco’s Mediterranean Voyage – We actually just watched the final episode of this great series and it’s what inspired this list. Francesco Da Mosto is a Venetian who has hosted a few BBC travel documentaries but this was far and away our favourite. Francesco sets sail, from Venice, on a tall ship, tracing ancient Venetian trade routes on the Mediterranean, all the way to Istanbul. Along the way, he stops at a number of destinations in Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and more. This series was a great source of inspiration for our motorhome Adventure. (Maybe we need an amphibious version!) [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com]
Francesco also has series on his native Venice [on Amazon.co.uk] and Italy from Top to Toe [on Amazon.co.uk].
5. Pilgrimage – Simon Reeve is our favourite BBC travel presenter. He’s our age, adventurous, funny, honest, and not afraid to tackle controversial issues head on. We’ve watched all of his series, which have covered everything from ‘the Stans’ to the Sacred Rivers of the world. (This in fact was my favourite but hasn’t been released on DVD.) In Pilgrimage, Simon’s most recent series, he looks at the great pilgrimage routes of the world – something I’m especially fascinated by. It’s beautifully shot and inspiring. [on Amazon.co.uk]
The first Simon Reeve series we ever watched was Tropic of Cancer [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com] which is also worth checking out.
6. Green Paradise – This is one of only two North American travel series on my list and it was actually filmed by a Canadian production company. The series looks at ecologically sustainable or ‘green’ destinations around the world. They interview people in the travel industry who are promoting small-scale and eco tourism. In short, it coincides well with our slow travel philosophy. Plus, the destinations are truly unspoiled and gorgeous. [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com]
7. No Reservations – We’ve saved the best for last my friends. I will admit, without shame, I am a die-hard Anthony Bourdain fan. I have watched every episode of every TV series he’s ever done. I’ve read all of his books (including the less than wonderful crime novels and his fantastic cookbook) cover to cover. If I could have dinner with any living person… it might just be Tony.
All super-fandom aside, No Reservations was the first travel/food documentary series I ever watched and it never ceases to inspire. If you haven’t heard of it, (um… really?) Tony travels the world exploring food culture and looks at wider world issues through the cultural leveler of food. The series ended a few years ago and Anthony did a brief series called the Layover for CNN. While interesting, it didn’t dig in to the big topics as No Reservations did. Thankfully, Tony is back with Parts Unknown, which is the same No Reservations we know and love, with a new title and intro (phew!)
There is nowhere to buy the full series of No Reservations, but you can see all the buying options here: [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com]
You can also check out The Layover, which is great for more specific travel destination information. [on Amazon.co.ukand Amazon.com]
Tony’s new series is Parts Unknown and you can find episodes here [on Amazon.com].
We are always looking for great new travel documentary series to inspire us. If you have a favourite, share it in the comments below so we can check it out.