One of the benefits of the overwhelming amount of television that is now at our fingertips is the ability to travel the globe and learn about different cultures from the comfort of our own homes. It’s obviously not a perfect solution—in many ways it’s a very poor substitute for packing a bag, hopping on a plane, and experiencing the real thing first hand—but during the pandemic, when international travel has been near impossible, it’s greatly helped to satisfy our wanderlust.
Most of the shows in question are documentary series—or docuseries—which offer viewers a unique travel experience by highlighting the perspectives of both natives and visitors to foreign countries. Netflix has an abundance of these types of programs. Some are specifically about traveling the world and experiencing different cultures, while others simply make us want to travel because of the lush scenery on display, the mouth-watering food that’s highlighted, and the intriguing stories of the people who are featured. No matter what you’re looking for, though, these are the eight best travel shows on Netflix.
Netflix has nailed the travel genre with World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals, a new series that takes viewers around the globe and reveals what they can get in the way of vacation homes depending on budget and travel preferences. It’s essentially an eight-episode advertisement for Airbnb, but the properties showcased are worth your time. From an open-air home in Bali and an igloo in Finland to a cattle ranch in Montana and a private island in the Caribbean, the show has a destination and home for everyone. Each episode also finds the hosts partaking in various adventures and activities in the areas they visit. In all, it’s an excellent way to see the world. However, the show does induce a certain amount of FOMO, and the hosts do little to improve the exquisite scenery on display as they explore. But if you want to escape for a bit or plan some future trips, there is no better show purely about the travel experience than this one.
Culinary-themed programs often make for some of the best travel shows because they take viewers around the world to explore the cuisines of various cultures. Salt Fat Acid Heat, which is hosted by chef and author Samin Nosrat and based on her book of the same name, stands out because of the way it explores the four elements of the series’ title and why they’re the key to great cooking. Although the series is just four episodes, it takes viewers from the olive orchards of Italy to the shores of Japan as Nosrat attempts to learn all she can about the use of salts, fats, acids, and heat in the kitchen. By the end of the show, you’ll have traveled the world and hopefully learned a little bit more about the food you eat—and how to be a better cook as well.
While you can’t properly visit some of the places featured in Our Planet, Netflix’s answer to the BBC’s Emmy-winning documentary series Planet Earth, you’ll learn a lot about the place we call home and its different ecosystems without ever having to leave your couch. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the series travels from jungles and grasslands to the tundra and oceans. Each episode highlights the world’s natural beauty through the unifying lens of climate change, and how it’s threatening more than just human life on Earth. This groundbreaking docuseries makes excellent use of awe-inspiring visuals, but it’s also educational, and hopefully you’ll come away from it with a better understanding of what’s at stake when we talk about humanity’s influence on plant life, the animal kingdom, and the marine world.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better or funnier travel documentary series about food and culture than Somebody Feed Phil, which is a successor of sorts to I’ll Have What Phil’s Having,” which aired on PBS. In the show, Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal travels around the world, tasting and experiencing the local delicacies of various cities and countries. You’ll learn a lot about different cultures, and you’ll laugh a lot along the way, because Rosenthal’s charm and sense of humor are infused in every moment of what might also be one of the most comforting shows on Netflix.
Both seasons of the docuseries Magical Andes have flown under the radar on Netflix, and that’s a shame, because the show’s breathtaking cinematography reveals the true majesty of this beautiful area. Stretching from Venezuela in the north to Chile and Argentina in the south, the Andes are the longest continental mountain range on the planet, and this series reveals not just how the landscapes and climates change from country to country, but it also give a special focus to the people who call the Andes home, like the beekeepers in Colombia attempting to sustainably preserve the flora of the region. If you’ve always wanted to travel to South America and see the Andes, this series is an up-close-and-personal look you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
As you can probably tell from its title, Netflix’s docuseries Street Food takes viewers on a global journey, but it does it with an intimacy rarely seen in travel series. The first season focuses specifically on the Asian continent, digging into the influential dishes of different countries like Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Through deeply revealing interviews with well known chefs specializing in street food, many of whom have dedicated their whole lives to the art of cooking, the show is able to tell not just their stories but the stories of their cities and countries as well. The second season does the same thing for the people and cultural dishes of Latin America. You’ll be able to visit places like Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia. If you’re looking for a travel series that takes storytelling to the next level, this is it.
Part home renovation series, part travel show, Stay Here offers viewers the best of both worlds. The series features former Trading Spaces star and interior designer Genevieve Gorder and real estate expert Peter Lorimer as they renovate homes across the country to make them not just desirable to short-term renters, but profitable for owners as well. It’s another show about fabulous Airbnbs that cost more than most of us are comfortable spending money on, but what’s wonderful about Stay Here is that it is not just about what’s happening on the inside of the home. The hosts also attempt to highlight things to do in each city as part of the overhaul. It’s meant to show homeowners how they can increase the amount of money they charge by offering unique perks to visitors, but it also acts as something of a free tour guide for viewers as well. If you don’t come away from the show without plans to visit at least one of the cities featured, you watched it wrong.
A travel series that highlights different countries and cultures around the world and delivers plenty of laughs along the way? That’s Jack Whitehall’s Travels with My Father, a travel/road trip docuseries with four seasons under its belt already. In many ways the show is an excuse for the popular English comedian to spend more time with his father while experiencing what he describes as a delayed gap year. But while Jack thrives in experiencing authenticity in his travels, his father, former producer and talent agent Michael Whitehall, is in his late 70s in the first season and does not like to travel at all. He is very much the straight man to his son, and the result is a memorable addition to the travel show genre that so far has seen the duo visit Southeast Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Western United States, and Australia.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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