This is my list of top travel shows to watch during COVID-19, while we wait for borders to reopen. I’ve spent many hours watching these shows to find the best ones to talk about. Some are road trippers, others paddlers, a few are famous hosts, others are unknown. It’s a wide mix so I’ve organised it in groups for you to find what calls to you. My similar post on movies will be made really soon, stay tuned. I’m watching from Australia, so viewing platforms may be different for you.

Feature photo from Around the Next Bend by D. Corkery and A. Traquiar available on Prime Video

Road Trips & Epic voyages

Around The Next Bend

One of my personal favourites. Dustin Corkery and Adrian Traquiar are a pair of young Canadians who have never attempted anything quite like this. The duo decided it was a great idea to paddle the Ganges River in India, from Delhi to Bangladesh. They aren’t prepared, leave in the dry season in a small kid size paddle boat and chaos follows them. The concept just works and is magic on screen (for me at least). If you enjoy epic voyages, and not all your travel shows by famous celebs, this is for you. Heads up, the pair are in the works for their second season. They travel the length of South America in the worst rickshaw they can find…I can’t wait for the release. Watch now on Prime Video.

Warning: there are some confronting images in this show, but it is all real.

Photo by Corkery and Traquiar on Prime Video

The Kindness Diaries

This series has a bit more resources than the one mentioned above, and a great concept. Leon Logothetis was a rich man but lived an uninspired life as a broker in London. He decided to give it all up for a life on the road, and season one follows Leon travel across the world from LA, through Europe, Asia and back to the US in a yellow vintage motorbike. Leon travels with no money, and relies on the kindness of strangers to complete his trip, showing him sleeping in the motorbike in Lake Como after everyone refuses to help him. In season two he does another epic road trip, from Alaska to Ushuaia in a yellow VW beetle, also relying purely on the kindness of others. If someone helps Leon and touches his heart with their story, he gives back in unbelievable ways. Currently, in Australia, it is available here.

Photo from Leon Logothetis

Departures 

Professionals at filmmaking, but amateurs at travel shows, this Canadian trio embark on a world adventure that has turned into 3 seasons. Season one starts off with 2000s frat boy energy but if you can get past that, it is interesting and entertaining. Scott Wilson, Justin Lukach, and Andre Dupuis travel across Canada, Jordan, India, Japan, New Zealand, Libya and more. A real global journey where you can witness the three change before your eyes. Justin Lukach starts off all about partying, but within a few episodes he matures. What interests me most about this show is the wide depth of locations they see. Available on Prime Video.

Photo from Prime Video

Roads End

Not my favourite of all the shows listed, but great for those who love motorbikes. Robert Mason and David Lomax are professional off-road bikers from the U.K. The duo travel a loop through Argentina, travelling 6,000 miles in 20 days, all on motorbike. Available to see on Prime Video.

Photo from Prime Video

Something Different

Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness

Heart warming and loveable, this miniseries centres around actor Ravi Patel who travels the world to find answers to his questions about life. Starting off with growing old in Mexico, to overparenting in Japan, working hard in South Korea and immigration in Denmark. A thought provoking and entertaining series that is too short for my liking. Available to watch on Binge.

Photo from Binge

Dark Tourist

A controversial choice, this one season series with New Zealand host David Farrier looks into the phenomenon of dark tourism. Where people travel to see only the truly disturbing and dark side of the globe. Some people don’t like it, saying Farrier dismisses important issues and is too light with the serious subject matter. Farrier is indeed light with the topic, but I believe this is crucial. The subject matter is dangerous and twisted, and with a serious host I think the whole season would be too heavy to watch. The show explores: Pablo Escobar tour in Colombia, nuclear wasteland in Japan, JFK assassination tour in Texas, the mysterious Stans, forbidden city in Cyprus, shooting fields in Cambodia, African voodoo and Charles Manson fanatics. Available now on Netflix.

Warning: this show is disturbing, and frequently shows death and injury

Photo from Netflix

Scandimania

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, English celebrity chef, travels to Scandinavia to find out why they were voted the happiest countries in the world. His miniseries revolves around Sweden, Denmark, and Norway and one of the many guests include legendary Bjorn Ulvaeus from ABBA. Not quite a cooking travel series, Fearnley-Whittingstall looks at every aspect that contributes to making Scandinavia a happy place to live. Available to see now on Binge.

Photo from Binge

Where the Wild Men Are

Not completely a travel series, but more an alternate living docuseries. Where the Wild Men Are, with Ben Fogle, travels to the remotest parts of the globe to reveal how people have turned away from living a traditional life. Fascinating and thought provoking, Fogel travels to New Zealand, USA, Australia, the South Pacific and Canada. Season 2 was only available in Australia, but it is enjoyable as they recap on season one highlights and see where the same people are now. Available to watch on Binge.

Photo from Where the Wild Men Are – sourced from BBC

Food & Travel

For some reason travelling the world focussing on the local cuisine is such a colourful and fun way to do it. There are countless cooking and travelling shows, here are my favourite picks. Warning, if you are vegan the majority of these shows involve cooking animal products.

Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown

Available on Prime Video in Australia, the late Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown is a classic. There is a reason why it went for 12 seasons, Bourdain had this unexplainable charisma on screen and never spoke from a place of judgement. The way he travelled the world through food is thought provoking and entertaining.

CREDIT: DAVID S. HOLLOWAY

Ugly Delicious

David Chang knows good cooking, and apparently good watching. His Netflix creation is so enjoyable to watch, and impossibly delicious. Chef Chang travels all over the world looking at the origins of food, first visiting Naples to see the origin of pizza, then travelling as far as Copenhagen, Australia, Turkey and Japan. Hosting multiple celebrity guests as he goes, this is an entertaining way to travel the world from the comfort of your home. Warning: you will get hungry.

UGLY DELICIOUS Season 02

Photo from Netflix

Street Food – Asia & Latin America

This Netflix original takes you on a global culinary journey through street food. See the amazing people and stories behind the hawker stall, and get inspired for when borders reopen. Part one focuses on Asia and the countries of Thailand, Japan, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Phillipines. Part two travels through Latin America and the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. Where will you travel to next? And just as important, where will you eat?

Sourced from News on Netflix

Taco Chronicles

Who knew you could create a two season series on tacos? I guess Netflix did, because they have aired 13 episodes dedicated to different types of tacos and their origins. If you have a passion for tacos and Mexico, this is the series to watch. Diving into each region and the taco they are known for, and how Mexican cuisine has influenced food in the USA this series is incredibly entertaining. The narrator speaks as if they’re a taco, and the show centres on local run businesses that are proud to be making the same taco for generations.

Photo from Netflix

Salt Fat Acid Heat

Chef Samin Nosrat has determined there are only 4 elements needed to uncover the secret of good cooking. Salt, fat, acid and heat. This inspired her book, and this Netflix docuseries. Nosrat travels to Italy to uncover the importance of fat, Japan to find the magic behind salt, Mexico to explore acid and finally California for heat. A mouth watering and enjoyable docuseries, that makes you itching to see the world or at least savour its cuisine.

Nosrat and her mother in the fourth episode, “Heat.” (Adam Rose / Netflix)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Another David Chang hit that sees him travelling all over the world to find what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Shorter than his other series, this four episode series shows Chang visiting Vancouver with Seth Rogen, Marrakesh with Chrissy Teigen, LA with Lena Waithe and Phnom Penh with Kate McKinnon. Starting off with the entertaining stoned Rogen sets the tone for the series, of not taking things too seriously and enjoying food and its origins. Found on Netflix.

Photo from Netflix

Nadiya’s Asian Odyssey

Lovely Nadiya Hussain who won the Great British Bake Off in 2015 is a joy to watch. I don’t know her obviously, but her face just oozes kindness and compassion. Nadiya’s parents are from Bangladesh, but all her siblings look very different to each other. So she decided to do a DNA test, and discovered that she had origins from Cambodia, Thailand and Nepal. Nadiya travels to these countries and meets with locals. They share recipes, food and culture, a short two episode docuseries but definitely fun to see. Available on Binge.

Photo from Apple TV

Jamie Cooks Italy

Renowned chef Jamie Oliver travels through Italy with his Italian friend and mentor Gennaro Contaldo. Jamie and Gennaro visit multiple regions in Italy ranging from Piedmont in the north, to Sicily in the south. I love how Jamie Oliver finds the Italian nonna in every town that is known for her delicious and resourceful cooking. Each nonna imparts her wisdom and how they learnt to cook with what they had, most having to cook with nothing but flour, water and a humble vegetable. A celebration of Italian cooking at its finest and most simple. Available to watch on Binge.

Photo from Jamie Cooks Italy, sourced Channel 4

Field Trip with Curtis Stone

Australian chef Curtis Stone travels globally to inspire a menu for his LA based restaurant Maude. Stone travels to Italy, remote regions in Australia, Californian Central Coast, and Rioja, Spain. Available to watch now on Binge.

Photo from Binge

John Torode’s Middle East & his Malaysian Adventure

Finally, Torode’s culinary travels through the Middle East and Malaysia make your mouth water. Torode’s Middle East sees him visiting Egypt, Dubai, Malta, and Bahrain. Capturing the multiple cities and cuisines of Egypt were especially interesting, with most food shows avoiding these areas. His Malaysian Adventure takes him through the many cities of Malaysia, starting off with the capital Kuala Lumpur. Available to watch now on Binge.

Photo from Binge – episode “Luxor” John Torode’s Middle East

Nature and panoramic beauty

The Magical Andes

Serene and beautiful, this Netflix series looks at the rugged charm of the Andes and the remote communities that live there. The cinematography is breath taking, and I particularly love the focus on the lesser known villages that actually inhabit this terrain.

Photo from Netflix

Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet

I’m sure you have all already heard of the above mentioned nature series with David Attenborough’s famous narration. Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet reveal the natural wonders of this world from deserts to ice caps to the deep sea. Heart breaking at times, but also joyful and colourful. A slow watching series that helps educate about the wide breadth of marvels existing on this planet, and why we should protect it. Available on Stan.

Photos from BBC Planet series

Moving Art

Slow TV. Moving Art by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows his highlights of the world’s natural beauty. Let it play on in your living room as a literal piece of moving art. Available on Netflix.

Photo by L. Schwartzberg from Moving Art on Netflix