Last Updated: January 26th, 2021
There’s rarely been a time in recent history in which travel has been more out of reach. That means we all have to live out our travel dreams vicariously for now. Enter the travel TV genre — our most straightforward path to inspirational and aspirational escapism.
No network has changed the game more in recent years than Netflix when it comes to providing a great list of travel shows that’ll motivate you to hit the road one day while scratching that wanderlust itch between trips. But this being Netflix, there’s a dearth of content to sort through. Knowing where to start and which shows are worth your binging time is tough.
We’re here to help. The fifteen travel series below are the best Netflix has to offer right now. We’ve gone ahead and ranked them, though we have to point out that these rankings represent minor quibbles at most. We also tried to cover multiple types of travel shows from the standard food+travel series to nature shows to reality TV travel escapism.
Let’s dive in!
15. The Kindness Diaries
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
There’s a weirdness to people — from the West especially — traveling the developing world “without cash” and bartering their way through. For one, it’s assuming your winning personality and skills are more important to people than, you know, real money for their services. The Kindness Diaries’ wonky premise aside, host Leon Logothetis kind of pulls it off without coming across too much like a colonist.
The show shines in its ability to connect people. Logothetis finds a common thread of humanity through travel that inspires. At the very least, he’s been able to show with certainty that travel is never as expensive as you think it’s going to be.
14. Restaurants On The Edge
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 6.8/10
The “fixer-up” aspect of reality TV is a tried and true concept. Gordon Ramsay has umpteen shows doing just that. Where Restaurants on the Edge stands out is the travel and cultural aspect of the show. Restaurateur Nick Liberato, chef Dennis Prescott, and designer Karin Bohn travel the world and find restaurants with amazing views that are on the edge of shutting down (something that’s become even more heightened given recent global events). They team up with the restaurant’s chefs and owners to turn the place around. The ripple here is that the hosts guide the local owners to delve more deeply into the local culture and have their establishments better represent that scene.
13. Stay Here
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
Designer Genevieve Gorder and real estate expert Peter Lorimer join forces in Stay Here to help homeowners turn their spaces into short-term vacation rentals. This is all about Airbnb’ing your digs even though “Airbnb” is never mentioned. This is a fun and breezy travel show that goes deep enough to show you how much works goes into the sharing-economy to make it actually work for you. In the end, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for that perfect Airbnb you stayed in.
12. The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes
2 seasons, 12 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
This show is addictive. Let’s get this out of the way. This is luxury and lifestyle porn first and foremost. It’s a traveling show, we guess, by proxy. However, it’s intoxicating.
The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes takes us inside architectural wonders around the world. These range from the homes of the elites in places like Greece, Los Angeles, and New Zealand to the homes of a fisherman in Japan and writers in Holland. Hosts Piers Taylor (an architect) and Caroline Quentin (a British actor) offer a great entry point. Taylor offers professional insight, while Quentin is the audience’s awed surrogate.
11. Tales By Light
3 seasons, 18 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Tales By Light isn’t your average travel show per se. The focus here is on great travel photographers and how they operate around the world.
The photographers the show follows just happen to be some of the best in the world who have devoted their life to globetrotting to find the absolute best shot. Every corner of the world is covered over three seasons of breathtaking episodes and crazy escapades.
Seriously, one episode is about swimming with anacondas in the Amazon.
10. Night On Earth
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Shows like Night On Earth offer a glimpse into the world that beckons you out into the wider world. These are the shows that lay a foundation of wanderlust in our young souls. On top of all of that, this show is visually mesmerizing. It’s a trippy, unique, and captivating look at our world, and it’ll make you want to be someone who seeks these places out.
9. Our Planet
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 9.3/10
Our Planet is Netflix’s very own Planet Earth. They even got Sir David Attenborough to narrate this beautiful series. Again, yes, this is a nature series. But, we argue that a series this intriguing and beguiling will stoke your wanderlust fires and get you out there enjoying everything nature has to offer. If this series doesn’t get you itching to see new places on our planet, nothing will.
8. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 6.8/10
David Chang’s second Netflix travel and food show is a little broader than Ugly Delicious. This four-part series finds Chang hanging out with big-name celebrities and diving into local food scenes around the world. Seth Rogan shows Chang around Vancouver while getting very stoned. Internet star and model Chrissy Teigen wanders around Marrakesh with the chef. Writer and actor Lena Waithe takes Chang through her Los Angeles. Finally, the show’s final (and best) episode finds Chang hanging out with SNL superstar Kate McKinnon in Cambodia. Overall, this is an easy, fun watch to breeze through on a shut-in Sunday.
7. Ugly Delicious
2 seasons, 12 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Chef David Chang’s food show, Ugly Delicious, is a travel show at its heart. Chang travels the world eating food and talking to people about culture, life, and what they do while experiencing it all for himself — that’s all travel really is. The beauty of the show lies in the lack of pretension — a child-like curiosity really — that Chang carries with him as he travels, talks, and eats. The way Chang travels becomes aspirational with a crazy good dose of food porn along for the ride.
6. Larry Charles’ Dangerous World Of Comedy
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 7.3/10
Larry Charles’ Dangerous World Of Comedy is a travel show at its heart. Acclaimed TV and film comedy director, Larry Charles, travels the world seeking out how comedy is done in war zones, on Indian reservations, in theocracies, in slums, and beyond.
This is the sort of show that takes you deep inside the harder side of life around the world. It’s a part behind-the-scenes look at TV comedy around and a part subversive travelogue with a keen eye on finding the grey areas of life and comedy in places few dare to travel. Plus, it’s only four one-hour episodes, making this one a very easy binge.
5. Dark Tourist
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
David Farrier’s Dark Tourist isn’t what you think it is. This isn’t about the western gaze, looking down upon the weird or “other.” Farrier’s nuanced approach to travel and diversity shines through as he parses some of the lesser-known parts of varying cultures.
The show shines in its ability to hook you in from the first frames. Episodes about vampires in New Orleans, Pablo Escobar’s hitmen, and haunted forests offer a glimpse into the unknown in our world without judgment.
4. Somebody Feed Phil
4 seasons, 22 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Phil Rosenthal has cut out a pretty great second act after his days running Everybody Loves Raymond. Rosenthal is traveling around the world eating great food, meeting people, and seeing new places he thought he’d never see.
Rosenthal is on a trip of discovery. There’s a clear food focus to the show. But, really, the series ends up being just as much about the journey as a great meal with new friends.
3. Street Food
2 season, 15 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
This series from the creators of Chef’s Table leans more heavily into the travel aspect of great cooking. The series highlights street food vendors across East Asia, Mexico, and Central and South America through two seasons. The series revels in letting those vendors tell their stories and highlighting the food they make with that now iconic Chef’s Table aesthetic. The bonus is that each episode clocks in at around 30 minutes, making this a very easy and enjoyable binge any time.
3 seasons, 29 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
This is probably the most interesting and unique travel (and food) show on this list. Steve Rinella’s MeatEater might be the best nature-meets-travel-meets-food show, full stop. Rinella and his crew travel around the U.S., Mexico, and even parts of South America to embrace nature in the most visceral way, through hunting and fishing for their own food and then cooking that food, providing us with wild recipes to boot. We’re not kidding when we say that the wild places this show goes are the places you almost never see on the average travel show, which is usually obsessed with hitting the same old spots over and over again (looking at you Rosenthal and Chang).
Yes, hunting or fishing for food is the core of each trip. Still, with sourcing your own wild food being one of the fastest-growing food movements in America (far outpacing veganism with people under 40), MeatEater offers real-world advice as an entry-point to the wild spaces of the world and the food available therein. It’s also about the people around the world who live their lives in harmony with nature. Add in the beautiful cinematography (from the same crew as Bourdain’s shows) and you have a great watch.
1. Down to Earth with Zac Efron
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
This show was the sleeper hit of the travel TV world in 2020. Yes, it premiered during a pandemic when we can’t travel, making it an easy hit. But the show really has some serious heart and insight. Viewing the world through Zac Efron’s always wide-eyes proved really refreshing. His excitement to be seeing the world and trying on new ideas while also making an effort to step out of the most well-worn paths made for solid TV.
There’s a real soul to this show that gets to what’s beautiful about travel. It captures the spirit of wanderlust — learning about the world while learning about yourself.