You may not be able to travel right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live vicariously through other people. Thanks to the power of the internet and streaming services, we have the world at our fingertips. While travel films are often as wonderful as they are fictitious, there’s something transportive about travel documentaries.
Watching some of these travel documentaries can even inspire you to take steps you might have been afraid of, or discover parts of yourself you never knew existed. So, if you want to be inspired and watch some travel documentaries, here are a few of the best travel documentary films that you can watch online right now that just might inspire you to plan your next trip (whenever that may be).
Also read: Must-watch travel movies to feel inspired
Here Are The Best Travel Documentaries To Stream Right Now
1National Parks Adventure (2016) (For An Off-Trail Adventure)
When the US National Parks Service celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2016, they commissioned a documentary from filmmaker Greg MacGillivray. Narrated by Robert Redford, it explores the history and modern landscape of America’s many wonderful natural assets from glaciers in Montana to the spectacle of Utah’s natural arches.
2An Idiot Abroad (2010-12) (To Experience A Variety Of People And Cultures)
If you’re looking for a travel documentary show that’ll provide you with endless laughter, then this one’s for you. This hilarious series follows co-creators and comedy actor-writers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant who send TV actor and comedian Karl Pilkington around the globe to take part in extreme experiences that are completely out of his comfort zone leading to all kinds of hijinks.
3Free Solo (2019) (Follow An Attempt To Conquer El Capitan)
This Academy Award-winning film shares the incredible and intimate story of Alex Honnols, a free soloist climber who prepares to achieve his lifelong dream of scaling El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. His unwavering determination to master this 3,200-feet t tall rock (without a rope) makes for a gripping adventure.
4The Kindness Diaries (2017) (See What It’s Like To Travel The World With Only A Vintage Motorbike And The Kindness Of Strangers)
Next on our list of travel documentaries, is ‘The Kindness Diaries’. In this time of uncertainty, watch this wholesome and inspiring series to remind yourself how connected we all really are. Follow host Leon Logothetis as he travels the world on his vintage motorbike. Without money, food, or a place to stay, he relies totally on the kindness of strangers to make his way, and encounters breathtaking landscapes and heartwarming stories on his inspiring journey.
5Footprints: The Path of Your Life (2016) (Go On A Modern-Day Pilgrimage)
This documentary follows 10 people who take a trip together along the Camino de Santiago, a famous hiking and backpacking route in Spain (‘Canterbury Tales’-style). Explore the beautiful, yet unpredictable landscapes of northern Spain, as these brave souls walk 500 miles in 40 days along an ancient path that’s been traversed for centuries and discover something about themselves along the way.
6Life In A Day (2011) (A Time Capsule From People In 192 Countries)
This collection of films is especially poignant. It follows people from all over the world on the same day – 24 July 2010. Director Kevin Macdonald poses three questions (What do you love? What do you fear? What’s in your pocket?) in an open call, and sifts through over 81,000 contributions to create a frank and moving snapshot of life in countries all over the world.
7FISHPEOPLE (2017) (What Happens When People Dedicate Their Lives To The Sea)
A travel documentary film by Keith Mallory, ‘FISHPEOPLE’ tells the story of six remarkable people who have dedicated their lives to the sea. From swimmers and divers to photographers, these people display the transformative effects of time spent in the ocean. They also talk about how it helped them leave their limitations behind, and is sure to make you feel like heading out into the ocean too.
8Tales By Light (2015) (Explore What Goes Into Capturing A Powerful Image)
‘Tales By Light’ began as a short series from camera-makers Canon, and evolved into a documentary show with National Geographic. It follows one amazing photographer in each episode, taking the viewer along on their journey to capture elusive wildlife, unique communities, and heartfelt themes around the world. This unique look through the lens at another person looking through a lens encourages us all to see the subject matter in a whole new light (pun definitely intended!)
9Pedal The World (2015) (Travel The Globe By Bike To Find The Meaning Of Life)
This 90-minute self-produced travel documentary film follows Felix Starck, a young cyclist from Germany who spends a year pedalling across 22 countries, and over 20,000 km, in an effort to find the meaning of life. It’ll leave you asking yourself all kinds of questions like — ‘What would you do if you could let go of real-life responsibilities?’.
10Mountain (2017) (An Exploration Of Our Obsessions With High Places)
From director Jennifer Peedam and photographer/mountaineer Renan Ozturk, this series tries to answer the question—‘Why do we humans consider scaling mountains a recreational activity?’. It showcases the most astonishing peaks and valleys on the planet, all set to the soundtrack of Willem Dafoe reading from ‘Mountains of the Mind’ by Robert Macfarlane. While it’s more inspirational than educational, it gives you a chance to experience humanity’s urge to explore the highest reaches of Earth.
11The Epic Of Everest (1924) (Revisit The Legendary Everest Expedition Of 1924)
This film is equal parts entertainment and relic, featuring the third attempt to ascend Everest. Unfortunately, it ended in the deaths of the determined English climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, but you can still watch the steps of their expedition (shot by Captain John Noel) that survived. It also includes some of the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet, with ancient monasteries, stone villages and vast mountains all meticulously re-coloured.
So, Which Of These Travel Documentaries Will You Watch Next?
If you’re feeling a bit house-bound, and are looking to be inspired, why not watch some of these thrilling travel documentaries yourself? From the tallest mountains to the deepest oceans, these travel documentary videos cover every bit of our planet. So, where do you want to go explore next?