Gone are the days when luggage tags read “wanderlust” and phone covers used to boast quotes such as “travel more.” In the post-COVID world, we all try to travel but mostly live vicariously through travel documentaries. Watching people explore places, cuisines, cultures, and mysteries of the world is a treat, and we can’t help but indulge in it. Sometimes even more than we should.
Although travel documentaries are sometimes romanticized, they are relatively more grounded in reality than feature films of the same genre. Places that might be on our bucket lists can easily be accessed through our screens. Watching these documentaries even makes us realize that nature and the world, while beautiful, can be challenging. It requires us to prepare, be patient, and be resilient to enjoy it to the fullest.
We’ve compiled a list of the best travel documentaries on Netflix that you shouldn’t miss. We have filtered out a few documentaries since they were location-specific and might be unavailable across different countries. Get ready to discover mesmerizing views, majestic mountains, deep-seal marvels, and much more. So grab your PJs and some snacks to accompany your binge. It’s time to explore.
Top 10 Netflix Travel Documentaries
1. The Volcano – Rescue from Whakaari
- Genre: Intense, Explosive, Volcano, Humanity
- IMDb Rating: 7.3
The Volcano – Rescue from Whakaari is one of the most visceral and raw representations of disasters. The documentary gained instant recognition upon its release in 2022 and covers the White Island volcanic eruption in 2019. A volcano erupts off the coast of New Zealand, trapping 47 unsuspecting tourists and guides.
The makers stitched minute-by-minute footage of the 24 hours wherein survivors shared their experiences. The documentary gives you a closer look at the unimaginable horrors the people had to endure.
2. 14 peaks – Nothing is Impossible
- Genre: Nature, Exploration, Extreme Sports
- IMDb Rating: 7.7
True to its name, the 14 Peaks – Nothing is Impossible is one such documentary that makes you question just what is impossible when a human puts their mind to something. With flying aircraft and pictures of space, with floating planets and the simple wonder of gravity, life can quickly seem outworldly if we look too close.
38-year-old Nepali mountaineer Nimsdai Purja had to know just how close he could look. Vowing to climb all 14 8000-meter summits on Earth in a mere seven months, Nimsdai Purja embarks upon the adventure of his lifetime to rewrite history. Don’t miss this documentary, as it captures the most dangerous journeys in the most picturesque fashion.
3. The Deepest Breath (2023)
- Genre: Science, Humanity, Exploration
- IMDb Rating: 7.7
We suggest that you remember to take deep breaths as you watch what has been named “one of the most anxiety-inducing extreme sports documentaries ever.” An exhilarating watch, the documentary captures the story of a free diver who trains to break the world record. He enlists the help of a safety diver and thus begins their journey of finding their dreams in the dark of the ocean.
The Deepest Breath portrays the depths of the oceans in a way that you’d be left dumbfounded. The 50 shades of blue and green never felt more entrancing and dangerous. However, be warned that it did not earn its title for no reason, as it quickly turns into a hyperreal life-threatening experience for the divers.
4. Biking Borders (2019)
- Genre: Inspiring, Heartfelt, Exploration, Travel & Adventure
- IMDb Rating: 7.7
Biking Borders is an inspiring documentary about two enthusiastic young men, Max and Nono. The two set out on their bicycle with a small dream – To build a school in Guatemala. Max and Nono travel from Berlin to Beijing for about 15,000 whopping kilometers. The documentary is one of the best depictions of how, as people, we’re all so different yet so similar. It captures the highs and lows in a way that warms your heart and makes you root for these two friends.
5. The River Runner (2021)
- Genre: Exploration, Travel & Adventure, Nature
- IMDb Rating: 6.9
For those who love the perfect shots that capture the world at its rawest, the River Runner is meant for you. Like the documentary wherein the camera rolls long after the credits, the story will stay with you long after you shut the screen. The River Runner follows Scott Lindgren, one determined kayaker who sets out to be the first man to paddle over the four great rivers that flow from Tibet’s sacred Mount Kailash. Need we say more? This documentary is dedicated to those who dream big and aspire to achieve the impossible.
6. Expedition Happiness
- Genre: Intimate, Heartfelt, Travel & Adventure
- IMDb Rating: 5.9
If packing up and leaving everything behind for a brand new start is something you like to ponder about, then Expedition Happiness should be next on your watchlist. Chronicling the journey of a filmmaker and his musician girlfriend, this documentary portrays how they explore the world with their dog and a refurbished school bus. With jaunty tunes and everlasting landscapes, this heartwarming tale takes us through the roads of North Carolina, Alaska, and South America.
7. Chasing Coral
- Genre: Controversial, Investigative, Scientific
- IMDb Rating: 8
For those who enjoy watching mysteries and have a weakness for the wondrous views of the world, Chasing Coral is a tale you shouldn’t miss. A team of scientists, divers, and photographers join forces to understand how coral reefs around the world are vanishing at unprecedented rates. The cinematography of this film is off the charts, and you can’t help but marvel at the wondrous nature of underwater life. The mysteries of life beneath us are unravel and captivate you like nothing else.
8. Home 2 Home
- Genre: Inspiring, Lifestyle, Travel & Adventure
- IMDb Rating: 7.4
What makes you happy? – A simple question that you might need to take a second to answer. Home 2 Home tries to answer it and how! The documentary follows Dennis Kailing, a young man, who embarks on a 27,000-mile journey to find the answer to the question we asked you. He bikes across 41 countries, spanning over 6 continents, in 761 days.
While chasing sunrises, this 24-year-old meets people from every imaginable walk of life in hopes of answering the most elemental question of life. Although the subject is personal and might differ from person to person, the story offers a new perspective on life and stirs romance within you.
9. Longest Third Date
- Genre: Intimate, Lifestyle, Reality TV
- IMDb Rating: 6.4
Everybody knows that the third time’s the charm, and for Matt and Khani, this couldn’t be more true. With the simple thought of telling a good romantic story to their grandkids, Matt and Khani fly to Costa Rica for their third date. As fate would have it, the pandemic brings the world to a standstill, and the two lovebirds are forced to stay in a foreign land. They capture the different parts of their life and showcase how their journey evolves over time. This intimate documentary depicts how people function on an elemental level and how the most beautiful places on Earth can feel like a dungeon if you take away people’s choices.
10. Guatemala, the Heart of the Mayan World
- Genre: Inspiring, Lifestyle, Social & Cultural
- IMDb Rating: 6.6
As immersive as its title sounds, this documentary literally delves into the heart of the Mayan world, exploring its cultural and geological wealth. With mesmerizing visual treats, the documentary instantly pulls you into the ancient Mayan cities built by our ancestors. We see the natural wonders of the Earth being rediscovered and their impact on people living in that region.
That’s a wrap on our top Netflix travel documentaries. Stay tuned for more, and be sure to leave a comment on which one was your favorite!