Travel Documentaries From Across The World You Have To Watch

Travel documentaries bring to you experiences you’d never imagined you’d get to witness. Here’s a list of unmissable documentaries. By Naina Atri

Get inspired for your next vacation with these 7 travel documentaries



German film director, Werner Herzog, explored Antarctica through his lens, along with cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. What they were left with was an Oscar-nominated documentary about the people who lived in the icy land. From McMurdo Station, a research centre and the largest habitation on Antarctica, they travelled to meet a series of individuals, each of whom had their own purpose in Antarctica –  a cell biologist, a maintenance worker and a penguin scientist, among many others. The documentary captures sights and ways of life that may seem exotic, even strange, to us but quite normal for the people of Antarctica. It’s a reality quite distinct from those who live closer to the equator, but it is a reality worth knowing.

Image: Courtesy of IMDb

Salt Of The Earth traces the traces the life of Sebastião Salgado – a photojournalist who has travelled to over 120 countries, as part of his professional journey. He began his career as a photographer in 1973, leaving his work as an economist. From then on, his projects have focused on capturing people in their contexts (hence, his striking black-and-white photographs tend to be presented as a series). Through his camera, he seeks to grasp the socio-economic situations of his subjects, thus, ultimately revealing the many complex, sometimes unsettling, layers of humankind.

Image: Courtesy of IMDb

In the course of this four-part documentary, presenter Simon Reeve takes one through Central Asia, specifically Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and  Uzbekistan, along with Samarkand and Bukhara, cities of the legendary Silk Route. One gets a peek into the lands’ cultures and politics, and a few ‘oddities’ like a Beatles tribute band. Meet the Stans, which aired in 2003, was part of the BBC’s larger documentary series, Holidays in the Danger Zone.

Image: Courtesy Youtube/SimonReeve

3,00,000 people from 192 countries sent in video-submissions to filmmakers about what a day in their lives looked like. That day was July 25th, 2020, and the final product was directed by Kevin Macdonald and produced by Ridley Scott (known for his posthumous works such as the recent House of Gucci). This story of humanity is told in over 60 languages and shows the uniqueness as well as the shared properties of our existence. Within the larger context of the pandemic, the film stresses on unity.

Image: Courtesy of IMDb

When it comes to the word ‘vagabond’, the image that most often comes first to the mind’s eye is that of a backpacker. First Time In Africa follows the travels of one such wanderer, Karl Watson, through the nations of Africa, beginning at Cape Town. His trip, which happened to be his first, continued on for five weeks. The beautifully crafted series forms a connection with similar first-time travellers and also with those better acquainted with the continent.

Image: Courtesy Youtube/KarlWatson

Rick Steves has an aim – to show travellers how to become “temporary locals,” who explore not only what is popular but also that which is off-beat, in an attempt to champion the more authentic experiences. Through Rick Steves’ Europe, which includes guidebook series, a television show, a weekly public radio show, a syndicated travel column, a small-group tour program and free travel information, Steves shows people how to travel through Europe in a way that is ‘culturally broadening’. His exploration of Istanbul, a city that has maintained its importance through various eras, reveals to prospective travellers its various delights. With him, one gets to see the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Hagia Sophia and a traditional Turkish bath, all the while learning about the life of this grand city.

Image: Courtesy Youtube/RickSteves’Europe

While we may not have the right skills to conquer the waves, we can certainly get a taste of what the surfer life looks like, through The Endless Summer, which follows Mike Hynson and Robert August who are on the hunt for surf spots. This quest takes them through  Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa (jealous, are you?). Their long trip makes their summer, quite literally, endless as they move from the northern to the southern hemisphere and back. Less academic and more easy-going, the documentary captures the leisurely vibe of travel and the culture of this exhilarating sport. It inspired many others to start their own explorations of the coastlines of the world, in search of the perfect wave.

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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