Best Travel Documentaries to Watch

There are so many days and weeks when I can’t travel or get outside and I know many people can feel this exact feeling. Sometimes, travel isn’t really for some (or totally reachable), but there is an opportunity to see what it’s like to go to a certain location without the expenses, booking the flights, packing the bags, planning out the itinerary details, and that’s by staying at our homes and watching documentaries.

I love shows and movies based on travel experiences because they’ve been some of the most inspirational. My favorites are the documentaries on Netflix and Disney+ because they offer real perspectives on locations along with insightful research, incredible visuals, and touching first-perspective stories. If you’re looking for a list of movies to watch based on travel that aren’t documentaries, check out my list of recommended movies here.

I’ve picked out the best travel shows and movies to watch or binge on below. I will update this list whenever I discover more shows and movies I’d recommend.

1. 14 Peaks

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible is my favorite movie out of this list! If you’re looking to watch a documentary that will bring you bone-chilling chills and also inspire you to live your best life, you’d love to watch this. This movie is about Nepali mountaineer, Nimsdai Purja, who has a goal to summit all 14 of the world’s tallest peaks within a timeframe of only 7 months! The incredibly inspiring story of Nimsdai Purja is full of triumph with a few heartbreaking stories in between and it may put you to tears, just a fair warning.

This is my favorite quote from the movie: “In life, you have to keep doing what you believe. You have to ask yourself ‘do you really want this for your heart?’ ‘Is it for the self glory or for something bigger?’ Sometimes the idea you come up with may seem impossible to rest of the world, but not to you.” 

2. Chasing Coral

We may know that the world’s coral reefs are disappearing at a faster rate due to climate change. This documentary, Chasing Coral, is a great in-depth film to dive into why this is happening and it is a collaboration between divers, photographers, and scientists. It can be a sad reality to accept and this film perfectly captures what’s going on through the education and evidence presented here.

3.  Down to Earth with Zac Efron

You wouldn’t think a A-list celebrity would be so curious about the world and to present what he’s learned through his travels, but I think that’s what makes Zac Efron appear more down-to-earth (may or may not be a pun to the title!) and is just a real human being like everyone else. I loved this series, Down to Earth with Zac Efron, because he goes to some of the most desirable locations and talks about the culture, the fascinating stories, and the recommended go-to locations and he shows you firsthand on what those experiences will look and how they’ll feel.

4. Our Planet

Our Planet is a British documentary series that focuses on the conservation of the wildlife in a region. The real footage of the wildlife shown is incredible evidence and evidence that examines the impact of climate change. It’s a great show worth watching since it has won 2 Emmy awards.

5. Our Great National Parks

Hosted by former President Barack Obama, this documentary series, Our Great National Parks, goes over some of the most insane and spectacular national parks in the world. This show highlights a lot of exploration into various landscapes and animal escapades. It doesn’t focus on the United States National Parks (at least not yet), but on other countries’ national parks. 

6. The Alpinist

If you’re looking for another documentary that will bring you bone-chilling chills, you should definitely watch this one. The Alpinist is based on the story of free solo/solo alpine climber Marc-Andre Leclerc, who is one of the most impressive and boldest climbers to be documented within 2 years. It was clear that Marc’s love was climbing through each scene of watching him scale some very high peak walls. It’s great to hear what was on his mind when he did his climbing adventures and why he does it, along with hearing it from his loved ones. This movie will inspire you to really go for your dreams without holding yourself back (although to be safe/realistic about it too).

Also, this would be on the list too, but since I know many people have heard about it already, you also need to watch Free Solo if you want another story around free soloing.

7. Wild Life

Wild Life covers such an inspiring story. Conservationist Kris Tompkins, who was the former CEO of Patagonia, talks about her love story with Doug Tompkins, an outdoorsman and successful entrepreneur, while helping successful outdoor brands (Patagonia, Esprit, The North Face). She, with her partner, restored Patagonia by opening up national parks and protecting the area using 15 million of acres, as well as in Argentina.

8. Fire of Love

Fire of Love is another documentary based on a true love story. It tells the story of French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who both bonded over their love for volcanoes with these two volcanologists falling in love and studying volcanoes for 20 years. Having witnessed live erupting volcanos in Iceland (which reminded me of one of my most favorite life experiences), in Italy, in Colombia, and other countries, they traveled together to study the volcanoes in them. Sadly, their love story ended in tragedy and leaves others to think about how much passion can really live within a couple.

9. The Deepest Breath

Freediving is probably the world’s most dangerous but fascinating sport. This documentary The Deepest Breath shows us the risks and rewards some freedivers are willing to take, especially mainly covering the story of Italian champion freediver Alessia Zecchini. There’s also a love story that is covered in here, where two of these freedivers bond over their love for it and where their adventure-seeking of the water took them to cross paths with each other. This documentary will definitely get your heart racing as you watch these freedivers take their deepest breaths.

10. The River Runner

If you’re into kayaking and fascinated by the idea of people making it into a sport, you would find this movie The River Runner thrilling. This movie is about a man who becomes the first one to paddle Tibet’s Mount Kailash’s four great rivers. The movie features Scott Lindgren as the pro kayaker and it also gets a glimpse of his story with people close to him.

11. The Dawn Wall

Also one of my favorites and if you noticed, my favorites are mostly around climbing as a climber myself; it’s easy to relate in some ways. The Dawn Wall is the story of Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson who have shown hard dedication and perseverance towards trying to climb the 3,000 feet Dawn Wall, the southeastern face of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park. I really loved this movie because it really touched upon the obstacles and sad events that have occurred in Tommy Caldwell’s life but him using those as motivations to do the hard things.

12. Fine Lines

Fine Lines is a documentary that features some of the baddest boys and girls in the climbing industry, whom some have turned headlines. This documentary really goes in depth in trying to figure out what really goes on in the heads of these world-class mountain climbers, knowing that some of their journeys have a high risk to it. Tommy Caldwell from the movie The Dawn Wall is  also featured here.


Photo credit of featured image: Photography Maghradze PH on Pexels.com.


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