While lockdown restrictions might have put a stop to travelling for the next month, there is a way in which you can still partake in the joys of travel. What is more, you can do so from the comfort of your own bedroom. Travel documentaries and documentary series pose an interesting alternative to actual travel. The following list reviews (in no particular order) my top 5 travel documentaries available online. No packing or hotel booking required, just sit back and enjoy!
1 Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Probably one of the most famous travel documentary series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is a binge-worthy compilation of travel and food. Boasting an impressive 12 seasons, the show follows Anthony as he visits (almost all) places of the world. While the focus of the show might primarily be food, the visited destinations offer an amazing peek into the hidden marvels of the world. From Russia to Vietnam, from the Bronx to Paraguay, Parts Unknown is the ideal show to watch if you want to learn more about the diversity our world has to offer. Do make sure you watch it before lunch though, because learning about the culinary liveliness of the world will probably leave you pretty hungry!
Not technically classified as a travel documentary, this award-winning film takes the viewer into an abandoned North Macedonian village where Hatidze, a native beekeeper lives with her mother. As a new family moves into the village the world as Hatidze knows it is turned upside down. With no narration and only some dialogue between the villagers, the focus of the viewer is shifted to people’s actions and not their words. I decided to include Honeyland in my list of top 5 travel documentaries because I believe travelling is about discovering the world as a delicate and diverse collection of natural and cultural phenomena. As a film dedicated to the portrayal of the bond between human actions and nature, Honeyland not only showcases the natural and cultural wonders of the Balkans but does so in a cinematic way which is both captivating and thought-provoking.
As the title suggests, this is a film wholly dedicated to mountains. Narrated by Willem Dafoe and accompanied by an orchestral score this is a film most definitely worthy of a lockdown evening. The mesmerizing score is provided by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and boasts classical pieces by Vivaldi and Beethoven. The main feature of the film, however, are the spellbinding landscape shots of mountain ranges from across the world. A true cinematic feat, Mountain will leave you breathless, and you won’t be able to hold yourself back from putting on your hiking boots and going for an adventure in the mountains once lockdown is over.
4 Our Planet
A staple in environmental documentaries, Sir David Attenborough once again delivers a documentary series which captures the enthralling beauty of the natural world. As a limited series, the show is split into episodes covering different environments, from the sea to the forest. With incredible shots and editing the show is a must-see. Add the narration by Sir David Attenborough and what you get is a documentary series anyone with at least a tiny bit of interest in the world we live in should watch. Furthermore, Our Planet opens the stage for numerous other Attenborough documentaries, such as David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.
5 Outskirts: Route 66
This documentary follows a group of four cyclists as they set off to cycle the notorious Route 66. Made by the creators of Thereabouts, cyclists Angus and Lachlan Morton, and filmed in partnership with the cycling brand Rapha, this film has everything – from amazing scenery to incredible high-end cycling gear. Equally, you will be hard pressed to find a stretch of road as diverse and interesting as the notorious Route 66. So, if you’re a keen cyclist, or just someone who enjoys taking a dive into the unknown parts of the USA, this is definitely a film to watch.
It must be said that the above is but a short list of existing documentary films and series, and the world of travel cinematography holds many a hidden gem. Lockdown, however, is an amazing opportunity to explore the world of travel cinema and use it to plan your next post-lockdown adventure.
Image by Stella Baricic