We know this is probably the worst (and best?) time to watch a travel show with most of us stuck indoors but trust us, losing yourself in the dark depths of the ocean amongst ginormous whales or trying to wrap your head around a residence designed with the wings of a Boeing 747-100 will help you forget the hot mess that is the world right now. So snack-up, kick back, and indulge in our favorite travel shows: archaeology, nature, architecture plus lots and lots of food!
1. The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes
Perhaps the most directly relevant show for an architect on this list, this documentary miniseries follows a quirky pair: an award-winning architect (Piers Taylor) & an actress/’property enthusiast’ (Caroline Quentin) as they go globetrotting; exploring the most avant-garde of homes. The hosts offer up a very wholesome and engaging experience; Quentin being the connection between the regular content consumer and the technically sound, detail-oriented professional. Each episode focuses on a different extreme environment (mountain, forest, coast, underground) as they seek out the most innovative of residences.
2. Dark Tourist
This New Zealand documentary series is on this list mainly because of its drastic difference from the stunning imagery and perfectly scripted euphoria of most other travel shows. Gory and crude, the 8-episode series is hosted by an oddly charming TV journalist (David Farrier); taking one on an eerie journey to destinations that are historically linked to death and tragedy.
3. Lost Cities with Albert Lin
This National Geographic produced show tries to converge adventure, technology, and archaeology with it’s the host; UCSD’s explorer and research scientist, Albert Lin. Lin tracks down forgotten cities scattered across the world to uncover and solve some of history’s elusive mysteries including “the Knights Templar in Israel, the Lost Kingdom of the Pacific in Micronesia and the city behind the legend of El Dorado: City of Gold in Colombia”. Using Li-Dar, 3D scanning, ground-penetrating radar, aerial drone footage, etc. & consulting with archaeologists, scholars, and other experts, the show is a fun-watch for history geeks.
4. Planet Earth I & II
Okay, we know this is not strictly speaking a travel show but we can’t help but put this stunning piece of art on the list! Five years in the making, BBC’s mother of all nature series will have you feeling like an inconsequential blip in the vastness of time. Masterful visuals and the reverential whisper of Sir David Attenborough’s narration takes one on a majestic journey across various biomes of the world.
5. Our Planet
By the creators of Planet Earth, this 8 episode show for Netflix is a necessary update to the nature documentary series. While Planet Earth II subtly hints at the reality of climate change, particularly with the ultimate episode “Cities”; Our Planet doesn’t shy away from telling us who is responsible. Yes, watching this will confirm that humans are the absolute worst and we don’t deserve a single thing but the series leads you to a website to find out more about how one can take steps to save these climes via the World Wide Fund for Nature. A bonus episode “Our Planet – Behind The Scenes” is worth checking out to see how the 600-person crew filmed the series.
6. Tales by Light
Created by National Geographic and Canon, this is an Australian documentary series that shows us the world through the eyes of 6 professional photographers; each with a different style and subject of interest (like landscape, wildlife, underwater, etc.) Watching this is almost like watching a spin-off of Planet Earth but with the photographers and their art being the focus instead of the animals. For all you architects with an eye for cinematography, this show is an absolute treat!
7. Chef’s Table
“Every time I open a cheese like this, I get emotional. In my blood, there’s balsamic vinegar. My muscles are made by Parmigiano.” proclaims Massimo Bottura, a Michelin star chef from Italy, in the first episode of the series. This Netflix original docu-series transcends the genre of cooking shows as we see today (tense competitions, deadlines, and much screaming) by artistically depicting each chef’s more personal inspirations and exploring their identities; focusing less on the technicality of cooking. A provocative show, it’s well worth your time if you’re feeling creatively unmotivated as we all are these days.
8. Parts Unknown
What travel list is complete without some of the late Anthony Bourdain’s vast body of work in the travel/cuisine genre? He once said “the history of the world is on your plate” and he shows us that over and over again throughout the series. Much of the show is about interactions with locals; using food as a channel to connect with the various cultures.