How many times have you been watching a movie and found yourself distracted from the plot by its incredible setting? Whether it’s a travel documentary, a true story or sheer fiction, the most inspiring travel movies are the ones that compel us to immediately start googling production locations and packing a bag. If you’re looking for a little on-screen inspiration for your next holiday, check out our list of the 18 most inspiring travel movies of the 21st century.
An American writer makes a spontaneous decision to buy a dilapidated but delightful Italian country villa: cue the classic ‘fish out of water’ story, featuring amusing cultural and linguistic misunderstandings, unlikely friendships with colourful locals and eventually, a ‘happily ever after’ ending. It’s all very charming, but the real star of this movie is the spectacular Tuscan countryside in which the story is set. Golden hillsides studded with olive and cypress trees, tiny country lanes that lead to pastel hued houses, plus a cameo appearance from the Amalfi Coast: this is a movie that will have you shouting ‘ciao bella’ and booking the next available flight.
The idea for this film came about as a result of director Sofia Ford Coppola’s own experiences in Tokyo. The story follows the two main characters who venture out into the nighttime city to experience its restaurants, karaoke bars and nightclubs, meeting an assortment of locals along the way. The movie’s documentary-style approach to filming is ideal for capturing the colour and vitality for which night-time Tokyo is renowned – you can experience this for yourself by walking the streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya. Follow in Charlotte’s footsteps by taking a day trip to Kyoto by bullet train or follow Bob’s example by enjoying a whisky in the New York Bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
Set in 1952, this biopic traces the real-life 14,000-kilometre road trip taken by Ernesto “Fuser” Guevara and Alberto Granado from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Amazonian Peru. Their route, via iconic South American destinations such as Patagonia, Atacama, Lima, Machu Picchu and Caracas, resulted in a movie that is a visual feast of lush forests, sunburnt deserts and misty mountain ranges. It’s possible to pay homage to the spirit of the movie without spending eight months on an elderly motorbike: instead, you can stick to hiking in Bariloche, browsing artisan markets in Lima’s Miraflores district and watching the sun set over Atacama’s Valle de la Luna.
Firm proof that a happy ending is not always a prerequisite for an inspiring travel tale, Into the Wild documents the real-life experiences of a young man whose journey across the United States is also a journey of self-discovery. Whether it’s kayaking through the Grand Canyon or playing in the waves on a deserted Oregon beach, meeting wild horses in South Dakota or wild moose in Alaska, there are plenty of uplifting moments within this movie, based on a true story, that can inspire a vast range of travel experiences.
Named for the fictitious luxury train on which three brothers travel across India, this quirky story was filmed mostly in and around the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels was the real-life train used in the movie, and although this is no longer operating, several other rail journeys still exist which allow you to explore India in equally splendid luxury.
A modern-day equivalent to Around the World in 80 Days, this travel documentary chronicles the experiences of an American backpacker as he spent eleven months travelling the world and recording his experiences in Australia, Asia, Europe and South America. Regardless of your age and life circumstances, if you’ve ever seriously considered resigning from your job, throwing a few possessions in a backpack and heading out into the big wide world, this movie offers an insightful view of the realities, challenges and rewards that come from taking such a leap.
This is the movie that inspired a concept that’s close to the heart of many a traveller: the original “bucket list” was conceived by two unlikely friends who set about ticking off an epic wish list of experiences before they died from their respective cancers. In their case, the list included sitting on the Great Pyramids in Egypt, driving a motorcycle along the Great Wall of China and going on a safari in Tanzania. Even if your version has a more modest budget, we think a bucket list is still a great way to map out your travel dreams.
Without giving away any spoilers, if you can climb all 366 steps to the top of the thirteenth-century Belfry of Bruges, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible bird’s-eye view of the city and a very clear understanding of just how high above the ground you are. The city’s cobbled streets and tree-lined canals may seem an unlikely hideout for a couple of eccentric Irish hitmen, but its centuries-old beauty will feel make you feel as though you’re on a movie set yourself. The city’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that can be explored on foot, by canal boat or by horse-drawn carriage, and a visit to one of the city’s famous chocolate makers is a must.
What do you get when you combine the catchiest soundtrack ever to have come out of Sweden with one of the most beautiful islands in Greece? The answer is, of course, the musical phenomenon that singlehandedly put Skopelos firmly on the world tourist map. Located in the Northern Sporades group of islands, this unspoiled paradise offers sparkling clear water, forested hillsides and a number of lovely, uncrowded beaches including Kastani, which featured in the movie and is the ideal spot for watching the sun sink into the Aegean Sea.
From New York to Bali via Italy and India, Eat Pray Love will have you falling in love with each destination as the protagonist continues her journey of self-discovery. Satisfy your own sense of wanderlust by creating your own Eat Pray Love itinerary: eating pizza in a busy Naples pizzeria, learning yoga and meditation techniques as part of a wellness retreat in Delhi and enjoying the romance of an Indonesian sunset from the top of Bali’s Mount Lempuyang.
The Camino de Santiago (or ‘The Way of St James’) is a network of trails that link up across southern France, Portugal and northern Spain, traditionally ending at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. An estimated 200,000 people walk part or all the route each year, and while many of these are undertaking a Christian pilgrimage, there are plenty of walkers who, like the main character in the movie, are undertaking the journey for other reasons. The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of the trail (you will see it on trail markers and worn by pilgrims along the route), making the traditional Galician scallop dish of vieiras gratinadas the ideal meal to indulge in when you conclude your hike.
Few movie series have had a bigger impact on the British tourism industry than the Harry Potter franchise which, more than a decade after the last film was released, continues to lure Potterheads from all over the world. Explore London’s Leadenhall Market to find the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, walk the streets of Lacock in search of James and Lilly Potter’s home in the fictitious village of Godric’s Hollow, or test your broom-riding skills in the grounds of Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle. For die-hard fans and would-be wizards, a visit to London’s Kings Cross Station is a must, if only to seek out Platform 9 ¾!
Proof that you don’t have to be the world’s most intrepid traveller to embark on a great travel adventure, Walter Mitty’s search for an elusive photographer takes him far from his New York City comfort zone and into the wilds of Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas. Iceland provided the filming locations for all three destinations, which means you can easily travel the winding road where Walter rides his longboard, visit the fishing port where Walter leaps from a helicopter into the ocean, and gaze up at the glacier field where Walter played football within the space of a couple of days.
Although set in a fictional luxury hotel in the fictional Eastern European nation of Zubrowka, much of the movie was filmed in the well-preserved old town of Germany’s easternmost town, Görlitz. Set on the west bank of the picturesque Lusatian Neisse River, you can almost throw a stone into Poland: the equally picturesque town of Zgorzelec, which was part of Görlitz until 1945, is set on the opposite bank. One of the very few German cities that weren’t destroyed during World War 2, the beautiful buildings, winding lanes and ancient towers of Görlitz make it a wonderful stopover if you’re travelling from Berlin to Prague or Kraków.
The setting for this epic adventure movie is the famous Pacific Coast Trail, which stretches 4270 kilometres from north to south across the United States, meandering through three states, seven national parks and ten mountain ranges. If you’re planning to hike the entire trail, you’ll need to allow four to six months and time your expedition to avoid the heavy snow which can make sections of the trail impassible for large parts of the year. To experience the incredible beauty and wildness of the trail without attempting it in its entirety, the Oregon section is considered the least challenging, while the Sonora Pass is a stunning day hike that delivers a spectacular taste of the alpine lakes, meadows and wildlife of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Prepare yourself for a roller-coaster of emotions as this movie takes you on a wild journey from Khandwa in central India to Kolkata in the east, then to Tasmania and Melbourne before ultimately returning to the place where Saroo’s adventures began. Much of the filming in India took place in Kolkata, whose intoxicating blend of exceptional architecture, delicious Bengali cuisine and Asia’s largest flower market make it an essential destination to include in your own Indian experience.
Giving an outsider’s perspective of the most opulent aspects of Singapore, every moment of this upbeat movie is a colourful celebration of the vibrant city-state. Whether it’s devouring mouthwatering noodles at a deceptively modest, Michelin-starred hawker stall, exploring the indoor tropical rainforest of Gardens by the Bay, or enjoying a quiet moment in Changi Airport’s magical butterfly garden before you catch your onward flight, there are Crazy Rich Asians moments to recapture at every turn.
Although technically an animated movie for kids which stars an outrageously likable fantasy creature, Abominable does a spectacular job of showcasing some of China’s most incredible real-life locations, from the granite peaks of the Huaungshan (Yellow Mountain) range to the vast expanses of the Gobi Desert. The movie also features the 71-metre high Leshan Buddha, which was carved into the red sandstone of Lingyun Mountain in the Szechuan province more than 1200 years ago and attracts more than two million visitors from around the world each year.
If our travel movie list has inspired you, your personal travel manager can provide advice and assistance in revisiting your favourite movie moments in person.