Six TV series to inspire your next getaway
From The White Lotus to The Last of Us, small-screen triumphs have set our wanderlust alight for some of the world’s most swoonworthy destinations. From Sicily’s glittering seas to the vast Rockies of Canada, take a tour of our favourites
The joys of the current streaming-boosted TV drama boom are many, but one of the greatest is vicarious travel. Big budgets buy access – to palaces, private mansions, secret beaches, whole islands – and also pay for camera crews to capture them in all their glory. It’s a whole new way of building your travel bucket list.
We used to get this from the movies, for example following James Bond from the beaches of the Bahamas to the towering rock formations of Thailand’s Khao Phing Kan. But whereas that gave us a handful of destinations over decades, we can now become obsessed with six different locations a week. Here are a few to get you started.
The White Lotus (Sky/Now TV)
Allowing us to luxuriate in five-star resorts while judging the awful people who don’t appreciate them, this black comedy took us to Hawaii in Season 1 and will be off to Thailand next, but it’s hard to see how it can beat Season 2’s stay at the ludicrously beautiful San Domenico Palace hotel in Taormina, Sicily.
Overlooking the Ionian Sea, Mount Etna and an ancient amphitheatre, the gardens and courtyards of this hotel date back to its original life as a Renaissance-era monastery, and in the first flush of 19th-century tourism it welcomed figures from Oscar Wilde to Edward VII. It even has a cinematic pedigree, featuring in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 classic, L’Avventura (it looks just as wonderful in black and white). The White Lotus also throws in visits to the baroque squares of Noto and mediaeval Cefalù, and two astonishing villas: Villa Elena in Camastra, home to the charming Quentin (Tom Hollander), and Villa Tasca in Palermo, the venue for that unexpected girls’ night. It’s incredible, but true, that you can stay in both.
Daisy Jones & The Six (Amazon Prime Video)
One for the rock fans: this hugely enjoyable saga takes us behind the over-filmed backdrop of California, highlighting Los Angeles’ other great claim to fame with a tour of its enduring musical meccas.
We see rising band The Six in real venues along the famed Sunset Strip: The Whisky-a-Go-Go, where The Doors and The Byrds are on the marquee, and The Troubadour, where Joni Mitchell and James Taylor cut their teeth. Then there’s The Viper Room at 8852 Sunset Boulevard: returned to its mid-1970s incarnation as Filthy McNasty’s for the show, it’s a one-stop history of the area’s music, having moved from jazz in the 1940s to folk in the 1960s and re-emerging in the grungy 1990s.
Add in the aftershow locations, including the Andaz West Hollywood Hyatt hotel, aka the Riot House, and a none-more-1970s photoshoot in the Lake Area to the north of LA, dress in something loose and flowing, and it’s a ready-made rock pilgrimage.
Succession (Sky/Now TV)
For most of the time we spend with the listlessly uber-rich Roy family, we’re stuck in oppressive glass-walled offices and oddly soulless, ever-expanding Manhattan apartments. Relief comes, once a season, in the family’s no-expense-spared dream/nightmare trips abroad. In the first season, it was the UK, in the second, the Aegean, and, in the third, it was Tuscany. For the final season, there was a twist: rather than another classic destination for American travellers, we went to western Norway, home to wily tech billionaire Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård).
Here, we drove the amazing coast-hugging Atlantic Ocean Road and stopped off at the Juvet Landscape Hotel, the bliss-inducing timber-pod eco-resort outside Valldal also used in the movie Ex Machina. From there, it was up Nesaksla mountain, close to Åndalsnes, where a summit was held at the Eggen Restaurant, overlooking the mountains from 708 metres, reached by the epic Romsdalen Gondola. The Roys remained unmoved, but the rest of us promptly put Norway on our bucket list.
The Last of Us (Sky/Now TV)
Long the home of Christmas movies and low-budget series, good old Canada has been given its breakout moment in this thrilling post-apocalyptic epic. We’re still supposed to be in the US, but the landscape of Alberta seen here (most of it within driving distance of Calgary) is so vast and virgin that it will set you dreaming of the Rockies.
There’s the Waterton Lakes National Park, a breathtakingly unspoilt region of lake and mountain seen in episode 8 when our heroine Ellie (Bella Ramsey) goes hunting, but the standout is Kananaskis County, around 100km to the west. This valley provides the Bow River, aka ‘The River of Death’, with the foreboding Engine Bridge near the small town of Canmore that provides passage to safety. And it’s also the final location of the series, Barrier Lake, where we see Ellie and companion Joel (Pedro Pascal) hiking alone into the mountains. The vista of mountain, valley and tracing river is like breathing air of as yet undiscovered freshness.
Special Ops: Lioness (Paramount+)
A forthcoming series that’s sure to inspire wanderlust is this fact-based thriller starring Zoe Saldaña, Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman, and created by Taylor Sheridan, maker of slowburn hit Yellowstone. Locations are still under wraps, but filming has taken place on Mallorca, where Kidman was seen in residence at one of the island’s many impossibly dream-inspiring homes, the glass-fronted Villa Solitaire, in the elite Son Vida region outside Palma. It isn’t just the mansions that bring filmmakers to this beautiful island – there’s also an amazingly varied landscape of cliff, forest and beach – but they do tend to fire up the imagination. Most famous is La Fortalesa Albercutx de Pollença, the sprawling clifftop 17th-century fort on the northern tip of the island that, after its 20th-century luxury refurb, starred in BBC series The Night Manager – and is rumoured to feature in Lioness. After all, even with the competition, who could resist?
The Witcher (Netflix)
While other fantasy shows lean towards ye olde worlde Britain, this tale sticks to the Eastern European roots of its Polish creator Andrzej Sapkowski, which means the castles really deliver that Disney fairy-tale dimension. Season 3 is imminent, but the show has already given us Burg Kreuzenstein in southern Austria, rebuilt in the 19th century with the apparent aim of cramming in as many turrets and spires as possible, and Poland’s Ogrodzieniec Castle, long ago ruined and burned down but still standing firm on a lonely hilltop.
Then there’s Hungary’s offerings. The 14th-century Tata Castle, a lakeside royal summer residence, looks like a painting but is 100 per cent genuine. By contrast, Vajdahunyad Castle, in the heart of Budapest, was built in 1896 as a sort of greatest-hits version of the country’s architecture. Given its role as home to the wizard Stregobor (Lars Mikkelsen), you’ll have to decide whether it’s real or just one of his spells.
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