In Dagestan - which the Foreign Office warns against visiting - Levison experiences warrior clans' hospitality, stunning beauty and ancient cities. Then it's on to country-of-contrasts Azerbaijan.
The third leg takes him from the illegally annexed peninsula of Crimea to the historic Baltic city of St Petersburg. Crimea is part of neighbouring Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014. President Putin's government is investing heavily in the illegally occupied territory - building a huge bridge linking Crimea to Russia. Simon meets the eccentric and fearless owner of a safari park who likes to get up close and personal with his pride of lions. The owner is struggling to get water to his park after a canal that supplied much of Crimea's water was shut off by the Ukraine. And it is not just the lions that are affected - the diminishing water supplies are now beginning to threaten a humanitarian crisis.
Throughout Burma, temples, stupas, and statues of gold pop out in the lush, green landscape. This golden architecture has become Burma's calling card, but how and why did that become the standard here? Join us as we travel across Myanmar, the jewel of Asia, and reveal the history and myths surrounding these shrines, each one created as an offering to the Buddha. We will visit such treasures as the golden pagoda of Mt. Kyaiktiyo, which rests perilously atop a huge boulder, the 344-foot Shwedagon Pagoda, and the revered Mahamuni Buddha Temple.
Levison meets nomadic shepherds and dangerous dogs in the Gobustan desert, climbs to a castle halfway up a cliff, visits Stalin's birthplace and meets a hermit monk who lives atop a 45-metre monolith.
How can technology make the world a better place? Looking at the positive impacts of technology. In a world where modern technology has meant a significant increase in screen time for adults and kids resulting in less physical activity and the onslaught of attention deficit and depression, we flip the script and explore ways tech has improved our lives.
The clean minimalism of the Japanese home has been exported around the world, from modernist architecture to lifestyle stores like Muji. But the origins of this ubiquitous aesthetic evolved from a system of spiritual and philosophical values dating back centuries. James visits one of Japan's last surviving traditional wooden villages, and the 17th-century villa of Rinshunkaku, and reveals how the unique spirit of Japanese craftsmen turned joinery into an artform - creating houses without the need for nails, screws or glue. Exploring some of the traditional arts of the Japanese home, James also investigates attitudes to domestic culture in modern Japan, meeting photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki, chronicler of Japan's crowded cities and tiny apartments. Other highlights include a performance by calligrapher and artist Tomoko Kawao and a visit to the hometown of architect Terunobu Fujimori.