The seasoned traveller explores the South American country, beginning in the north-east - where Europeans first landed and grew rich on the profits from sugar and tobacco plantations run with slave labour. In Sao Luis, Michael finds out about a ceremony based on a 200-year-old tale before heading to the coastal lagoons of the Lencois Maranhenses National Park. Journeying inland, he gets a glimpse of the fast-disappearing world of old-style cowboys known as vaqueiros, has his fortune read by a Candomble priest and learns to drum with the Olodum cultural collective.
The second leg begins in Siberia and takes him to Russia's far south west and the majestic Caucasus Mountains. From Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on Earth, Simon takes the Trans-Siberian Railway to the city of Krasnoyarsk, the scene of brutal violence in the 1990s, and now the location of a cafe paying homage to Vladimir Putin. Simon is introduced to a Siberian community that worships a former traffic cop they believe to be the reincarnation of Christ. Along with a rare interview with the messiah himself, Simon meets some of the daughters of his followers being educated to become future brides of worthy men. After encounters with Tuvan throat singers and Cossack street patrols, Simon visits Dagestan, a largely Muslim region that has been scarred by jihadist violence. He meets security forces who use highly trained dogs to tackle the terrorist threat, and villagers attempting to keep their ancient tightrope-walking traditions alive.
James arrives on the main island of Honshu, and the beautiful region of Tohoku. He seeks inspiration with a mountain expedition and naked plunge with a friendly wandering monk, battles giant robots, becomes a samurai, gets adopted by some local J-Pop sensations, before embarrassing himself and his hosts on the world’s most luxurious train
The actress flies over Tokyo in a helicopter. The city was bombed extensively during the Second World War, so almost all of it is a symbol of the post-war economic boom that saw Japan become the world's second largest economy. While in the capital, Joanna heads out to a nightclub to see a Japanese girl band and witnesses the largely male audience perform almost as much as the artists on stage. Later, Joanna travels to the Kiso Valley to walk the Nakasendo Way, an ancient route that once linked Tokyo to Kyoto, a place best known for that most famous of Japanese traditions, the Geisha.
Giles and Monica don their best thermals and extreme weather gear, and travel 200km north of the Arctic Circle to Sweden's Lapland. They enter a magical world of snow, ice, inky blue and pink skies, and ICEHOTEL, a regular feature of bucket lists, now in its 27th year.
Simon travels across Central America, from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Along the way, he goes diving on a coral reef on the coast of Belize, and witnesses a gun battle between park rangers and intruders in Chiquibul National Park. He also discovers how climate change has left Guatemala devastated by famine and drought, reports on measures to curb gang violence in El Salvador, and learns how Costa Rica aims to become the world's first carbon neutral country by 2021.