With the current Coronavirus pandemic in full swing and most countries on complete lockdown, travel is pretty much impossible right now.
It’s perfectly fine for you to be mourning your cancelled holiday or postponed trip; but there is a way to get your travel fix without leaving your house.
Virtual travel is something that I’d never looked into before, but it has been around for a few years now.
Many companies are now providing virtual travel tours of famous landmarks and museums!
So you can still see some beautiful sites and soak in some culture from the comfort of your own home.
I don’t know about you, but I have definitely added some more places to my bucket list after checking these out.
Time to start planning for when this pandemic is all over!
I’m starting with my home continent, which I am ashamed to say I haven’t seen very much of, yet!
UK: Buckingham Palace
They may not be there right now, but this is the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip.
The official website for the royals lets you see inside the palace for yourself, with a virtual tour of the Throne Room, the Grand Staircase and the White Drawing Room.
There are information buttons dotted around each area with facts and details about some of the royal possessions.
UK: British Museum
The British Museum have teamed up with the Google Cultural Institute to provide a virtual travel tour of some of their most interesting artefacts.
The project is called Museum of the World, and it allows you to travel through time, across continents and cultures.
Click on the different objects to see them up close, learn about their history and see how they are connected to others from around the world.
The English Heritage web page for Stonehenge provides a wealth of fascinating information about Britain’s world-famous prehistoric monument.
But as well as reading about the history, you can immerse yourself in the experience by taking a virtual tour.
Move around the stones and click on the information bubbles to find out more about them, or watch the live Skyscape video, complete with planet labels and stone names.
Ireland: Cliffs of Moher
Visit Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction through a number of 360 degree cameras.
The impressive Cliffs of Moher, situated in County Clare, are over 350 million years old.
I have actually visited the Cliffs of Moher in person, many years ago. I can tell you that it’s very nice to see them without being blown over and rained on!
That’s the beauty of virtual travel.
France: Le Louvre
You can’t take a virtual tour of Europe without visiting the world’s largest art museum!
The Louvre is world-famous as a museum and a historical monument, with the palace dating back to the 12th century.
The museum now has a number of virtual tours, taking you around its exhibitions, galleries and even the old moat!
France: The Eiffel Tower
Thanks to Google’s Street View, we can now take a tour of the Eiffel Tower without actually having to climb any steps!
While the world’s most visited monument lies quiet and very un-visited during this time, you can still check out the views from the top!
This isn’t the only experience that Google Maps offers, and I’ll cover a few more of them in this article.
France: Mont Blanc
How would you like to climb western Europe’s highest mountain?
Google can get you there! Watch videos of explorers who love Mont Blanc in their own different ways, explore the track yourself and see the views from the most iconic spots with Google Street View Treks.
The Netherlands: Rijksmuseum
Did you enjoy your taste of art and culture when you visited The Louvre?
Well, then you’re going to enjoy Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum!
Dedicated to arts and history, the museum displays 8,000 pieces, including masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer.
The museum has put together a fantastic virtual tour, in which you can wander the galleries and listen to audio information on the artwork.
Swedish Lapland: Northern Lights and sled dogs
I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and hopefully one day I will get to do just that.
But, in the meantime, I’m content to watch this magical event through the eyes of others.
Lights Over Lapland have a wonderful Youtube channel where they share 360 degree videos from their location in Abisko, Sweden.
These include the Aurora, polar stratospheric clouds and… sled dogs! They make me so happy. 🙂
China: Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China was actually in our plans to visit before Coronavirus hit, but of course we had to abandon that idea.
The China Guide are one of the many, many travel agencies around the world that are suffering hugely from this pandemic; but they have uploaded a virtual travel experience onto their website for us all to enjoy.
See the 360 degree panoramic view from three sections of The Great Wall and marvel at this epic creation!
Take a look at a whole range of highlights from beautiful Japan.
The Japan National Tourist Organisation have created a VR movie in 360 degrees, which shows you traditional Japanese culture, colourful cafes, sushi trains and sumo wrestlers!
Cambodia: Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is one of my favourite places to visit in the world.
Virtual Angkor is a teaching program for students to learn about this ancient city, but it’s also an awesome tool for us to take a look, too.
There are 360 degree virtual simulations of different areas of Angkor Wat where you can see what everyday life would have been like at the time of the Khmer Empire.
There are also a number of 15 second scenes from life in Angkor, which I got completely lost in. 🙂
India: Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is known by many for its beauty and the love story that it represents.
This is definitely on my bucket list.
Egypt: Pyramids of Giza
Another one from Google Street View Treks is a trip to the only surviving Ancient Wonder of the World!
Learn about the history, location, purpose, materials and labour that went into the creation of these enormous structures, then take a wander around them yourself.
East Africa: Safari
Asilia Africa are a travel company who arrange safari trips in two countries in East Africa: Kenya and Tanzania, including Zanzibar.
There are many regions to choose from, but with their virtual travel safari videos we can see more than one!
Watch elephants eat a baobab tree, hang around with fish eagles or explore one of their beautiful lodges.
You can also check out this virtual tour of the highlights of Africa from Bench Africa. The 360 degree video experience takes you on a quick tour around the continent.
Israel: Jerusalem & Tel Aviv
Take a guided tour around the pilgrimage site of Jerusalem, usually visited by so many.
This 360 degree video takes you around the city’s most famous sites and is accompanied by an audio guide, so you know exactly what you’re looking at.
Once you’ve explored Jerusalem, check out this guided tour of Tel Aviv, too!
Google Street View Treks has outdone itself with this incredible tour of the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom: Petra.
Move through the map for a 360 degree experience and an audio voice-over of each stop.
Learn about the Nabataeans and watch a video narrated by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan. It truly is a wonderful experience.
New York: Central Park
Everybody has heard about Central Park but if, like me, you haven’t made it there yet, YouVisit have got you covered.
Walk around New York’s huge park in this virtual tour, complete with audio descriptions and additional images, text and panoramas.
The weather is beautiful and there is so much to see!
California: Yosemite National Park
The National Park Service website lets you view eight webcams around Yosemite National Park in real time.
The park is currently closed due to Coronavirus, so you won’t see anyone cruising down the ski slopes, but the views are just wonderful.
Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park
In this virtual tour, you can actually participate in hikes and learn about the environment around you, while listening to some sounds of the area.
The National Park Service have put together walk-throughs of the Grand Teton climb and the String Lake hike.
You can also experience the beauty of the Moose-Wilson corridor.
Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park
The National Park Service have taken a different approach to virtual travel in Rocky Mountain NP, which I absolutely adore.
They have created a Sound Library, featuring indexes of bird sounds, wildlife and natural soundscapes.
I have happily spent a good deal of time with my eyes closed listening to these beautiful noises and picturing myself somewhere far away from my bedroom.
Manitoba, Canada: Northern Lights
Hopefully you managed to watch the Northern Lights in Sweden earlier, but how would you like to watch them live?
Explore.org have a live webcam set up at the Churchill Northern Studies Center.
So grab a cuppa, snuggle up in the warm and watch the night sky shine!
Peru: Machu Picchu
Experience this majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site from your home with this awesome virtual travel tour from YouVisit.
Get a panoramic view from 11 different parts of the site, accompanied by an audio description and additional photos and videos.
They also recorded a GoPro video with binaural microphones, meaning that you can listen with headphones and it feels like you’re really there!
It’s incredible, seriously, give it a try.
Just be aware that if you get motion sickness, you may only want to watch small bits at a time as the fish-eye lens gets a bit dizzying.
Brazil: Rio de Janeiro
Check out another awesome series of panoramic aerial shots from AirPano, this time over the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.
The images show the huge statue at different times and with differing weather conditions.
Even without the statue, the view over the city from the top of the mountain is stunning.
Australia’s national airline, Qantas, also have a range of 360 virtual travel videos, which will show you an Alice Springs bird show, an Uluru camel tour, Hamilton Island, Sydney Harbour, Kangaroo Island and Daintree.
There’s also a 30 second highlight of Sydney’s VIVID festival!
Having recently come back from spending over a year in the beautiful country of New Zealand, I am happy with anything that will help bring back some of those wonderful memories.
AirPano have some lovely moody 360 aerial shots of stunning Fiordland, which take me right back.
You can fly with a kea in this 360 video from Tourism NZ, as the cheeky bird steals the camera and flies over Doubtful Sound.
The Department of Conservation have created this video with six 360 degree still images from five of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
Plus, you can see some of the sites from the nation’s capital, Wellington, in four 360 videos from WellTown.
Nope, I haven’t forgotten this icy continent that so few people are able to experience!
National Geographic have a 360 degree virtual travel video of Antarctica, so you can gaze across the frozen landscape and get up close and personal with penguins!
And if you have an interest in Antarctica and you have a spare 45 minutes (let’s face it, a lot of us do at the moment), check out this talk with Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer.
He shares his fascinating story of travelling south to capture some images for the prestigious magazine and his experiences with some of the wildlife there, with his stunning photographs on the screen behind him.
If you don’t fancy watching the whole talk but would like to see some of the footage, skip to 42:48 for the last few minutes.
Google Arts & Culture
There are a lot of other virtual travel experiences that I haven’t included in this list, because they are all on Google Arts & Culture.
So, rather than list them all out, I thought I’d include this section at the end so that you can visit the site and explore for yourself.
Hit the Explore button to view detailed artworks, 360 videos and more Street View tours.
Phew! That’s my virtual trip around the world finished!
I have thoroughly enjoyed researching and putting all of these resources together for you, and I hope that you enjoy your virtual travel as much as I did.
After all, I think we could all do with a little bit of escapism at the moment!
Even if we weren’t all adjusting to life in lockdown, I think it is important to recognise the power of VR in the travel industry as a fantastic planning and research tool.
Have you added any new places to your bucket list? Where’s the first place you’ll visit once travel is an option again? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- How to stay healthy while travelling
- 9 tips for a long distance relationship that works!
- Travelling with anxiety: a personal experience story
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