Sometimes we can’t always explore all the places that we’d like to. It may be due to budget, health or due to a global phenomenon impacting us all. But, just because you can’t get to where you want to be, it doesn’t need to be the end of your travel passion. With the wonders of modern technology, you can take join a wealth of virtual tours around the world.
Whether you want to study the history of your chosen destination, admire stunning landscapes or even enjoy some animal adventures, there’s a whole host of virtual trips and online resources to help you sit back, relax, and sample some incredible travel experiences from the comfort of your own home.
Virtual tours for the cultural connoisseur
If you’re the sort of person who seeks out the local museum as your first stop on a city break, then there are still ways to see some of the world’s top cultural treasures. With these virtual tours you can get the perfect view of some of the world’s most cherished artefacts. And even better, you can take your time and savour all of the exhibits without having to worry about the crowds.
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum, located in the heart of Paris, France. The stunning building is a landmark itself and contains globally renown masterpieces with more than 35,000 artworks on display. Notable works include the Venus de Milo sculpture, Théodore Géricault’s the Raft of Medusa, and Jacques-Louis David’s the Coronation of Napoleon. Of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa always draws a crowd but with this virtual tour of the Louvre, you can enjoy a private audience.
If that gives you a taste for European museums, then the British Museum in London, UK offers one of the most comprehensive collections of anthropological artefacts and astonishing artworks chronicling 2 million years of human history and culture. From ancient Egypt to the height of the Roman Empire via Mesopotamia, you can get lost for hours in this extraordinary space as you sample the objects from some of the museum’s 60 free galleries.
Looking for a few more options? Try La Storia Museum in Madaba, Jordan. Take a virtual tour of the historical and cultural heritage of Jordan by way of a 360 virtual tour of the La Storia Tourism Complex. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of National History digital tour in the US lets you explore both current and past exhibits.
Seeking to indulge your artistic appetite then there are take a deep dive into the works of one genius somewhere like the Salvdor Dali Museum in Girona, Spain or you can savour the variety of masterpieces on show at the The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC offers plenty of resources including virtual tours. A few of these are actually aimed at school children but there’s no harm in learning something new as you virtually explore works from artists such as Rembrandt, Tuner and Constable. Through the Google Arts and Culture platform you can explore a number of online exhibits from right across the globe. With The Guggenheim, Getty Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art in the USA to the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in Japan or the Nairobi Gallery in Kenya.
If the theatre is more up your street, you can enjoy a free viewing of Hamlet in the Globe Theatre, the home of Shakespeare, online at the Globe Theatre YouTube channel.
Trips into the past for the history lover
Looking to discovering some of the architectural wonders of the world? Well, you can do that with your tablet in bed. And there’s no need to worry about ancient cobbles, steep turret stairs or low archways causing hazards as virtual tours of historical places have the advantage of added accessibility.
Rome is a hotspot of ancient architecture. Why not give this virtual tour of the Pantheon from 360 Cities a go to get a feel for it. Perhaps this online walking tour of the Colosseum is for you or browse a whole host of virtual tours of the Vatican.
Machu Picchu in Peru is on my wish list of must-see destinations but while I can’t visit in person there is always a fantastic online resource dedicated to the Inca temples called Machu Picchu 360 VR. With dedicated user steams for those on lower bandwidth this site helps everyone enjoy a little sense of this place. Pick your location on the vast sprawling structures, learn a little about its history and purpose and experience the views of the site in glorious 3D. Mind blowing on a VR headset but still worth it on a laptop or phone screen too!
Online exploring for the outdoor enthusiast
Nothing says frontier like the American wilderness, which brings to mind some of the great explorers charting the “new world”. Some of the most incredible wonders have been preserved in the vast national parks of the US. From “the American spa” of the Hotsprings National Park in Arkansas to the stunning views of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, you’re bound to find a virtual tour to take your breath away.
If you need a little time to get lost in the American wilds then the US National Park Service Virtual Parks pages is a great place to start. And, if your looking for even more from the US National Parks, another great resource is The Hidden World of National Parks from the team at Google.
Moving down towards South America, you can take a virtual tour of a vast Amazon rain forest, home to 10% of all species on the planet. Get up close and personal with all sorts of nature through virtual reality and even climb right to the top of some of the world’s tallest trees using Conservation.org’s Under the Canopy footage.
Alternatively you can head all the way north too. As well as beautiful views there’s also the chance to experiencing one of the northern hemisphere’s most impressive natural phenomenons. Check out the aurora borealis (or northern lights) webcams trained on the skies over Churchill Northern Studies Center in Manitoba, Canada where you can get a glimpse of this amazing spectacle. But remember, just like a visit in person, there are no guarantees but an online tour of the night sky does have the added bonus of a cosy home setting while you wait.
Want a bit more control over you virtual tour? Visit Faroe Islands has started a Remote Tourism Project which lets you discover the country from a local’s viewpoint in real time! Local guides have been equipped with a live video cameras and you not only get to follow along but you can actually control where the go. As long as you don’t aim your tour guide at a cliff they can take you wherever you want to go on the remote island. How cool is that!
Virtual tours for adventure seekers
Is there anything more adventurous than exploring the final frontier with a trip into outer space? Well, we can’t quite offer than but NASA have created some out-of-this-world 360-degree tours of some of their most significant locations including the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, which acts as the control centre for the Hubble Space telescope. Just don’t touch any of those buttons.
If you fancy something a bit more down to earth, Quark Expeditions on YouTube can take you on an unforgettable voyage to Antarctica. Experience exploring on the Zodiac dinghy, a specially designed landing craft, as you take on the point of view of one of the expedition passengers in this 360-degree virtual reality experience. Be sure to wrap up warm though!
And if you’re looking for a more extreme VR travel experience, then what could be better than diving with sharks? This thrilling experience takes you beneath the surface in the Bahamas where you can meet the local hammerhead and nurse sharks. Why not give diving with Sharks with GOPRO a try.
Gentle journeys for laid back digital travel
Looking to experience a whole new world? Well you don’t have to wish upon a star to experience a little bit of Disney magic (albeit remotely) with this a virtual viewing of Disney’s Magic Happens parade. Of course this also gives you a perfect excuse to re-watch all the Disney classics too. It’s research – it’s all travel research. Honest.
If those aren’t quite for you then what about a nice slower-paced adventure? Recently, the phenomenon of “Slow TV” has come to the fore and for travel enthusiasts it can be a perfect placebo. You can watch some long but beautiful journeys from all over the world and get lost in these mesmerising treks.
Options include the a canal boat slowing meandering its way along the English waterways with a two-hour journey along the Kennet and Avon Canal online.
How about experiencing a traditional reindeer sleigh ride? Filmed in Karasjok, Norway, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, this epic journey filmed by BBC Four follows the Sami people who are indigenous to northern Scandinavia as they travel through breathtaking Scandinavian scenery.
Sticking with the inventors of the slow-TV phenomenon, here’s another epic journey if you felt just a couple of hours was a little too short. How about a 10 hour train route through the Arctic Circle along the Nordlandsbanen or Nordland Line? It’s great to stick on in the background for those lusting after beautiful Norwegian landscapes. You can read a book while the world goes by or even take a short walk to the buffet car (that would be your kitchen) and get some snacks.
Virtual travel tours for animal lovers
If you’ve ever wanted to go on safari and experience the incredible wildlife of the African bush? Well, now you can with Africam. There’s an incredible range of live streams on offer 24 hours a day, each showcasing a unique wildlife location. Just like a real safari, you’ll have to do a bit of work to see the wildlife but why not plonk yourself under a duvet on the couch and see what you can spot. It’s certainly a cheaper option than a full blown African safari with comfort guaranteed. There’s plenty to see including big cats like lions and leopards as well nature’s giants like elephants and hippos and so much more (but if you don’t want to wait, they do post some of the highlights). There’s also the stunning landscapes to see,not to mention epic sunsets if you time it right, all without the dusty safari tent, bumpy tour vehicle or scary nighttime noises.
Another option is to explore the amazing diverse wildlife of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswanna through this 360 video and VR experience from National Geographic. The footage was captured during an expedition to survey local wildlife and ecosystems by canoe give a pretty unique experience.
BBC’s Planet Earth II series also took some amazing 360 footage including during filming in the Galapagos. Or course, you can also enjoy the whole series on streaming services including BBC iPlayer if you are based in the UK.
And it’s not just land animals getting all the attention, there’s also virtual whale watching. Whales pass along America’s coast each spring and Oregon State Parks recently live streamed the migration and have all video’s available online. Why not set up the screen and sit and watch those whales go by?
If you’re looking for some guaranteed animal experiences a wildlife park or zoo might be worth a try too (just make sure to do your research even if you’re only visiting virtually). Jersey Zoo in the Channel Islands are just one of the many zoos around the world who have launched a virtual tour of the zoo so you can meet the resident animals, learn about their lives and about the conservation work that goes on there.
City exploring online
Sometimes you just want to experience the hustle and bustle of city life. Somewhere new and exciting, where you can experience the culture, people and the nightlife.
Tokyo is one of the world’s great metropolises and with Tokyo Explorer, you can experience everything this incredible city has to offer from the shopping and entertainment hubs to the busy nightlife and even the beautiful parks.
Looking for the local’s perspective of Scotland? ScotRail have lots footage on Scotland’s rail routes allowing you to enjoy the thrill of a daily commute. You can also find hours of footage featuring the more scenic routes too, perfect for those wanting a little virtual day trip as well and to take in more of Scotland’s stunning countryside.
For those looking for a bit more of a personal touch tour guide Katie Wignall is hosting virtual walking tours across the city of London. You can join her over on Instagram on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2pm GMT. If you fancy just a quick dip into London’s biggest attractions you can always start with a few famous landmarks such as a tour inside Buckingham Palace or a 360 virtual tour of the Houses of Parliament .
Dreaming of the “Big Apple”? You can also explore New York’s Central Park virtually complete with audio commentary to help you learn about the famous landmarks throughout the park!
Not found your perfect virtual travel tour?
Still not sure where to go? Explore everywhere using the travel function on Google Earth! The world really is your oyster. But if this world isn’t enough for you, there is always the option to take a virtual walk on Mars courtesy of NASA and their little rovers.
Restrictions on travel are hard, whatever they are, but remember there are lots of ways to explore our beautiful planet. Try out a virtual tour, a 360 experience or some of the amazing online resources available at your fingertips. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll always have a front row seat to some of the best attractions.
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