Virtual travel sounds like a dreamed up future, where hover cars and smart contact lenses would be the norm.
However, with the increased popularity of virtual reality (VR) and people’s growing interest in affordable travel, traveling virtually is enabling us to explore the world from the comfort of our own homes, whether it’s the coral reefs of Australia, national parks in the US or ancient Egyptian tombs.
Hospitality website Revfine describes virtual travel as using technology, sometime the use of a VR headset, that helps ‘to immerse a user in a digital environment’ with the addition of images, sounds and other physical sensations.
With coronavirus travel restrictions continuing to prohibit tourists booking holidays and forcing them to reconsider their finances, virtual escapism is stepping up to provide sounds and 360-degree sights of some of the world’s most famous locations, from Amsterdam to Rio de Janeiro, at the swipe of a mouse.
Here is a list of the best virtual travel tours and experiences:
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Fitness, finances and a fear of height will usually prevent the majority of us hiking some of the world’s natural wonders, but virtual tours are changing all of that.
Google Street View trek allows users to explore the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail, while AirPano provides 360-degree photos for a view of Red Rocks. Meanwhile, Everest can be explored using Google Maps, which offers an interactive 360-degree map of the highest peaks between Nepal and China.
If you’re into climbing, check out Yosemite’s 360-degree images of its most famous climbing routes (with sound effects), close your eyes and imagine yourself climbing El Cap.
Look upon the Northern Irish coastline
Pour yourself a pint of Guinness and sit back to watch the National Trust’s array of virtual tours of Northern Ireland.
The Trust offers 360-degree imagery at dusk (with sound effects) enabling users to navigate the surrounding areas with a click of a buttona and swipe of a mouse.
You can also check out the Giant’s Cuaseway, Carnlough and Carrickarede using AirPano’s 360-degree features.
Dig deep into Egyptian tombs
Forget plane tickets and soaring heat because the Egyptian Tourist Board is inviting travellers to delve deep into the 5,000-year-old tomb of Queen Meresankh III for free.
With information and computer reconstructions, the 3D modelling also enables users to explore pigments and monuments.
Spend a day at the beach
Missed out on the 2015 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro? Well, wipe your tears because this virtual tour from Kayak let’s you visit the Brazilian city in at the click of a button.
While listening to Brazilian bossa nova music, you can explore the sights of the city, from Copacabana Beach to Christ the Redeemer.
From there, take a helicopter ride and then learn how to make Brazilian feijoada – a bean and meat stew.
Roam around world-famous museums
Cycle across Amsterdam
Forget spending hundreds of pounds on a weekend trip because you can now ‘wander’ Amsterdam for free.
With just one click, Kayak is offering users to explore the city’s sights using Google Earth including the Royal Palace, Anne Frank’s house, the Rijksmuseum and the NEMO Science Museum.
You can also take a virtual helicopter tour of the city, learn Dutch, learn how to make Hollandse Nieuwe and choose from a range of Dutch literature and TV series to immerse yourself into the culture.
Surf the sand dunes
The Namibian desert might not be the number one location on your holiday wish list right now, but it can be a reality thanks to AirPano.
The platform offers images of the Sossusvlei dunes, the trees of Dead Vlei, the starry sky at night and the famous Big Daddy Dune.
Watch The Northern Lights
Few people have witnessed the beauty of the aurora borealis but now you can with a five-minute ‘trip’ courtesy of the Norwegian Lights over Lapland project.
The ‘visit’ provides 360-degree videos of the Icehotel in Abisko national park, northern Sweden, reindeer sleighing and a hut at the bottom of Mount Noulj.
Alternatively, you can view the Lights via a webcam located in Manitoba, Canada.
Become a Londoner
If London is out of reach right now, take a trip across the capital city thanks to Kayak’s virtual tour.
The guide includes Britpop music, a virtual tour of sights including Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, a helicopter ride, a lesson in cockney rhyming slang and a recipe for a simple gin and tonic.
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