These virtual experiences make it possible to travel from home.
Exploring unfamiliar cultures, making new friends, and revelling in that undeniable sense of freedom: There’s no doubt travel is an irreplaceable experience. But what to do when the travel bug bites and you’re stuck at home? Don’t pack your bags. Don’t worry about feeding the cat while you’re away. Don’t stress if your passport needs to be renewed.
Just go: Train like a NASA astronaut, watch the Northern Lights, visit Jerusalem, Macchu Picchu and the pyramids of Giza, observe orcas in Canada and giraffes in Africa, and dive into the surreal world of Salvador Dali – all on one lazy Sunday morning, from the comfort of your own bed.
We’ve rounded up some of the most incredible virtual travel experiences out there. From exploring our vast galaxy to investigating the tiniest brushstrokes in an artistic masterpiece – there’s something on this list for everyone.
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Wonders Of The World
Jerusalem, Marrakesh and more
Travel and navigation app Sygic have teamed up with Samsung VR to bring you an incredible library of 360°videos from every corner of the world. Tour cities like Bethlehem, Agra, Marrakesh, Verona, Seville and Athens in short, high quality films narrated by tour guides. Even without a VR device, you can easily explore the virtual experience footage from every angle by dragging your mouse across the screen.
Take an interactive tour of one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments: Stonehenge. From the history of the stones to their surrounding landscape, this website is full of fascinating information. Peek up for a view of the sky and track the movements of the sun and our planets across the vast blue heavens right above this mystical stone circle.
Escape Hong Kong’s sticky heat with interactive footage of magical Lapland. With its winter wonderland vibes, this destination has a top spot on bucket lists across the globe – but it can be a pricy holiday. So why not do the next best thing: Get cosy on your couch, grab a mug of hot cocoa and experience the magical Aurora Borealis and a thrilling dog sled ride in Lights Over Lapland’s interactive 360° videos.
The Seven World Wonders
All seven world wonders in one place: every (virtual) traveller’s dream come true. Inspiring awe even from afar, the monuments can now be admired from all angles in this collection of interactive videos brought to you by the New York Times.
Here’s one virtual experience that’s a step up from the rest. You’ll want to use a large desktop or hook your laptop up to a TV because this collection of interactive aerial footage is nothing short of stunning. Marvel at the panoramic views, explore the area from the perspective of the great sphinx and enjoy the sunset over Cairo.
Out Of This World
The great thing about virtual travel is that it doesn’t have to be tethered by gravity. From learning what it takes to become an astronaut (spoiler: there’s a giant swimming pool involved) to exploring the Kennedy Space Center, there’s no shortage of virtual experiences provided by NASA. We love that you can tour the International Space Station – the astronaut’s home away from home.
Yes, you read that right. Featuring actual footage collected by the Mars rover, the Access Mars website allows you to roam the red earth and discover some of the areas that were key to mapping its surface. Perhaps you’ll get lost in this strange new world. Or perhaps you’ll realise quicker than you expected that it really is just… a dusty red planet. Intriguing either way!
Animals & Nature
Great Barrier Reef
Delve deep into the mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef – alongside none other than the revered Sir David Attenborough. Brought to you by Atlantic Productions, this beautifully designed interactive journey will take you through five well thought-out chapters featuring videos, images, statistics and snippets of information that include mind-boggling facts like, oh, that the reef is about the size of Italy.
It might seem like the majestic Yosemite national park wouldn’t translate to the screen, but yosemite.com is proof to the contrary. Explore some of the park’s most iconic sights, including the breath-taking vistas from Half Dome Summit (without having to complete the gruelling hike to the top – win!) and the almost 2,500-foot high Yosemite waterfall. Bonus points: no need to worry about bears.
Live Nature Cams
Explore.org, the world’s leading philanthropic live nature cam network and documentary film channel, brings you a collection of live footage that will make you feel like you’re hiding in the bush, donning binoculars. Here you can watch everything from birds, bees, gorillas, orcas and lions… to kittens, senior dogs and farm animals. Live videos set in nature are often serene scenes with little action, but there are plenty of highlight videos to choose from if you’re looking for the most memorable moments.
Natural History Museum
Nature documentaries and Sir David Attenborough – name a better duo. We’ll wait. That’s why the legend is featuring not once, but twice in this segment. Take a walk through London’s Natural History Museum with Attenborough’s soothing voice as your guide, and discover the secrets of the museum’s Hintze Hall with its iconic blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling.
Art & Museums
The jaw-dropping frescoes in the Sistine Chapel include some of the most iconic images of the era, and this virtual tour will instantly captivate even the most indifferent viewer. From the stunningly tiled floors to Michelangelo’s painted ceiling, you’ll be able to marvel at what is often considered the epitome of High Renaissance art. See if you can spot the famous depiction of God creating Adam, and supplement the experience with Getty’s audio guide to Michelangelo, a series of short tracks that will give you some background information on the artist.
Resembling a cosmic guitar fretboard, this interactive timeline is unlike any other virtual experience we’ve come across. It’s worth visiting if only to zip up and down the timeline and enjoy the pleasant tinkling sounds as you pass over the milestones, each representing a different historical artefact.
Dreams of Dali
Dreamlike and totally engrossing, this is exactly what you would expect from a 360 video diving straight into the realm of Salvador Dali’s art. Set in Dali’s iconic Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus, you’ll journey through the painting’s eerie, almost prehistoric atmosphere. Be sure to grab a pair of headphones and darken the room for this one – or if you’re lucky enough to own a VR headset, download the experience here.
The National Women’s History Museum is home to a series of online exhibitions that focus on badass females throughout American history. Dig deep into topics like women in the Olympic games, fierce first ladies, the women of NASA, civil rights activists, fashion icons, adventurers and more. Worth a watch for women and men.
With over 60,000 square metres of exhibition space, The Louvre can be one intimidating museum. From the comfort of your couch, however, it feels a lot more manageable. There’s plenty of content to discover here: take a walk through the museum itself with these 360 images, explore a variety of virtual tours, and get a closer look at some of the museum’s most famous paintings and sculptures.
Google Arts & Culture
Though there is plenty of fantastic virtual content available, few sites will suck you in quite as much as Google Arts & Culture. The content is endless. Zoom into your favourite masterpieces and become familiar with every last brushstroke; take a quiz to find out how well you know your artists; take to the streets and visit some of the world’s most famous graffiti; and get to know some of the most influential artists of all time. Talk about a full virtual experience.
Musicals & Shows
The National Theatre is streaming full-length theatre productions on its site. Catch the likes of Othello, The Cherry Orchard, Coriolanus and more, all from the comfort of your sofa. There are options to subscribe to monthly packages, or simply pay for each play as you go. New plays are added monthly!
NPR’s list of virtual concerts
Miss live music? Don’t miss NPR’s selection of Tiny Desk Concerts and live sessions, which are more than enough to keep music aficionados entertained for hours.
Victoria and Albert Museum
From Andrew Lloyd Webber to Ziegfield Follies, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s A-Z of Musical Theatre is a wonderful collection of images and nuggets of information that will leave you asking for an encore. Marvel at the museum’s costume collection, which includes a dapper suit worn by none other than Fred Astaire and some of the striking outfits designed for the musical production of The Lion King.
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Featured image courtesy of Element5 Digital via Unsplash; Image 1 courtesy of Annie Spratt via Unsplash; Image 2 courtesy of Thomas Lipke via Unsplash; Image 3 courtesy of Rosario Janza via Unsplash; Image 4 courtesy of NASA; Image 5 courtesy of Access Mars; Image 6 courtesy of Francesco Ungaro via Unsplash; Image 7 courtesy of Brannon Naito via Unsplash; Image 8 courtesy of Laura Chouette via Unsplash; Image 9 courtesy of Calvin Craig via Unsplash; Image 10 courtesy of The Dali Museum; Image 11 courtesy of The Louvre via Facebook; Image 12 courtesy of the National Theatre via Facebook; Image 13 courtesy of NPR via Facebook; Image 14 courtesy of Phantom of the Opera via Facebook.