Carve out some time to take a virtual travel experience — without the tourists, lengthy lines, and crowded spaces.
We’ve all got places on our bucket list we’ve been meaning to get to in the last few years, but just haven’t quite made it. Maybe it’s to see the wonder of the Northern Lights, or to breathe deep and gaze out across the poem-inspiring mountain ridge of Machu Picchu.
What’s delayed us in getting to these places? Is it time or money? Or maybe the inevitable lines and fellow tourists out to grab the same IG shot or memorable moment?
What if you could take these trips of a lifetime, without the heat, the cost, the tourists, the lines? We’ve rounded up a few incredible virtual travel experiences around the world to visit now, from the comfort of your home.
Fontana di Trevi, Rome
Considered one of the most beautiful fountains in the world, Fontana di Trevi in Rome is on the list of every traveler new to the city. As the meeting point of three streets, the 20-meter-high fountain’s design was established in the 18th century and is considered a late-Baroque masterpiece.
On any given day, the fountain is swarming with tourists, eager to throw a coin in its vibrant aqua waters or snap a selfie with its mythological figures. In today’s isolation climate however, the fountain is an empty oasis of calm that can be viewed in real time from your living room. Take a break from your day and sit back to watch the gentle, constant flow of water shimmer under the sun’s bright light.
The soft pinks and greens of Auroral displays streaking across the night sky is as marvelous as it is elusive. The lights are the result of sun-charged particles entering the earth’s atmosphere and can often be seen high above the northern (aurora borealis) and southern (aurora australis) hemispheres.
Ranging from scattered, colored clouds to shimmering ribbons, many who make the trek to see the displays often wait out long freezing nights without ever getting a glimpse.
Thanks to a live camera set-up in the Churchill Northern Studies Center in the Canadian province of Manitoba, you can check in on the aurora oval at any time (ideally from midnight between late winter to early spring) and perhaps catch a glimpse of the spectacular display.
The archeological site of Machu Picchu is perched between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin and is one of the best places to experience the mysteries of the Inca Empire.
Discovered in 1911, the ruins sit about 2,400 meters above sea level and offer some of the most breathtaking views out across the bottle-green mountain ranges.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors trek up to this spot every year with their selfie sticks and loud chatter, which can sometimes detract from the feeling of serenity you might otherwise feel on such ancient grounds.
While nothing can replace the feeling of being at the site, you can get a taste of what the site offers with a virtual travel experience. Plugging into some atmospheric music and tuning into a virtual guided tour of the site is a great way to spend an afternoon.
UNESCO world heritage sites
Give yourself some time to explore more than one location with Google World’s UNESCO world heritage sites. Using Street View, Google has carefully tailored a list of 30 historic landmarks around the world for you to float between.
Impossible travel has become a reality in this isolation climate — stand next to the Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt after breakfast, gaze inside the La Sagrada Familia church in Spain at lunch, and take a stroll along a tree-lined path in Japan to admire the “floating” Itsukushima Shrine sitting out across the water to your left after dinner.
A virtual travel experience through Yosemite
If you’ve had your fill of man-made creations, why not step into the natural world and explore the beauty of Yosemite National Park in California. There are more than 200 locations you can venture to in Virtual Yosemite. The interactive tour was built by a former technical mountain rescuer who knows the park like the back of his hand, giving you a unique experience in all four seasons.
Stand at the top of the Half Dome on a warm summer’s day, look up into the tops of the giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa Grove, and walk across the Nevada Falls.
Each setting has a unique soundtrack, from chirping birds to running waterfalls, making for a more immersive experience.
A novel approach to virtual travel
For those of us who’d like a little more magic with our virtual travel experiences, why not delve into a fictional story set in the real world by New York Times bestselling author Reif Larsen.
“Entrances & Exits” is a digital short-form love story that uses Google Street View to take readers on a journey throughout the world, weaving fiction with reality. Follow the narrator as he finds a key in an old bookstore and soon realizes its ability to open doors throughout the world.
Best used on mobile devices, this digital book is a breathtaking way to read a beautiful story and explore different cities in one sitting.