The Best Virtual Travel Experiences to Enjoy Now
by Olivia Michel
Countries across the world have closed their borders to prevent the further spread of coronavirus. This necessary, yet totally unprecedented, move has halted global tourism, forcing industry professionals to think about new ways to promote their country’s tourist attractions during lockdown.
Thanks to virtual reality (VR) technology and 360-degree videography, tourists can now travel abroad from the comfort of their own homes. We round up the best virtual travel tours and online travel experiences that can be enjoyed online during coronavirus quarantine.
Virtual Reality Scuba Diving Tours
For superyacht owners and charterers, one of the best activities available at sea is scuba diving. National Geographic has created 360 degree videos of nature spots and dive sites which, when pared with an Oculus Quest VR headset, can offer users the chance to swim with Humpback Whales in Antarctica or explore Indonesia’s coral reefs. To dive in, click here.
For more chances to take a virtual dive into the deep sea, head to the National Marine Sanctuaries website, which uses 360 degree photos and videos to educate viewers about life below the surface. Want to swim with sea lions? Click here.
Virtual Reality National Parks
Those looking for a change of scenery on dry land will be delighted to know that a number of tourist boards have now launched virtual tours of their countries' beauty spots. National parks across the US, including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the Everglades, now offer 360-degree videos via google earth. To explore, click here. For a truly detailed journey through the beautiful National Park of Yosemite, click here.
On the Google Arts platform, you can also enjoy a detailed virtual journey through another five national parks. To explore Alaska's Kenai Fjords, the volcanoes of Hawai'i or Utah's Bryce Canyon, click here.
In the UK, the National Trust has curated a selection of virtual tours to off some of their most breath-taking vistas and gardens, from the Giant's Causeway in Ireland to the flower beds of Hidcote House in Gloucestershire. To embark on your virtual stroll, click here.
The historic Arundel Castle in West Sussex has also produced a colourful video of their tulip festival, allowing visitors to enjoy this year's collection of 80,000 flowers while staying at home. Click here for some home gardening inspiration.
Virtual Reality Sightseeing Tours
Some tourist boards have gone one step further and created interactive tours of the entire country, highlighting their nation's most popular cultural sites and beauty spots.
Switzerland's immersive virtual experience allows armchair travellers to enjoy the view from the peaks of St Moritz, sit on the shores of Lake Lugano or peer up at Zurich’s historic cathedrals. All together, tourists can take in 22 lakes, five alpine passes and 12 UNESCO sites all from inside their home. To discover Switzerland, click here.
Austria is also showcasing the country’s most iconic spots with 360-degree videos. The Ice Caves of Werfen and Mozart’s residence are some of the sites featured, plus users can experience virtual boat tours along the Danube river. To discover Austria, click here.
The coastal country of Portugal is famed for its rich and varied cultural heritage. On the tourist board website, you can take look inside some of the country's most beautiful museums or take a virtual train ride through Lisbon. To discover Portugal, click here.
If you want a quick glimpse of a country's most impressive landmark or popular cities, there are hundreds of site-specific virtual tours now available online.
Highlight's from Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way can now be experienced from home. To enjoy a ride on horseback along Streedagh Beach or a surfing session below the Cliffs of Moher, click here.
Google Maps have used their technology to present tours of a number of beauty spots across to globe. Click here for a chance to meet Polar Bears in Canada, Trek along Nepal's Khumbu mountains or roam the romantic canals of Venice.
With the help of virtual effects, those who have wondered what the Cambodian site of Angkor Wat looked like in it's prime can uncover it's history by clicking here. To see what the temples look like today, click here.
Want to visit the Seven Wonders of the World without leaving your home? All of them are available online. You can peer out from Machu Picchu without making the climb if you click here, or explore Petra of Jordan with a helpful audio guide if you click here. If you want to walk along the Great Wall of China, click here.
Those missing out on sampling the best champagnes during vineyard visits can now enjoy a 360-degree virtual tour of the hillsides, houses and cellars of France's Champagne region. To get a behind-the-scenes look at the production process of the famous bubbly, click here. If watching that makes you thirsty, take a look at our roundup of the best wine delivery services.
Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer has also suggested interactive ways to experience the city’s highlights, inspired by the five senses. For a taste of the Principality, resident chefs have shared their signature dishes here so that viewers can bring hotel cuisine to their own home. To listen to the sounds of Monte-Carlo’s nightclub scene, you can tune into the online playlists from COYA with Spotify. Click here to listen.
To take in Monaco’s famous sights, the Société has recommended adding some James Bond movies to you quarantine movie watchlist. The Bond films GoldenEye and Never Say Never Again are both back-dropped by the famous Monte-Carlo Casino and the French Riviera beachfront.
A Hotel Experience at Home
Alongside joining the fight against COVID-19 with charitable donations, some luxury hotels are also offering experiences that can be enjoyed at home. While some are sharing their chefs' recipes or mixology masterclasses, others are live-streaming yoga classes or uploading tours of resort grounds.
Examples include the Jamaica Inn hotel in Ocho Rios, from which you can enjoy cookery, yoga, 360 degree tours and live music here, as well as wellness classes broadcast from the two Chablé Hotels in Mexico, available here.
Virtual Reality Museum Tours
For those missing out on the cultural delights of museums and theatre, the wonders of technology have come to the rescue. The British Museum was already ahead of the curve when it launched its Hold the World VR experience in collaboration with Sir David Attenborough back in 2018. The Sky TV app, when used together with a VR headset, allows users to handle the museum's collection and have a one-on-one lesson from Attenborough. To find out more, click here.
Goggle Arts has made it easy for those at home to step inside almost all of the world's top museums. If you want to see Vatican City's Sistine Chapel, or the extensive art collection at the Louvre, click here to get your cultural fix.
Other museums have created more personalised tours, available on their own websites. The VR tour of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is particularly impressive, so click here here to enjoy. Alternatively, click here to take a close-up look at that art of the Uffizi gallery in Florence. Over in New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a collection of 360-degree videos that you can watch here.
Online Theatre Performances
Other cultural experiences now accessible online include a number of live-streamed theatre performances. To watch some Shakespearean plays in their original performance space, head to the website of London's Globe theatre here. Another London institution also streaming it's performances of opera and ballet is The Royal Opera House: click here to enjoy.
For additional performances of operas by Puccini, Verdi and Mozart, click here to head to the Opera Vision website. The Metropolitan has also started streaming performances as of April 20, so you can watch the first show, Tosca, online here.
Sad to have missed the cherry blossom season in Japan? Be transported to the country's capital by watching a Kabuki performance here, courtesy of the Tokyo National Theatre.
Want to bring a bit of Broadway home? If you're a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, you can watch your favourites on youtube via The Shows Must Go On! Youtube channel. Click here to tune in.
Even if it can’t compare to a real life experience, VR technology is still allowing us to get a little closer to the world’s greatest wonders. At the very least, these platforms might help travellers plan their next superyacht holiday or city break once the lockdown has been lifted.
Looking for more virtual experiences? Head over to our Virtual BOAT Show