International travel may seem like a distant dream, but it doesn’t mean you have to wait until the skies open again to see some of the world’s most famous sites.
Thanks to today’s technology, you can ‘visit’ places near and far without leaving your home. Virtual tours and videos make it possible. While nothing beats taking in the sights in person, a virtual tour is the next best thing to being there. Best of all, you can even use them as inspiration for planning your next trip.
Virtual tours are much like the videos you see on real estate websites that let you ‘walk through’ a property. Places like museums use the same technology to take you inside to see their collections and exhibits. Depending on your device, you can use your mouse, fingers, or a trackpad to navigate your way around.
In this article we look at some of the places you can visit online, including:
Skip the queues and crowds and take your time soaking in the fine artwork at places like the Louvre and Sistine chapel.
Google Arts & Culture is another great place to view collections of artwork and virtual tours of museums like the Palace of Versailles, National Gallery of London and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the Met). In some cases you can even see the actual brushstrokes on masterpieces. All made possible through Google’s partnership with cultural institutions around the world. If you need help using the virtual tours, scroll to the bottom of this article for tips.
See the big cats and other wild animals up close and in their natural habitat. &Beyond is a travel company taking viewers on a daily game drive through several reserves to see the animals live in action. You can even ask the guides questions online. There’s a morning and afternoon tour (Central Africa time), but you may find their morning tour works best with the time difference in Australia. If you can’t join the live tours, you can catch the recorded safaris on YouTube.
Do you miss the theatre? You will love BroadwayHD. It’s a streaming service, much like Netflix, but the difference is it’s designed for theatre lovers. So you can watch professionally filmed live performances of the ballet, musicals and plays from around the world. It does come at a cost however: US$8.99 per month, or you can sign up for a one-week free trial.
Did you know that just 0.01% of the world’s population has dived on a coral reef? It's just one of the facts you’ll discover in David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef, an interactive learning journey developed to raise awareness of the reef. It uses video and interactive tools to take you underwater to meet the fish and coral who call the reef home. You’ll discover how the reef was born and watch the journeys of dwarf minke whales and green turtles as they cross the seas to migrate to the reef.
To see more of the reef, you can take a virtual dive just off Lady Elliott Island to spot manta rays, turtles and coral. In this video from seaview360, you get a 360-degree view of life underwater by using the arrows at the top left of the screen to control where the camera points. It’s just like being in the water.
Explore the pristine mountains, glaciers and lagoons of Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska with park ranger Fiona North. The virtual tour will take you kayaking between icebergs and climbing down inside an icy crevasse.
Shot from above by drone, these videos offer a bird’s eye view of natural landscapes and vibrant cities across the world like New York City. Earth from above is another must-see video that includes scenes from Norway, Hawaii, Fiji and even South Australia’s coastline.
How to use virtual tours
Virtual tours allow you to explore your environment with the use of your device.
Most virtual tours have instructions or pre-set buttons you can press to navigate, but if they don’t, you can use the information below as a guide on how to use your device to control your view. Don’t worry if you get stuck, you can always exit the video and start again.
Using a mouse - click and drag the cursor in the direction you want to look.
Using on-screen icons – click on icons you see on screen to see where they will take you.
Using a keyboard - press the arrow keys to navigate. For example, left key to turn left, or up key to look up or move forward.
Using a trackpad on your laptop – tap down with one finger and use another finger to drag in the direction you want to look.