Think of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown as our planet's way of grounding us. For an indefinite period of time, Earth has sent all of us to our rooms, and urged us to think long and hard about our behaviour, before we are allowed to step out again. Now we know that this is important, and us staying confined to our houses for some time, is necessary for the world to go back to normal one day. But that doesn't nullify the progressively heightening feeling of frustration, especially when we think about all our travel plans that now stand cancelled.
Believe you me, I would do anything to teleport to the mountains, or stand in front of a beach right this moment. But unfortunately, since that isn't feasible, we will have to resort to whatever means we have, to satisfy some of our travel cravings. One of the silver linings we've managed to find in this pandemic predicament is the fact that it happened in 2020. Just imagine if this pandemic happened when India was still warming up to the World Wide Web, and not now when most of us have access to WiFi, social media sites, online discussion forums, movie streaming sites and a billion other ways to stay entertained.
From the umpteen things you can choose do online, one is to explore the world of virtual travelling. Virtual travel tours have been increasingly gaining popularity, especially in present times, when VR vacations are our only shot at a holiday. Virtual reality tourism, that includes VR sightseeing, virtual reality beach vacations, virtual reality city tours and even VR space travel, is a mushrooming niche of travelling experiences one can gain access to right from their bed.
If virtual travelling sounds like something you'd love to partake in, here's a list of the 10 best virtual travel experiences, that will let you explore the world during a lockdown.
1. Experience The Splendour Of The Northern Lights
Of all the things I'd love to witness, virtually or not, the surreal phenomenon of The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis would win hands-down. One of the best virtual travel tours on the Internet right now, The Norwegian Lights over Lapland project gives you a virtual travel experience of the spectacular sight of dazzling light play on the skies of Sweden. Your VR trip will begin from the Icehotel in Abisko National Park and culminate at a cosy wooden hut at the base of Mount Njullá, with a splendid view of the Northern Lights.
Image Courtesy - Lights Over Lapland
2. Tour The Grand Canyon
Google Street View has come to the rescue of countless explorers stuck within the four walls of their house. And now by offering 3D virtual tours of the world-renowned Bright Angel Trail at The Grand Canyon, Google Street View Trek is letting you hike through a world wonder, virtually. Zigzagging its way from the Colorado River and down to the south rim, this trail makes for both a stunning experience and a thrilling travel tale, albeit a virtual one. You can also get 360* sweeping views of the red rocks on AirPano.
Image Courtesy - Air Pano
3. Climb The Everest
The best part about virtual travel tours is that they let you venture on adventures, you perhaps wouldn't have been able to IRL. And climbing Mt. Everest definitely counts as one such virtual travel experience. Google Maps will let you explore the world's highest peak by offering interactive 360-degree views of the snowy peaks between Nepal and China. You can also try this Youtube video for an incredible virtual reality experience of flying on a helicopter through Mt. Everest.
Image Courtesy - Google Maps
4. Go On A Pilgrimage To Mecca and Medina
Whether you believe in religion or not, there's no denying that religion has given the world some spectacular monuments, architecturally and entire cities bursting with history and iconography. Two among them would be Mecca and Medina, especially considering non-Muslims are not even allowed into Mecca, with serious penalties for those who try to flout this rule. Fortunately, no matter what religion you belong to (or don't!), you can now take a virtual tour of the two holiest cities of Islam. After all, it's difficult to deny how intriguing the time of Hajj (the annual Islamic pilgrimage to these holy cities) is. You can use Google Maps to go on a virtual travelling journey to Saudi Arabia, and witness the awe-inspiring pilgrimage through your computer. Or you can virtually explore Meccah and Medina with this incredible 360* VR Youtube video by The New York Times, that gives you a glimpse of the pious Islamic cube structure of Kaabah along with the Royal Mecca Clock which is five times the size of Big Ben, as well as the marvellous Nabawi Square. Mind you, non-Muslims aren't given access to these religious sights, so this VR travel experience makes for a unique opportunity of witnessing them first hand.
Image Courtesy - Google Earth
5. Explore An Underwater Shipwreck
Most of us can probably confess to being endlessly fascinated by the mysteries of the ocean, right from our early days of childhood. If for as long as you can recall, you've daydreamed about being a pirate and capturing the bounties from wrecked ships underwater, we found a virtual travel experience that will let you explore one. There are a plethora of virtual travel tours on Youtube, that give you a 360* VR experience of swimming through sunken ships on the ocean bed. This incredible Youtube video, for instance, lets you examine shipwrecks at the bottom of the Red Sea.
Image Courtesy - Youtube
6. Marvel At One Of The World's Most Active Volcanoes
What if we told you, that you can now wander down safely one of the world's most active volcanoes? What if we also told you, that you can stand a mere few metres away from a violently churning 1,200*C lava lake? Well, you'd have to believe us because it's true! This awe-inspiring Youtube video takes you through an interactive journey, wherein you follow the famous adventurers, Ulla Lohmann and Sebastian Hoffmann, along with volcanologist Thomas Boyer as they descend together down one of the main vents of the Ambrym Volcano, and get to get as physically close as possible, to a raging lava lake. This virtual travel experience comes with unbelievable 360* panoramic views and a thrilling VR trip of a lifetime.
Image Courtesy - Youtube
7. Scout An Egyptian Tomb
Every self-diagnosed wanderlust patient has at least once dreamt of digging deep into the mysterious tombs of Egypt. There's something deeply intriguing about the architectural wonders of Egypt, because of which they manage to draw curious eyes across latitudes every year. But now that physical travel is out of the picture, the Egyptian Tourism Board is inviting enthusiastic explorers from across the world, to explore the 5,000-year-old tomb of Queen Meresankh III for free. Through the use of computer reconstruction, along with 3D modelling, this virtual travel tour lets the users examine the monuments in startling detail.
Image Courtesy - Matter Port
8. Go Skiing In Canada
For all lovers of this exhilarating adventure sport, we've found one of the best virtual travel experiences for you. This awesome 360* virtual tour video is definitely one of the best VR travel experiences you can get online, that too for free. This video offers breathtaking 360* views of stunning powdery snow along with a virtual opportunity to experience what skiing on the legendary Canadian Rockies, feels like. The VR tour features famous points like Banff National Park and Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta, Canada.
Image Courtesy - Youtube
9. Relax On A Beach In Brazil
Okay, let's be honest. Everybody on the planet with a love for travelling has at some point vowed to go to Brazil one day. I know I have. Well, you now have the perfect opportunity to spend a day lounging on Copacabana Beach, one that's much more hassle-free than boarding a flight. This virtual travel tour by Kayak lets you explore all the amazing sights of Rio De Janeiro, from the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue to the Selaron Steps. You also have the option of hopping on a helicopter and exploring the city from a bird eye view.
Image Courtesy - 360Cities
10. Gawk At The Niagara Falls
Last but by no means the least, did you know that the Niagara Falls Tourism website, has this page dedicated to the best VR travel experiences of the Niagara Falls, Canada? With the flashing hashtag of Explore Niagara greeting you first thing, this page offers a bunch of enthralling virtual travel tours, including a 360* helicopter ride above the Niagara Falls, an experience of the Hornblower Niagara cruise, and a VR trip to behind the falls.
Image Courtesy - Niagara Falls Tourism
Hop aboard the virtual travel train!