#ArmchairTravel #Wanderlust #Travel
With restrictions currently in place when it comes to international travel, our plans for exploring the globe are presently on hold. However, digital technology has provided us with new ways to experience the world from the comfort of home and capture that feeling of wanderlust. FACT’s David Tapley compiles his travel bucket list using webcams, virtual tours, live feeds and interactive panoramas.
There is nothing quite like the experience of travelling and ability to fully immerse oneself in the sights, sounds and culture of a new destination. With borders closed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, hopping on a plane, train or boat has become virtually impossible! Yet some of the world’s most popular and remote destinations have created innovative ways for us to travel while social distancing. Experience the seven modern wonders of the world, trek through national parks, explore bustling cities and visit world-famous museums and art galleries with these 42 unique armchair travel opportunities.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
There were over 19 million visitors to the British capital last year making it the third most visited city in the world. London has so much on offer and has become synonymous with historical attractions, world-class gastronomy and entertainment. A 24-hour city that never sleeps, there is so much to explore that you will need to use your time wisely or visit on multiple occasions. Thankfully Visit London have plenty of virtual tours to help you plan your city break, from spinning on the London Eye to shopping at upmarket Harrods or strolling through Trafalgar Square.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
The flat-topped Table Mountain overlooking a natural bay makes Cape Town one of the most picturesque cities in Africa and is the place where the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean on the west meet with the warmer Indian Ocean waters on the east. The South African city has plenty to offer in terms of both natural beauty and cultural history. Move from the city centre to the slopes of Table Mountain and traverse the rocky outcrop known as Lion’s Head using AirPano.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND
When visiting the Emerald Isle, Belfast should not be overlooked. With rolling hills, loughs, sandy beaches and grassy parklands, Belfast and the surrounding area boast breathtaking natural views. Explore the 360-degree view over Belfast Castle to see the 19th Century architecture, landscaped gardens and surrounding woodlands, or visit Cave Hill with its imposing outline. Online resource Visit Belfast provides an exciting glimpse into Belfast and what you can expect on a future visit:
This year’s summer Olympics may have been postponed, but this delay provides us with the opportunity to better plan a trip to Tokyo. Away from the games and stadiums, there are a plethora of options to explore, taking in street food eateries, Japanese traditional buildings and nature. All of which are packed into this 360-degree impressive VR movie.
Missing the thrills, spills and fun of the fair? Then look no further than Orlando, Florida. Hailed at the theme park capital of the world, no trip would be complete without a visit to Universal Studios, Sea World or Disney World. Ride on popular attractions and thrilling rollercoasters such as Splash Mountain, The Twilight Zone and Tower of Terror or marvel at the Main Street parade as you recapture your childhood sense of wonder thanks to Virtual Disney World:
There is so much to see and do in the city of love. While a romantic getaway to Paris is currently out of the question, it is still possible to visit the Eiffel Tower, stroll along the River Seine and marvel at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris without having to hop on a plane. Enjoy a virtual guided tour of the Eiffel Tower district to learn the best spots for photo opportunities and sunset river cruises thanks to Samsung VR.
NEW YORK CITY, USA
There’s something about the Big Apple that has captured the attention of worldwide travellers for decades. Whether it’s the towering skyscrapers that soar above Manhattan, the expansive Central Park, the television series Friends or a trip across the Brooklyn Bridge – New York has captured the hearts of many. Until it’s possible to return, we can dream using this kinetic tour circumnavigating the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.
For anyone who has travelled to Lisbon, the westernmost capital city in continental Europe, we can expect two things. That you will have indulged in way too many of the Portuguese egg tarts known as Pastel de nata and that you will have likely taken a ride on one of the yellow trams this crisscross the hillsides of the city. Whether it’s to save the suggestion for your next Lisbon trip or just to reminisce, Visit Portugal have created a tram ride from your sofa that journeys through the historical neighbourhoods of the city of light.
From Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum to Europe’s largest ice caves, you can now explore the best of Austria from your sofa. Marvel at frolicking penguins at Vienna’s Schönbrunn Zoo or listen to classical performances from the Vienna State Opera online. Escape the city and watch live views of Austria’s highest mountain or take a virtual dip at Wörthersee Lake. Whatever you may choose, there’s plenty to keep you entertained until you can visit Austria in person.
SEVEN MODERN WONDERS
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA, CHINA
No trip to China is complete without a visit to The Great Wall. Classified as the longest wall in the world, the stone structure was built over 2,300 years ago to prevent invasion and protect trade along the Silk Road. Measuring a staggering 21,196 km, you can explore what has been classified as one of the ‘new seven wonders of the world’ from the comfort of your home thanks to the China Guide. Take a virtual trek along a rugged section of The Great Wall between Jinshanling and Simatai without having to strap on your hiking boots.
CHICHÉN ITZÁ, MEXICO:
Situated on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Chichén Itzá is a complex of Mayan ruins that are as important a tourist attraction as they are an active archaeological site. Your vantage point on this virtual 360-degree exploration of the ancient ruins is from the top of the Temploa de los Guerreros, where you have unrivalled views over the El Castillo step pyramid. An opportunity to live your inner-Indiana Jones.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU
Probably the most famous sight in Peru and perhaps one of the most recognisable images associated with the continent of South America, Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca citadel located in the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 2,430m. YouVisit provides virtual guided tours of the sites three primary structures – the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows – alongside views from the settlements highest point and some alpacas thrown in for good measure. A fun way to explore the Inca Trail without the risk of altitude sickness.
Usually a quick flight from the UAE, we can still visit the caravan-city of Petra, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in Jordan. Albeit from behind a screen. Google has created a fully immersive Street View experience that provides armchair explorers with the opportunity to traverse the rose-red city of passages, gorges where the structures are half-built and half-carved into the rock faces. From the Siq to The Treasury, High Place of Sacrifice and The Monastery, it’s easy to get lost amongst the 2000-year-old temples during the informative tour.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER, BRAZIL
Brazil should be on everyone’s travel bucket list, and Rio De Janeiro is a varied city for exploration. Enjoy the seemingly endless sandy beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the cable car at Sugarloaf Mountain or the art deco statue of Christ the Redeemer without having to take a long haul flight. YouVisit have created a series of enviable panoramas to explore that ensures Brazil will move up the ranks on your travel bucket list.
TAJ MAHAL, INDIA
You couldn’t visit India without taking time to gaze at the Taj Mahal, the white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the city of Agra. Now, the whole world can experience the Taj Mahal on Street View. From the comfort of your computer, tablet or phone, take a 360-degree journey around India’s architectural crown jewel, as if you were walking around the building itself. Enjoy postcard views and discover rarely-seen perspectives; get up close to the hand-carved details and explore expansive landscapes.
THE COLOSSEUM, ITALY
This ancient amphitheatre in the centre of Rome was capable of seating 50,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and battle recreations. Despite its partially ruined state due to earthquake damage, the oval structure remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy 2000 years after construction. We may not be able to fly to Rome for pizza and pasta quite yet, but for now, we can strap on our sword and sandals and relive Italy’s Roman history anytime.
EXPLORE REMOTE REGIONS AND NATURAL WONDERS
GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA
With scuba diving and other water-sports currently out of the travel equation, there is still the opportunity to explore the underwater world and marine life of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Natural historian Sir David Attenborough is your guide as you journey through five critical locations of the world’s largest coral reef system, home to over 1500 species of fish, 600 coral species and 30 different whale and dolphin species. The experience is both educational and fun as you navigate through one of the most biodiverse and complex ecosystems on the planet.
SAMBURU NATIONAL RESERVE, KENYA
Visit the 165 km² Samburu National Reserve on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya which is home to 1,450 African elephants. Explore the savanna where more than 70 elephant families have been sighted without the need for an early wake-up call or bumpy game drive and you’ll gain insight into poaching and the organisations working together to protect these graceful mammals. It wouldn’t be a trip to African without spotting at least one of the big five.
KOMODO NATIONAL PARK, INDONESIA
Closed to tourism before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Komodo National Park in Indonesia represents the wild habitat for the 3m long Komodo Dragon. These venomous reptiles with their razor-sharp teeth and gargantuan size have attracted zoologists and adventurous travellers to the remote islands in the hope of getting a glimpse at the dinosaur-like species in the wild. Air Pano has introduced a virtual exploration of the park which takes in the rusty-red volcanic hills, forests and turquoise waters of the remote location. Save yourself the three-day boat journey from Bali and explore from home instead.
EASTER ISLAND, CHILE
Located 3,700 km from Chile’s west coast, Easter Island was christened by Dutch explorers in honour of the day of their arrival in the year 1722. Reliant on tourism, the island with its population of just 7,750 people gained notoriety for its collection of 900 stone figures that populate the natural landscape. The location of the moai statues have intrigued explorers and researchers for centuries, and you can now visit the hard-to-reach area without exerting any effort at all, other than clicking a few buttons.
NIAGRA FALLS, CANADA
Whether you visit from the American or Canadian side, there is little doubt that a visit to Niagra Falls is a bucket-list must. The collection of three waterfalls spans the border between the US state of New York and the Canadian province of Ontario and combined; the falls have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America. Part of the fun of a trip to Niagra is taking a boat into the mist of the Horseshoe Falls. Now you can do this without the risk of getting wet thanks to Air Pano.
MOUNT EVEREST, NEPAL
If the worlds highest mountain has been on your adventure bucket list, then you can still visit Mount Everest in the Himalayas thanks to AirPano. From the Everest base camp to ice rivers and snowy vistas, there has never been an easy way to reach the elevation of 8,850 meters than from the comfort of home. Why risk altitude sickness when you don’t have to.
HANG SON DOONG, VIETNAM
The world’s largest cave is known as the ‘cave of the mountain river’ and is situated in the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam and was only discovered in 1991. Featuring unusual cave formations, including giant cave pearls, towering stalagmites and underground rainforests, only 1000 visitors are permitted to enter the cave each year, and this involves an arduous four-day expedition that requires plenty of trekking and three nights of underground camping! With worldwide travel currently restricted, it would be significantly more comfortable and much cheaper to visit using this exciting online tour.
ZHANGJIAJIE NATIONAL PARK, CHINA
Instantly recognisable as the inspiration behind the planet of Pandora in James Cameron’s science-fiction masterpiece, Avatar. The Cloud Forests of Zhangjiajie National Park are comprised of over 3000 vertical pillars, each hundreds of feet tall and covered in dense foliage. A notoriously popular tourist attraction and a must-visit location on any travel itinerary to China. Beat the crowds with this 360-degree immersive flight over the natural wonder that is truly awe-inspiring:
For those looking to get away from it all and enjoy a spot of complete isolation, Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert may just be the place for you. The salt and clay pan is flanked by red dunes that extend across a vast area to the Atlantic Ocean. The remote location is also home to Big Daddy, the tallest dune in the area at a height of 325 meters and Deadvlei, famous for its picture-postcard images of blackened acacia trees. The Namib desert and it’s remote charms should definitely be on your travel list, but for now, you can explore the towering dunes using AirPano:
PERITO MORENO GLACIER, ARGENTINA
If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting Argentina, then one thing aside from steak and grape that you’ll want to check out is Patagonia’s Perito Moreno Glacier. One of 48 glaciers fed by the Patagonian ice field, the sheet of ice measures an incredible 30 km in length and is a favourite spot for long and short treks. Tourists will also travel to the glacier to watch for a potential rupture. If you’re not sure about strapping on those crampons, then explore this winter wonderland from home instead.
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR
Naturalist Charles Darwin’s observations and collections of the Galápagos wildlife in 1835 contributed to his theory of evolution by natural selection. The small volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador are home to hundreds of endemic wildlife species that are found nowhere else on earth such as the Galápagos marine iguana and Galápagos giant tortoise. The 21 islands are a nature lovers paradise and are challenging to get too. With isolated terrain, isn’t it time you lived out your fantasies of being an intrepid explorer?
CANTON DE VAUD, SWITZERLAND
Canton de Vaud is a stunning location known for its pristine valleys and the snow-covered mountains, and is located in The Lake Geneva region of Switzerland. Through 3D virtual tours, visitors can now become acquainted with some of the areas most breathtaking sites including peak walking on Glacier 3000, the Lavaux vineyards and the Chasseron cliffs. Alternatively, why not admire Lausanne Cathedral, dive into the heart of the Roman arenas of Avenches or board a ship and cruise in front of Chillon Castle. All of this is possible on a virtual tour of Switzerland (chocolate not included, unfortunately).
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS, CANADA
The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights have long been a phenomenon shrouded in intrigue, and a lot of effort is required to catch a glimpse of these dancing curtains of light in the night sky. A trip to Canada or Finland is not enough, and several factors such as clear skies and an increase in solar storms on the sun are required to ensure a successful sighting. To avoid disappointment, a live webcam streams 24/7 so that you can gaze at the sky night after night. It has got to be better than a wasted trip standing outside in temperatures of -22°C.
A trendy travel destination with GCC residents is the small island nation of The Maldives. The collection of islands is in fact, the lowest country in the world with and average height of only 1.5 meters above sea level. Home to paradisal atolls and reefs that attract travellers with a preference for luxury and those looking to explore the pristine marine habitats. Swimming in turquoise waters and strolls upon powder white sands are currently out of reach, but we can still dream thanks to this virtual tour from Anantara.
TREK THROUGH NATIONAL PARKS
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, USA
The North Pacific is home to the Hawaiian Islands, and a trip to the Big Island usually forgoes beach life and surfing in favour of visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The volcanic landscape at the southern end of the island is flanked by the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa active volcanoes and presents an almost alien-like landscape scorched black by countless eruptions. Google Arts and Culture have captured some of the most impressive elements of the park, including the steam vents of The Crater Rim Drive, Thurston Lava Tube and The Chain of Craters Road. Travel over lava fields and crater rims to witness the most impressive views of the park on the way down to the ocean and eliminate the risk of active lava flow by experiencing the volcanoes from the safety of home.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, USA
Under usual circumstances, California’s Yosemite National Park would expect to receive millions of visitors per year. An adventure lovers haven offering hiking, climbing and skiing; visitors are drawn to the park for its collection of dramatic waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, abundant wildlife, and awe-inspiring cliffs. The Virtual Yosemite platform allows you to experience all of these elements and more. We’d recommend a virtual visit to The Half Dome Diving board for striking views or to the Nevada Falls overlook for pounding views of the water.
GRAND CANYON, USA
Many will recognise Arizona’s Grand Canyon from the final scene of popular 1991 film, Thelma and Louise. Not all visits to the Canyon carved out by the Colorado River need to end is quite so dramatic a fashion though, and there’s plenty to explore from the comfort of your sofa rather than the seat of a Ford Thunderbird. TreadmillTV presents a virtual rim to river run down the 4km South Kaibab trail. A hike without the need to sweat.
MOUNT RUSHMORE, USA
Another famous American landmark, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest is America’s Shrine of Democracy. The site displays the faces of four former presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, carved into the granite rock. Cyark’s virtual tour lets you get closer to the 60ft sculptures than you ever would if you visited in person, so take the time to admire the intricacies of Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s impressive handiwork.
SEVEN EXPERIENCES FOR CULTURE VULTURES
PYRAMIDS OF GIZA, EGYPT
One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza have captivated travellers since their construction 4,500 years ago! Located on the edge of the Western Desert, the three main pyramids, their subsidiary pyramids and the Great Sphinx are the most popular attraction in the country and usually receive over 14 million visitors a year. The Great Pyramid which towers 147 meters above the plateau is estimated to have used 2.3 million stone blocks in its construction and although camel rides and trips into the burial chambers are currently out of the question, you can still get a taste of Ancient Egypt thanks to Google Street View.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE, UNITED KINGDOM
No visit to London is complete without a trip to see The Queen. While Buckingham Palace has been the focus of many moments of national celebration, from Jubilees and weddings, it is also an official residence of the royal family. A selection of virtual tours will take you to the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room and the Blue Drawing Room. We may be confined to the house, but there’s nothing stopping us from feeling palatial.
The ancient citadel has stood on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens for 3,500 years and was home to one of the earliest known settlements in Greece. Initially built for defensive purposes, the complex contains the world oldest weather station known as the Tower of the Winds. The most famous structure though is the Parthenon and restoration has been on-going since 1975. Although a visit to the temples of Ancient Greece is temporarily on hold, you can still enjoy the archaeology thanks to You Go Culture which provides 360-degree views of the site.
THE LOUVRE, FRANCE
We greatly miss outings to art galleries and museums when we travel to a new city, but the team at The Louvre in Paris have come to the rescue, placing key exhibits online for us to enjoy. Whether Egyptian antiquities or the Galerie d’Apollon pique your interest, you can peruse at leisure on the Louvre’s website.
THE VATICAN, ITALY
For those who have visited The Vatican, it’s a known fact that you have to arrive early and queue for hours without any guarantee of entry. One advantage of being stuck at home is that we can visit without the usual stress and planning that would coincide with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. The online experience is rather enlightening; without the crowds of tourists, you can marvel at the Renaissance frescoes in your own time and appreciate the details in the artwork. This may be our preferred way of visiting The Vatican. For now at least…
PALACE OF SHAKI KHANS, AZERBAIJAN
Azerbaijan has been topping the travel agendas of GCC residents in recent years, but there is plenty to explore aside from buzzing Baku. The summer residence for the Shaki Khans is one such example and the palace boasts an expressive architectural structure with its shining walls and elegant woodwork. The town of Shaki was once the main centre of silk production in the Caucasus and can be explored virtually alongside the palace. A real treat for historians and culture vultures looking to get off the beaten track.
ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA
Have you ever fancied taking on the role of video game heroine Lara Croft? You can now explore the ancient temples of Angkor Wat through the Virtual Angkor website, a groundbreaking collaboration between virtual history specialists, archaeologists and historians designed to bring the Cambodian metropolis of Angkor to life. This tool offers a historical context allowing visitors to explore the city as it was during its peak, rather than the ruins partially reclaimed by the jungle which are found on site today.