It’s a crazy time in the world these days, with more than one million people already being confirmed to have the coronavirus disease.
Since most of us are forced inside for work and leisure and must keep a wary distance physically, we need to find creative things to do with our time while we wait for the world to return to normal.
Travel may be off the table for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t mean we can’t virtually visit some of the best travel destinations around the world from the comfort and safety of our homes.
From world-renowned museums to historic sites to sprawling national parks and more, this list will take you to some of the best places in the world without you having to leave bed, deal with crowds, or get a visa.
Here are the best travel destinations and places to visit on a virtual tour:
1. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History, one of the many Smithsonian institutions, offers a variety of permanent exhibits, current exhibits, past exhibits, and other virtual tours you can take from the comfort of your bed or armchair.
The views on their website are spectacular, and it really does feel as if you’re walking inside the museum. If you’re curious about what you’re seeing, the camera which shot this entire thing was so good that you can make out most words if you simply zoom in.
2. The Louvre
The world-famous museum has several online tours you can take, and some of them get changed out just like their live exhibitions.
Currently at the virtual Louvre, you can visit the Egyptian Antiquities exhibitions, tour the rebuilt Galerie d’Apollon above the Petite Galerie, and check out “The Advent of the Artist,” an exhibition featuring Rembrandt, Tintoretto, and Delacroix.
Also, you can head back in time and see the grounds the Louvre stood on almost 1,000 years ago. Back in 1190, the king ordered defenses to be built around the fortress (which is what the Louvre was before a museum). In this virtual tour, you can wander along the perimeter moat and see the old drawbridge.
3. Museum of Modern Art
The world-renowned Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, through a partnership with Google Arts & Culture, allows you to get up close and personal with some of history’s most famous artistic creations.
Also, if you want to take your stay-at-home MoMA experience to the next level, this revered institution is now offering 9 classes you can take at home completely free. These include Fashion as Design, In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting, What is Contemporary Art?, Seeing Through Photographs, and even a photography course in Chinese. You can find these free online classes over at Coursera.
4. The Great Wall of China
Over on The China Guide, you can walk along China’s Great Wall without leaving your flat. Get crowd-free, fair-weather, 360-degree views of the Jinshanling to Simatai stretch, the watchtower, and more.
5. Yosemite National Park
Much of Yosemite National Park’s awe-inducing scenes can be visited online through Virtual Yosemite. Currently, there are more than 200 locations to visit virtually on this website, from Yosemite Falls to the Half Dome Summit to Washburn Point. But the best part of this virtual tour are the sounds. They’ve captured actual audio from each area so you can hear the wind howl and the water rushing by just as if you were there. You can even listen in on people’s conversations if they were near the camera of the location you’re touring virtually!
6. The Catacombs of Paris
Visiting the Catacombs is on many travelers’ Paris bucket list, but you don’t have to be there to check it out. On the official website, you can virtually tour the Catacombs through a series of still pictures with 360-degree views. However, looking around, whether by keyboard or mouse, is a bit finicky, but visiting the Catacombs via the internet is the perfect way to do so if you have claustrophobia.
7. Carlsbad Caverns
Another Google Arts & Culture offering, head underground into one of the most famous caverns in New Mexico, the United States, and the world. When you first arrive, you get a 360-degree view of the entrance, and you can hear and see thousands of bats flying to and fro. If you look around, you’ll see several bubbles with other Carlsbad Caverns activities to explore, such as flying with thousands of bats.
8. The Metropolitan Opera
The Met in New York City is home to some of the greatest productions by the world’s top choreographers, composers, dancers, musicians, and other artists. During the crisis, the Met has launched its “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of encore performances. Each night at 7:30pm in NYC (EST), a new one will be released and made available for 20 hours. Shows include Bellini’s Norma, Verdi’s Macbeth, John Adams’s Nixon in China, and Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.
9. Puerto Rico
Unlike the previous places on our list of where you can travel without leaving home, this one is a series of videos rather than a virtual reality or 3D experience. However, the other ones on our list don’t have Lin Manuel Miranda as your tour guide, so this one wins in my book.
In this eight-part video series by Discover Puerto Rico, Lin Manuel Miranda shows you the beautiful people, fascinating places, and historical details that have made the island he’s proud of a truly remarkable destination. Episode 1 is right there for you above, and to see the rest, just head over to Discover Puerto Rico.
10. Kenai Fjords National Park
This is another virtual experience from Google Arts & Culture, the Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska. This time, however, you can join a group of explorers as they rappel into a crevasse on the Exit Glacier, something most visitors to the park don’t get to do (or dream of doing, to be honest). On top of that, you can bolster your love for the need of the UN SDGs by watching a glacier recede, or take a kayak trip through icebergs.
11. The Sistine Chapel
The great Sistine Chapel in Vatican City is one of the grandest buildings in the world. Not only is it home to the papal conclave, but it is just filled with art and history. You’re probably familiar with Michelangelo’s ceiling masterpiece, but there are works by other Renaissance greats, such as Rosselli, Botticelli, and Perugino.
Now, the Vatican Museum lets you walk through the famous chapel in the pope’s residence to admire the grandeur and beauty for yourself through a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel.
12. The Van Gogh Museum
“The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh might be owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, but the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, has the largest collection of the artist’s paintings and drawings anywhere in the world. Via the website 360stories, you can take a tour inside the famous building located in Museum Square. Definitely one of the best places to visit virtually, especially if you’re an art enthusiast!
13. The British Musuem
Through a partnership with Google Cultural Institute, this world class history museum is now available to tour online. Called “The Museum of the World,” this project offers a unique way to navigate their collections, including ancient mummies from Egypt and the famed Rosetta Stone. The website also offers a way to see one artifact’s connection through time and distance to others on the site, giving you a new perspective of old items.
14. The Guggenheim Museum
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is one of the greatest art institutions in the world, located right in the heart of New York City on the Upper East Side. The building itself is iconic, having been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but the collections and artwork within are just as renowned. Inside, you’ll find works by Cézanne, Metzinger, Léger, Duchamp-Villon, Kirchner, Klee, and many others. And now, with the help of Google Arts & Culture and Google Streetview, you can walk around on six different floors inside the museum from the comfort of your home.
15. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is built around two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. With Google Arts & Culture, you can take a guided 360-degree tour through the Nāhuku – Thurston Lava Tube, going from a tropical forest and into a subterranean, lava-formed cave.
16. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is one of the quintessential national parks in the United States, located partly in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Through the website of the National Park Service, you can now virtually tour many of the park’s most popular attractions, including Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, the Mud Volcano, Fountain Paint Pot, and Upper Geyser Basin.
17. Versailles Palace
Possibly the only place more golden than Trump’s home, the Palace of Versailles was the main French royal residence for over a hundred years, from 1682 through 1789. It’s so popular that it even edges out the Eiffel Tower for having the most annual visitors. Now, with Google Arts & Culture, you can virtually explore the Château de Versailles without those crowds, taking the time you need to take it all in. There are stories, 3D models, virtual tours, and even some VR experiences to be had, so check it out!
18. San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo is the most visited zoo in the United States, and one of the largest zoos in the world. On their website, you can skip the lines and see your favorite animals up close and in real time through a bunch of live camera feeds. There are live cams for the apes, baboons, condors, elephants, pandas, koalas, penguins, polar bears, tigers, butterflies, and the burrowing owl.
19. The Monterey Bay Aquarium
If you lean more towards the underwater creatures, the great state of California comes through again. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you can choose from several live cameras, including ones for penguins, sea otters, sharks, moon jellyfish, coral reefs, kelp forests, and others!
20. Sydney Opera House
After Uluru, the Sydney Opera House may be Australia’s most recognizable structure. There are actually two ways to take a remote tourism adventure to this famous site.
The first is via an 8-minute video, which you can watch here on YouTube. The second, more interactive experience is again brought to you by Google Arts & Culture. There, you can check out dozens of online exhibits, including ones such as Bangarra Dance Theatre, the Australian Ballet, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and more.
21. Bryce Canyon National Park
If you miss the sun, head over on an online tour of Bryce Canyon National Park in the United States southwest. There, you can take the Sunset Point tour and see the towering stone structures with an expert guide or explore the night sky through powerful telescopic lenses. Another place brought to you though Google Arts & Culture.
22. The Taj Mahal
One of the most famous and recognizable pieces of architecture anywhere in the world, you can explore the Taj Mahal virtually through Google Maps Street View without traveling to India. It’s a 360-degree journey, and you start by walking up the main path past all the tourists and pilgrims, just as you would in real life. You can walk in and around it, even through it, and you can get up super close to the walls to take in the intricate stone craftsmanship.
23. Musée d’Orsay
Located right on the river Seine in the very heart of Paris and built inside the former Orsay train station, the Musée d’Orsay has a particularly powerful collection of impressionist art. Through a partnership with Google Arts & Culture, you can travel virtually there to see hundreds of oil paintings, watercolors, acrylic paintings, and even an online exhibit about how this celebrated art museum was converted from the earlier train station.
24. Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is quite a remote destination, which makes it a perfect destination for remote tourism. Situated the westernmost Florida Keys and closer to Cuba than it is to the Florida mainland, Dry Tortugas National Park is home to beautiful coral reefs, a wide diversity of marine life, shipwrecks, and Port Jefferson, a massive coastal fortress from the early 1800s which is the largest brick masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere with over 16 million bricks!
With Google Arts & Culture, you can virtually tour this national park, including seeing the Civil War-era fort, diving to a shipwreck, and even swimming through the world’s third largest coral reef.
25. The International Space Station (ISS)
Here’s a place to virtually travel that’s literally out of this world: the International Space Station (ISS)! Float your way through the various chambers of the ISS in a Street View implementation through Google Arts & Culture (these guys are great, right?). The ISS is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (operated by Russia) and the United States Orbital Segment (shared among several countries). Based on my own brief virtual tour of the International Space Station, it appears to be the US Orbital Segment that you get to visit.
Well, that’s our list of places to travel without leaving home, and we hope it helps keep you sane as we press on in the difficult weeks and months ahead. Got any questions, feedback, or other virtual tours and places to visit from home? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!