How To Travel The World (Without Leaving Your House)
Everest Virtual Reality. Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Griffith Productions/Oculus
For many of us, the outside world currently extends little further than the bottom of the garden. But that’s no reason not to travel. If there’s one upside of lockdown, it’s that so many bucket-list spots around the planet have upped their interactive game – from live webcams to VR tours and 360-degree videography.
From the comfort of your own living room, some of the world’s most magnificent museums and spectacular natural wonders can now be fully accessed, explored and enjoyed in infinitesimal detail. And all without queueing, paying entry fees, wading through gaggles of selfie-takers – or even changing out of your pyjamas.
From the opulent riches of the world’s largest art museum to the daunting peak of its tallest mountain, these are the must-see destinations you can check out this weekend. Passport (and pants) not required.
The Louvre, France
The Louvre VR Experience Beyond the Glass – XP captures. Photograph courtesy of Emissive and HTC Vive Arts
The Mona Lisa might be sitting in socially distanced solitude right now, but the digital doors of the Louvre are most definitely open. The world’s largest art museum is stuffed with seminal works and priceless pieces beyond Mr Leonardo Da Vinci’s smiling masterpiece – from its renowned Egyptian antiquities collection to Michelangelo’s Captif Sculptures. A series of well-crafted, easy to navigate online tours mean you can move through the labyrinthine galleries while they’re blissfully quiet, taking as much time as you like to hover over the timeless treasures therein.
Take the tour: louvre.fr
Don’t miss: The Venus de Milo. Also known as Aphrodite, this infamous embodiment of ancient Hellenic beauty has had scholars bickering over her nuances since she was unearthed on the island of Milos 200 years ago. Dive into the debate after a digital visit.
The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Photograph courtesy of AirPano.com
One of the original Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza needs no introduction. And now you can explore it – plus the entire Giza complex, including the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Great Sphinx – remotely, thanks to some bold helicopter cinematography and innovative 360-degree digital wizardry. There are a number of options here – including detailed archaeological analysis from Harvard University’s Giza Project – so sit back, crank up Mr John Williams’ Raiders Of The Lost Ark score, and get digging.
Take the tour: airpano.com
Don’t miss: The Great Sphinx of Giza. The colossal limestone statue – with the body of a lion and the face of the pharaoh Kafre – is a monumental sight to behold in 360-degree splendour.
The British Museum, UK
The British Museum digital experience The Museum of the World. Photograph © The Trustees of the British Museum
When it first opened its doors to the public in 1759, the British Museum declared itself a place for “all studious and curious persons”. It continues to be so today – even with those doors temporarily shuttered. A quirky, fun collaboration with Google Arts & Culture means you can still explore the museum’s multifarious exhibits to your heart’s content, wandering down a series of colour-coded timelines, arranged geographically and thematically (imagine flying a Tardis via Guitar Hero). When you find an artefact you like, you simply click on that part of the timeline and land for more information – all the way back to 2,000,000BC.
Take the tour: britishmuseum.withgoogle.com
Don’t miss: The Rosetta Stone. Housed at the British Museum since 1802, this more than 2,000-year-old artefact was the crucial cypher which helped researchers finally decode and decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza, Mexico. Photograph courtesy of AirPano.com
Usually attracting in the region of two million visitors a year, the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico. Now’s your chance to see it without all the ruckus – or the three-hour drive from Cancun. This 360-degree guide allows you to zoom in on the key sites of a sacred city that was at the very heart of Mayan culture 1,000 years ago, from its ball courts and palaces to the famed Hall of the Thousand Columns.
Take the tour: airpano.com
Don’t miss: El Castillo. Chichen Itza’s crowning glory, this 365-stepped stone temple is believed to be the physical embodiment of the Mayan’s calendar.
Mount Everest, Nepal
Everest Virtual Reality. Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Griffith Production/Oculus
Permits to climb Everest normally cost around $11,000 – but thanks to a couple of farsighted filmmakers, we can now all experience summiting the highest mountain in the world, for free. Award-winning cameraman Mr Jon Griffith and his climbing partner Mr Sherpa Tenji scaled the 29,029ft to the top of the world in 2018, braving temperatures of -60C and winds of up to 175mph, so the rest of us wouldn’t have to. On the way, they captured their epic journey (in memory of their friend, famed mountaineer Mr Ueli Steck) in 8K 3D Virtual Reality. So you can forget any fears of frostbite or the infamous “Death Zone”, and sit back on your sofa as they push the limits of the human body on your behalf.
Take the tour: everestvirtualreality.com
Don’t miss: The Summit. There’s plenty to look out for on the mountain – from the rainbow domes of Base Camp to the trail of ladders bridging the merciless Khumbu Icefall – but who wouldn’t want to feel like they’re standing on top of the world from their own living room floor? Needless to say, the views from there are spectacular.