The World Cup is bringing together the best footy talent from Belgium and Brazil to Senegal and South Korea. But with so many nations being represented, wouldn’t it be fantastic to take a whirlwind tour of the countries and go on lots of adventures before they play? Like riding a kayak down a waterfall in Iceland, going swimming in flooded caves in Mexico and wandering down a street in Copenhagen?
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Now you can do all of those things with your morning coffee, thanks to virtual reality. Sure, we’re still working on haptic suits and making the virtual world just as convincing as the real one, but if you can’t splash out on on a round-the-world ticket and ditch your job for a few months, VR travel is a great way to visit different countries from the comfort of your living room.
We’ve collected together some of our favourite virtual reality travel experiences, from simple 360-degree video to some of the best Oculus Rift experiences created by top VR studios.
If you’ve never been to Argentina, this 360-degree trailer produced on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism shows off just how good-looking the country really is. Behold the beautiful Iguazu Falls, the breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier and a whole host of mountain ranges and undulating landscapes in between. Granted, it’s a whistle-stop tour, but you can pause and take a good look around at anytime. It’s a decent 360-degree taster that lets you witness the most picture-perfect sites as if you were really there.
The YouVisit app allows you to take a tour of the top destinations across the globe from the cheapest and simplest of headsets - all you need is a Google Cardboard and your phone. The Sydney experience is one of our favourites, allowing viewers to look across the water to the Sydney Opera House before stepping inside it, or taking a ferry into the city before wandering through the Royal Botanical Gardens. You can download the YouVisit VR app for iOS and Android devices for use with a VR headset or Google Cardboard.
If you liked wandering around Sydney with YouVisit, then see what you think of the app’s take on Brussels. Your tour begins in the center of the Grand Place, before whisking you away to visit a local chocolate shop (the country is famous for its chocolate, after all). You can then meander through the city’s bustling side streets and finish off your trip with the breathtaking Cathedral of St Michael. Get your hands on the YouVisit VR app for both iOS and Android devices.
You can take a tour of Porto Alegre with the YouVisit app, or peer inside the Catedral de Piedre. But for a different take on Brazil, we love Under The Canopy from VR production studio Jaunt VR. They teamed up with Conservation International to create this 360-degree experience, one which lets you soar above the canopy of the Amazon rainforest or even take a dip in its rivers. Created to highlight the biodiversity of the Amazon ecosystem and the need for conservation, it’s a look into how VR can be used for great-looking experiences while also raising awareness. You can view the footage in 360 at the Jaunt website, or watch it with your VR headset by downloading the Jaunt app for Android, iOS, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus, Daydream and PSVR.
Created by Magic Tour Colombia tour company, discover the mountains, waterfalls and villages in and around Santa Marta in Colombia with a series of 360-degree videos. You can take in the magnificent views, zoom in on far-away details, or click on areas to to see accompanying information. You can view the scenes from any headset, while tapping the three little dots in your top-right view will let you to select the kinds of display you need. Hasta luego!
The best way to get to know a new place is to scrub up on your knowledge of the nature that lives and thrives there. Over on the BBC Earth Unplugged YouTube channel, you can take an interactive tour of the jungles of Costa Rica. In this video, you can learn about the snakes and reptiles that live within the jungle as information about them pops up to accompany the narration. And the narration is courtesy of none other than the ultimate nature expert himself, Sir David Attenborough.
One of the best ways to visit Croatia is by sailboat. With the YouVisit app you can take a trip along the beautiful Dalmatian coast, complete with spectacular views and plenty of partying. There are plenty more travel tours available via the YouVisit app, which you can download for iOS and Android devices for use with a VR headset or Google Cardboard.
Created by Visit Denmark, this video is a whirlwind tour of Denmark in 360-degrees. From Kronborg Castle, that’s the home of Hamlet, and Aarhus Art Museum through to Copenhagen’s most popular food market and even some live viking demonstrations. Make sure you pause the video so you can take a good look around you. The best thing about it is it gives you a very real glimpse into the hustle and bustle of the city as people go about their day-to-day lives.
If you’ve always dreamed of visiting the pyramids in Egypt, then this simple 360-degree video is for you. You’ll see what it’s like to ride a camel right next to the Great Pyramids of Giza as a guide shows you the way. Be sure to take a look all the way around you as well, the pyramids may be spectacular, but so are the scenes of the desert, and the chomping herds of camels can’t be missed either.
Created by Discovery VR, this 360-degree tour of England packs in a huge mixture of all the best bits about the country, including a section of Hadrian’s Wall surrounded by luscious greenery, a prestigious Oxford University college, the spectacular Angel of the North, the view from the London Eye, and plenty of beautiful, craggy coastlines - not to mention a necessary visit to a traditional English pub.
The iconic landmarks of Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to the Champs-Elysees, have been captured in countless paintings and photographs – and now you can experience these sights yourself with your VR headset. You can choose which attractions to visit and hear a tour guide talk you around them. The tour of Paris is available within the YouVisit VR app, which you can download for iOS and Android devices for use with a VR headset or Google Cardboard.
Another great tour from YouVisit, this time checking out the German capital of Berlin from your bedroom. From the Bundestag and Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column and Holocaust Memorial, you can stand feet away from these famous landmarks with a real sense of their scale. Download the YouVisit app for iOS and Android devices for use with a VR headset or Google Cardboard.
In a country with such beautiful scenery as Iceland, there’s no shortage of stunning waterfalls or blue lagoons - perfect for VR or a 360-degree video. You can take a tour of Iceland and everything it has to offer with the YouVisit app. But we love the Iceland Home Turf VR experience created by Jaunt VR the most, which follows a kayaker traversing between icebergs and over waterfalls.
One of the best ways to find out more about a new culture and country is to look at its art. This is the thinking behind this insightful 360-degree VR video from Jaunt VR, called Reframe Iran, which explores the country through the work of some of its most successful and creative artists, showing interviews with them among their artwork.
Created by Discovery VR, this 360-degree documentary about Japan shows you a number of iconic scenes in amongst footage of everyday life in Japan. From a wasabi farmer and monkeys basking on the side of a river, through to views of the sparkling blue coastline and a peek at a swordsmith at work - before a team of stuntmen face off with samurai swords. Be sure to not get too caught up in the commentary and do lots of looking around and exploring yourself.
There are plenty of amazing things to do in Mexico, and this is one of them: watch a group take a swim in some of Mexico’s most breathtaking flooded caves. Created by Refinery29, this is a good example of using simple 360-degree video to enhance the telling of a story.
Created by the Visit Morocco tourist board, this 360-degree video about Marrakech shows you all of the best bits of the city as if you were on holiday there, from arriving at your hotel and checking out the swimming pools to experiencing the beautiful architecture, the bustling markets, and even whizzing down a zipline.
Kanju, a documentary from Jaunt VR, is not just about Nigeria. It takes a look at various African countries, but is such a fascinating look at aspects of Nigerian culture and attitudes towards creativity that we had to include it in this list. Kanju means ‘creativity born of struggle’, and the video takes you on a far-flung journey: from the slums of Makoko, to Obama’s historic speech in Nairobi, before exploring the rise of Nollywood, the world’s second largest film industry, based in Lagos, Nigeria. You can get the Jaunt VR app to watch it with a headset.
The Azamara Club Cruises YouTube channel is full of 360-degree content. Because these videos have been created to market cruises, some of them are fun but veer quite overtly into sales-pitch territory. This one shows you what it’s like to travel by boat down the Panama Canal, and is really fascinating in its own right. Witnessing the long journey down the canal and all the various gates and locks is made all the more interesting in 360-degrees. Be sure to stop at each lock and take a look around you to see what’s going on.
Created by Jaunt VR, The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu lets you experience some of Peru’s most famous sites as you follow this popular 50-mile trekking route. Learn more about the area and what’s involved in such a breathtaking, if also demanding, trek through the Andes. The narration is really interesting, but be sure to pause the video to take in the beautiful scenery, especially when Machu Picchu is right in front of you.
There are plenty of great things to see in Poland, but did you think an esports competition was one of them? Probably not. But the IEM Katowice 2017: The Only Game In Town documentary is a great example of 360-degree content that really gives you a sense of being at an event. Feel the buzz of the crowds when you take a look around the Spodek Arena and get a unique peek at the players and personalities involved in this global, annual event.
AirPano is a 360-degree video company that takes great aerial footage of sites all over the world, using drones. Here’s a fantastic aerial tour of Porto in Portugal - just excuse the cheesy music.
Fancy taking an air tour of Moscow? This video from AirPano gives you a birds-eye view of the beautiful city. Soar over the Kremlin and take a speedboat trip down the Moskva River, but be sure to look all around you to see the great architecture out on display.
Mecca is a city in Saudi Arabia, regarded as a sacred place for Islam as the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad. In this 360-degree video you can see many people taking part in a pilgrimage to the city, praying and walking round the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Mecca. Not only is this video a great way to learn about Islam and its traditions, it also shows just how powerful VR content can be for those with physical disabilities. A pilgrimage to Mecca (known as Hajj) is expected of most Muslims, but those who are not able to travel can now experience it from the comfort of their homes.
Senegal is leading a 12 nation cooperative effort to build a ‘living defense’ system that’s become known as The Great Green Wall of Africa. This 360-degree video, called Growing a World Wonder, documents some of the efforts being made by local communities to plant more than 4,700 miles of trees in order to stop the Sahara Desert from expanding. Once complete, the wall will be a sprawling man-made forest full of drought-resistant trees that will stretch across the entire continent of Africa.
Sometimes the best way to find out more about a new place is to watch its people, which is what this 360-degree video of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, does so well. Watch as people go about their day-to-day lives, look around at the architecture, and soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful city.
To get a real sense of the life and energy in Seoul, check out this 360-degree timelapse and hyperlapse of the city, where traffic whizzes by in the shadow of Seoul’s hugely impressive skyscrapers. The video then takes you to some of the most beautiful landmarks in the city and gives you a chance to see how the city lights up at night.
Barcelona is such a great city because it’s got the best of both worlds. It’s by the sea and a short drive to the countryside, but it’s also a bustling metropolis with plenty of life, culture and fun. This YouVisit tour of Barcelona will show you all the best bits, from the beach and the marina through to the Gothic Quarter and the breathtaking La Sagrada Familia Basilica. You can download the YouVisit app for iOS and Android devices for use with a VR headset or Google Cardboard.
Visit Sweden has created some fantastic 360-degree videos that show the beautiful simplicity of life in Sweden. You can see a peaceful forest scene in the Meet The King video, but you’ll have to watch to find out who ‘The King’ is. You can also watch as a ground of friends go swimming in a local lake.
Google Earth VR give you 360-degree access to many amazing sights across the globe. One of the most impressive has to be the sizeable Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. It really gives you a sense of the sheer scale of this impressive mountain, which straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy. You can see footage from the Matterhorn and several other locations at the Google Earth VR website, but you’ll get the best experience if you download Google Earth VR app from Steam, for either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
There are plenty of beautiful scenes and marvellous feats of architecture in Tunisia, but the Amphitheatre of El Jem is one of the most popular - and one of our personal favourites. With this simple 360-degree video of the Amphitheatre you can see what it’d be like to stand right in the middle of this fantastic, ancient building, which was built around 238AD.
The Samsung Uruguay YouTube channel has lots of videos documenting Uruguay’s scenery using the brand’s 360-degree camera. From the beautiful landscape to a resort on the coastline, the videos are very simple, but give you a gratifying glimpse into the life and architecture of the country.
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Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.