Travel may have taken a vacation, but global exploration continues to forge ahead full speed. As virtual experiences become the new norm, the world has opened its doors digitally, offering travelers surprising perspectives on both iconic destinations and under-the-radar secrets.
You don’t have to be Ansel Adams to appreciate the picturesque vistas on California’s Yosemite National Park’s live stream of El Capitan and Yosemite Fall. You don’t even have to leave home to embark on a virtual trip to northern Sweden, where a hot-air balloon flight over the Arctic and a trek through Lapland’s wilderness awaits. After a day of adventure, you can hunker down for an evening of drama, tragedy, and romance at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, which is streaming Two Noble Kinsmen, Macbeth, and The Winter’s Tale.
But of course you’re still filled with wanderlust, so here are five experiences that sustain the spirit of travel and keep us dreaming of our next journeys.
Discover Puerto Rico with a local
This month, virtual travelers can trek through natural wonders, navigate far-flung sites, and discover historical treasures with Puerto Rico’s new Google Earth live-tour. The first one starts May 5, serving up visitors with island delights such as El Yunque (the only tropical U.S. national forest), Playa Negra’s famous black-sand beach, and the bioluminescent bays of Vieques. Tune into Discover Puerto Rico’s Facebook page for the free, 30-minute live tours.
Follow the music to Mississippi
Ramble through the back roads and byways of Mississippi to discover the roots of the Delta blues via the Mississippi Blues Trail app. It tells the tuneful stories of nearly 200 pioneering men, women, and businesses that made blues music an integral part of the Magnolia state. Listen to works from artists including Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King, then delve into their musical histories with an interactive timeline, and watch short videos that bring these tales—influenced by the cultural, economic, and social geography of Mississippi—to life.
Take a stroll through Krakow
Check out Krakow’s museums, parks, synagogues, forts, and other landmarks via a virtual walking tour with 360-degree panoramas, drone views, and detailed images of the Polish city’s storied neighborhoods and architectural treasures. Start at the opulent, 14th-century St. Mary’s Basilica in Old Town before making your way to sites such as the historic Jewish district of Kazimierz; Rynek Główny, Europe’s largest main square; and Wawel Royal Castle, the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.
Go spelunking in the world’s largest cave
You could fit a Boeing 747 or a New York City block of skyscrapers into the Son Doong cave in Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Since it’s difficult for travelers to visit the 2.5-mile long cave even in normal times, National Geographic Explorer Martin Edström used interactive and immersive techniques to create a virtual, 360-degree walking tour. As you navigate through, you’ll learn about the cave’s geological history, evolution, and mind-blowing dimensions.
Climb aboard Peru’s most scenic train escape
Train enthusiasts can climb aboard Ferrocarril Central Andino for an epic, four-part virtual train trip across Peru. As coastal, forest, river scenery rolls by, you’ll go from the port city of Callo through the bustling capital Lima and up into jaw-dropping mountain territory. Highlights include squeezing through narrow canyons and across the famous Puente Infiernillo or “Little Hell” Bridge and crossing over one of the world’s highest railroad tunnels.