Before the beguiling charm of vacations, there’s the excruciating planning phase. Scrolling through flights, beefing up against bad weather, and now, a host of travel bans—the general hike in turbulence might just wean us off holidays altogether.
For those who grew up in time-pressed working families like mine, this organisational phase never evolved to round two. Summers idled by at my aunt’s, mishti doi and video games replacing resort afternoons. However, being a homebody didn’t mean curiosity had to die a natural death.
Once Google Earth entered the picture, spending hours on its rich maps became second nature. But when Street View walked in, with an enticing offer of panoramas from every corner of the planet, there was no looking back. I may still be stuck on the travel inspo phase (with an hour or four of continually embarrassing devotion), but for those who need a nudge to get out there, we’ve compiled seven breathtaking destinations from Street View that you can actually visit. They’re unlikely entries on the usual travel guide, and are nestled in intensely picturesque surroundings, so make the most of it!
Mirador Salto Grande, Chile
Located in Torres del Paine National Park, this popular waterfall neighbours the mountains, icebergs and golden grasslands of Patagonia. See if you can spot guanacos nearby—the adorable camelid is a wild cousin of the llama.
Getting There: Flight to capital Santiago → flight to Punta Arenas (3.5 hours) → bus to Puerto Natales (closest town; 3 hours) or directly to Torres del Paine (5 hours). Once in the park, hike or drive to the waterfall.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and summer (September–March)
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, Iceland
Designed in collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson, the building’s multicolour glass facade pays tribute to the country’s shimmery basalt landscape. The centre is a frequent name in lists of the world’s most beautiful modern buildings. If you’re blown away by its intricate design during the day, just wait till you see it after sunset.
Getting There: Flight to Reykjavik → drive/bus to Harpa Centre (45 minutes)
Best Time to Visit: June–August for comfortable temperatures; September–March for views of the architecture against the Northern Lights.
Hoeizan Crater, Japan
This volcanic crater formed during Mt Fuji’s last recorded eruption in 1707. Reaching Hoeizan’s rim can be supremely challenging for beginners, but it’s an interesting (and quieter) spot to view Fujiyama.
Getting There: Flight to Tokyo → Drive to Fujinomiya town (1.5–2 hours) → Hike to Hoeizan’s rim via the Fujinomiya Trail (3–8 hours, depending on speed), branching off at the 5th Station (30 minutes
Best Time to Visit: July–September, for mild weather and tourist amenities
Palmyra Atoll, US Minor Outlying Islands
Despite being a protected (and extremely isolated) wildlife refuge, visits are facilitated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under four conditions—research, volunteer work, sponsored donor trips, and monitored recreation. However, there are no tourist facilities. The atoll is largely uninhabited, and recreational visitors must bring all supplies, sleep on their own vessels, or camp out on the beach. Given the pristine location and unmatched biodiversity, it’s well worth the trouble.
Getting There: Flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Hawaii (6 hours) → Private plane (6 hours) or boat (5–7 days) to Palmyra. The Nature Conservancy manages the single-runway Cooper Airport.
Best Time to Visit: Dependent on approval. Do carry an umbrella—the atoll sees 4500 millimetres of annual rainfall.
The public square was once the heart of ancient Samarkand, as the Silk Road city bustled with trade, educational opportunities...and public executions. The confluence of Turkish, Mongol and Iranian architecture is on staggering display, accentuated by Uzbekistan’s rugged beauty. History buffs might remember India’s connection to Samarkand via Babar, the first Mughal emperor.
Getting There: Flight to Samarkand → Drive to Registan (15 minutes)
Best Time to Visit: September–October (for comfortable temperatures and minimum crowding)
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Australia
There’s a lot more to Tasmania than excellent farm produce and a terrifyingly cute marsupial. Located in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the park is a prime location for photographers, nature lovers, resort addicts and adventure enthusiasts; it also offers stunning views of the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis).
I can’t blame Masterchef Australia for not attempting a cook-off here—the scenery is devastatingly distracting.
Getting There: Flight to Launceston → Hired car to Cradle Mountain (3 hours non-stop, or 24 hours to enjoy scenic stopovers). A self-drive can be harrowing for first-timers, so choose wisely.
Best Time to Visit: Summer and spring (October–April)
Home to the uttarÄÂÂmnÄÂÂya matha, one of the four cardinal institutions of Adi Shankara, this pilgrim town also serves as a gateway to several adventure sports hubs in Uttarakhand. Defence enthusiasts can visit the cantonment area, permanent home of the Garhwal Rifles. The station acted as base camp for rescue operations during the 2013 Kedarnath floods.
Getting There: Bus or train to Rishikesh, Uttarakhand → Rental car, taxi or State Transport Bus to Joshimath (8.5 hours)
Best Time to Visit: Summer and autumn (April–November)
All images courtesy respective contributors and Google Earth.