Here's some much-needed eye candy. We’ve put together a list of virtual tours that explore some of the best that nature has to offer from across the world. Instead of binge-watching yet another series, why not spend the coming weekend admiring these spots of natural beauty from the comfort of your couch?
Aurora borealis is a display of natural light visible from high-latitude locations in some countries including Norway, Sweden, Russia and Canada. The Lights Over Lapland project seeks to capture the northern lights and bring them into our homes, Their website features a 5-minute video tour across Abisko, a village in Sweden where we are taken from an ice hotel, through the village, and even on a reindeer sleigh before setting up camp as night falls to observe the dazzling waves of light pass overhead. The website also features panoramic stills of the phenomenon from various countries like Russia and Norway. The most fun part is where you try your luck at stopping the lights on a webcam livestreamed from Manitoba, Canada.
Yosemite's most impressive sight, El Capitan is a towering granite rockface and a favourite with daredevil climbers from around the world. The quarantine probably isn’t the only thing stopping you from scaling the behemoth, but it does provide as good a time as any to do it virtually. Thanks to Google’s treks, you can join pro climbers Alex Hannold, Lynn Hill and Tommy Caldwell as they make their hair-raising, stomach-churning ascent to the top. Google also provides profiles on the prolific climbers and a few notes about gear and processes to help you appreciate the experience fully.
This Asian nation popular with tourists is a feast for the eyes. Housebound travellers can certainly do worse than pass a few hours gawping at the country’s lush landscapes through a number of virtual tours courtesy AirPano. The tour of Mount Bromo, an active volcano in Java, puts things into perspective with its massive scale. For a change of pace, dive around the Raja Ampat archipelago and swim with manta rays and jellyfish. Apart from these videos, AirPano’s website also features numerous 360-degree images that show off all of Indonesia's major attractions.
Everest, also known as the ‘forehead of the sky’ (‘Sagarmatha’ in Nepali), is every climber's dream. Through Google Earth, you can soak in an aerial view of the great mountain and compare how it sits with the other peaks in the Himalaya. Viewing the lofty peaks through your computer screen can give you a strange thrill. To appreciate the scale of it all, Google Earth also provides 360-degree images from foothills and base camps charted by humans. It allows you to get an understanding of the valley and appreciate its awe-inspiring beauty. Well-charted routes mean you can, virtually, trek a few areas in the Himalayan foothills as well. Also take a look at an intercative 3D map of Mt Everest here.
Namib Desert, Namibia
Travelling to a desert can be physically taxing. The intense heat, the freezing nights, the constant pelting by sand-filled gusts of wind. None of these problems, however, can affect you when you are viewing it through your computer screen. A stunning collection of images can put you at the heart of the Namib desert where you can gawp at the vast expanses of golden sand, the rolling mist that envelops the area, or the Big Daddy dune and Dune 45 which stand at 325 and 170 metres, respectively.