Another week, another lockdown. 2021 sure isn't giving us all the send-off we had hoped for, so better buckle up for a few more months of being mostly stuck at home, zooming and memeing our way through live (and work). But believe it or not, you can still realize your traveling dreams and make up for lost time, without ever stepping outside your house. There are plenty of virtual reality tours that you can take right now and trust us, they're almost as good as a real-life trip. To help you get trough the pandemic blues, we put together a list with the best VR tours we think are packed with plenty of action, adventure and excitement to make you forget the current state of affairs. Pick up your VR headset, fasten your seatbelt and head somewhere new.
1. Escape Now: The Icons
There's no beating around the bush with this one; Escape Now is the traveling experience you've been eager to have for the last two years but likely couldn't because of, well, you know... 'Rona. We were really looking forward to kicking off our list with a VR title like none other and Escape Now sure lives up to its very fitting title. This seven-part virtual reality series will take you to some of the world's most iconic places, including Paris, Rome, NYC, London and a mind-blowing tour of the The Great Pyramids of Egypt. Escape Now is produced and hosted by award-winning VR filmmaker Tarik Mohamed. If you're looking for a truly fulfilling virtual vacation (or just a visual refresher), this is a great place to start.
2. National Geographic Explore VR - Oculus Quest
What can be better than playing the role of a National Geographic explorer on a mission to find the best shot of the world's most epic locations? Let's be honest, it's very hard to top that one off. And that's why National Geographic Explore VR is one of the best virtual reality tour experiences currently available for those interested in exploring world heritage sites. Set off to Peru's Machu Picchu and uncover the secrets of the Inca citadel, e-pet some alpacas, take part in a mummy worship and learn about the Inca Empire from the very unique perspective of being a NatGeo photographer. Your travels won't stop there as you'll also be able to go to Antarctica and capture the icy landscapes of this remote location. Bonus tip: don't miss the colony of emperor penguins. They're a must see. Get yourself a good winter coat and get ready to depart.
3. Vatican - Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Impressive architecture? Historic sites? Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Raffaello? Yes, the Vatican ticks all the boxes of the most keen traveler and it's all just one headset away. The Vatican offers several virtual reality tours through breathtaking places like the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and the Niccoline Chapel. Those are experiences you're sure to enjoy. And if you have a particular interest in taking a closer look Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling, there's a separate VR tour that you might also want to explore. Download here.
4. Blenheim Palace
If you're in the mood for a visit to an exquisite palace (who also happens to be the birthplace of none other than Sir Winston Churchill), then Blenheim Palace is a great option. Built in the 18th century, this World Heritage Site is open for virtual reality visitors who can roam around several of its most impressive rooms, including the The Saloon, First State Room and the Red Drawing Room. Check it out here.
And keeping in the theme of British historic estates, Waddesdon is filled with exceptional treasures that you'll want to take a closer a look at with the help of virtual reality. This manor resembles more a French Renaissance château, and was built by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild in the 19th century as a place where he could entertain guests during his famous house parties. Visitors will be able to explore many of the manor's sumptuous rooms and be amazed by the unique royal treasures in it. Moreover, some rooms aren't always open to the public, so this is a unique opportunity to visit this exquisite manor's best hidden gems. Take the tour today.
6. Sainsbury Wing VR tour
London's National Gallery is a landmark of the British cultural scene, so if you're in for a tour of some of the word's greatest masterpieces, you can now explore the gallery's Sainsbury Wing extensive collection. Enjoy Renaissance art pieces, including works by Veronese, Holbein and Titian. Enter the gallery.
7. Anne Frank House VR - Oculus Rift, Go
The Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam's must-visit landmarks, and now you too can enter it with the aid of VR. This tour will walk you through the place where Anne Frank and her family hid during WWII including the secret annex where Anne wrote a great portion of her diary. Not only will you be able to see the house, this tour also provides context behind passages of Anne Frank’s diary, making it a truly educational experience. Download it here.
8. The Grand Canyon VR Experience - Valve Index, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Described by the developer as the "most realistic nature environment in VR available today", this a tour you won't want to skip. Get yourself fully prepped and take this epic journey to the heart of the Grand Canyon national park and enjoy a kayak ride through the nature of this world landmark, all from the comfort of your own home. As a bonus point, you'll be able to choose between a tour under the hot sweltering sun or one under a cool starry sky. Dive into it.
9. When We Stayed Home - Oculus Quest
Coming from a totally different perspective from the other titles so far, When We Stayed Home is actually a virtual reality series about the pandemic, or rather, an international travel experience through the world's most iconic cities as they were empty during lockdowns. The beauty of this experience, apart from the stunning locations, is how it's also narrated by locals which adds a deeply personal side to a pandemic story that has hit us all differently. Check out the series here.
10. Realities - Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PC VR
Realities is the ultimate virtual reality immersive experience with jaw-dropping visuals and out of reach locations that are sure to impress you as a time when in-person travelling is far from being possible. This free travel app takes Google Earth VR to the next level, taking you on virtual tours without parallel. Some of the places, like Alcatraz prison, also double as an educational experience as you'll be able to learn its history through the experience of a former prisoner. Exotic locations include an abandoned hospital in Beelitz Heilstätten (in the former GDR) or the ruins of Staufer castle, just to name a few. Download it here.
11. Everest VR - Valve Index, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Mount Everest is an iconic tourism destination, but either because of the risk factor, the financial cost or other reasons, climbing it is an experience that remains out of reach for most of us. But if this is on your bucket list and you're still determine to conquer the summit of Everest, then this VR tour is for you. EVEREST VR is more than a regular VR gig as you'll be able to see the breathtaking views of the Himalayas from five different vantage points, cross the Khumbu Icefalls, go up the infamously perilous Hillary Step and enjoy the full Mount Everest from Basecamp to Summit without the fear of freezing to death. Moreover, you'll have the possibility of seeing the mountain at human size or tower over it at 1500x scale, enjoying vantage points that are only possible in virtual reality. Download the VR tour here.
12. Patagonia VR - Oculus Rift
Escape from the city, going from the top of Mount Everest to another heritage site somewhere a little more south - Patagonia. Argentina's legendary travelling destination makes for some of the world's most stunning views that you'll be able to enjoy to the fullest with this virtual reality tour. Visit Monte Fitzroy, Laguna Sucia and many more breathtaking natural landscapes in a totally different way, as this VR tour "allows you to take off as a bird with wings, fly around the lake, visit the waterfalls along the edge, and visit the snowy clad plains beneath the mountain peaks, including many stunning glacial formations.” You can also choose to turn on the narrations which will help you understand more about the history and geology of Patagonia. Start exploring now.
13. Ecosphere - Oculus Quest
Speaking of virtual adventures through nature, fans of the genre are sure to take an interest in Ecosphere, which takes to you to some of the world's wildest places, from Borneo's historical jungles to the rich coral reefs of Raja Ampat. All the landscapes were captured with cutting-edge 3D-180 cameras, making this VR tour an ultra-realistic experience. The series was produced in World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and is narrated by award-winning actress Anna Friel. Download here.
14. The VR Museum of Fine Art - Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
The VR Museum of Fine Art is any museum-goer's dream. Take an online tour around this museum, learn about each piece of art and zoom in to see the smallest details from the world's most famous paintings and sculptures. There's no closing hours in this museum, so you'll be able to explore at your pace and enjoy art in a different way. Enter the museum here.
15. Chernobyl VR Project - Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Closing off with an experience that in real life is isn't always easily accessible. Chernobyl is a VR tour though the eerie sights of ghost town of Pripyat, where you'll learn about the history of Chernobyl's nuclear disaster. This VR experience has been designed as a tribute to the victims of this tragedy and offers plenty of educational tools. Download it here.