Staring at the magnificent yachts parked at the Monaco Harbour, a swipe takes me to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Another swipe takes me to volcanoes in Hawaii, followed by the twists and turns of Old Jerusalem. This isn’t some sorcery I’m performing, neither have I gained the powers of apparating and disapparating at will like Harry Potter. I am sitting comfortably in my pyjamas at home travelling more than I have done in my past year, all virtually on my iPad. The pandemic might have confined everyone to their homes, but it’s not that easy to kill the wanderlust bug. This is the time for virtual travel. I’m seeking immersive 360-degree virtual reality videos that take you to the centre of the plot, allowing you to experience travel like never before. By Sudipto De
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One of the first places I plan on seeing is Monte Carlo Harbour. Situated on the French Riviera, the principality of Monaco offers luxurious frames. The turquoise waters of the Mediterranean make for a perfect backdrop. From the players of the rich ranging from the Casino de Monte Carlo to the marina, immerse yourselves into the lives of the super-rich. There are quite a few luxurious yachts parked here, ranging from 30-footers to gigantic super-yachts. These gleaming toys are best enjoyed sitting in the blue waters of the harbour. The nights are the best time to explore Monaco, as the brightly lit up buildings are framed up against the setting sun over the ocean.
Located on the South-East part of Australia, Stokes Bay in Kangaroo Island takes you deep into the kangaroo country, along with showcasing its scenic Pacific coastline. Watch out as these majestic marsupials hop, skip and jump their way through life while staring curiously at the 360-camera installed in their midst. You can also set yourself out on a scenic journey across the Great Barrier Reef as a drone takes you over the majestic blue waters laced with gold sandbars.
I, Moose, am the king of the jungle! Yes, you read it right. What makes this virtual visit to Sweden interesting is that the moose holds the title of the king, not a lion. Sweden has an unwritten rule—allemansrätt, the right of every person to enjoy the land. The Moose, with all its majestic antlers intact, roams these forested lands with gay abandon, appearing and disappearing at will. Not only can you pitch a tent to enjoy nature’s bounties, but you can also dig into some luscious berries and—in this case—some amazing views. With dense forests and crisp flowing waterways, a tour through Sweden’s countryside is perfect for those lockdown weekends.
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The host city of Petra in Jordan is filled with cliff faces of all colours: red, white, pink and sandstone. As soon as you log onto the virtual tour, an expert guide will take you through a live tour of the city while explaining the history of the Nabataean kingdom and its culture, from the gateway to the Sig, through the colourful Canyons, and finally landing up at the Treasury, when man’s intricate artisanship comes to life.
5. Hawaii National Park, USA
Have you ever thought of trekking up a volcano? That dream can come true by checking out this YouTube channel. Although it features a ton of amazing videos showcasing the beautiful and varied American landscape, the Hawaii National Park offers some of the most stunning visuals, digging right into the Kilauea and Halimaumau crater’s centre, replete with angry, red volcanic lava and swirling clouds of steam as it meets the water.
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Prague had been on my to-do list when I was planning my annual family retreat this April before the pandemic played spoilsport. Not to be disheartened, I headed over to the Czech Republic’s website that showcases a range of virtually immersive photographs of all their major cities. Heading to the Old Town Square, the cobbled streets, rustic buildings with red brick rooftops and beautiful cathedrals all come together in a panoramic 360-degree view. Head up the stairs of the Prague Castle and many other Bohemian buildings to immerse yourself in a unique historical experience.
7. The Doors of Heaven, Israel
Although I might have swooned at Eva Green in the Kingdom of Heaven, it is the towering Jaffa Gate that has me doing the same on my virtual visit to Israel. This stunning yet stoic iron gate embedded into the stone fortifications has seen centuries worth of history; it was one of the seven major gates servicing the Kingdom of Jerusalem. A relic from the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century, the gate serves as one of the main entry points into the myriad of lanes that the Old Town is famous for. The walls near the gate are filled with artefacts and Arabic inscriptions mingling with bullet holes from the 1948 Arab-Israel war.
8. Giant Ice Canes In Werfen, Austria
Gratifying that unquiet travel bug, we embark upon an adventurous hike up the mountains in Werfen to visit the giant ice caves of Austria. The view from the top is spectacular as I reach the mouth of the stairs that’ll lead me deep inside the cave. Enormous ice formations with glittering crystals invite me to this fantastic experience. Holding a magnesium torch in hand, I move deeper into a narrow passageway, the glistening ice cave giving off a beautiful turquoise glow from the torch. But the piece de resistance is the Dome, or what looks like an ice palace, replete with floors and walls of almost clear ice, as smooth as glass.