Travel can be pricey, but thanks to the rise of virtual reality you can now visit many far-flung places in full 360-degree glory without ever leaving your front room. From very pricey gaming headsets such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive to the £5 cardboard viewers you pair with a smartphone, there are lots of ways to take virtual reality tours. Companies such as Airbus, Qantas, British Airways and Marriott are already experimenting with VR as a marketing tool, allowing customers to look around inside airline cabins and hotel rooms before booking.
Popular platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Google Street View all have lots of VR content that you’ll find by searching for terms such as ‘VR tour’ or ‘360-degree video’. But for more specific travel experiences, try Ascape, a free app with plenty of scenic VR tours designed for travel inspiration — from a day in New York City to reindeer racing in Norway. The LittleStar 360 and VR cinema app also offers a journey across the globe curating 360-degree content from lots of high-quality sources in more than 20 categories including travel, outdoors, sports and lifestyle.
YouVisit is another great place to start exploring VR, with a large library of travel-related experiences that take you from a hike to Thailand’s Ayutthaya temples to a stroll in the grounds of Princeton University. But if you want the ultimate VR experience, you should think about travelling to Salt Lake City, where the world’s first VR theme park, The Void, promises to open its doors late this year. Here you’ll get the full out-of-reality experience with ‘rides’ that add physical stimuli such as hydraulic cabinets, jets of warm air and water sprays to the VR environment, really bringing the experience to life.
Published in the September 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)