Have you ever stood at the precipice of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world? Likely, the answer is no, but you could get close with virtual reality. With travel becoming more popular than ever, many people are discovering their dream destinations in VR. But this medium doesn’t just include locations such as the Grand Canyon; people are exploring areas that would otherwise be impossible to see.
If you’re looking for an adventure you can embark on from your living room, look no further. From historical preservation to the bottom of the ocean, we’ve collected the best virtual reality travel destinations available. Continue reading for everything you need to know and where to start.
10. The Grand Canyon VR Experience 2017
Explore one of the world’s greatest natural wonders in the Grand Canyon VR experience. This immersive adventure game puts players deep in the canyon, using a kayak or paddle board to float the Colorado River. The game features procedural generation for a constantly-changing environment filled with foliage and animals. Players can even witness the sun drop below the canyon and experience the stars at night.
If you’re just getting into virtual reality, The Grand Canyon VR Experience is one of the best virtual reality travel destinations available. The tour includes enough immersion to keep people engaged, and presents stunning and accurate visuals to look around with all degrees of freedom. While a little dated, this VR experience is worth checking out.
Release Date: January 2017
Platform: Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, Steam VR
9. Ecosphere – 2020
Imagine trekking through a rainforest and coming across an orangutan hanging on a branch by its feet. In Ecosphere, you’ll get to explore the wilderness of some of the most exotic places in the world. The VR experience brings viewers to Kenya in Africa, Borneo in Malaysia, and Raja Ampat in Indonesia. In these environments, animals such as lions, elephants, and manta rays make appearances.
Ecosphere comes as a three-part series from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an international conservation organization that works to protect communities and the wild environments that surround them. The organization works with PHORIA, Facebook’s Oculus, and Silverback Films to bring environmental conservation to those that might not have that kind of exposure. WWF works to inspire others with uplifting messages about how people come together to protect their planet.
Release Date: June 2020
Platform: Oculus Quest, Oculus Go
8. Patagonia VR -2019
You’ve likely seen it on outdoor equipment logos but never like this. Argentina’s Monte Frizroy is one of the most recognizable mountain faces in the Andes, and this VR experience takes along viewers into its remote destinations, including one of its most pristine lakes, Laguna Sucia. Normally a strenuous, albeit inaccessible hike, Patagonia VR allows its users to fly over it like a bird. Take in glacial water and towering waterfalls among one of the world’s premier mountain ranges.
What makes this one of the best virtual reality travel destinations is its film style. Specterras Productions uses a balance of computational photography, 360 videos, and gaming theory to create a unique 3D experience they call Pterovision. The film style allows users to simulate the feeling of flying, having the freedom to explore areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Release Date: March 2019
Platform: Oculus Quest, Oculus Go
7. The Anne Frank House VR – 2018
While some VR experiences allow people to discover beautiful, natural features, others work hard to preserve historically significant destinations. The Anne Frank House VR tells the haunting story of a Jewish family that hid in the annex of a home in Amsterdam during the Holocaust of World War II. The virtual recreation allows one to experience the challenging conditions that came with living in such a small space. The Anne Frank House VR goes to painstaking lengths to include the smallest details from Anne Frank’s diary.
The 25-minute virtual tour was a project of the Anne Frank House museum, which brings awareness to antisemitism, racism, and right-wing extremism. It is used in museums and institutions around the world, including Anne Frank centers in New York, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Sao Paolo.
Release Date: June 2018
Platform: Oculus Quest, Oculus Go, Gear VR
6. When We Stayed Home – 2020
The makers of When We Stayed Home took a different route on historical preservation; instead of capturing the significance of a particular destination, they captured major locations during an influential period. Viewers of one of the best virtual reality travel destinations will experience Venice, Jerusalem, Tokyo, and Paris at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once busy cultural centers go desolate in this unique take on tourism.
The four-part series takes the experience one step further, featuring the narration of locals as they once knew their city and how the pandemic shook their perception. When We Stayed Home was nominated for the Emmy Award, having one of the most outstanding original interactive programs of 2020. Follow the producers as they attempt to tell the stories of astronauts in their next project The Overview Effect.
Release Date: September 2020
Platform: Oculus Quest, Oculus Go
5. Titanic VR -2018
This VR travel destination takes its viewers about 2.4 miles underwater. Titanic VR is an interactive game that takes players to the sunken ship the Titanic, which has rested at its depths since 1912. Practically impossible to reach, this virtual reality experience puts users in a variety of positions; explore the RMS Titanic as a survivor on Lifeboat 6 and as a researcher using a Remotely Operated underwater Vehicle (ROV).
Titanic VR offers six hours of gameplay, in which the player studies the wreck from a research lab. They’ll use controls to interact with ancient relics that help piece together the events of the catastrophe. For a more leisurely experience, Immersive VR Education put together short and long guided tours.
Release Date: December 2018
4. Everest VR – 2016
Find yourself ascending the world’s tallest mountain in Everest VR. One of the most dangerous mountain climbs becomes accessible to viewers in breathtaking detail. The developers at Solfar Studios go to painstaking lengths to showcase the capabilities of virtual reality in five iconic scenes of the ascent. Users experience the Himalayas at Basecamp, the Khumbu Icefalls, Camp 4, and the Hillary Step before finally completing the summit of Everest.
The developers work with one of the leading VFX studios to create a photo-realistic experience. While reviews suggest an experience that ends too early, it only speaks volumes about the level of detail in the environment. Its efforts won the CES best VR experience of 2016 and are constantly recommended as the perfect experience for introducing the medium.
Release Date: August 2016
Platform: Oculus Quest, Oculus Go, HTC Vive, Steam VR
3. Chernobyl VR Project – 2017
The planet’s most forbidden zone comes to life as one of the best virtual reality travel destinations. Users get to explore the Chernobyl Power Plant and the town of Pripyat following the events of the catastrophe. Explore in great detail the history of the location using a Geiger counter, which monitors the level of nuclear radiation.
The Chernobyl VR Project combines virtual immersion with social significance; Farm 51 includes interviews with several families that were affected by the disaster. The developers even brought together celebrities to support the project including Vitali Klitschko, the Mayor of Kyiv in Ukraine. The project is built upon the latest VR film techniques such as 3D scans of locations, spherical photography, and stereoscopic videos. You can experience the Chernobyl VR project on several platforms found below.
Release Date: September 2017
Platform: Playstation VR, Oculus Quest, Steam VR, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR
2. BRINK Traveler – 2021
The developers of BRINK bring immersion to its pinnacle while exploring several of the world’s most iconic natural features. While exploring, people can shoot photos, interact with the surrounding environment, and feel the real scale of each location. While documenting their travels, players can join their friends in 24 destinations which include:
- Horseshoe Bend
- Mt Whitney
- The Wave
- Delicate Arch
- Antelope Canyon
BRINK offers experiences for both AR and VR; whether you have an Oculus Quest or an iPad Pro, explore these beautiful locations with six degrees of freedom. In addition to spearheading the advancements of VR, the developers use their platform to bring awareness to environmental conservation. As members of 1% for the planet, BRINK XR donates 1% of their profits to drive positive change for the planet.
Release Date: September 2021
Platform: Oculus Quest, Steam VR, Apple iPhones & iPads, Android Phones, and Tablets
1. National Geographic Explore VR – 2019
Produced from the leading publication in exploration, National Geographic Explore VR tops our best virtual reality travel destinations list. This VR experience takes viewers to two locations in Antarctica and South America. The adventures place users on missions, allowing them to experience giant ice shelves, emperor penguins, Peruvian alpacas, and an ancient Incan citadel.
National Geographic Explore VR comes from the same developers that made the Anne Frank House VR Experience. It was nominated for several awards, including two for best use of VR capabilities in 2020. Whether you’re new to the media or an avid user, this experience is worth the purchase.
Release Date: November 2019
Platform: Oculus Quest, Oculus Go
What to Know Before Buying a VR Travel Destination
Before you purchase one of these best virtual travel destinations, it’s important to know which platforms they’re available for. The most prominent headsets in the industry include the Oculus Quest (now called Meta Quest), the HTC Vive, Playstation VR, and Steam VR. If you have one of these headsets, consider choosing a compatible VR travel destination. If you don’t have a headset, however, it’s worth investigating the different options first. As the technology is constantly developing, you can expect to spend over $1,000 on a quality device.
It’s also worth noting that the virtual reality experience as a whole is a work in progress. While some applications might feel smooth, others may still have programming issues. Immersive travel tours can feel buggy or even feature aspects that pull users out of the virtual experience. While choosing a VR destination, take time to explore the quality of each one first. If all else fails, many programs offer return policies.
Summary of the 10 Best Virtual Reality Travel Destinations
|1. National Geographic Explore VR||2019|
|2. BRINK Traveler||2021|
|3. Chernobyl VR Project||2017|
|4. Everest VR||2016|
|5. The Vatican VR||2018|
|6. When We Stayed Home||2020|
|7. The Anne Frank House VR||2018|
|8. Patagonia VR||2019|
|10. The Grand Canyon VR Experience||2017|
Best Virtual Reality Travel Destinations: Further Reading
Whether you’re an avid gamer or an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll find an immersive experience with the best virtual reality travel destinations. As you dive deep into VR, it’s worth considering quality equipment. For more on virtual reality, including games, headsets, and more, check out the articles below.
- The 10 Best Virtual Reality (VR) Games on the Market Today – Here are the most immersive games you can play in virtual reality.
- The 10 Largest Virtual Reality Companies in the World and What They Do – From developers to game designers, this list compiles the companies guiding the VR industry.
- The Best Gaming PCs for VR (Virtual Reality) Today – Virtual reality games and experiences often require a lot of performance to handle. Check out these PCs for running VR.
- The Oculus Quest Pro vs. Sony PlayStation VR: How Do They Compare? – If you’re looking for the best VR headset available, here’s out how these two match up.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com.