7 Great Virtual Reality Travel Experiences

Fulfill your bucket list without breaking the bank or leaving the couch

Who says you can't see the world if you stay home? Virtual reality (VR) tourism experiences let you see places all over the world without ever leaving your couch. We’ve tested some of the best VR tourist destinations to help you decide on your next virtual adventure.

Make sure your computer is beefy enough to handle the demands of virtual reality technology.

01
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The Grand Canyon VR Experience

The Grand Canyon VR Experience (screenshot)
What We Like
  • Very relaxing to play.

  • Excellent visual and sound quality.

  • Impressive attention to detail.

What We Don't Like
  • Predefined with little control.

  • Requires powerful hardware.

  • Very short experience.

The Grand Canyon VR Experience, $2.99 by Immersive Entertainment, lets you sit in a virtual motorized kayak ride through the Grand Canyon. Tailor the tour to your preferences by selecting either a sunlit or moonlit experience and controlling the speed of the ride.

While you cruise along, you'll enjoy the sights and sounds of procedurally generated, artificially intelligent wildlife. Attract and feed the virtual fish as you navigate the waterways.

The ride is on rails (meaning you can't steer the kayak), but you can stop at various points and enjoy the scenery by utilizing the throttle speed controls of your motorized kayak or by exiting at scenic rest stops.

The tour is short and there is no historical background information for history buffs, but it is a fun ride perfect for someone new to VR.

This tour requires one of the following virtual reality headsets: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Valve Index. 

02
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Realities

Screen capture from the Realities VR travel app
What We Like
  • Explore amazing places.

  • Impressively detailed.

  • More tours get added to the library.

What We Don't Like
  • Some back areas of models are unfinished.

  • Available for VR devices only.

  • May experience control issues.

Realities, free from Realities.io, is a VR travel app that allows users to explore scanned and modeled real-world environments. The environments aren't just 360-degree photos, they are locations that have been captured with specialized scanning equipment, allowing for immersive rendering in virtual reality. 

The user interface is a giant globe you rotate with your VR controllers. Once you've decided on the place you want to visit, simply tap the area on the virtual globe and you are instantly whisked away to the exotic locale. 

One interesting destination available is a cell in the infamous Alcatraz prison. Once you arrive, you're greeted by an unseen narrator, presumably a former prisoner in the cell next to you, who recalls his experiences. It's museum-like and an educational adventure worth having. 

There are other destinations of varying size and complexity. Hopefully, many more will be added in the near future.

This experience requires the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or OSVR technology.

03
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Titans of Space PLUS

Screen capture of Titans of Space PLUS virtual reality experience
What We Like
  • Great soundtrack.

  • Detailed 3D visuals.

  • Impressive sense of scale.

What We Don't Like
  • Controls for Vive don't work well.

  • No improvements since release.

Do you like planetariums? Have you always wished they were more realistic? If you've ever dreamed of riding in a spaceship and exploring our solar system and beyond, Titans of Space PLUS, $9.99 by DrashVR LLC, helps make this a reality (at least a virtual one).

The original Titans of Space was one of the first polished virtual reality experiences available; it created a lot of buzz about all the potential VR had to offer.

This app provides a theme park-style ride through our solar system and beyond, allowing the user to control the pace of the experience. Factoids about all the planets and moons are provided throughout your journey, as are distances and other measurements of interest.

The sense of scale of the planets and moons is truly awe-inspiring and gives a unique perspective only astronauts usually get to have.

This title runs in both standard and VR modes. It does not require a VR headset

04
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EVEREST VR

Screen capture from the EVEREST VR app
What We Like
  • Decent rendering technology.

  • Autotunes for your GPU.

What We Don't Like
  • Unimpressive graphics.

  • Can feel slow and boring.

  • Low-quality narration.

EVEREST VR, $9.99 from Sólfar Studios, RVX, is an interactive Mount Everest VR tourism experience.

Users experience Mount Everest in five iconic scenes. Prepare for your expedition at Basecamp, traverse the terrifying Khumbu Icefalls, spend the night at Camp 4, ascend the perilous Hillary Step, and finally conquer the summit of Everest.

After completing your first summit attempt, unlock God Mode to reach a unique vantage point of the Himalayas only possible in VR. Towering over the mountain range, this is a stunning VR diorama.

If you're into mountain climbing but don't like its possible death and frostbite aspects, EVEREST VR is a must.

Requires one of the following virtual reality headsets: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Valve Index.

05
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VR Museum of Fine Art

Screen capture from The VR Museum of Fine Art virtual reality experience
What We Like
  • Impressive attention to detail.

  • Lots of content.

  • Educational experience.

What We Don't Like
  • Undeveloped proof of concept.

  • No voice narration.

If you've ever wanted to peruse a museum at your own pace with no limits on how close you can get to the artwork, then the VR Museum of Fine Art, free from Finn Sinclair, is for you.

With incredibly detailed scans of some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures, this free app holds amazing educational value. Look at the brushstrokes of Monet’s Water Lilies or take a 360-degree tour of Michelangelo's David. This is an art lover’s delight.  

The experience makes you feel as if you're visiting a museum, complete with a pamphlet map to help you navigate your way around the exhibits.

Requires one of the following virtual reality headsets: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Valve Index. 

06
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theBlu

Screen capture from theBlu virtual reality app
What We Like
  • Great introduction to VR.

  • Incredibly realistic experience.

  • Emotional experiences.

What We Don't Like
  • Can get slow and boring.

  • Needs more wildlife experiences.

  • More of a demo than a full game.

theBlu, $9.99 from Wevr INC., is a collection of virtual reality-based underwater experiences that make you feel as if you're literally in the tank of a huge aquarium exhibit. 

Stand on the deck of a sunken ship while a gargantuan whale swims by and looks you straight in the eye, or swim in a sea of bioluminescent jellyfish. There's no need for expensive scuba equipment or diving classes, or even to leave your living room, for that matter. 

The level of detail in this app is amazing and the sense of scale (especially during the whale encounter) is jaw-dropping.

Requires a virtual reality headset.

07
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Google Earth VR

Screen capture of Google Earth VR
What We Like
  • Amazing street view VR.

  • Travel the world virtually.

  • Impressive, vast experience.

What We Don't Like
  • Can be slow to load.

  • Lacks search feature.

  • May cause motion sickness.

When Google Earth was released many years ago, everyone marveled at the novelty of being able to find and view their house from satellite imagery. Now, Google Earth VR, free from Google, lets you not only see your house from space but virtually fly to it and stand in your front yard or on your rooftop.

Change the sun’s position at will, scale objects to any size you like, and fly around the world. The detail levels depend on what you're trying to view. For example, tourist destinations are likely to have much more highly detailed geospatial imagery than rural areas. There so much to see, and Google offers some virtual tours to help you get started.

Google has even added several comfort features to prevent virtual travel sickness in this must-see virtual reality app.

Requires one of the following virtual reality headsets: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Valve Index.