Many of you probably had plans for the spring and summer of 2020. Head over to a tropical beach and spend a week or two soaking up the sunshine. Go hiking in the Alps. Put on a backpack and bike across the mountains. Visit all European capital cities. Head over to Vegas for a show, a dinner, and to try your luck.
Unfortunately, pretty much every plan has been cancelled this year due to the ongoing pandemic. The museums of Paris and Berlin are closed. You can’t go to see the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum. The streets of Vegas are empty, the lights, turned off, and the art collections in the casinos – not to mention the gaming tables and the machines – are locked away. There are travel bans in place all over the world, and those who still reach another country will most likely be ordered to stay isolated for a week or two (most likely two).
With all the restrictions in place, travelling in real life is out of the question. Luckily, you don’t have to completely give up seeing the wonders of the world – digitally. Whether it’s the Royal Alberta Museum or the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, you can see them all. Here are some services that can help you.
Museums and landmarks
Even before the pandemic locked us inside our homes, Google had an interesting initiative: transpose some of the world’s art galleries, museums, and landmarks into a virtual form.
From a combination of its “Street View” technology and a bunch of high-definition pictures taken inside places filled with the works of famous artists (or even the streets surrounding some of the best-known places in the world), a service was born that can come in handy now that the world is on lockdown.
Through Google’s Arts & Culture, you can explore places like the ruins of Pompeii, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa or even the Venice canals. But there’s much more to explore here: the service has high-quality digital representations of the artworks of more than a dozen major international museums, including the Tate Gallery in London, the Uffizi in Florence or even the MET, plus less “conventional” collections from the Australian Rock Art Gallery, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, among many others.
National parks in the US
If you always wanted to visit the Kenai Fjords in Alaska or the volcanoes of Hawai’i… it’s obvious that now is not the best time to do so – especially because several national parks have already closed in the US and others will likely follow suit. But even if most – even all – of them close to prevent the spread of the virus, there will be a few that will remain open. Online.
The Hidden World of National Parks is a joint project by Google Arts & Culture and the National Parks Service. Through the service, you can join the park rangers to visit and explore five of them: the two above, plus the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Bryce Canyon in Utah, and the Dry Tortugas in Florida, where you can take a virtual dive to a shipwreck, explore the third-largest coral reef in the world, and even take a tour of a Civil War-era fort.
Of course, the experience is nowhere near exploring the same places in person… but it’s better than nothing, right?
Although it is one of the most crowded tourist destinations in the world, seeing Rome is still a dream for every traveller. Not now, though – the raging epidemic has sent the entire country into lockdown. The situation is so dire, Pope Francis even held a special Urbi et Orbi blessing last week in an empty St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican – a place that’s chockfull of people in a normal year. It was still followed by more than 10 million people around the world – online.
The Vatican Museums are, of course, closed – but a virtual tour is always an option. You can do it from the comfort of your home. It’s not the same… but it’s much easier and safer under the current situation.
MVSEI VATICANI has created a virtual tour of its collections a while ago, making it easier for everyone to see its beautiful interiors and artwork collections – and this comes especially in handy during the trying times we’re going through today. Visitors can choose to explore the Pio Clementino Museum, the famous Sistine Chapel, the Niccoline Chapel, and several others, even in VR. Before you get high hopes, though, we’ll have to disappoint you: you won’t get to explore the Vatican Apostolic Archives…
With the ongoing epidemic, travel is out of the question. In many countries, so is going out for a meal, a drink or a movie. Luckily, we still have an internet connection that can ease our wanderlust, keep us in touch with our friends even halfway across the world (or halfway across the street, which is the same thing in some areas) and help us see far-off lands and amazing places while self-isolating at home.