The growing popularity of consumer VR headsets is presenting content creators, educators, app developers and travel companies with a great opportunity to let audiences experience parts of the world they've never seen – and which they might never get the chance to see – without leaving their living room.
It’s easy to turn your nose up at VR travel, writing it off as something that’s solely a tool for travel agents to flog holidays or a cheap thrill for the unadventurous. But it opens up fantastic opportunities for education as well as recreation, highlighting issues such as conservation, and giving those who are limited by finances or disabilities the chance to enjoy experiences they previously might only have dreamed of.
So we’re going to take you on a whirlwind tour of this lovely planet of ours in 80 VR experiences, from exploring caves filled with carnivorous glow-worms and paragliding over the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio to making a rocky descent back to Earth from space… we did say around the world, not necessarily on it.
Not many of us will be lucky enough to go on a safari in Africa, so Virry VR’s new Virtual Safari, filmed at The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya, will be a real treat for anyone interested in wildlife.
You can see lions, rhinos and all kinds of other creatures up close and personal in their native habitats – and you’ll be able to get much closer to the beasts than you would on a real safari. It's not just fun for those who like animals, it’s also a great educational tool. Created for PSVR, Virry VR has just been released on the .
When you think of New Zealand you probably picture rolling hills and breathtaking green vistas. But there’s way more to this beautiful country than Lord of the Rings-inspired scenery, and one particularly unusual and captivating experience is the 'glow-worm caves' at Waitomo.
These carnivorous glow-worms glow and twinkle at night to attract their prey. It’s a great video to watch in 360°, because you feel like you're properly exploring the caves, rather than just looking in one direction. This spooky yet beautiful VR experience is available at National Geographic’s YouTube channel.
If you’ve always fancied a trip to Hawaii, then take a quick dip into this Hawaii tour from Discovery. It’ll give you a taste of what it’s like to visit the island, from quad-biking along the sand to surfing. Head to the to download it for iOS, Android, Oculus and HTC Vive.
Ever wonder what the Large Hadron Collider actually looks like up close? Well thanks to the BBC, you can now take a tour of the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, near Geneva in 360° to get close to the world's largest and most powerful particle collider.
If you’ve ever daydreamed about flying over the breathtaking forests and mountain ranges of North America, then this video from the US Public Broadcasting Service, shot from a hang-glider, is for you. You can soar like a bird while making great use of the 360° view by looking down at the beautiful wilderness below you, the mountains in front of you and the sky above.
The iconic landmarks of Paris, from the Champs-Elysees to Eiffel Tower, have been captured in countless paintings and photographs – and now you can experience these sights in Virtual Reality. You can choose which attractions to visit and hear a tour guide talk you aorund them. The tour of Paris is available within the YouVisit VR app, which you can download for and devices for use with a VR headset or Google Cardboard.
It may be a piece of promo content for one of Discovery’s new shows, but if you love pandas you’ll love Panda Playtime, which is brought to you by the . You’re transported to a panda pen in China, which is super-cute to start with, but then the pandas start heading towards you… cute factor: 1000!
Take a captivating tour along India's River Ganges and find out more about the people who live there, what their lives are like and the rituals that take place on the river day-by-day. You can view the 360 footage at the Jaunt VR website, or watch it with your VR headset by downloading the for Android, iOS, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus, Daydream and PSVR.
So many people share the iconic aerial view of Machu Picchu, but this experience allows you to explore the 15th century Incan town as if you were really there, from Cusco and the foothills all the way up into the Andes. You can view the footage in 360 at the Jaunt website, or watch it on your VR headset by downloading the for Android, iOS, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus, Daydream and PSVR.
Most of us have daydreamed about what it might be like to scale Everest, and this VR experience from Discovery gives you a taster of how it feels to see Earth’s highest mountain from the safety – and warmth – of your front room as you take part in a helicopter rescue mission. You can view the clip at the and download it for iOS, Android, Oculus and HTC Vive.
Jaunt VR has teamed up with Conservation International to create this 360-degree experience that lets you soar above the Amazon rainforest, go on an adventure under its canopy and take a dip in its rivers. Created to highlight the biodiversity of this ecosystem and the need to protect it, it’s a stunning look into how VR can be used for great-looking experiences while also raising awareness. You can view the footage in 360 at the Jaunt website, or watch it with your VR headset by downloading the for Android, iOS, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus, Daydream and PSVR.
Take a whistle-stop tour around Ireland with the Discovery VR app, from Bunratty Castle in County Clare to a nightclub in Dublin. You won’t have much time to catch your breath and soak in the Irish culture, but it’s a great preview for anyone planning a trip to the Emerald Isle. Head to the to download the app for iOS, Android, Oculus and HTC Vive.
Getting a bit tired of all these boring Earth-based adventures? We’ve got just the thing for you. The Science Museum has joined forces with Alchemy VR and British astronaut Tim Peake to create a Virtual Reality mission that puts you in the pilot’s seat of a Soyuz capsule like the one that brought Peake back from the International Space Station. You can head to the website to replicate Peake’s Space Descent for yourself.
VisitScotland has launched a new app specially for VR lovers that gives you a taste of Scottish life. You can browse different attractions and see 3D models of them, or jump straight in with some really lovely 360 photography and video. The ScotlandVR app is available for both and devices.
Take a hot air balloon over the historic city of Bristol in south-west England courtesy of Samsung VR. You can preview the 360 video at the , but to experience it properly you can find it within the Samsung VR app from the .
Via the New York Times' Daily 360 series, enjoy some of the most breathtaking – and vertigo-inducing – views in British Colombia by experiencing what it’s like to walk across the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge above Howe Sound and the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge over Twin Falls. We'd say "Don't look down!" – but that's sort of the whole idea…
This is a breathtaking aerial look at Iceland, including the Gullfoss Waterfall and a number of national parks. But this experience hasn’t just been made for the pretty view, it's also a guided tour which explains how huge chunks of ice around the country are melting. You can preview the video at the , but to experience it properly you can find it within the Samsung VR app from the .
VR really lends itself to beautiful, sweeping scenery, but it can also make you feel fully immersed in concerts and other events, and Samsung VR has a fun 360 video shot at last year’s Comic Con in LA, complete with performances, interviews and lots of awesome cosplay. You can preview the video footage at the , and to experience it properly you can find it within the Samsung VR app from the .
Exploring Rio de Janeiro by foot is an unforgettable experience, but you could argue that the best way to see the Brazilian city is from the air, which is why this 360 footage from a paraglider is so breathtaking. Watch as he glides past the Christ the Redemeer statue, along the beautiful blue coastline and over Sugarloaf Mountain.
Nothing beats wandering through the streets of Rome, and among some of the most impressive architectural feats in the world, but you can get a truly spectacular view of iconic structures like the Colosseum and the Pantheon from the air. You can see footage of Rome and several other locations at the Google Earth VR website, and you can download Google Earth VR for the HTC Vive from .
Anyone who's been to Vegas knows the place can be pretty overwhelming. The bright lights! The huge buildings! The fountains! The street entertainers! And that’s before you even set foot in a casino…
So if you’re planning a trip to Sin City you might want to check out some VR footage beforehand, courtesy of the Vegas VR app. Not only can you experience what it’s like to walk up and down the infamous strip, you can see inside hotels, view clips of the world-renowned shows, and take a helicopter ride over the city. The Vegas VR app is available for and .
The Statue of Liberty, Union Square, the Empire State Building… take a tour of the best bits of the Big Apple without having to battle through a crowd of tourists. You’ll see some of the city via helicopter, but when you arrive at particular destinations you can take a virtual walk around them. You can experience NYC at the YouVisit website, and download the YouVisit VR app for and devices and use it with a VR headset or Google Cardboard.
Sail past huge icebergs, peer into the freezing clear waters, find out what it’s like to stand in the middle of thousands of penguins and listen to a herd of seals barking. Who knew Antarctica could be so fun? And it’s the perfect location to experience in VR, as few of us are likely to get the chance to experience the South Pole for real.
Ever wondered what it’s like to take a tour of the Nasa's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center? Well, that’s just one of the many places you can visit as part of YouVisit’s Houston tour. You can also stand in Minute Maid Park and find out what it’s like to train with the Houston Ballet stars. Visit Houston through the YouVisit VR app, which you can download for and devices and then use in a headset or Google Cardboard.
If you thought honey only came from bee hives, this video is going to be a revelation. It follows the story of Mauli, a honey hunter who goes looking for hallucogenic ‘red’ honey, which is sold across Asia’s black markets. Using only a hand-made bamboo rope he spends a whole day swinging across a cliff face gathering up the honeycomb, and thanks to National Geographic you can join him. Just don’t watch it if you’re afraid of bees!
Yes, if you went to see Zambia's Victoria Falls in real life you’d actually be able to feel the spray on your body – but would you be able to dangle over the edge of the falls and peer down into the murky abyss below? That’s why this National Geographic video, which takes you on a flight over one of the world’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls, is so awesome.
Created by Samsung and the World Surf League, there’s a fun build-up to this fast-paced 360° surfing video that lets you experience what it’s like to hit the waves with championship surfer C. J. Hobgood.
If you’re going to climb trees in virtual reality, you may as well climb one of the oldest, tallest and most incredible trees on the planet – the sequoia or giant redwood. In this 360 video, watch scientists working at the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in California reach dizzying new heights by scaling these natural giants. You can look up to the skies as the scientists climb, or waaaay back down to the ground – not a good idea for anyone who’s afraid of heights.
The Holi festival, or ‘festival of colors’, is celebrated by Hindu communities all over the world during early spring, but there’s no better place to experience it than in India – and you can do so courtesy of this New York Times 360 video. It captures all the color, noise and energy of the celebrations, making you feel part of the action rather than just a spectator.
Created by the British Columbia tourist board, this 360° video takes you on a tour of a massive ice cave and its surrounding environment. Much of the video highlights the effects that climate change have had on the ice in this area, which has been melting in recent years – so this is your chance to check out this natural wonder just in case it does disappear.
This 360° video from Discovery takes you on a high-speed airboat ride through the alligator-infested waters of Florida's Everglades. Enjoy spectacular views of the wetlands, and get up close and personal with the gators, without worrying about falling in.
Take an aerial tour over Florence’s terracotta rooftops and some of its most famous landmarks with this great quality 360° footage from Google Earth. You can download Google Earth VR for the HTC Vive from .
Known as the ‘gateway to Everest’, Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Luka Airport, is considered the most dangerous airport in the world due to its short runway and the treacherous surrounding terrain, as you'll see in this 360° video from Discovery.
Join scuba expert Jim Abernethy as he swims with dolphins off the coast of Florida. There are plenty of underwater 360° videos online – and plenty of other dolphin swimming videos – but the quality and immersive nature of this one from the team at GoPro is hands-down the best we've found. A real treat.
This moving and beautifully-shot video from the team at GoPro lets you get face-to-face with the last northern male white rhino, named Sudan. The video is narrated by Zachary, Sudan’s keeper, who explains why rhinos are so close to extinction.
TheBlu is a VR series that takes you into the depths of the oceans, introducing you to all kinds of different habitats and getting up close and personal with some of the most beautiful, fascinating and sometimes kinda scary marine life. It’s not just any old 360° experience either, it’s been directed by Jake Rowell (the guy behind Final Fantasy and Superman Returns) so it looks beautiful, as well as being really informative and fun for marine life nerds. Head to to get theBlu for the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
Not all VR content is about adrenaline highs and beautiful sights – it can be just as fascinating to see places that have been left desolate by war or disaster. The New York Times Daily 360 series brings us this eerie look at the abandoned homes and other buildings in and around Fukushima, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami which caused a meltdown at a nuclear power plant there in 2011.
Son Doong is the largest known cave in the world, and was only discovered in 1991 and explored in 2009. The problem? It’s attracted too much attention, and now the ecosystem risks being devastated by tourism and a cable car system. This video lets you take a peek inside the cave, without contributing to its demise, and find out what’s being done to save it.
Another one to file under 'gritty real-life stories told in VR', this video from The New York Times Daily 360 series highlights the plight of residents who are resisting the demolition of their homes in Shanghai while huge skyscrapers are being built around them.
This 360 video from Conservation International has been created to show the biodiversity of the Bird’s Head Seascape in eastern Indonesia, as well as to explain why this area and its wildlife are under threat. You’ll be diving with Ronald Mambrasar, a local fisherman, and his son Valen as they explore the coral reef and its marine life.
Explore the ancient city of Jerusalem with this guided virtual reality video. You'll experience what it’s like to walk through the bustling streets of the old city and visit religious sites and markets, while a tour guide tells you about the city and its history.
Al Jazeera has created this 360 video showing us what it’s like to visit Mecca, the holiest city in the religion of Islam, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Not only is this interesting viewing for people of all faiths or none, it’s also a great way for Muslims who aren't able to travel to Mecca to experience the Hajj for themselves. The footage is a little shaky, but that just adds to the authenticity.
Unlike many of the other videos on this list, this whistle-stop tour of the beautiful Hamilton Island feels very much like an ad – probably because it’s made by the airline Qantas. It may be a little cheesy for some, but if you’re considering visiting this part of the world it’s a great way of getting a taste of the scenery and the sunshine.
Whether you're a fan of the movie of the same name, or just love dance and cabaret, this behind-the-scenes look at the Moulin Rouge, including the rehearsals as well as the full-on performance of the famous can-can dance, will have you shaking your tail feathers.
Helicopter trips look great when they’re filmed with a 360° camera – you can look up at the sky, down at what’s below you, and even take a peek at the pilot. And there are few better places for a helicopter ride than above the Grand Canyon in Arizona, one of the USA’s most magnificent natural attractions.
If you’re not content with a helicopter trip to a top of a volcano, try this immersive experience that puts you right inside one. Follow researchers on an expedition to the edge of a lava lake, braving poisonous gasses and 1093°C heat. It's as spectacular – and scary – as you’d imagine.
Get a bird's-eye view of the world with these professional skydivers/wingsuiters. Great for those who are thinking of taking the, er, plunge, as well as those who don’t have the guts to throw themselves out of a perfectly good aeroplane, but want to experience a little bit of that adrenaline rush.
This short but sweet 360° video from The New York Times takes you on a journey to Lemur Island off the island nation of Madagascar. Accessible only by boat from the Vakona Forest Lodge Andasibe, the island is home to – you guessed it – loads of lemurs, including the endangered diademed sifaka species.
If you’re not content with seeing Mount Everest from the sky (see experience #10), why not go on an immersive hike through the foothills of the Himalayas with climber and filmmaker Renan Ozturk in this beautifully-shot video.
The Nomads VR series from Oculus explores what it’s like to live a nomadic life in different parts of the world in the present day, taking a fascinating look at the traditions and struggles and lives of nomadic peoples, beginning with the yak herders of the Mongolian steppes. Available for the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift, the series also lets you experience life with the Maasai in Kenya and sea gypsies living off the coast of Borneo.
Situated in Jordan between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, the ancient city of Petra is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year – but it's relatively off the beaten track for one-off excursions and short breaks, which makes it an ideal candidate to be explored in VR. You can head to to watch the trailer for The Rose City, or watch the full programme from within the Ascape travel app, which you can download for and .
Located at Shinjuku’s west gate, Yakitori Alley is one of Tokyo’s most famous food areas, with yakitori restaurants and eateries dating back to the 1940s. You'll get a great feel for Tokyo life, the people, and of course how the food is prepared and served from this mouth-watering 360 video.
Hong Kong isn't just a mass of teeming streets and shoulder-to-shoulder skyscrapers – you'll see plenty of rolling hills and greenery in this VR experience from Google Earth, which gives you a great feel for the territory. You can download Google Earth VR for the HTC Vive from .
It’s hard to picture just how massive the Hoover Dam is until you experience this 360° aerial view from Google Earth. You can download Google Earth VR for the HTC Vive from .
Another whirlwind tour of a country courtesy of Discovery. Here you’re taken from samurai battle recreations to the rooftops of Tokyo with a tour guide to point out the hidden gems of Japan. Head to the to download it for iOS, Android, Oculus and HTC Vive.
Here's another great 360 video from National Geographic, which brings you face-to-face with a hammerhead shark and all kinds of other marine life off the coast of the Bahamas. Handy instructions appear on screen to tell you when you need to turn your head around – or mouse around if you’re watching online rather than on a headset.
If you’ve got an interest in ancient Egypt you’ll love the King Tut VR experience from Eon Reality. Available for and devices, it allows you to get up close and personal with some of the most famous Egyptian artefacts, like the Death Mask of Tutankhamun and the murals painted on the interior of his tomb.
Explore the beautiful coral reef in the waters around Buck Island in the Caribbean, and all the marine life and plants that thrive there. This underwater adventure is narrated by diver and National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry.
ABC News has created this 360° video that lets you experience the city of Chernobyl, more than 30 years after the disastrous power plant accident, from abandoned buildings and houses to the people and animals who still live there today, despite the area being part of the nuclear exclusion zone. The footage is shaky and the subject matter a little harrowing, but it’s fascinating, and a good educational tool for youngsters not familiar with the disaster.
If you thought that rope bridges in Canada (#16) were vertigo-inducing, wait until you try this. Hundreds of feet above the canyon floor in the deserts of Moab, Utah, you can walk the fine line between a majestic view and a disastrous fall on a tight rope.
Unless you have cash to burn on an expedition to the North Pole, you’re probably not going to spend your next holiday hanging out with seals. So why not join Greenpeace for this 360° experience that takes you on a trip to the Arctic on board the icebreaker Arctic Sunrise. You can view the footage in 360° at the Jaunt website, or watch it with your VR headset by downloading the for Android, iOS, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus, Daydream and PSVR.
Google Earth VR transports you to the Alps, where you can see the beautiful Matterhorn mountain nestled between Switzerland and Italy. You can download Google Earth VR for the HTC Vive from .
Watch the story of Weiyi, who runs boat trips on the Mekong River, taking visitors to see the beautiful natural surroundings as she helps to try and create the first National Park in China. You can view the footage in 360° at the link above, or watch it with your VR headset by downloading the for Android, iOS, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus, Daydream and PSVR.
Take a whirlwind tour around South Korea, from factories and stations to central Seoul and the beautiful Korean coastlines, in this captivating if slight disorientating 360° timelapse movie created by the team at Samsung Mobile.
Ever dreamed of staying in one of Bora Bora’s famous overwater bungalows? If so then this VR experience from Samsung VR is for you, showing you what it’s like to receive room service via canoe and look down into the water from your bed. Get yourself the Samsung VR app from the to experience the crystal-clear waters for yourself.
If you’re a fan of elephants, you’ll love this 360° footage from Discovery. Watch as a herd of elephants in South Africa go about their business then catch sight of the camera.
Inspired by Nasa’s real-life training programmes, VR studio Rewind teamed up with the BBC to create this truly cinematic VR experience that makes it feel like you’re floating 240 miles above earth as you take a walk out on one of the arms of the International Space Station. The VR space walk was first created as a one-off experience for the BBC utilizing a haptic feedback chair so you could feel real-to-life vibrations, and a biometric system so you could see your heart rate soar.It’s set to be released on the Steam and Oculus stores soon.
What better way to experience San Francisco, one of the hippest cities on Earth, than by accompanying this skateboarder on a thrilling trip down its winding streets – it's short, but loads of fun.
If you’ve ever wondered how much works goes into preparing a gourmet sushi meal, this fascinating video from Discovery immerses you in the experience every step of the way, from catching the fish at a dock in a tiny fishing village through to the food being prepared in a high-end sushi restaurant.
Fascinated by all things Hawaii or interested in visiting the island? Then this 360 timelapse from Discovery is for you – it highlights all the best bits, from the beaches, cliff dives and shark swims to the mountainous scenery, agriculture and islanders' homes.
Every year people from all over the world flock to the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China’s Heilongjiang province to witness the stunning works of art. Now you can them and enjoy this colorful spectacle for yourself, seeing how different these amazing creations look as day turns into night.
Explore Iquitos in Peru in 360, from the bustling food markets and the rivers through to a trip into the Amazon rainforest.
Bob Woodruff from ABC News takes us on a rare trip inside North Korea during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Worker’s Party. You can watch a giant military parade, peek inside buildings and see what life is like in a country that few westerners ever visit.
Experience Wales through the eyes of the team at Celtic Quest Coasteering as they guide you around their playground on the Welsh coastline.
The Hyperloop is a mode of transportation dreamed up by entrepreneur Elon Musk that could one day propel people or things in pod-like vehicles at great speeds through a reduced-pressure tube. But that’s still way in the future, and this video was shot at the Hyperloop Pod Competition, which challenged university students to build the best Hyperloop transport pod. You can view the footage from the Jaunt VR website, or watch it with your VR headset by downloading the for Android, iOS, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus, Daydream and PSVR.
Whether you’re a seasoned extreme sports fan or cringe at the idea of getting in a kayak, this kayaking taster session from Samsung VR makes you feel like you could really be rowing for your life through the rivers of Austria and Iceland, complete with fast-paced music and heavy breathing. You can head to the to preview the video, but to experience it properly you can find it on the Samsung VR app, available from the .
It’s great to see 360° videos being made by individual creators rather than just big brands, which is why this tour of the Mayan ruins in Belize feels particularly authentic. Watch as a group explores the ruins in the jungles of the Central American state, and learn about the history of these incredible structures.
If you’re curious to see what an erupting volcano looks like up close without actually getting up close (and we don't blame you), then this 360° video is just the ticket. You’ll hang out the side of a helicopter that’s hovering over the highly active Kamchatka volcano, which is located on the Kamchatka Peninsula, a Unesco World Heritage Site in Russia's far east.
Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters off the coast of Florida, home to the weird and wonderful, but perfectly harmless, manatees or sea cows. Another 360° experience via the Discovery VR app, this is a fun dip into VR that’ll make any nature lover giddy. Click the link to the to download it for iOS, Android, Oculus and HTC Vive.
Most people view the Seattle skyline from the Space Needle, but this 360° video from Google Earth lets you get close to the famous observation tower so you can see how spectacular it looks against the backdrop of the city. You can download Google Earth VR for the HTC Vive from .