If you’re into adventure travel, you know that mountain-scaling and wave-surfing takes a lot of planning and gear and money (especially if you’re not going solo). So before you financially commit to that far-flung spelunking trip, test-drive it with Google’s The Hidden Worlds of National Parks.
The interactive video series, which just won a Webby Award, offers 360-degree virtual tours of five different locations: the Hawai’i Volcanoes, Alaska’s Kenai Fjords, New Mexico’s Carslbad Caverns, Utah’s Bryce Canyon, and Florida’s Dry Tortugas. Unlike the tried-and-true Grand Canyon and Yosemite, these spots are a bit off the beaten camper’s-path and consequently a little harder to research.
Each tour is led by an experienced park ranger. Highlights include climbing 30 feet down into Exit Glacier’s crevasse, helicoptering over the lava flow of Kīlauea Volcano, and scuba-diving through the third-largest coral reef on the planet. You’ll want to set aside about an hour to get through the whole thing, so we recommend you watch it while in transit via the Google Arts & Culture iOS/Android app.
Together, the tours feature some of the most stunning natural footage we’ve seen anywhere outside National Geographic. So, while, as even Google admits, the virtual version is still no match for the real thing, it’s a pretty close second.
And if all that exposure to the elements just isn’t your thing, Google can still help you plan your summer travel. Voyager, a Google Earth feature launched last week, provides a similar virtual experience where you can try out less physically demanding destinations like Paris, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro.