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52 Places, Virtually


When we published our list of 52 places to visit in 2020 three months ago, no one could have guessed how much our world would change. And now, given our stay-at-home circumstances, we’d like to invite you on a series of virtual journeys: You can wander into the belly of an Egyptian pyramid, explore the house where Mozart was born, or fly over the rocky peaks of Glacier National Park. Sure, you’ll be looking at a screen, but you’ll see new places, hear new languages and pick up some interesting tidbits about other cultures. Call it a warm-up for that moment when you’ll actually be packing your bags and heading out for your next adventure.

Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Anyone dreaming of white sand beaches might enjoy browsing the views from this collection of webcams scattered around the British Virgin Islands. Admire the shifting light over Scrub Island Marina, or just watch the breeze wafting through the palms in front of Soggy Dollar Bar. You can also sail around the islands with a group of friends who visited last year.

The Amazon jungle is about as remote as you can get, but you can get a sense of the place from home by reading the remarkable story of the tourist who spent nine days lost in the region’s dense rainforest (he said that monkeys helped him survive). Or skim around the waterways and look out for birds, turtles, caimans and other wildlife.

Australia’s wild northwestern corner is another out-of-the-way region that offers a gorgeous natural escape. To visit from afar, start with Tourism Australia’s guide to the Kimberley, then dive into a vivid photo gallery of the otherworldly Bungle Bungle Range, and wrap up with a fun video tour of some of the region’s most popular spots.

Embark on your own Sicilian adventure by exploring this series of panoramic photographs and videos from around the Italian island. (Just click on “Sicilian tour map” to get started.) Gape at the ceiling of the Monreale Cathedral, admire the ruins at the Valley of the Temples, or take in the sweeping coastline at Cefalù. For a loftier perspective, spend a few minutes watching this impressive footage of a recent eruption of Sicily’s Mount Etna.

Get an online taste of Austrian tradition through some entertaining snippets offered up by the Salzburg Puppet Theatre. Start with 10 minutes or so of The Magic Flute — composed by Mozart, Salzburg’s famous native son, then skip over here to take a virtual tour of Mozart’s birthplace.

The Roman ruins of Caesarea occupy a beautiful stretch of Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Enjoy the landscape, as well as a lofty view of Caesarea’s impressive amphitheater, in these sweeping aerial shots. Then head over to the Jewish Virtual Library to find more detailed images of the ruins and to read about the history of the site.

The world’s remaining giant panda population is set to get a helping hand from China’s proposed new Giant Panda National Park, which will spread over five mountain ranges and more than 10,000 square miles. You can read about the development of the park here and here. Or just get straight to the point and enjoy the highlights of these panda cams, which offer a glimpse into a panda center that lies within the proposed park.

One of the top sights of this tiny mountain kingdom is Maloti-Drakensberg Park, which straddles part of the country’s border with South Africa. The park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in sub-Saharan Africa. Check out these images from around the park, then enjoy some drone shots of the country’s dramatic landscape.

There are a number of ways to get to the top of Pikes Peak, the 14,115-foot mountain that rises above Colorado Springs, without leaving your house. You can ride the cog railway (which — in real life — is scheduled to reopen next year after major renovations). You can hike. You can drive yourself up the Pikes Peak Highway. Or, if you’re maybe a little bit crazy, you can even try to run.

This ancient city in southern Poland can be fully explored through an extensive virtual walking tour. Go for a guided stroll through the Old Town, admire the ornate interior of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre, or visit the peaceful grounds of the Old Jewish Cemetery. Then head over to the National Museum in Krakow to peruse its collection online.

The 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, which stands at the top of a cliff above the city of Jodhpur, can be visited online. Wander through the ornate rooms and admire the views down to “the blue city” spread out below, then visit the Mehrangarh Museum Trust to learn about the history and architecture of the site. You can also check out these highlights from the international folk festival that the fort hosts every year.

Good news, nature lovers: Without leaving home, you can spot a moose in the forest, go for an evening swim, or enjoy the views from the top of a spectacular waterfall. These 360 videos of the Swedish outdoors allow you to choose your own perspective as the scene unfolds. Enjoy.

Explore some of the great pyramids of Egypt with this panoramic video, or this clickable virtual tour. Then have a look inside the Pyramid of Giza with this 360 video from the BBC. You can also watch this video or read this story about the development of the Grand Egyptian Museum, an enormous complex that is nearing completion.

La Paz sits on the coast of the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California), which has been described as “the world’s aquarium” because of its extraordinary biodiversity. The region’s islands and protected areas have been recognized by UNESCO, although the site was added to the organization’s “in danger” list last year because of ongoing threats to the vaquita, an endemic porpoise. Learn more about the region, then check out UNESCO’s gallery of images. You can also get lost in this mesmerizing scuba-diving video.

Get to know this tiny barrier island off the coast of Louisiana with this short video, then read about how environmentalists are working to protect the island’s remaining maritime forest, which serves as a critical habitat for migratory birds. Finally, get a sense of the size of the place with these flyby shots along the coast.

You can explore the many sculptures of Norway’s futuristic Kistefos Museum and Sculpture Park by clicking your way through this interactive map. You can also watch this video of the museum’s emblematic “Twist” structure taking shape (and get a taste of the Norwegian language at the same time).

So brilliant is the sunshine on display in this panoramic tour of the Bahamas that you might be tempted to put on sunglasses (or at least dim the brightness of your screen). Gaze at the turquoise waters of Pipe Cay, stroll across the boardwalk through Lucayan National Park, then gape at the size of the ships in the cruise terminal in Nassau.

Ride along with two young travelers as they explore Cambodia’s riverside city of Kampot and tour a nearby pepper plantation. Or just enjoy some drone shots of the city and nearby Bokor Mountain, which is home to a waterfall, a Buddhist temple and a towering statue of Lok Yeay Mao, whom locals revere as the protector of the mountain and sea.

The largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch offers a range of cultural attractions, some of which are available on the web. Start with a tour of the online exhibitions of the Canterbury Museum, including a look at the evolution of New Zealand’s tourism posters. Then head over to the website of the Christchurch Art Gallery, where you can browse the artwork and even create your own gallery.

The Asturias region in northwestern Spain is home to dramatic mountain scenery, sacred sites and even an extensive network of ancient Roman gold mines. Asturian dairy farmers continue to produce the region’s celebrated products, including cheeses and various types of milk, cream and butter. You can browse a photo gallery of local farmers at work, and other lovely images from the region here.

Get your first taste of this remote Canadian archipelago with this panoramic video from Parks Canada. You can also take a close-up look at some of the area’s bald eagles with this GoPro footage, or learn about the proud history of the Haida nation.

Austin, the capital of American cool, is packed with quirky landmarks, vibrant street art and sparkling green spaces. Dive into all of them thanks to YouVisit, an immersive virtual reality platform whose Austin tour will take you from the elegant grounds of the Texas Capitol to the summit of Mount Bonnell and even to the packed, smoky barbecue pit of Salt Lick BBQ. And for a taste of Austin’s celebrated live music scene, take a look back at last year’s Austin City Limits music festival.

Amid the volcanoes, dense rainforest and fluorescent blue water on this corner of Borneo, Sabah’s Mount Kinabalu, with its distinctive granite peaks, sits like an imposing crown. And now you can hike to its summit from home, thanks to Google Street View, whose trekkers captured sweeping panoramas all the way to the top. Want more thrills? Follow along on the world’s highest via ferrata (a mountain pathway of bridges and cables), which sits on Kinabalu.

Wildlife enthusiasts head to Churchill, Manitoba, the Polar Bear capital of the world, for a glimpse of these incredible white mammals. Get to know some special sea bears, then climb into a Tundra Buggy, an all-terrain vehicle that can handle snow drifts, via an on-dash webcam, whose stunning footage can be viewed from home.

There is perhaps no better spot on earth to see gorillas than Uganda, home to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park, a habitat for half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. And the virtual reality house VR Gorilla will take you right into the dense forest to meet them up close.

In the City of Light, it’s the world-famous cultural treasures that shine the brightest, and chief among them is the Louvre, the largest art museum in the world. But while this iconic Parisian landmark is closed to the public, several galleries, including Egyptian Antiquities and Galerie d’Apollon, remain open for online exploration. And for those who prefer art of the wearable variety, Paris’s fashion museum, the Palais Galliera, has an annotated online library of 10 collections, with vivid photography to click through.

With craggy fells, rolling hills, glacial landforms and more than a dozen ribbon lakes, it’s no wonder that the natural wonders of the Lake District served as muse for William Wordsworth and all of English Romanticism. Meander through Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth wrote some of his most seminal works. And you, too, can be inspired by the charming district’s beauty, thanks to municipal webcams offering live feeds on a number of its lakes.

For roadsters and adrenaline junkies, the remote Pamir Highway, a spectacular, high-altitude passage marked by yak sightings, gargantuan potholes and jaw-dropping mountain views, is the ride of a lifetime. And if you can’t drive it yourself, you can still ride shotgun with the travel blogger and videographer Pete Rojwongsuriya, who did. Don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.

Antakya, also known as Hatay, overflows with rich treasures of Christian history, both below ground in its current archaeological excavations, and above it in stone churches carved into mountainsides. Explore the city in this time-lapse tour, then step into one of those treasures, the Church of St. Pierre, to explore frescoes and mosaics dating all the way back to the fourth century.

There’s no doubt that Leipzig knows how to party. The city has a long musical legacy; Bach wrote some of his best works here, so treat yourself to his great organ works, as performed in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church. Then get a bird’s-eye view via a sleek drone video of the city that will show you its Renaissance architecture, its bustling market square, its arenas, green belts and cultural spots.

Pastoral Molise, home to the traditional Transumanza ritual, remains blessedly undiscovered but has a notable artistic pedigree. At its foundation is the Praitano-Eliseo collection, the most significant collection of Molise art from the 19th and 20th centuries. You can now explore it online, thanks to a project, “From the Invisible to the Visible,” created by the Regional Directorate of the Museums of Molise. The site is in Italian; click on “i ritratti” in the upper right corner to navigate to the paintings.

Spend one day in modern, sustainable, efficiency-focused Copenhagen via a virtual tour through its landmarks, then zoom in further. The city is home to CPH:DOX, one of the largest documentary film festivals in the world. And this year, when the coronavirus forced the city to cancel its physical event, it offered a virtual stand-in as substitute. Visitors can stream conferences, meetings and workshops, and even rent competition films for their own home viewing.

Dive into a virtual tour of the pristine beaches and rugged wilds of beautiful Minorca with VR Menorca, whose 360 degree panoramas of the Balearic Island’s landmarks come with vivid captions and details. The new arts center on Minorca’s Isla del Rey, from top gallery Hauser & Wirth, is now delayed until 2021; for an extra cultural kick in the meantime, you can explore their extensive online exhibitions.

Oberammergau, a tiny Bavarian village with colorful frescoes, unspoiled Alpine views and a centuries-old woodworking legacy, is best known for its once-in-a-decade Passion Play, now canceled for 2020. But its other charms can still be enjoyed from home, including a webcam feed of its adrenaline-spiking Kolbensattel Alpine Coaster.

The breathtaking biome that is Brazil’s Atlantic Forest is ground zero for global conservation efforts, and for good reason: one of Earth’s richest and most diverse ecosystems, it’s home to a stunning variety of wildlife. The Rainforest Trust has captured footage of 11 of its most elusive mammals, including the southeastern common opossum and the capybara — the largest rodent in the world.

On Brittany’s “beautiful isle,” there are grottoes, jagged cliffs and colorful rock formations, making the Tour de Belle-Île, its annual yacht race, particularly thrilling. The next Tour de Belle-Île will be held in May 2021, but you can enjoy footage of the 2019 contest now. Belle-Île was also beloved by Claude Monet; his Belle-Île collection, rife with daydream blues and moody shadows, can be enjoyed on Wikimedia Commons.

Val D’Aran is at its finest in the snow, when its magnificent slopes and valleys become a pristine escape for those armed with skis and snowboards. See for yourself via this webcam of the ski resort Baqueira/Beret. But this Catalonian valley is also thrilling on two wheels and in warm weather; take an armchair ride through its cycling routes to see why.

Google came to Mongolia in 2014, intent on opening up the proud nomadic culture and rugged, dramatic vistas of this Asian country to the world. Today, those riches are online and waiting to be explored. The National Museum of Mongolia can now be visited via the Google Cultural Institute; Google Street View has also captured many of its sites in stunning 3-D.

Ethiopia’s colorful and chaotic capital has a thriving food scene and a gleaming new international airport. Until you can visit in person, watch the traditional Ethiopian dancer Melaku Belay move rhythmically through the city; join YouTube food vlogger Mark Wiens as he eats his way through Addis’s street food stalls, and then cook a feast yourself with help from the Ethiopian Swedish celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson.

Just looking at the multitude of hairpin turns along the Transfagarasan, a paved mountain road loop-de-looping over the Transylvanian Alps in Romania, is enough to give you butterflies. But thanks to Google Street View, you can up the adrenaline from home, navigating them yourself with nothing more than a few clicks of the mouse. After your stomach calms, enjoy 360 panoramic views of Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park, then savor this meditative drone footage from above the Faragas Mountains.

The year 2020 marks 500 years since the death of Raphael, the great Renaissance painter who was Urbino’s favorite son. Take a virtual tour of the major Raphael show at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome marking that anniversary. Much of the important ideas of the Italian Renaissance were hatched from within the studiolo (study) of Duke Federico III da Montefeltro, who served as Lord of Urbino in the 15th century, and you can also drop into its hallowed hallways, which sit within Urbino’s imposing, magnificent Ducal Palace.

  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.


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