Virtual Vacation: 11 VR Apps and Films That Let You Travel the World From Home

Oculus Blog
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Posted by Hayden Dingman
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October 1, 2021
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The world is vast, and even the most ardent traveler would have a tough time seeing everything it has to offer—at least in person. Luckily we live in an era where a journey of a thousand miles can begin with a single click. Where do you want to go? Arches National Park? Tokyo? Kenya? With Oculus Quest, you can travel pretty much anywhere you’d like without ever leaving home. Just pick up your headset and head somewhere new.

Below we’ve rounded up 11 ways to go on your own VR adventure—no need for a plane ticket, a hotel reservation, or a pet sitter. Bon (virtual) voyage!


Wander


If you want variety, look no further. Wander uses 360° photos from around the world to transport you to most anywhere in the blink of an eye. Tour the Louvre and the Smithsonian in a single afternoon. Visit the abandoned remnants of Chernobyl and Pripyat. Take a tour of Indian railways or Hong Kong staircases. Or simply stop by your childhood home for a few minutes. With Wander, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Multiplayer support, curated tours, custom Favorites lists, and the ability to “time travel” via older photo data round out one of the most extensive VR travel options available. Learn more.



BRINK Traveler


BRINK Traveler is built for nature-lovers. Travel to some of the most awe-inspiring locations on Earth, captured in full 3D thanks to state-of-the-art photogrammetry. Death Valley, Arches National Park, Mount Whitney, Iceland’s Háifoss waterfall, and more—BRINK Traveler takes you to 12 different locations, with more to come in the future. Explore, take photos, and let the virtual guide teach you a bit about your surroundings and the forces that shape the natural world. Learn more.


When We Stayed Home


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, most people stayed home. But a few intrepid documentarians got out on the empty streets with cameras and captured the moment. When We Stayed Home is a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime look at Paris, Venice, Jerusalem, and Tokyo, silent and bereft of the usual throngs of tourists. Paired with narration from locals—like a bookseller along the Seine—the episodes capture the anxiety of the early pandemic, the hopes and fears for the future, alongside some absolutely stunning footage of these iconic cities. You can find the entire series on Oculus TV. Learn more.


Rebuilding Notre Dame


Another moment-in-time documentary, Rebuilding Notre Dame was released in the aftermath of the 2019 fire that destroyed the famed cathedral’s roof and spire. What’s truly amazing though is that the filmmakers at TARGO had already shot footage before the fire, enabling them to contrast Notre Dame in its full glory with clips filmed after the disaster. It’s both the best way to visit the Notre Dame of old, and likely the only way you’ll get to see what Notre Dame looked like inside after the fire. And it’s not all hopeless either, as Rebuilding Notre Dame relates the story of past reconstruction efforts, with an overarching message of Notre Dame rising from the ashes once again. Find it on Oculus TV. Learn more.


VZfit


VZfit lets you explore the world via Google Street View images. The twist? You do so by bike—or by the power of a full-body workout, if you don’t have a compatible stationary bike on-hand. Either way, you’re getting a workout. VZfit taps into your adventurous self to get you into an exercise routine, turning “What’s around that next corner?” into an excuse to keep coming back. Bike (or “exerboard”) through the Alps following the course of the Tour de France, or take a long and meandering trip across the United States from Maine to California. Whatever keeps you engaged. You can try VZfit free for seven days, after which a subscription runs $9.99 USD per month. Learn more.


National Geographic Explore VR


If you’ve ever dreamed of taking photos for National Geographic, this is your chance. Camera in hand, in National Geographic Explore VR you’ll travel to Machu Picchu and Antarctica in search of the perfect magazine spread. Explore the ruins of Machu Picchu’s hilltop homes and places of worship, learning about the Inca Empire and the people who inhabited this ancient citadel. And in Antarctica, you’ll embark in a kayak to find and photograph a colony of emperor penguins. Bonus points if you dress up in your warmest winter coat beforehand. Learn more.


ecosphere


“You’re now on a journey of discovery to experience a planet where humans and wildlife can both thrive.” That’s your introduction to ecosphere, an award-winning documentary series about how humans and nature coexist. Over the course of 13 episodes, you’ll journey to Kenya, Borneo, and Raja Ampat. Come face to face with an elephant, swing through the trees with the orangutans, and marvel at massive manta rays—and learn what the locals are doing to protect these precious habitats for future generations. Learn more.


Tokyo Origami


The third and final Oculus TV series on this list, Tokyo Origami consists of eight episodes, each highlighting a different aspect of life in modern Tokyo. Over the course of 40 minutes, you’ll tour the video game shops of Akihabara, visit the fish markets alongside a sushi chef, learn about tattoos, taboos, and more. It’s an incredible collection, filmed in 360° and originally designed to showcase Japan alongside the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The Olympics may be over, but Tokyo Origami is still a must-see. Learn more.


Blueplanet VR Explore


The Grand Canyon. Yosemite Falls. Moon House. Carlsbad Caverns. Blueplanet VR Explore has an extensive collection of photogrammetry—most of it from the United States, with a handful of locations in other countries. Locations are grouped by the type of experience, with the option to hang-glide above certain attractions, explore a small area (like a canyon or a cave), or stand at a single point and admire the view. With more than 40 locations (and more on the way soon), there are quite a few sights to see on your travels.


Puzzling Places


You’ll need to do a bit of work to visit the locales in Puzzling Places. Each of the titular places—be it a seaside village, a dilapidated train car, a cozy Japanese restaurant, a palatial Swedish mansion, or what have you—starts out broken into anywhere between 25 and 400 pieces. It’s up to you to reassemble them, keying in on small details like the pattern on the floor, how the light hits different parts of the roof, and so forth. Details so small and inconsequential you’d typically overlook them. Once you’ve plugged the last piece into place, you’re left with a miniature version of the real-world location. It’s part jigsaw puzzle, part model-building, and very soothing. Learn more.


Anne Frank House VR


From 1942 to 1944, eight people lived in a small attic in Amsterdam. Now you can visit it—or at least a digital recreation of it—in VR. Step through the hidden doorway and into the “Secret Annex” where Anne Frank, her family, and friends hid during World War II. Your tour through Anne Frank House VR is guided by excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary, giving you context on each room, who lived there, and the extraordinary conditions they lived under. Learn more.


Looking for more recommendations? Check out our Oculus Starter Kit for 13 must-play Quest 2 titles.