Google Earth VR is one of the most fantastic ways to explore the world without leaving your home. It provides an awesome showcase of what VR can offer, and it’s completely free to use. I’ve chosen some of the best places to visit in Google Earth VR to get you started.
1. Mount Fuji
One of the most immediately recognizable mountains in the world, and now a world heritage site, Mount Fuji is a wonderful landmark to explore in Google Earth VR. With high-resolution satellite and terrain data, you can fly all around Mount Fuji, and admire this landmark from a variety of angles and altitudes.
2. Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming
The sense of scale you get when you fly around Devil’s Tower National Monument, or particularly, when you position yourself at the bottom and look up, is quite breathtaking. You get a much better appreciation of how remarkable this landmark is by having the opportunity to fully explore it using Google Earth VR.
Devil’s Tower formed over the course of millions of years, as the surrounding sedimentary rock was eroded by the elements, leaving the harder igneous rock of Devil’s Tower standing tall and strong above the surrounding landscape.
3. Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake is best viewed from above, making it a great landmark to check out using Google Earth VR. It was formed approximately 7700 years ago following the collapse of Mount Mazama. Interestingly, there are no rivers that feed the lake, so it is fed exclusively from rainfall, which manages to offset evaporation from the lake.
Tokyo is a fantastic example of how good Google Earth VR can be when it comes to showcasing some of the most impressive cities in the world. It doesn’t just have high-resolution satellite imagery, but fully 3D-mapped buildings, that allow you to explore Tokyo from the air or at ground level.
Don’t expect perfection. The 3D models have many artifacts, and the closer you get to street level, the more apparent these will be. From higher altitudes, however, Google Earth VR provides unparalleled levels of detail that make exploring Tokyo a delight.
Despite the drop in fidelity at street level, having the freedom to fully explore all aspects of Tokyo is still loads of fun. Another cool feature is the ability to enter Street View by simply lifting your left controller up to your head. I felt this gave me a real insight into the city, that I would never have obtained from reading about it or looking at pictures.
5. Eiffel Tower, Paris
The Eiffel Tower is one of the best places to visit in Google Earth VR due to the wonderful detail of this unique landmark and the backdrop of Paris, that is filled with interesting spots to explore. Having visited the Eiffel Tower in person a few years ago, I was blown away by this impressive tourist spot. Being fully immersed in VR while exploring it again was a total delight.
6. Your House
When you live somewhere for a long time, you get used to how your neighborhood looks, but seeing everything from above gave me a completely different perspective on my neighborhood.
Not all residential areas will have 3D mapping, so you may be disappointed to find a flat satellite image painted on the ground where your house should be. Thankfully, my house is quite near a city that is fully 3D mapped, so I spent plenty of time flying around my local area admiring the view in Google Earth VR.
7. Night Time From Above
If you’ve ever wondered what it must look like for astronauts looking down on Earth, you can get a taste of this experience by zooming well out in Google Earth VR. Nighttime definitely produces the most spectacular vistas, as the lights of the world illuminate urban areas and let you navigate much easier.
Point your right controller at the sky, hold down the right trigger, and drag the sun across the sky to change the time of day so you can experience one of the best views in Google Earth VR.
8. Las Vegas
The strip in Las Vegas is world-famous, with every hotel being instantly recognizable from movies. Google Earth VR has done a great job of modeling hotels such as The Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, so you can fly around and enjoy.
I’ve previously spent many hours flying around Las Vegas in VR in the military flight simulator, DCS World, where I love to fly the UH-1H Huey. The flying is definitely much easier in Google Earth VR, and not much less spectacular.
It’s no shock that almost 60 million tourists visit Chicago every year, and why it’s been voted the best large city in the U.S. four years in a row by Conde Nast Traveler. Chicago is a beautiful city to explore, and it easily makes my list of best places in Google Earth VR. There are so many famous landmarks and impressive skyscrapers to explore, and the level of detail is seriously impressive.
I love to switch in and out of Street View to see real panoramic photos of the city and explore areas I’ve never been to before.
10. Grand Canyon
I remember the first time I visited the Grand Canyon, being blindfolded and led to the edge. Seeing this wonder for the first time as my blindfold was removed was one of the spectacular views I’ve ever seen.
Exploring the Grand Canyon in Google Earth VR is a real joy. Being able to rapidly travel all around the Canyon to get views from many spots is something you could never do if you visited in person. The Grand Canyon is one of the default “Featured Places” and I’d definitely agree that it’s one of the best places to explore in Google Earth VR.
11. Barringer Meteor Crater
Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona is one of the most impressive examples on Earth of a meteorite impact crater. It is thought that a meteorite measuring approximately 50m (160ft) across stuck the ground at about 29,000 mph (12.8km/s), forming a crater that measures an astonishing 1200m (3900 ft) across and 170m (560 ft) deep.
I think the best way to see a structure this large is to view it from the air, where you can really appreciate the scale of this amazing crater. This easily makes my list of the best places to visit in Google Earth VR, as I’m always amazed every time I fly around it.
London may lack the wow factor of the skyscrapers of some of the other cities featured on this list, but it makes up for it with the plethora of historical landmarks that you can explore from the sky or from the ground.
The architecture of London gets full 3D modeling treatment and looks great as you fly over the rooftops. Once you get very close to the ground, you do lose a lot of clarity as the blocky nature of the models becomes more apparent.
One of the most interesting aspects of using Google Earth VR is being able to explore a place from a different perspective. It is very difficult to picture how the layout of a city works when you explore it from the ground, but getting a birds-eye view lets you learn more in a few minutes than you could by using other resources for hours.
13. Disney World
Disney World is the holy grail for kids and the young at heart. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, exploring it within Google Earth VR will give you a very interesting perspective on all it has to offer.
Equally, if you are planning a trip, it is really helpful to see the layout of the parks, and where they are in relation to accommodation and transport links.
14. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Climbing the final ascent to the top of Half Dome was a truly memorable moment in my life, and the view of the valley floor from the top is breathtaking. When exploring Half Dome and the rest of Yosemite in Google Earth VR, I recommend enabling “fixed human scale” in the settings menu.
This makes you feel smaller and closer to the size of a real person when navigating the world and allows you to get a much better feel for the size of large landmarks like half-dome.
I remember standing at the bottom of the final ascent to half dome, looking at how dauntingly steep the rock face was. I was able to recreate this view easily in Google Earth VR and the memories came flooding back.
15. The Colosseum, Rome
The Colosseum in Rome is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built, and almost 2000 years after its construction, is still standing. It’s one of the best places to visit in Google Earth VR as it allows you to explore one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in fantastic detail.
There are plenty of street view images to immerse yourself in, or you can simply fly around admiring the Colosseum from all angles and altitudes.
Located on the east coast of the Iberian peninsula, Spain’s third-largest city is great to explore in Google Earth VR. Founded in the Roman era, there is a wealth of ancient history, and interesting modern architecture to explore.
One of the things I like to use Google Earth VR for is to explore places when planning a trip. You can really get a clear idea of the layout of a city, enter Street View to get a preview of what you might see, and plan what sights to visit.
17. Christ The Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro
The world-famous Christ the Redeemer is instantly recognizable, and an iconic landmark of Rio de Janeiro. Built between 1922 and 1931, and measuring 30 meters in height, it would be seriously impressive anywhere, never mind being located at the peak of Corcovado mountain.
This is one of the best places to visit in Google Earth VR as you’ll see this fantastic statue from angles that you couldn’t experience any other way. You can fly all around it and look down on Rio from all sides. The graphical detail of the statue isn’t particularly high, but it’s only when you get very close that this deficiency detracts from the experience.
18. Bryce Canyon
More than 2.5 million tourists visit Bryce Canyon every year to marvel at the unique rock formations which have been formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of sedimentary rocks over millions of years. Freestanding pinnacles called hoodoos were formed as cliffs were slowly eroded away, leaving the spectacular formations you see today.
Using Google Earth VR, you can pick your vantage point to enjoy the view of these amazing rock formations, as well as enjoy the rest of the myriad of wonders within Bryce Canyon National Park.
19. Cape Town
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a trip to the top of Table Mountain, where you can look down at the spectacular city below. Google Earth VR allows you to make this trip without leaving home. It’s not a substitute for the real thing, but if you’ve never been, it gives you a great idea of what to expect.
20. Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
This is another landmark that is best viewed from above. Whilst visiting in person is really special, you get a much better view of the dramatic colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring from above.
The satellite imagery isn’t quite as detailed as some other locations you can visit, but this is such a unique natural feature that it had to make my list of best places to visit in Google Earth VR.
21. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Completed in 1892, Neuschwanstein Castle was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a palace in an architectural style known as castle romanticism. Visited by more than 1.5 million tourists per year, featuring in many movies, and even serving as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, Neuschwanstein Castle is seriously impressive.
Google Earth VR captures Neuschwanstein Castle in all its glory, with high definition satellite imagery and 3D models that do justice to such an impressive building. It’s great to be able to view the building from a variety of angles and enter Street View to see real panoramic photos taken on site.
I’ve never visited Venice, but feel like I have after spending some time exploring this unique city in Google Earth VR. Unlike any other city in the world, the combination of exquisite architecture and amphibious position, make this a treat to explore.
Venice is fully 3D modeled and the quality of satellite images is very high. There are plenty of artifacts that detract from the experience at street level, but flying above the city is a total delight. Venice is a place not to miss and easily makes my list of best places to visit in Google Earth VR.
23. New York
How could I not include New York on my list of best places to visit in Google Earth VR. New York is spectacular, and a wonder to behold in Google Earth VR. I remember my first sight of Manhatten when I arrived at Penn Station from Newark airport many years ago. Stepping out onto the streets and seeing New York in its full glory for the first time was mind-blowing.
Now Google Earth VR gives me the opportunity to experience the “Big Apple” in a completely different way. Pick your favorite landmark and off you go.
It’s tough to come up with a list of places to visit in Google Earth VR when you’ve got the whole world to choose from. I’m conscious that I’ve missed hundreds of awesome landmarks, and I’ve hardly covered vast areas of the world. My best advice is to jump in and find your own best places in Google Earth VR and see what amazing sights you can see.
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