During the lockdown period, who says our imaginations need to stay at within the four walls of our homes? Whilst real life travel may be limited, that doesn't have to mean you can't experience some of the world's best sights from the comfort of your own home! By taking your kids on one of our 12 virtual tours of the natural world, you can visit the sites without the hassle and stress of travelling with children or getting jet lag.
The Grand Canyon, USA
The Grand Canyon really is a must-see - it will feature on most peoples' bucket lists and attracts over 5 million people a year. But had you ever thought of touring it from your own home? This 277-mile long, 18-mile across and 1,857-metre deep landmark, is grand in all senses of the word! Our favourite way to view it is by 'hiking' the canyon’s Bright Angel Trail via Google Street View Trek. At 9.3 miles long, it would be a challenge for most children to trek this popular long-distance route in real life, so instead sit back, relax and take in the scenery as you virtually zigzag up from the Colorado River to the south rim.
Namib Desert Dunes, Namibia
Next, try visiting the amazing patterns of the Namibian desert, with sand dunes that stretch for 31,000 square miles across southern Africa. With some magnificent names to match the grandeur of such sights, the interactive 360-degree images will take you on a tour of 388m-high' Dune 7', which sits opposite 'Big Daddy' at 325m, and 'Big Mamma', at 198m. If you've never been to Namibia, don't worry - this tour covers a lot of ground, as you can also see the Deadvlei, the sea of the Skeleton Coast, and even features a starlit scene showing the Milky Way. All the family are bound to enjoy the beautiful photography that this tour has to offer.
The Northern Lights
If you are already a home-adventurer, then you've probably already seen the Aurora Borealis feature many times on social media. This popular, naturally occurring event is an incredible phenomenon caused by Earth’s magnetic field interacting with electrically charged particles from the sun. Depending on the age of your children, this could be a great science lesson for both - you and them - to learn about. Or, if they are a little too young, maybe just try to engage their curiosity in the amazing colours that the display has to offer.
The lights are visible from countries such as Russia, Iceland, Greenland and Canada, but this amazing virtual tour is based in Scandinavia. It is called ' Lights over Lapland'. Although relatively short, at five-minutes, the journey manages to cover the whole event through a series of 360-degree videos. Allow your minds to explore the natural beauty that this phenomenon has to offer, as you head into the wilderness on a reindeer sleigh, passing many fascinating sights from Lake Torneträsk to a cosy wooden Sami hut at the base of Mount Noulja. From your sofa, you will see the lights dancing overhead in vibrant displays of shades of green. Depending on when you choose to check out the Northern Lights, be sure to check the webcam in Manitoba, Canada, as you may be able to actually witness the lights live - as it happens!
Hang Sơn Đoòng, Vietnam
Once you've finished feeling mesmerised by the open skies, virtually head over to the world’s largest cave, Hang Sơn Đoòng in central Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park! This relatively newfound natural wonder was explored by scientists for the first time in 2009, meaning that there is still so much to learn about the cave. The Sơn Đoòng 360 project was set up by National Geographic recently, in the hope that it would keep the natural sight preserved in video form before it became inundated with tourism. Therefore, by entering this virtual tour, you are beating the crowds and getting the real deal!
Created with 360-degree images and atmospheric sound effects – your tour will guide you through light-filled caverns, past a 70 metre-tall formation called the Hand of Dog, and amongst huge sinkhole jungles. The high definition zoom allows you and the kids to study and capture whatever takes your fancy as you pass-by... maybe you could find another mineral formation to name?
If your kids enjoyed the rocks of Vietnam, then travel over to Yosemite in California where you will find a completely different and diverse display of rock faces. For any adults that have seen the movie 'Free Solo', we would recommend taking this virtual tour, where you can scale the mountain to learn first-hand about the skills, techniques and equipment you need to reach dizzying heights. With more than 400 species of animals living within the park's meadows, rivers and forests, there is plenty to learn about using these 360-degree images, complete with sound effects.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Next, we would recommend travelling East from Yosemite, to Colorado and enjoy the Rocky Mountain National Park! If you and the kids are missing all the amazing sensory feelings of being out in nature, then you're bound to enjoy this virtual tour. Experience the great outdoors with all of your senses, with this tour that allows visitors to use their ears rather than their eyes, with an online 'sound library' that features noises from the types of birds and wildlife found in the park. This tour would particularly interest young children, as it is very sensorial.
Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland
Now to one that may be a little closer to home for some - the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. This amazing natural occurrence on County Antrim’s Atlantic coastline is made up of more than 40,000 interlocking, geometric basalt columns. With the virtual tours provided by the National Trust, you can encounter a series of sights at different times of day, there are also sweeping views from above to explore, including the Carrick A Rede trail and rope bridge.
The name 'Giants Causeway' comes from the story that lies behind it - which is that the unusual rock formations are the remains of a stepping-stone causeway path to Scotland, that was built by giants. With this enchanting tale that it brings, kids will love the excitement of taking a virtual tour where giants once were! Or, depending on their age, teach them about the scientific theories of scientists - who believe that they were in fact formed by lava flowing into the sea, as molten basalt erupted through chalk beds 50 to 60 million years ago.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentinian Patagonia
Another important natural formation for children to learn about is glaciers. With the climate crisis threatening these magnificent features of our world, why not take your kids on a virtual tour of Los Glaciares national park? Covering 97 square miles and fed by the melting waters of the south Patagonian ice fields in the Andes, this tour has so much to offer, with this set of interactive images and immersive video tour. You'll thank virtual reality for the ability to feel the sheer impressive scale and colour variation that it has to offer. And if you wish the trip to be educational, why not teach older children about why the ice has formed in such way... did you know that the less oxygen in the ice, the bluer it gets?
Ambrym Volcano, Vanuatu
On the other end of the thermometer, you can take this virtual tour of Ambrym. It explores one of the world’s most active volcanoes, taking you down to within just a few metres of a churning 1,200C lava lake. In this instance, taking a virtual tour is definitely a more comfortable and safe option, for your children to experience this terrifying must-see.
Venture to the site with volcanologist Thomas Boyer, who descends into the third terrace of Benbow, one of the main vents of the Ambrym volcano, on the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. The short interactive film shows the whole experience that one would feel - whilst doing it in real life. From travelling to base camp, up to the rim beyond the jungle, into the ash plain, and abseiling down into the crevice.
If you and the kids fancy a city break after all the natural world sight-seeing you have done - why not take a trip to Israel? You can access a whole series of virtual tours for armchair travellers, provided by Samsung, including one that takes you around Jerusalem's most famous sights. Sit back and enjoy watching videos of the city with a voiceover tour guide giving you information on the city's cultural hot-spots. The 360-degree views will give you an ultra-realistic experience, where you will see the city's most holy places and other features of natural history.
Central Park, New York
Next on the city break tour, why not stop off at New York City's green centrepiece for an online tour. On this tour, you will see the sites, whilst reading the guide that it comes with. Printing off the guide for kids to read and draw on can be a great way to keep them entertained if they are kinaesthetic learners. Or perhaps you could inspire them to make their own maps featuring places that they have seen on the tour? Either way, don't miss out on the history of Central Park as you 'travel' from the West 72nd entrance and beyond!
If you aren't a keen international traveller, why not visit one of the UK's most prized heritage sites? Visit the neolithic stone circle of dreams with this interactive tour of Stonehenge. Explore a 360-degree view of this national treasure from inside the monument, or switch to Skyscape to see a live view from within the stones. Whilst Stonehenge is currently closed to the public, it could be a great chance for the kids to learn about the history before you plan a real-life trip there - when it is due to reopen (subject to alterations with the current circumstances). The site has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Summer Solstice for thousands of years, so there is plenty of history for curious minds to learn about!
Originally from Bournemouth, Annabelle spent her childhood travelling and exploring. She moved to Bahrain at the age of 13 and then to London at 19 where she attended Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. She loves all things creative - especially if they involve recycling materials, as this is what she is most passionate about. Aside from art, Annabelle also enjoys walking her dogs and cooking for friends and family.