Travel is a major goal for many people, but it can be inaccessible even in the best of times because of financial and mobility-related barriers. As unfortunate as it is, some people may never have the chance to visit all the places they want to. But VR allows its users to not only explore virtual worlds but also get a better understanding of their own.
Between 360-degree breakdowns of the world, guided tour videos, and documents, VR allows people to get closer to the places of their dreams than was previously possible. Many travel apps even include interactive features, so the users can feel like they’re actually able to connect with different cultures and topography. As systems like the Oculus/ Meta Quest 2 become more widely available, and as programmers and cinematographers put more effort into advancing the technologies, travel will truly be possible without having to leave home.
10 Traveling While Black
Traveling While Black is an Emmy-nominated VR experience that talks about the process of traveling, specifically focusing on the barriers that have been put in place for Black populations, in history and in the present. The experience takes advantage of every benefit VR offers, which helps its message connect with the audience.
While this is not a documentary that focuses on the freedom of VR, it does try to get its users to think outside their own bodies and life experiences to see how other people can be limited in their own freedom. It tells an incredibly important story, which deserves to be heard by those who have now gained a deeper level of freedom through the digital realm.
For those looking for a way to walk around the world, Wander is the app to download. The app’s primary function is to allow users to navigate the world similarly to Google Maps’ StreetView, allowing them to enter an address and be transported to that spot. This can be a great way to explore new areas or look back on places you used to live.
In addition to immersive imagery, users can use the historical jumping feature to see what different areas looked like over the years. Many famous landmarks even have the ability to be explored from the inside, giving users the feeling that they’re really there.
8 BRINK Traveler
BRINK Traveler gives users the ability to see some of the most amazing places on Earth from the comfort of their own homes. While there are currently only 17 locations for users to visit, the additional features make each one a true travel experience that may push them to travel in real life as well.
Virtual guides can explain the features and history of each spot, and an in-app camera allows users to take all the pictures they would want if they were to visit in person. Another great feature is the ability to travel in multiplayer mode, which lets users meet up with friends from anywhere while getting a remarkable view at the same time.
OtherSight is one of the most interactive travel apps out there because it specifically focused on including usable objects in every location. Currently, users only have the option of going to four different locations, but there’s a lot that they can do at each one.
Users can visit churches, streets, and museums and really get a sense of how it feels to be there. The scale, texture, and movement qualities of interactive features are especially well done. While this is a fairly limited app at the moment, the developers are working on new locations, which can provide future explorations.
6 Ocean Rift
The Ocean might not be the first place people think of when they try to imagine their travel plans, but it is one of the great untapped resources on Earth. There is far more to be seen and discovered in the Ocean than there is on land, and Ocean Rift gives users the chance to explore that realm.
There are 14 different habitats to explore, which can be used as an educational program or one for relaxation, depending on the settings. The sea creatures are extremely detailed, and users can actually interact with many of them, giving the perspective of a true underwater safari. However, those with a fear of the ocean and its creatures may find some modes a little too realistic for their comfort level.
5 Blueplanet VR Explore
Blueplanet VR Explore is one of the most expensive travel apps, but that’s in part because it is so extensive. The app allows its users to travel to 40 different cultural sites, with some offering the ability to interact with the landscape or even hang glide over it.
One of the best qualities of this app is the spacial breakdown, where users can truly explore the location. It is a physically navigable terrain, which creates a greater level of immersion than standard point-and-click systems. The one downside to the app, beyond its price, is that it takes up a lot of space, requiring a lot of memory and a strong internet signal while downloading.
Alcove is not technically a travel app, but it does offer a number of virtual tour experiences for free. The app itself is a virtual home, where users can download different in-app features depending on their interests. The travel features do include a number of tours on the ground, under the sea, and even in the sky, narrated by some of the most thorough guides available in VR.
The limitation of the app is that each experience is entirely pre-determined. There are no interactive features that would make it more immersive. However, given that it is free and has such incredible visual quality, that might be a sacrifice worth making.
3 National Geographic Explore VR
National Geographic Explore VR is a highly-interactive app that allows users to take on the role of a National Geographic photographer. They have the ability to travel to Machu Pichu or Antarctica, where they can navigate the landscape and take pictures of the many sights to see.
Users feel the strain of rowing boats and climbing cliffs, which makes for a more immersive experience. However, the quest is fairly pre-programmed, which means that individual decision-making is only possible in the pictures a user takes rather than in the experience as a whole. Coupled with another, more interactive app, this could be a great way to feel the travel in a way that images themselves cannot achieve.
2 Nature Treks VR
Nature Treks VR isn’t overly concerned with realism, instead focusing on making a relaxing experience. Users have the ability to go on a walk on a variety of virtual paths, with exotic animals meandering by and control of the weather allowing the user to fit the experience to their preferences.
Because it isn’t definitively located in any real-world locations, users have the ability to mold the world as they see fit, interacting with the trees to summon animals and controlling the sound levels to be more immersive or more relaxing. The detail work and spontaneity make it an engaging experience, though users should be aware that it is not intended to be a completely realistic one.
ecosphere is a photo-realistic breakdown of the Earth’s most beautiful locations and the people that are working to protect them. Intended as a way to help the average person connect with the environmental crises of our time, these immersive documents show the importance of caring for the Earth before the damage is irreversible.
This is distinct from other user-directed travel apps but also provides a sense of depth and significance far beyond what other apps can offer. There are only a handful of experiences, but they go beyond visuals to explain what really matters about the different locations they portray. As an added bonus, the app is free, making these videos some of the most accessible ways for Oculus users to travel in VR.
NEXT: The 10 Coolest Games To Play On Oculus Quest 2