A Virtual Tour of Virtual Tourism

Jason Hazlewood /
Virtual Tourism

When you just want to get out of the house but can’t, there’s the Internet. When you are looking for a new place to live, the Internet can help. Virtual tourism on the Internet is such a common concept that many of us do it without realizing it. Different types of businesses that rely on visitors coming in person have found ways to bring their physical sites to websites.

It’s not just the travel and tourism industry that benefits from computer generated sight-seeing. Being able to travel the world virtually, whether on a personal computer or a VR headset like the Oculus Rift, can open up all sorts of opportunities in education, real estate, leisure, and beyond. Let’s take a tour of virtual tourism and all it brings to our lives!


With virtual tourism, school children in the middle of rural areas can view artwork in the Smithsonian, the Louvre, or even the Sistine Ceiling. Children in remote locations can look at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts or Bunratty Castle in western Ireland for living history, where actors play the roles of everyday people in a historic era, from the comfort of their homes or classrooms. Many museums even have real-time webcams on some of their most famous exhibits, as do other such institutions like zoos. When you or your kids can watch a Siberian tiger or beluga whale in real time is when education and fun merge. Plus, it can be very soothing to have a classic painting or dedicated animal-cam on your screen while you’re doing other things, like working or cleaning.

Real Estate

Planning on moving? Need to find a new home or apartment? In addition to floor plans, the websites of many real estate and rental agencies feature virtual tours of homes for sale or rent. Especially since relocating often involves moving to another city and may involve moving even further away, such as to another state or country, a lot of real estate is shown online through 360 VR videos that highlight each room and other spaces to be showcased. This also helps when leasing offices are only open during business hours, putting the viewing in the control of the person moving and allowing them to decide if they want to take the time to take the next steps.

Natural Wonders

All over the world are interesting things to see, from impassable mountain ranges and isolated formations to national parks and protected areas. Some of them have to be seen from above while others have cameras maintained for people to view them remotely, especially if they are in sanctioned areas such as national parks. You can watch the running of gazelles or the buffalo roam, you can view mighty rivers, tall mountains, and unique valleys, all from your computer screen. Even if there are no established cameras, two other technologies can allow us to see natural wonders from the Niagara Falls to the Eye of the Sahara – drone technology and satellite photography.

Drone Technology

Pictures and videos have surfaced that were taken by drones being operated remotely. While drone operators need to be careful not to scare wildlife, this remote video has been of great value for both nature enthusiasts and researchers. Using cameras mounted on drones, we’ve managed to obtain video of places humans cannot reach, giving us a chance to view things not normally seen by human eyes. Most people think of drones as operating in the air, flying overhead, but there are also underwater drones that are getting great footage of wildlife, volcanic activity, and the deepest parts of the Earth’s surface.

Satellite Photography

From NASA to Google Earth to websites from specific locations that tap into satellite views, many locations are simply recorded by different types of satellite orbits. Geosynchronous orbits rotate around the planet at the same speed, staying over the same location of the Earth; many of our satellite telecommunications are from satellites like these. There are other orbits, however, such as Sun-synchronous orbits, which orbit the planet from north to south to monitor regions at a specific time of day. GPS satellites and weather satellites follow a variety of orbits to help us keep track of where we are and how the weather might affect our location. All of these take pictures of the Earth that can show us everything from view-worthy architecture to structures hidden by time and nature.

Historic Buildings

Sometimes, an entire building is so special that it becomes a museum in its own right, and people flock to tour it. Maybe it’s a castle, a stately manor, an ancient monastery, or the birthplace or grave site of a famous person. Many of these historic landmarks have websites that give virtual tours of the building. These tours often include a 360 degree view of each room, so visitors can get the same view they would get in the real world, and sometimes better. For some of these buildings, part of their charm is that they are in remote locations that can only be reached by those who are fit or athletic, but virtual travel experiences bring everyone to the site by bringing the sights to everyone.

Fantasy Realms

Is a place real if it is not physical space? Only video gamers often see the fantastic vistas offered in the worlds they inhabit, yet a lot of work goes into their plotting and design. Whether it is a fantasy realm with floating islands, a sci-fi game with solar systems and exotic planets, or even a game with mundane settings but fantastic ambiance, there are nooks and crannies all over to explore in video games and virtual spaces. There are even games, such as Minecraft or Second Life, which center around creating your own structures in these virtual spaces. People use these games both to build their own ideas or to recreate existing or fictional sites.

Secrets Revealed on Satellite View

While we talked about satellite photography above, special attention should be given to very simple sources like Google Maps. So many people have studied Google Maps and similar apps just to sightsee that major archaeological discoveries have been made from virtual tourism. TED Prize winner Sarah Parcak was inspired by this to use a similar technology called Global Xplorer to encourage virtual tourists to look around for signs of ancient civilizations. Simply using Google Maps has helped find ancient buildings buried in the jungles of Cambodia, Guatemala, Florida, and Egypt, to name a few places. Diligent virtual tourists have found evidence of indigenous cultures and rare sightings of amazing events like volcanic islands being created.

The Internet is a digital collection of the sum of most of human knowledge throughout history until this point. It is the largest, most accessible and most thorough encyclopedia in the world. Thanks to its capabilities, it can show us things instead of telling us about them. It can bring us to places we may not be able to go to in person. By using the Internet to see the sights, you can explore anywhere on this world and beyond it. All you need is reliable high-speed Internet. Just tell us where in the United States you are, and we’ll show you all the providers who service your area as well as their packages and rates. Put the world at your fingertips with the best Internet for your budget!