The Latest in Armchair Travel

by  Liz Webber | Dec 12, 2011
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth / efetova/iStock

While we at ShermansTravel obviously advocate actually going to the destinations we write about, we know sometimes armchair travel can be just as fun (and much easier on the wallet!). From 3D models of notable cities around the world to amazing new video technology in Brazil to an insider’s look at a tiny village in France, here are the coolest new spots to visit – without ever leaving home.

Launched this past weekend, the website 3rd Planet aims to bring users to far-flung destinations to explore 3D dioramas highlighted with notable facts and travel information. You can virtually spin the globe to pick out countries you’d like to visit then zoom in to click on individual cities to explore. The 3D models resemble a video game, but instead of hunting down opponents you’ll be mentally racking up trivia on the city’s landmarks and monuments.

So far, the only adventure up and running is the first half of “Journey to Everest,” developed in partnership with the Nepal Tourism Board. Online visitors first arrive in Kathmandu to discover the city’s temples and squares (complete with realistic street sounds) before “flying” to Lukla, the small village that is the starting point for most climbers of Mount Everest. A full 3D experience of the trek up the fabled mountain will be available in 2012.

Here’s a video demo of how the site works:

In preparation for the 2014 World Cup, Brazil has created a series of 360-degree videos showcasing the 12 cities and regions that will play host to the games. These amazing clips allow viewers to see left, right, up, down, and all around, as if they were actually at the destination. So far, there are five videos for Rio de Janeiro, Cuiabá/Pantanal, Curitiba/Foz do Iguaçu, Manaus/Amazônia, and Salvador. Our favorite is the Rio clip, which takes viewers on an aerial journey over the city. The videos move a bit too quickly to take in everything, but if you see something you like you can pause and still enjoy the 360 capability.

Though less technologically advanced, the videos linked to an interactive map of La Bastide d’Armagnac, a medieval town in southwest France, are no less fascinating. The 29 short clips showcase local people and places, from the neighborhood “tabac” owner to a chapel dedicated to Tour de France cyclists. These endearing scenes from everyday life are in French with English subtitles.

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