At home and dreaming of all the trips you’ll take when you have the chance? To satisfy that sense of longing for the wider world, a handful of tourism boards have launched initiatives to keep globetrotters connected while they’re stuck on the ground – and though they might not earn you a new passport stamp right away, they’re sure to fuel your wanderlust for future travels. Here are six destinations to visit from afar – at least until you can get there in person.
As most European countries have at this particular juncture, Portugal is hitting pause on all nonessential travel and asking its residents to shelter in place. But the tourism board doesn’t want that to be cause for despair, and it’s putting its money where its mouth is with a new video called "Can't Skip Hope," made totally by teams working from home. Featuring archival footage and a smartphone-recorded voiceover, the video ties imagery from across the nation – landscapes, monuments, people, and attractions – in with what the board is calling a message of hope: “It is time to reflect. It is time to take a break, for the good of the world. For now, we can dream of those incredible days to come. We are in this together.”
The 2020 Olympic Games might be postponed until next summer, but in the meantime, Japan is rolling out the red carpet for virtual visitors from around the world. A 360º VR movie hits the country’s highlights, from the 333-meter-high Tokyo Tower to Kyoto’s Bamboo Forest Road to Shibuya’s fast-paced nightlife. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss Yayoi Kusama’s Red Pumpkin sculpture in Naoshima, scenes from the Kawaii Monster Café in Harajuku, a restaurant where a conveyor belt whisks plates of sushi to and fro, practitioners of the arts of kabuki and sumo, and much, much more. To feel like you’re on the ground, check out the Shibuya Crossing livecam, head for Niseko Village, in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, or take a zen view of Hirono Park in the Shizuoka prefecture. For something a bit more down to earth, try the YouTube livestream from Toyooka City’s Hyogo Park of the Oriental White Stork, where a pair of oriental white storks is currently in nesting mode, looking after two chicks that recently hatched.
3. South Africa
Last week, South Africa became the continent’s first nation to go into lockdown, prohibiting all domestic and international flights going forward. In response, the country’s tourism board has launched an initiative to urge visitors and locals alike to stay at home – and provide them with plenty of eye-candy-style inspiration in the process. Titled “Don’t travel now, so you can travel later,” South African Tourism’s videos focus on the people, places, and experiences that make the destination such a draw – and underscore just how wonderful it will be when everyone can move about freely again. “Just you wait til we can travel again,” the narrator intones. “Boy, we’re going to travel.”
The UK might be on lockdown, but Visit Britain is doing its best to share the island nation’s pleasures, from bingeable movies and TV series to dance party–worthy playlists to pub quizzes that will keep those gray cells sharp. Try a deep dive into the shooting locations of the eight Harry Potter films, channel the Great British Bake Off and learn to make traditional scones for your afternoon tea, explore the flora and fauna of England’s famed gardens, or just settle in with some classic literature – it might not the same as experiencing it all in person, but it’s a pretty good substitute.
If Easter Island is on your bucket list, Imagen de Chile’s new app will give you a whole new perspective on Rapa Nui’s world-famous moai. Available via free download for iPhone and Android, Chile 360º offers a VR view of Ahu Tongariki – the largest ahu ever built – and its 15 statues, as well as stunning scenery from the rest of the country, from Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in southern Patagonia to northern Chile’s remote Atacama Desert. Away from the app, you can also pull out the VR glasses for tours of the European Southern Observatory, a much-lauded astronomy organization, and the Museo Histórico Nacional, both in Santiago.
6. St. Lucia
St Lucia has closed its ports to international and private flights until April, but the tiny Caribbean island’s twin Pitons, lush greenery, and silver beaches are the stuff of travel fantasies, even if they’re temporarily out of reach. To give would-be visitors a taste of the local action, the social media series “7 Minutes in Saint Lucia” is airing twice a week on Instagram Live, Facebook, and Twitter with yoga classes, mediation sessions, cooking lessons, dance parties, and more, all under the hashtag #7MinutesinSaintLucia.
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