The Coronavirus has temporarily brought travel as we know it to a halt in most parts of the world. The only tires still rolling are those of delivery trucks, public transit, emergency vehicles and private cars on unavoidable journeys. Not working in a crucial sector, shopping for essentials, or traveling to an important healthcare appointment? Then your car is likely to remain parked. However, just because you can’t hit the road whenever you feel like it, you don’t have to miss out on the joy of driving completely. You can still set off on a trip, go wherever the road takes you or travel to a specific destination – virtually. The COVID-19 pandemic has already brought concerts, operas, museums, as well as work and school to your living room – why not add road tripping to that list?
Don’t view the pandemic measures as confinement, view them as a challenge – and as an opportunity. Now is the moment to set out on that epic road trip you’ve always wanted to take. It’s your chance to tour some of the most famous routes in the world – and stop to look around anytime you like, for as long as you like, without disrupting traffic. You can feel the joy of driving through jaw-dropping scenery, without having to concentrate on the actual driving. Thinking ahead to a time after COVID-19, you can plan a road trip itinerary in the real world, based on your VR itinerary.
Whether you’re planning real or virtual trips, the first port of call is always Google Maps. If the route you want to explore is covered on Street View, you’ll be in the driver’s seat in seconds. Simply pick up the easy-to-use orange peg-man lurking in the lower right-hand corner of the map and drag it to the location you want to start from. All destinations with available Street View imagery will be highlighted in blue, so you can see in advance how far a route will take you. Once you’re on the street, you can navigate as you like and even stop to take in the 360° view at particularly scenic spots. Add the name of a specific location to the search if you have a destination in mind. Google Earth offers similar imagery, but rendered in a smoother way, with additional layers and features.
If clicking your way along the route, meter by meter, seems too much like hard work, search for Street View hyperlapse. A particularly impressive example is this state-of-the-art road trip around the world as well as this Street View stop motion video presented in an artistic interpretation of the experience.
If you don’t mind having someone else at the wheel, the second-best place to find road trip routes is YouTube. Search for the street you want to travel, combined with “drive through”, “drivelapse” or “dashcam” will usually provide some results, especially for well-known destinations.
Don’t know where you want to go today? Visit MapCrunch, which features one “Random Street View” on its start page. You can also select a country and let the algorithm take you there on a random adventure.
A Route 66 road trip is on every car enthusiast’s bucket list. Get your virtual kicks on a digital Route 66 Voyager Virtual Tour through Google Earth. Of course, many visitors have shared their dashcam trips along the highway, so take your pick.
Grand Canyon National Park was one of the first US National Parks covered by Google Street View. Start your trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Grand Canyon South Entrance Station. For a deep dive into the canyon, join a tour by Kayak, also on Street View. For a virtual field trip, explore an activity, like virtual tours hiking, rafting or joining an archeology
Australia’s Great Ocean Road is so popular – and infamous for its dangerous driving conditions – that a virtual road trip may be the more relaxing alternative. Start your Street View trip at the Memorial Arch at Eastern View. There is also no shortage of dashcam trips on YouTube, mostly focusing on small sections of the long trip.
Start your itinerary on the edge of Kinsale, the first town on the southern end of the Wild Atlantic Way (Google Maps marker). For additional highlights, check out these immersive 360° VR videos of scenic spots along the Wild Atlantic Way.
If you enjoy dramatic mountain passes, hairpin turns and precipitous drops more than scenic ocean vistas, you’ll find the ideal tour at the other end of Europe. Transfăgărășan Highway is a relatively short, 90-kilometer road traversing the Carpathian Mountains, featuring stunning lakes, majestic mountains and impressive engineering. On Google Maps, start here and head north – or let someone else take the wheel in this Google Street View video.
Unlike the other scenic roads on this list, Chapman's Peak Drive is short enough to enjoy a real-time turn-by-turn Navigation of all its 114 cliff-hugging curves. On Google Maps, start at the toll gate and click your way down the 9-kilometer stretch of road on the Cape Peninsula south of Cape Town. On YouTube, you’ll find dashcam content for an even more realistic self-driving experience.