Top apps: virtual travel

Google Earth
iPhone, iPad, Android
Free

Google Earth puts the world at your fingertips. Using simple pinch-and-swipe gestures, you can navigate your way around the globe, from a bird's-eye view of the planet down to streets and landmarks. As well as standard aerial views, the app includes matching photos and links to Wikipedia for popular destinations.

1000 Ultimate Experiences
iPad
$5.49

This app will give you plenty of inspiration for your next holiday. Based on the best-selling Lonely Planet books, it uses a fun card-based design to showcase travel experiences recommended by Lonely Planet writers, and includes photographs and links for each destination.

Beautiful Planet HD
iPhone, iPad
$1.99

Blurry camera-phone pics of a friend's holiday aren't necessarily the best way to get a feel for other countries. This app, on the other hand, will give you an excellent insight, with nearly 600 images taken by renowned travel photographer Peter Guttman.

50 Places of a Lifetime
iPad
$1.99

Developed by the brilliant minds behind National Geographic, this ''interactive magazine'' covers the world's best destinations. As well as photo galleries, it includes essays by writers such as Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson, 360-degree panoramas, videos, maps and interactive checklists.

Virtual Tourist
iPhone
Free

Virtual Tourist uses the same aerial photography as Google Earth, only with a different (and, sadly, much slower) user interface. You can zoom in and out of countries, navigate places by category, country and vicinity, and check off places you have visited.

SightSee
iPad
99¢

SightSee lets you take a tour around the world using the lenses of other people's cameras. Search for a place and any photos taken there that have been uploaded to photo-sharing sites (such as Flickr and Panoramio) will appear. The image quality is impressive, but the app is pretty basic compared with its rivals.

The story Top apps: virtual travel first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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