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15 most interesting places to explore in Google Maps

Take a trip for free year-round.

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Where would you go if you could go anywhere?

Eliot Herman

Just because your lust for travel is bigger than your budget doesn't mean you can't wander the streets of a faraway destination. Just pull up Google Maps on your PC or phone and start your search. While you can check out maps from everywhere on Earth, the Street View and Photo Sphere tools let you digitally roam virtually anywhere. 

To explore on your PC, first make sure you're in satellite mode. Click and drag the little yellow person in the bottom right of the screen to any blue highlighted spot on the map. On your phone, just tap the photo in the bottom left and Maps will "drop" you into your chosen location. 

Here are 10 unique places to explore in Google Maps: 

Roswell 

This is a road sign indicating where Alien Parking is. This is the original UFO crash site in Roswell. There are small UFOs on the sign with a large arrow pointing to the right.

We can't promise you'll see aliens if you digitally visit Roswell. 

Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Getty Images

It's unlikely you'll spot any little green men if you drop into Roswell, New Mexico, but who knows? Roswell looks more residential than Area 51 (the actual site, not the tourist spots). Unfortunately, you can only zoom in so far on Area 51, and you can't drop the little yellow person anywhere. It does turn into a UFO when you try though. Some 2 million Facebook users planned to raid the facility, but the event was removed earlier this month

Pripyat, Ukraine 

Images From Chernobyl
NurPhoto/Getty Images

The tragic events that occurred at Chernobyl have had a lot of attention in the last few months. Over the summer, HBO's miniseries, Chernobyl, starring Jared Harris, ran five episodes detailing the 1986 nuclear disaster. After the show premiered, Ukraine made plans to accommodate an influx of tourists. Craig Mazin, the show's creator, asked tourists visiting the exclusion zone to show respect for the lives lost. But if you don't have plans to visit Pripyat, or you just watched HBO's Chernobyl, you can digitally roam the deserted town on Google Maps

Pyramids of Egypt

EGYPT-PYRAMIDS-TOURISM
Joseph Eid / AFP/Getty Images

Google Maps has dozens of spots you can drop in to view Egypt's pyramids. You can take Street View to walk amongst caravans or gaze up at the Pyramid of Menkaure and Giza. There is an endless amount of history to learn about these massive structures. For example, the Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three pyramids, but defined as a "true pyramid" due to its smooth sides. Most of the pyramids were built as tombs for the country's pharaohs. King Tutankhamun's tomb, for example, is said to be cursed. Tutankhamun's resting place is almost seven hours from the Giza Necropolis, but on Google Maps, you can tour both far more quickly.

Devon Island

astronaut

To date, Devon Island is the most similar terrain on Earth to that of Mars. 

Google

Devon Island might look like a vast, barren, rocky wasteland in the Canadian Arctic… because it is. But don't write it off just yet. Earlier this year, Google singled out Devon Island and talked to scientists who are using the area as a training ground for future missions to Mars. According to the researchers, Devon Island's terrain is as close to Mars as you can find on Earth. 

Table Mountain, South Africa

The city of Cape Town as seen from Table Mountain, flat-
Leisa Tyler/Getty Images

There is no shortage of places to digitally explore in Africa. If you're in need of a breathtaking view, start with Table Mountain in South Africa. The flat-topped mountain looks over the stunning rocky terrain of Table Mountain Nature Reserve all the way out to Cape Town. An 18th-century French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille named a constellation Mons Mensae, which translates to Table Mountain, after the landmark. Lacaille reportedly did so because he spotted the constellation from this location. 

Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park
VW Pics/Getty Images

Tucked deep in Guatemala's jungles is Tikal National Park. There you'll find Mayan temples and ceremonial ruins dating back to 900 BCE. Tikal is one of the most important complexes left behind by the Maya civilization, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The site includes remnants of palaces, temples, ceremonial platforms, living quarters, game courts, terraces, roads and town squares. The monuments are also still decorated with carvings and mural paintings with hieroglyphic inscriptions that detail the people's history. 

Bran Castle 

ROMANIA-DRACULA-BRAN-CASTLE-FEATURE
Daniel Mihailescu / AFP/Getty Images

Calling all horror movie fans: Not only can you digitally traipse the grounds around this 14th-century castle that allegedly inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula, but you can also peek inside a few rooms. I can't guarantee you'll see a vampire (sparkly or otherwise), but the castle has a lot of history. Its stone walls have housed numerous royals, most notably Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a Vlad Tepes, a.k.a Vlad Dracul. Bran Castle was the only castle at the time that matched the description Stoker gave in his book. Dracula, the character, and Vlad Tepes aren't meant to be the same though. 

Huashan Mountain

CHINA-SHAANXI-HUASHAN MOUNTAIN-SCENERY (CN)
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Those with a fear of heights, be warned. You can essentially hike this insane mountain without leaving your seat. The trail starts out simple enough -- it's high up, but the path is relatively wide, with interesting temples to stop at along the way. On your journey, you'll also encounter narrow stone stairs and a few vertigo-inducing paths. In some places it looks like unstable planks of wood were hammered into the mountainside for people to cross. Gulp!   

Cat Island in Japan

Japan's Island of Cats
Carl Court / Getty Images

Aoshima, Ehime is an island in Japan that's home to more cats than people. In 2016, the fishing village had just over a dozen residents and more than 160 cats, according to CBS News. The cats were originally introduced on the island to solve a mouse problem several decades ago. Drop onto one of the streets and you'll be surrounded by felines, which honestly is a dream come true. Almost anywhere you click, you'll find a cat (or several cats) lounging in the sun, aggressively ignoring the camera. Perusing Cat Island is like a grown-up, extra adorable version of Where's Waldo. 

Winchester Mansion 

Production Wraps On CBS Films' "Winchester"
C Flanigan/Getty Images

And now we get spooky again… or architectural, depending on how you look at it. The Winchester Mansion is located in San Jose, California and it's more than a bit of a mystery. Consumed with grief after losing her husband and son, Sarah Winchester moved to California and bought a farmhouse. Over 10 years, she transformed the property from a simple farmhouse into a towering seven-story mansion. The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 did quite a bit of damage to the structure before Sarah passed away in 1922. It was later found out that Sarah had the house built with stairways and doors that went nowhere, windows looking into other rooms and more oddities. The house is said to be haunted. If you don't have any plans to visit California (and don't scare easily), you can take a look around the Winchester Mansion on Google Maps. 

The ancient city of Myra

2015 G-20 Host City Antalya
Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The ancient Lycian ruins in Myra, Turkey are said to date back before the 5th century BCE, according to the Turkish Cultural Foundation. Among the ruins are tombs of rulers and their family members cut into a steep cliff. A few clicks away is a 35-row amphitheater. The structure's former glory is evident in the carved designs you see throughout, even though it is still breathtaking. If you liked Tikal National Park, it's worth a digital trip to the Lycian ruins as well.

Thor's Well

thors-well
Screenshot/YouTube

The lovable, hammer-wielding, lightning-summoning Avenger didn't have anything to do with this tourist attraction near Cook's Chasm in Oregon. Thor's Well is a sizeable hole in the basalt shoreline that Gary Hayes, publisher of Coast Explorer Magazine, theorizes began as a sea cave, but was dug out by waves. The roof eventually collapsed and left openings at the top and bottom for the ocean to surge through. 

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle

Ruins of Urquhart castle, Loch Ness, Scotland
DEA / M. BORCHI/Getty images

Loch Ness is a freshwater lake that spans 23 miles in Scotland's highlands. Along with the ruins of Urquhart Castle, people flock to Loch Ness to try to catch a glimpse of the long sought-after Loch Ness Monster. Depending on where you click, you can see images from a boat tour on the lake. I didn't see "Nessie" in the images, but other people claimed they did a few years ago. After the hype around the Area 51 raid event on Facebook, another event, "Storm Loch Ness" appeared. 

Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan's "Gateway to Hell" Crater
Giles Clarke / Getty Images

The Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan is also known as the Door to Hell and the Gates of Hell (not intimidating at all, right?). If you can't handle the heat, you can get up close and personal with this fiery pit on Google Maps. The images almost make it seem like the world's biggest fire pit (imagine the s'mores!). The pit's glow, varying between sinister and cozy, depending on your point of view, emanates from an underground cavern in Derweze. The crater came to be in the 1970s when Soviet geologists began drilling for oil in Karakum. While they found oil, they were also drilling on top of an unstable cavernous pocket of natural gas, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The site collapsed and several craters subsequently opened up. The crater has reportedly been burning for more than 40 years.  

Mendenhall Ice Caves

USA
Loop Images/Getty Images

Did it get chilly all of a sudden? That's because we're talking about Alaska's ice caves. The Mendenhall Ice Caves in Juneau, to be exact. The first thing I noticed as I panned around the cavern was how many striking shades of blue there were. Alaska Shore Tour's travel experts describe their excursions into the 12-mile Mendenhall Ice Caves as "dreamlike." It might be as close as you can get to Superman's fortress of solitude in real life. The cave, which is actually a glacier, is also pretty tricky to get to outside of a Google Maps tour. You have to kayak to the edge of the ice and climb over the glacier, Atlas Obscura says.