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Google unveils virtual tours of Stonehenge, Jerusalem, other 'world wonders'

May 31, 2012 | 12:54 pm

If your budget is too tight to actually stroll along the banks of the Seine or trek through Jerusalem, Google is now offering a virtual alternative -- digital tours of famous sites across the world.

The World Wonders Project uses the same Street View technology that allows people to virtually navigate their neighborhoods through Google Maps, but the cameras are focused on historic and treasured sites such as Florence, Stonehenge and ancient Kyoto instead. 

Although many of the images are gathered with cars that have a camera mounted on top, more difficult-to-reach spots, or publicly inaccessible sites, have been recorded on a pedestrian “trike” and other devices.

“With advancements in our camera technologies we can now go off the beaten track to photograph some of the most significant places in the world so that anyone, anywhere can explore them,” the company announced on the new website.

The project, unveiled Thursday, includes 132 famous spots in 18 countries. Historic and notable spots on the website include  Shark Bay in Australia, the Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco and a smattering of sites across Europe.

The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund are partnering with the company to provide information about the treasured spots. Videos, photographs and interactive models also spangle the site; people can submit snapshots of the famous places for possible inclusion on the website as well.

So far, the project does not include any sites in Africa and is sparse across much of Asia and South America, an absence that annoyed some commenters, who pointed out the gap on YouTube and Twitter. Google says it hopes to continually add more sites with the help of its partner agencies.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Video: A video demo of the World Wonders Project created by Google in partnership with UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund. Credit: World Wonders Project

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