National Geographic Traveler recently released their iPad app: 50 Places of a Lifetime and it provides everything you'd expect from this illustrious publication. This is the iPad travel app for those who want to dream with their eyes open. Who want to be inspired by jaw-dropping photographs. Who want to learn about creatures and cultures and curiosities.
You'll find that the 50 magical destinations are divided into five categories: Urban Spaces (Jerusalem, Istanbul +), Wild Places (Antarctica, Tepuis +), Paradise Found (Amalfi Coast +) Country Unbound (Danang to Hue +) and World Wonders (Easter Island, Angkor +). Once you select different categories and places, you'll be presented with evocative articles by luminaries that include Bill Bryson, Gore Vidal and Paul Theroux. (A cool bar at the bottom allows you to rapidly scroll through all the articles.)
Each article is accompanied by a check-mark icon that, once tapped, leads you to "your place of a lifetime" list. You can think of it as a bucket list -- a term I abhor. Instead, this one has two columns: one for the places you've already visited and the other for those you desire. Simply drag the photo of the place into either column. It could be used to boast about all the amazing places you've managed to visit or to show your friends and colleagues where you're planning or hoping to travel. (I dragged Mesa Verde, Tuscany and New Zealand's North Island into the Places I've Been category and added Tepuis along with Kerala, India and Angkor to my Places I Want to Visit column.
I found the interactives (videos, slide shows and photo galleries) the most captivating. (Clicking on another icon in the articles brings you to the photo gallery.) After all, these stunning images are all taken by some of the world's best photographers. A slide show on Vermont reveals a dense growth of sugar maples rimming a country road, forming a tunnel of foliage. But what makes it oh-so-lovely is that I can tap through the slides to see the exact same trees and road evolving through the seasons: the crimson reds of fall contrast with the icy snow-draped branches of winter. For Paris, the photo gallery depicts a series of images that are all about dogs: a terrier sitting atop of table in a brasserie, a poodle, standing against a Peugot. (It's all so French.) For San Francisco, a slide revealing a dim sum sampler -- mini octopus, shrimp dumplings -- sparked my appetite so much so that I was forced to order Chinese food for dinner that night.)
Among the video selections, I watched the Amazon at sunset, following the rippling waters, the clusters of birds nesting in tree branches, a tarantula attached to a tree trunk and a guide showing off a reptile specimen. The images are so intimate that I found my skin crawl when I spied the spider. In a video of the Alps, I had vertiginous views of an alpinist as he climbed up the Eiger to a soaring perch amongst the sweep of craggy peaks touched by a whisp of mist. My stomach dropped out from under me when he base jumped and the earth promptly fell away. For Istanbul, the video shows an ice cream man who's got his sales pitch down perfectly. (He entices passersby by tempting them -- and me -- with the stick traditional ice cream that he holds at the end of an enormously long metal rod.)
With all these treasured features, perhaps the most stellar is the wide 360º-panoramic images, such as the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde. (First you tap to enlarge the image, then you swipe, pinch and zoom in.) I swept my finger around the image of this the largest of the sandstone dwellings rapidly producing a dizzying view from the rooms set in the cliff side to the lip of the rocky overhang and up to the clouds and then back down to the ruins of the chamber-like rooms set in the floor. I felt like a bird sweeping over these ancient ruins. The 360-degree of the Grand Canyon had me flying from the waterfalls tumbling into the Colorado River to the striated cliffs above and up to the jagged crack in the Elves Chasm revealing the cerulean blue sky
I could go on, but I'll let you experience these 50 great places. You won't be able to take your eyes off the images and the words. As a travel app that stimulates your mind and warms your heart, it doesn't get much better than this.