The Earth has been explored and charted, leaving us with virtually nothing to discover. When we travel, we usually visit locations which have already been visited thousands of times. While preparing for the trip, we use travel apps with ratings and recommendations of sights and hotels. In other words: everything is served to us, and it takes away all the fun of travelling.
Luckily, the developers of Discoverful and Sightsmap – two original and innovative travel apps – decided to create something different. Knowing that people prefer visual content to reading not-always-literate essays, they presented a new approach to choosing your next destination. Both apps rely on photography and bring back the feeling of truly discovering something new, and still manage to be as useful as their competitors.
Sightsmap makes use of geotagged photos taken by Panoramio users to present a world heatmap, where “heat” designates the most photographed areas.
To explore a particular spot on the map, simply click on it. Sightsmap integrates with Google Maps and Street View, so you can zoom in to see more photos, study the city plan and “walk” the streets. Street-level heatmaps are supported for 15 000 places all over the world. If you hover over a place marker, a small balloon will pop up, providing information and links to Google Street View, Wikipedia, Foursquare, Wikivoyage and Google+, as well as Panoramio.
Clicking the Panoramio icon will let you browse images taken in that area. While the Panoramio window with image preview is open, you can click on any of the small images scattered around the map – it will show up in the preview window.
You can also rate the location and view photo details. Sightsmap offers a trip planner which you can activate by clicking on the top navigation bar. To help you navigate the world, there's fullscreen mode. If scrolling around the world map is too impractical for you, another way in which you can discover different locations is by adding their names to the URL, like this: sightsmap.com/Santorini
As you can tell at first sight, Discoverful is all about photos. Just like Sightsmap, it relies on geotagged photos shared by users, who can like and comment on each others' photos. The social aspect is a bit more emphasized in Discoverful, as you can create a profile, customize the profile and header images (similar layout as with new Google+ profiles), follow other users and create lists to organize your photos and places you visited.
Apart from user profiles, you can also browse individual places. Each place has its own page which displays all photos taken there, as well as a city map powered by Google, which you can move around with your mouse.
Discoverful can be used as an app for iPhone and iPad. Good thing is that the planet doesn't yet revolve around Apple users, so Discoverful is available for free and fully functional in its web version. I've only experienced one problem with it while checking out a user's list – a script on the website stopped working and caused the browser to crash. Other than that, Discoverful was a really impressive and refreshing experience.
Next time you're planning a trip, why not try these two apps instead of the “usual suspects” that travellers resort to? True, they may not provide detailed descriptions of every local bakery, but they have images which are indeed worth a thousand words. By choosing locations via this interesting concept, you might just end up on an adventure that you'll remember as one of the greatest moments of your life.
Ivana Isadora Devcic is a freelance writer, copyeditor and translator fluent in English, Swedish, Croatian and Norwegian. She's a Linux user and KDE fan interested in web design, productivity and personal branding. Ivana tweets about the world around her as @skadinna.