When I think about things I’d like to do with my life, or things I would love for my daughter to do with hers, travel features heavily on any list I come up with. There are so many incredible places to visit around the world.
National Geographic’s 50 Places of a Lifetime app for the iPad provides an excellent look at fifty destinations all around the world that offer a once in a lifetime sort of experience. They range from big, famous cities to some of the earth’s most remote (and beautiful) spots. So this one has instant appeal for me and for just about anyone with even the mildest of interest in travel. Let’s see how it does on living up to its promising subject …
50 Places of a Lifetime is divided into five main sections:
— Urban Spaces (New York, Barcelona, Paris, London, Rio, Venice, San Francisco, and more)
— Wild Places (Serengeti, Australian Outback, Amazon, Antarctica, more)
— Paradise Found (Seychelles, Greek Islands, Hawaiian Islands, more)
— Country Unbound (The Lake District, New Zealand’s North Island, Loire Valley, Big Sur, Vermont, Tuscany, more)
— World Wonders (Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Petra, The Great Wall of China, more).
Navigating within the app is pretty standard. Swipe left and right to move through articles and sections, swipe up and down to move within a single article. Tap once on the screen to see buttons to return to the home page, switch to Contents view, show contents in a popover left sidebar, and pop up the scrubber bar to scroll through page thumbnails rapidly. Here’s the Pages view:
And the Scrubber control in action:
For each of the 50 places there are featured photographs, and an essay about the place from some very notable writers and experts. Many of the destinations also have an extra photos gallery, a slideshow, and some also offer Wide View panoramic images.
The app is sponsored – even thought it is also a paid app – and has some full page ads in it. These are not very intrusive at all, are easy to swipe through, and really don’t detract from the experience of using it.
— The photography, as you might expect from National Geographic, is spectacular. If the app did nothing else but let you browse through these it would still be worth its price of admission, they’re that great.
— The essays that go along with the great photographs are fantastic too. The list of authors for these is hugely impressive and includes Salman Rushdie writing about the Taj Mahal, the late Peter Jennings on Jerusalem, Richard Leakey on the Serengeti, the splendid Bill Bryson on the Australian Outback, Jean-Michel Cousteau on the Coral Reefs of Papua New Guinea, and Gore Vidal on the Amalfi coast. All the writing is stellar and offers a unique and personal perspective on each of these amazing destinations, a million miles away from your typical travel guide.
Just as one quick and silly example, I love the fact that Bryson manages to mention this in his essay on the Australian Outback:
“In the unlikeliest places, in spots so remote that ‘middle of nowhere’ sounds like an aspiration, you will often find an outback pub.”
— The breadth of coverage is superb. If you love the world’s greatest cities, many of them are featured here …
If your passion is for natural spectacles and out of the way places, or wonders of the world, there are lots of incredible spots that fit that bill too …
Among all the wonderful places on show, I was surprised at how beautiful coastal Norway, a place I’ve never considered much, looks.
— Each place also has a set of Fast Facts. These are interactive so you can tap to move through the series for each place, and they’re extremely interesting as well.
— The Wide View panoramic images used for some of the locations are superb.
— There’s a personal places of a lifetime page – where you can tap and drag on place thumbnails to track places you’ve been and places you want to visit. Believe me, spending time with this app will have you filling up that second one right quick.
— There’s no ability to share any of the content, via email or Twitter or any means. That would be a nice addition, as would a search function.
UPDATE: My bad, as reader Marilyn kindly pointed out, you can share articles in the app vi Facebook and email. They are very small, subtle icons and I had failed to notice them.
50 Places of a Lifetime is a fantastic app. National Geographic have done a number of good titles for the iPad, but this is easily the best of them. It’s a wonderful app for anyone interested in travel – whether you’re an experienced traveler or a rookie looking for ideas.
It should serve equally well as a guide for working out your master travel plan for life and as a fun and beautiful resource for learning about some of the most amazing places on earth. The photos and the essays are of such high quality that this is an app that you can happily and easily spend many hours with.
Here’s an App Store link for 50 Places of a Lifetime; it’s priced at $1.99.
Disclosure: This app was independently purchased by the post author in the iPad App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the "About" page.