Using the world’s first augmented reality guides, the Sherpa Tours app offers in-depth city tours from wherever you are. Rose Dykins reports

Armchair travel has been a major trend for 2020, with online offerings such as Airbnb Experiences and virtual reality (VR) tours from tourist boards providing creative ways to see the world while we’re grounded due to Covid-19.

Travel app Sherpa Tours offers another novel option, with its augmented reality (AR) tour guides that take people on virtual walking tours from the comfort of their own home. (The Faroe Islands did something similar earlier in the year.)

Available to download from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store, Sherpa Tours is like having an on-demand private tour guide. As well as being used while exploring a destination, it also presents a great option for armchair travellers keen to get to know a new city – with an expert guide in avatar form leading the way.

It’s possible to sit on your sofa at home with your phone and follow along as a Sherpa virtual guide takes you on a video tour of a city. You can also save the tour’s route onto the app and follow the GPS routing at a later date, when you’re able to be in a city in person.

Sherpa Tours appSherpa’s 150 different tours of 80 cities worldwide vary in length between one and three hours. They’ve been curated and hosted by some of the world’s “best tour guides” and PHD-level and experts on topics relating to each tour.

For example, Jill Waller, PHD candidate on Egyptian Art and Archaeology created the app’s Pyramids of Giza tour, while its London tours were put together by Blue Badge guide John Gowing, who has more than 100 only five-star reviews on Tripadvisor.

When following along a Sherpa tour in real life, it’s possible to pause when you arrive at a particular stop to explore at your own pace – such as to browse at an art gallery – or to stop for lunch. You can also set the app to deliver audio-only or avatar-only tours, as its GPS and AR functions use up a lot of smartphone battery power.

The vision of Sherpa Tours’ founder, Michael Suskind, is for there to be a Sherpa Tour for wherever you are in the world, guaranteeing a high-quality guide is always available. The idea came from his experiences of travelling the world with his family and using tour guides.

“When we travel, one of our favourite ways to experience a new destination is a walking tour,” he says on Sherpa Tours’ website. “There’s no better way to get a feel for a city.

“Finding the right guide, however, can be hit or miss. Sometimes we get lucky with an informative, engaging, and personable guide. Very often, we don’t.

On December 31, 2017, we were on one of the not-so-good tours. In front of the Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito, listening to a dull by-the-book tour guide, a thought flashed into my mind…What if there were an app with excellent, well-designed walking tours led by an augmented reality tour guide.

“From that moment on, it has been my mission to create Sherpa Tours. Our goal is to blanket the world’s cities and travel destinations with Sherpa tours. So that every time you arrive in a foreign land with a desire to explore and learn, we hope your first thought is “let’s go on a Sherpa tour…”

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