Google Maps photo tour Half DomeGoogle’s Street View is a pretty good service for scoping places out: that new restaurant, retail store or maybe even someone’s house… It just wasn’t exactly the most elegant of ways for sight seeing — until now.

As part of the search giant’s expanding Google Art Project, Google Maps is now offering 3D photo tours of more than 15,000 destinations around the world: Half Dome in Yosemite or St. Mark’s Basilica, just to name two. By curating photos from both Picasa and Panoramio, Google has created an experience that feels more natural and fluid, as though you’re actually there.

I took a quick tour of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, and the new service worked pretty well. For places you may not otherwise visit, it’s neat to be able to take a quick virtual tour around some of the world’s most popular destinations. Since the tour photos are grabbed from public sites like Picasa and Panoramio, each one that is used is attributed to its contributor — the more people contribute, the better the tours get.

Check out the video to see out the new addition to Google Maps works.

[via Google]