If you're a regular user of Google Maps, you've undoubtedly noticed that photos contributed by other Google Maps users are showing up on the map whenever you hunt down a location. In the Map view, they appear as blue dots that you can click on to view the photo (you can also toggle this feature so as to hide the blue dots/photos if you so please); in Street View, they appear as small thumbnails relevant to the locations that the picture is of. Whether the feature delights or vexes you, Google Maps have announced today a fun integration of these user-uploaded photos to create a virtual photo tour of a vast collection of places around the world.
Using images uploaded by users through Picasa and Panoramio, the tours are composed of pictures stitched together to show you various angles and aspects of a location. According to the Lat Long Blog, the photo tours are available for over 15,000 places throughout the world, ranging from the personal mecca of Chicago Cubs fans, Wrigley Field, to Hofbräuhaus in Munich to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Of course, almost all of these photo tours are located either in the continental United States and Central and Western Europe, so don't get too excited about being able to see "the world."
If you want to view the map of large areas to see what nearby locations might have a photo tour, you can toggle the appearance of the red dots and balloons that indicate the presence of a photo tour by using the drop-down menu in the upper-right corner of the window and check or uncheck the * option.
More, as you zoom around on different areas of the world, the side-panel on the left side of the screen that lists the available photo tours will automatically update so as to only present tours that are available in the section of the map that you are immediately viewing.
The tours auto-navigate so the amount of wondering around locations is going to be limited, but you can still pause the tour at any time if a particularly captivating image compels you to meditate a little while longer on a particular spot. Also, to take advantage of the tours, you will need to enable MapsGL.