Create a Curated Tour from a Bike Route Using Google Earth

This is part two of a three part series in which I show how to use Google Earth to create an automated flythrough tour, a curated tour, and a video of a tour. For background, please see my post on a comparison of route mapping websites. See also part one of this series. As part three is published, I’ll update this post to include a hyperlink to that as well.

I’m using this term “curated tour” as opposed to an automatically generated tour, but I don’t know what the official or even common name is for this. What I mean by curated is that you will build up collection of placemarks (as points-of-interest to you) and Google Earth will fly from one to the next. Now, within this definition, there are still automated and manual options to create the tour, but the fact remains that you will be in complete control of the placemarks that define the stops along the tour. And, like before, I’ll go ahead and show you what it looks like…

If you’ve not already watched part one of this series, you should do so immediately unless you are very familiar with Google Earth. There is information there that I won’t repeat here.

Step 1 – Open Your KML File in Google Earth

Open your KML file in Google Earth and move your start point up to its proper order in the Places panel.

Reorder your placemarks with drag-drop

Reorder your placemarks with drag-drop

Step 2 – Adjust the View of Each Placemark

Experiment a bit by double-clicking on each of your placemarks and you’ll see that Google Earth chooses a default view looking North. Now, perhaps that appeals to some people, but I prefer a view looking forward down my route with some exceptions. The good news is that you have complete control over the view at each placemark. To begin, double click on your Start marker to have Google Earth fly to that place. Now move you mouse up to the top right of the map view and hover over the controls that you see there. They are ghosted when your mouse is not in the area and become opaque when the mouse is in the vicinity.

Use the navigation controls at the top right to adjust the view

Use the navigation controls at the top right to adjust the view

The circle at the top controls the direction of view; you can either drag the “N” control around the compass or you can click the rotate left or right arrows to do the same thing. The circle control below is the pan control and it will move the map left, right, up, or down under your viewport, which is the same as clicking and dragging the map itself. The slider will zoom you in or out and this is functionally the same as the wheel on your mouse (if you have one).

Use the view controls to adjust the view for each placemark

Use the view controls to adjust the view for each placemark

You can adjust the view as many times as you wish until you are satisfied. Once you are satisfied and are ready to save the view for that placemark, right-click the placemark in the Places panel and select the Snapshot View command.

The Snapshot View command saves the current view to the placemark.

The Snapshot View command saves the current view to the placemark.

This view is now recorded to that placemark and you can test this by double-clicking another placemark and coming back to this one. You’ll notice that Google Earth will fly through a smooth transition between the two views no matter what they are.

Go ahead and adjust the view for each of the placemarks in your tour.

Step 3 – Add Other Points of Interest as Placemarks

Now, you’ll want to add placemarks for everything that you want to show in your tour. If you let Google Earth automatically create the tour, it’s going to visit every placemark in order. If you choose to record the tour manually, you have the option of skipping some of the placemarks, but they will still show (provided you don’t uncheck them in the Places panel) as you tour past them.

For example, this route that I’ve imported goes through the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge so I may want to indicate a location where I want to look out for alligators, cottonmouth snakes, or drunk rednecks in flat-bottomed boats. To do so, I add a placemark at the desired location, enter a name, and select an icon to represent the POI.

Add placemarks for all the points-of-interest you want to show in your tour

Add placemarks for all the points-of-interest you want to show in your tour

Notice that your placemark is always placed at the bottom of your folder and you’re going to want to put it in order if you wish to automatically create a tour from the folder because Google Earth will visit all the placemarks in exactly this order. Reorder by dragging and dropping your placemark.

Reorder your placemark using drag-drop

Reorder your placemark using drag-drop

Continue adding placemarks until you’ve added one for each place you want to show on your tour. I recommend that you continually move back and forth (using double-click) through your tour to see how Google Earth will fly from place to place so you can see how it will interact with the view set on each place.

04a – Create an Automated Tour

Before you jump in and create the tour, you need to adjust a few parameters that control how Google Earth behaves. Choose the Options command from the Tools menu and click on the Touring tab to view the Touring options. Take note of the group of controls titled “When creating a tour from a folder”.

Touring options

Touring options

The two slides titled “Time Between Features” and “Wait at Features” will control the speed of your tour. By default these are set to 10s and 3s, respectively, which I think makes for a very slow tour. You can experiment with different settings to decide what is right for you.

But I highly recommend that you clear the checkbox titled “Fly along lines”. When this is checked, Google Earth is going to d a virtual flythrough of your path when it encounters it in turn in the folder and this will effectively double your tour. You can delete the path from the folder, but then the path will not show in your tour.

Note that these options are global and not saved with your tour or place so the next time you start Google Earth, these options will be as you left them.

To create your tour, select your folder (should be named the same as your imported KML file) and click the Play Tour button at the bottom right of the Places panel.

Play tour from folder

Play tour from folder

You’ll see that Google Earth will begin to fly from one place to another. You should also notice that your path has a view that, by default, is directly above and zoomed out to show the entire route on the screen. You can also change that view just as any other placemark. You can now save your tour and then Save to My Places to save your tour permanently.

04a – Create a Manual Tour

You might want to conduct the tour manually so that you have exact control over the timing especially if you were planning to add narration in a recorded video. When you record a tour manually, all of your actions are recorded and become part of the tour, which gives you a lot of control over the content. You can turn layers on and off during the tour. You can select which places to visit and in any order. And you can adjust the view manually at any time. The only thing you don’t have control over is how Google Earth flys from the current view to another when you double-click a placemark. I recommend that you rehearse your tour before you begin to record.

To begin, click the Record a Tour button on the top toolbar.

Record a Tour command

Record a Tour command

In the bottom left of the map panel, you’ll see a small panel appear with a record button and a microphone button.


I know that the microphone button supports adding narration to the tour, but the online documentation doesn’t give any details and I’ve not yet looked into that. Another research topic for a rainy day.

When you click the Record button, it turns red to indicate that you are now in record mode and all of your actions are now recorded in real time. You can now move between your placemarks at any pace or order you wish to build your tour. When done, click the Record button again and the record panel will be replaced by the playback panel you’re already familiar with. You can then save your tour and Save to My Places to save your tour permanently.

Thanks for stopping by and look for part three of this series where I’ll show how to create a video from a tour.

This entry was posted in Bicycle Touring, Cycling, Routes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Create a Curated Tour from a Bike Route Using Google Earth

  1. Pingback: Create a Video from a Bike Route Tour Using Google Earth | Bike Lane Ends

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