X-Plane 11 is one of the most popular virtual flight programs. And, most often than not, offers some of the most authentic virtual flight experiences on the market. Part of that experience is the scenery, and how real or authentic it looks. With this in mind, we will examine some of the best freeware photorealistic scenery add-ons currently available.
And remember, as these add-ons are continually becoming available, we will continue to update this page and tell you about them – so make sure you bookmark it and check in regularly with us.
It is perhaps worth noting and remembering before we continue, as is the case with all of the files and mods listed on this page for X-Plane 11, they are only compatible with this particular program.
All of the files, mods, and expansions listed in this article are freeware - completely free to download and use.
As the article is quite lengthy, you can jump to the sections easier by using the jump links below:
- Global Mesh
- Other Global Areas
- Final Points
Recommended Install First: Global Terrain Mesh
Before you go ahead and start downloading the photoreal packs below, we highly recommend installing a terrain mesh add-on first.
This will bring the hills, mountains and general deviations in terrain to life. This is not a scenery pack as such, it simply lays the correct "ground" before you apply the photorealistic scenery packs.
We recommend installing this before any of the other scenery mods below.
HD Mesh Scenery v4 & UHD Mesh Scenery v4
Both High Definition and the Ultra High Definition versions of the X-Plane 11 Mesh Scenery Version by AlpilotX not only both contain significant changes that improve on the previous version, but they are absolutely free to download and use, and easy to install.
Incidentally, you will be asked if you wish to make a donation to the developers if you do decide to download this improved version – something which overall is in the best interests of all virtual pilots if possible – however, if you are not in a position to do so that isn’t a problem. And more importantly won’t affect your ability to use the add-on.
As we will examine as we move along, there are slight differences in what the actual terrain and scenery available do. With that in mind, then, we will look at the specifics of the HD version of the download, and then point out the changes of the UHD version.
So, what are you going to be getting if you choose to download and install this fourth version of the global scenery add-ons?
The HD version offers news sections of Eastern European terrain, which in turn leads to parts of Israel on one side, and Russia on the other. Furthermore, other sections of Europe, including the Canary Islands and Iceland are also covered. The North American continent also features revamped sections of the United States (including significant improvements in Alaska) as well as in Canada, and the Central and some of the South American continent.
The Himalayas are completely transformed from previous versions, and further improvements can be found around Japan and the Pacific Islands, as well as the waters and islands around Australia.
By contrast, the UHD version offers improvements around New Zealand and Japan, large portions of the western terrain of the United States and Canada, and the Pyrenees, Alps, and Scandinavia regions of Europe.
Overall, the add-on offers generally better detail on landmarks, mountains, fields (flatlands) and roadways. Even the rivers and waterways are also much more detailed.
This add-on is very much worth the time to install. And remember, it is a project in motion meaning that there will be plenty more add-ons and updates in the near future.
The files are separated into "tiles" so there are around 174 tiles for the HD version and 11 tiles for the UHD version. You can pick/choose what tile you would like to download in order to save disk space and bandwidth use.
However, if you are interested in total sizes, you can find them below:
Complete HD Package download size: ~125 GB
Complete UHD Package download size: ~48 GB
Now, we move on the actual photoreal packs below...
Undoubtedly, some of the most well-known and easily recognizable locations, in the real world and the virtual one can be found in the United States. And the new scenery add-ons feature to of the most picturesque and unique location, not only in America but the entire world.
Perhaps the location of all locations is California. And the recent add-on of the Golden State is complete in its entirety. This means that with just one download, everything you would see should you travel around California in the real world is now available to you from the virtual skies.
As well as the iconic locations and scenery available there are additional airports (included in the original download) that you can take off from and land at, indeed, plan a route that might take in several of them at once. The Half Moon Bay Airport, for example, in Half Moon Bay, or the Kern Valley Airport in Kernville, or perhaps you wish to take off from Lee Vining Airport in Mono County – whatever your choice, the details are highly authentic and make the experience as authentic as possible.
As well as the many locations, the overall graphics and finer details are all improved. And what’s more, once installed, the blending with other states, or in the case of California with Mexico, is apparently easy and error-free.
There are also some more technical features that add to the overall experience. For example, when approaching airports, the ZL17 radius is increased from 4km to 15km. Similarly, Curve Tolerance is lowered from 1.0 to 0.7. There are also numerous Water Mask fixes installed, with the Water Mask Width increased from 8 to 25.
Without a doubt, California is a state that all X-Plane 11 pilots should take the time to discover.
Download size: 126.26 GB
Grand Canyon HD
If there is another location that might rival California, then the Grand Canyon might well be it. And what’s more, the Grand Canyon is perhaps of equal appeal to the grizzled veterans of the virtual skies as it will very likely be to newcomer pilots. And the reason is the authenticity of the views that await the virtual pilot as they take to the skies in the plane of their choice. The scenery below, whether it is the cutting and jagged cliff edges, or the several waterways the force their way through the ancient and mystical terrain of Arizona, the details are largely breathtaking.
In fact, some of the ground textures are some of the best available and an improvement on the already great quality of standard scenery (however, you should note here that you will need to have lots of RAM available on your machine, which itself will need to be on the higher end of the graphics capabilities for you to truly experience this particular add-on!).
Perhaps the fact that the imagery is the product of genuine and authentic satellite pictures explains the realistic views you will experience should you opt to download the Grand Canyon add-on.
All the terrain of the Grand Canyon is represented here, including the North and South Rim, the East and West Canyons, and Havasu Falls. Furthermore, like the California package above, there are numerous airports from which to take off from, including Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Grand Canyon National Park Airport, Flagstaff Pullman Airport, and Sedona Airport.
If you think you will like the California package, and if you have a liking for Americana in general, this is an add-on that is too good to ignore.
Download size: 88.1 GB
Much like the United States, Europe, when taken as a whole, as a similar variety of terrains to explore from the air. So, it would make sense that with the recent add-ons that are available, two of Europe’s most breathtaking scenery is represented here.
Perhaps before we examine just what you can expect if you choose to download the scenery add-on for Spain, we should make you aware that the files is extremely large. And while that shouldn’t put you off downloading it – it is very much worth the time – it could be the case that it will take several days to complete the download. However, should you take advantage of the PRO subscription, faster download options are available.
Once you have downloaded it, however, the zoom level and overall resolution are much improved on a package that was already of high quality. For example, the zoom level is 17 on the peninsula and 18 on the islands.
And much like the terrain of California, Spain offers a mixture of terrain to examine and explore. What’s more, all of this terrain has been almost perfectly recreated in the most attentive detail for you to explore from the virtual skies.
Whether it is the rocky mountainous territory, the long, country roads, and sprawling fields, or the intricate roadways and buildings of the towns and cities, there is plenty to explore, and plenty of Spanish airports to explore them from. As well as the mainland there are multiple islands along the Spanish coasts that are also on offer and available.
The overall textures of the water – both internal and coast – are much improved, as are those on the abundance of different terrains.
While it might take a while to get the Spain add-on downloaded and installed, you will find the wait was well worth it.
Download size: 315.88 GB
The Alps (Western)
The western regions of the Alps are the first of several releases that look to replicate this most fascinating and unique location in the world for the virtual pilot to then explore. This particular add-on explores the regions that stretch from Lyon to Sion, including Geneva, Mont Blanc, Bern, St. Gervais, and Chamonix. And what’s more, all of these regions are highly detailed and authentic.
The graphics and scenery is the result of open-source satellite imagery which likely contributes to the overall authenticity and genuine feel of the product.
Resolution zoom level 16 and 17 are used in the package, and the high resolution is immediately apparent. We should note, like other packages, a high-end system with a good graphics card is required to get the full effect from this add-on. However, we should also note that if this is not possible, a smaller package is available (although the resolution is smaller).
And, with that last point in mind, those who decide to take the add-on – and why wouldn’t you with all that is on offer here – they must also be prepared for significant download time, similar to that of the Spain add-on mentioned above.
Download size: 39.84 GB
Another of Europe’s finest destinations to view from the air is the mountainous island of Corsica off the southern French coast in the Mediterranean Sea. Again, like many of the add-on packages above, Zoom Level 17 has been used to replicate this fascinating island. And once more, the mountains, forests, and drawn out pathways are all perfect to be viewed from above.
The entire island is available, including the four main airports, and several smaller ones, all of which are available here in this free download. As an example, you can expect to leave for your virtual flights from such locations as Ajaccio Airport, Campo dell Oro Airport, or Poretta Airport.
Similarly, many of the towns and cities on the island have been reproduced in their entirety and in full detail. These include the capital of Ajaccio, Aleria, Saint-Florent as well as the many hiking trails, forests, and full national parks.
Like many of the add-ons above, the file size is relatively large and may take a considerable time to download. However, fast Internet speed in this particular case will assist in this greatly.
Download size: 7.57 GB
Other Global Areas
While the United States and Europe are both fascinating locations to fly over with much to see, there is an entire planet to view. With that in mind, then, we should look at some of the other add-ons that are available for X-Plane 11.
This add-on provides the almost the entire country of Australia, including such key locations as Syndey, New South Wales, Queensland, and the northern, southern, and eastern regions of the country. All of the country has a zoom level of 14, aside from Sydney which is available in Ultra High Definition and a zoom level of 17.
Many of the graphics and terrain textures are based on real authentic satellite imagery which gives an overall genuine feel to the add-on.
With this particular add-on, also, the photo files are pre-built into the DDS format for X-Plane which means there is no need to convert each of the files manually. As you might expect, the download time for such a mammoth territory in such high detail will be quite substantial. However, like most of these free scenery add-ons, it is very much worth the wait.
Download size: 68.2 GB
...so there you have our compilation of the latest and greatest freeware photoreal packs for XP11. We will continue to update this article (likely monthly) with any new releases (and there will be some!)
As you can see, all of the packs are very large in filesize and will require adequate disk space and a fast Internet connection in order to download them. This is the nature of this type of scenery - it's highly detailed.
Like most of the above, while downloading and continual use of these add-ons is completely free, you will be asked if you wish to donate to the programmer behind the add-ons. And while this donation is completely optional and will not affect your download or ability to use it, it is recommended for the sake and continued growth of such virtual flight programmers and programs, that such a donation is made, however large or small.
Don't forget, this is only a glimpse of what we have available in the file library. Check out the entire scenery section for X-Plane 11 here. Or, if you're not after scenery and want to look at aircraft and other add-ons, you can find our complete file library here.
There will be plenty more photoreal scenery add-ons that become available as the months go on. Make sure you bookmark this page and continue to check back here for updates.
We would love to hear your opinions. Please post your comments in the section below. What's your favorite file? What package did you enjoy the most? Have we missed any? What other areas would you like to see?