Academics perceive a great potential of virtual worlds in various areas, including tourism and education. Efforts adapting the virtual worlds in practice are, however, still marginal. There is no clear definition of the virtual world. Therefore the author of this article attempts to provide one. The paper also focuses on the barriers of a wider exploitation of the virtual worlds and discusses the principles that might help to increase their potential in tourism area. One of the principles – gamification – favours a wider adaptation of the virtual worlds in tourism. Applying gamification principles provides visitors with some unique experiences while serving as a powerful marketing tool for institutions. The benefits of implementing tourism education activities based on cooperative principles set in an immersive environment of the virtual worlds are depicted afterwards. Finally, this paper includes successful case studies, which show advantages and drawbacks of some approaches in exploiting the virtual worlds in tourism and tourism education.