There’s a world full of spectacular views out there, but some of the most jaw-dropping vistas can only be enjoyed from the sky. A view from above offers an alluring and unique perspective of almost any setting, adding an extra dimension to that “wow” factor. Whether you're gliding over thunderous Victoria Falls by Microlight, soaring over the Belize Barrier Reef by helicopter, or drifting over the plains of the Masai Mara in a hot air balloon at dawn, aerial views can create some of the best memories of a lifetime. Take your pick from our list of the ten best in the world.
By Anisha Shah
Gliding in a tiny Microlight open to the elements can make anyone feel small, but when it’s the Flight of Angels circling the mighty wonder of the world, Victoria Falls, the experience is completely liberating. As you straddling the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe border, views of the powerful waterfall and gushing Zambezi River are sure to spur an incredible rush of adrenaline.
Insider Tip: You can also opt for a helicopter tour if being enclosed makes you feel safer. Tongabezi Lodge, near Victoria Falls, arranges flights with Batoka Sky, renowned for experienced pilots. Get the DVD of your trip afterward as a souvenir.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Zambia Guide
Belize Barrier Reef
The second-largest reef system in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef lies not far from the shore, in breathtaking shades of aquamarine and turquoise. A glass-bottom helicopter ensures that the views of the endless blue disappearing into the horizon are completely unobstructed.
Insider Tip: Sit in the passenger seat for the best view. Flights with Astrum Helicopters offer a variety tours, often from Belize City. Be sure to book the tour over the Blue Hole, a natural phenomenon and diving hotspot, to spot sharks and stingray from the sky.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Belize Guide
With a smattering of blonde beaches, lush tropical forests, and translucent, gem-toned marine reserves, the Seychelles archipelago, comprised of 155 islands, is one of the most attractive in the world.
Insider Tip: To get to many of the private islands, a transfer via Zil Air helicopter is the only option, and a highlight in itself. You'll be able to watch the island appear over the horizon and stroll on the beach when you land. When returning, try to get a sunset flight to maximize the beauty of the scenery.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Seychelles Guide
For those seeking truly unobstructed views, paragliding is the way to go, and Liechtenstein offers the perfect opportunity. While running off a snow-capped mountaintop feels wholly unnatural, the views of the Rhine Valley and the tiny mountainous nation, bordering Switzerland and Austria, are breathtaking.
Insider Tips: Go in tandem with an instructor, leaving your hands free to take thrilling photographs. Schoenauer Liechtenstein provides varying flights of differing durations. Be warned; you’ll need a good stomach for the bumps along wind paths.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Liechtenstein Guide
The outline of stupas and shimmering pagodas punctuates Bagan’s skyline as far as the eye can see. Thousands of Buddhist temples dominate the view in varying heights and levels of grandeur. A hot air balloon ride at dawn is the perfect opportunity to see the glistening golden spires as the sun rises.
Insider Tip: Make reservations far in advance, as Balloons over Bagan gets booked months ahead. Take note, however, that the ride is extremely weather-dependent, with frequent cancellations. If you can, spend a few days in Bagan to avoid missing this incredible view.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bagan Guide
Board a hot air balloon before sunrise and drift over the moonscape of Cappadocia’s weathered caves, clefts, and pinnacles interspersed with vineyards, orchards, and villages. Also look for the natural “fairy chimneys” and voluptuous folds in the soft volcanic rock.
Insider Tip: Numerous companies offer ballooning opportunities and all are booked well in advance. Visitors always come away adding the experience to their once-in-a-lifetime moments in Turkey. End the flight with a Champagne toast, usually in a farmer’s field, after an hour of aerial sightseeing.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Turkey Guide
The migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra stampeding through infinite plains of the Masai Mara is an incredible scene. Seeing it from above in a hot air balloon is the experience of a lifetime.
Insider Tip: Camps such as Naibor will arrange hot air balloon rides. Arrive at base camp via a wooden boat to stargaze and watch the sun rise before heading up in the balloon in the early morning air.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Kenya Guide
While the energy on the ground in London is palpable, the scene from above offers an entirely different type of excitement. Fly low in a helicopter along the curves of the River Thames over Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and Canary Wharf’s financial district. Alternatively, take a ride on the London Eye for equally inspiring views.
Insider Tip: Don’t fear London's weather: Rain and fog often make for some of the most beautiful views.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Guide
For the truly adventurous, skydiving above the turquoise Persian Gulf is another can't-miss experience. Tandem skydives in Dubai are very popular, so book your outing with Skydive Dubai at least a month in advance.
Insider Tip: Dubai’s Palm Drop zone is open September to May and is always weather permitting. If just the thought of freefalling paralyzes you, opt for a private helicopter tour over Palm Jumeirah with Helicopter Tour Dubai.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dubai Guide
WHERE: Lake Turkana, Kenya/Ethiopia
The world’s largest desert lake and largest alkaline lake is a geological marvel. Straddling Kenya and Ethiopia, this caldera is formed from the remnants of a collapsed volcano and the scale of this impressive geographical feature is best seen from the air, by helicopter or Cessna plane. Given its extreme isolation and near-impossible land access, this is also the most feasible option for visiting.
Insider Tip: Combine a helicopter safari here with a trip to the grasslands in one of the national parks to watch wildlife from above.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Ethiopia Guide