The internet is crawling with images of incredible landscapes and sweeping mountain views, carefully captured by drones that go where no person can. Tourist boards are quick to spread these pictures, keen to bring visitors to the region. However, without the right infrastructure it can often be a disappointing experience in reality. Crowded car parks, restricted viewing platforms and expensive entry fees can all get in the way of that back-into-nature experience promised.
This article therefore explores some of the most beautiful landscapes our planet has to offer, and crucially the services available to maximise your experience of it. Once coronavirus lifts and we are free to get back out into the world, why not make up for months on the sofa with an exhilarating adventure you’ve always dreamed of doing? From paraglides, to hot air balloons to zip lines, these aerial spaces have been unlocked for visitors in ever-inventive ways, bringing heart-thumping action to incredible landscapes.
Bagan – Myanmar
Nowhere in the world looks quite like Bagan, with its instantly recognisable landscape dotted with temples, stupas and monasteries. Perhaps ones of the most beautiful views in the world, this is the top of countless bucket lists. Though it is possible to rent ebikes or a tuk tuk and cycle right into the middle of the complex, undeniably the best possible way to experience Bagan is way up in the sky; by hot air balloon at sunrise. Nothing can prepare the onlooker in their basket for the magic as the sun creeps over the horizon and projects a mystical orange glow over the calm silhouettes of the stupas, an event that must truly be seen to be believed.
Lake Atitlan –Guatemala
This lake is the deepest in Central America, and is banked by active volcanoes, making it an incredible landscape to experience from the air. The perimeter of the lake is dotted mostly by indigenous Mayan towns, with few big tourist companies to spoil the fascinating cultural history. Instead, smaller backpacker-oriented local businesses have sprung up, offering exciting activities. Paragliding in particular is a popular choice by visitors and offers an opportunity to see Lake Atitlan from high up in the air, an exhilarating journey that takes the flier over the vast lake and between lush mountains. Nearby, the Reserva Natural Atitlan offers beautiful treks and a butterfly reserve, as well as 8 zip lines, one of which extends all the way out to the lake.
Sun City – South Africa
If zip lining is your thing, you’ll doubtless have heard of the Zip 2000, until recently the longest and fastest zip line in the world. Despite other lines now claiming the title, the Zip 2000 continues to be one of the best in the world and certainly trumps others in terms of experience. The views across the South African landscapes are unbeatable and make for an exhilarating ride. It is also worth noting that this zipline has an impeccable safety record and can be done in tandem with a partner, making it particularly appealing to more hesitant fliers!
Cappadocia - Turkey
An up-and-coming destination on the tourist trail, this beautiful and bizarre region has visitors flocking in recent years to see its fascinating geological formation and cultural history for themselves. It is characterised by sweeping expanses of jagged rock formations, many of which have traditionally formed the homes of local communities. Some are still inhabited or show the markings of once being a family home, complete with windows and “fairy chimneys.” The town of Göreme forms the tourist hub of this region, nestled in between (and within) these strange rocky structures. In recent years, as a sustainable tourism initiative, hot air balloon rides have become big business; creating the iconic ballooned backdrop seen in many tourist photos today.
Simatai - China
Ever considered seeing the Great Wall of China from a zip-line? Off the beaten-track and further out (also less touristy and older),this section of the wall at Simatai comes complete with a steep zip-line over a lake. After a trek along the wall, visitors can jump on the zip-line and finish off their adventure in style. It should be noted however, that at around $70 for a 40 second ride, this experience comes at a pretty hefty price.
Grindelwald – Switzerland
The phrase “birds eye view” never got more literal than when applied to Jungfraujoch’s’ “First Glider” experience. Essentially a zip-line but more with the feel of a hang glider, visitors can harness themselves to a structure shaped like a giant golden eagle and soar across the breath-taking valleys of Grindelwald. If that wasn’t enough, they also offer more traditional zip-lines that allow four riders to fly at once. For those wanting something a little slower, cable cars are available across various sites in the region, giving travellers the opportunity to take a slow journey up the mountain and take in the picture-perfect green hillsides, Swiss alpine villages and rocky snow-capped mountains.
Hawaii – U.S.
Hawaii is world renowned for its exotic beaches, mountains and dramatic scenery; so what better way to experience all of this than from up in the clouds? Various paragliding centres across the islands offer flights ranging from straight-forward rentals to organised tandem flights for complete beginners, which leave the flier free to relax and enjoy the incredible views. Hawaii Tandem Paragliding Oahu for example offers tandem flights that take you high above the Ko’olau Mountains of Oahu and offer glimpses of the whole island and its scenic coastline.
Mission Beach – Australia
Ever dreamed of doing a skydive? The Mission Beach Skydive Centre is widely regarded as the best skydiving in Australia, if not the world. With incredible views over Australia’s white sand beaches and turquoise sea, this company offer professional, safe and exhilarating skydives, either alone or in tandem. From 15,000 feet in the sky this heart-pumping adrenaline ride takes you over North Queensland with views of the Great Barrier Reef and Mission Beach.
Rio de Janeiro – Brazil
One of the most popular wind sports in Rio de Janeiro is hang gliding, the aviation technique that involves strapping yourself to a large fabric wing. 20 minutes from Ipanema, fliers take off from the top of mount Pedra Bonita and lands on Pepino beach. During the flight, a pilot will control the glider to take you round the coastline, with spectacular views of Rio and the entire mountainous region that surrounds the ocean. To fly with a company such as Rio Adventures, typical flight times are around two hours and cost around $100.
Jasper National Park – Canada
Our last landscape is by no means least. Jasper National Park is the largest and northernmost national park in Canada’s spectacular Rocky Mountains and offers countless activities to get the most out of this incredible mountainous area. From helicopter tours to fixed-wing plane tours, these flights take viewers where no trails will, past thunderous waterfalls and shimmering glaciers. For those wanting that airborne experience without the price tag, the SkyTram is an incredible (and vertiginous) way to see as much of the region as possible in a short amount of time, taking visitors right up into the clouds via a 360-degree viewing car. Finally, the Icefield Skywalk takes viewers beyond the edge of the mountain top on a suspended glass walkway, offering spectacular views of the valley for miles around. Just don’t look down!