The best aerial views in the world

Olivia Rawes

written by
Olivia Rawes

updated 07.05.2024

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high – or marvel at the photos of those that have. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, here are 17 of the world's most incredible aerial views. And if you're still under coronavirus lockdown, don't worry: they're just as stunning from the comfort of your sofa.

1. Hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara, Kenya

No amount of documentary watching can prepare you for the view of the famous Maasai Mara at dawn. As you float up in a hot air balloon and the sun slowly rises, the savannah awakens below you: wildebeests, zebras and impalas graze on the undulating grasslands, impossibly graceful giraffes stride across the open plains and lions and cheetahs stalk their pray.

Find out in detail when the chances of fully enjoying wildlife watching are higher with our guide to the best time to visit Masai Mara.

Hot air balloons flying at sunrise over the Maasai Mara National park in Kenya © Daniel F Ascanio/Shutterstock

Hot air balloons flying at sunrise over the Maasai Mara National park in Kenya © Daniel F Ascanio/Shutterstock

2. See Fez’s tanneries Chouwara, Morocco

Follow the stench of dye, leather and pigeon dung to one of the many shops that double up as vantage points over the ancient tanneries Chouwara.

Brave the smell and the views are worth it. Below you, among the city's rooftops, stretched out leathers bake in the sun and myriad dye-filled pits awash with colour make a striking mosaic of mustard-yellow, ochre, deep purple, indigo and teal.

Fez tanneries, Morocco © Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

3. Get a birds eye view of Machu Picchu, Peru

Think of Machu Picchu and one image springs to mind: crumbling ruins poised atop a vivid-green terraced mountainside, with Huayna Picchu’s horn-shaped looming peak in the background.

But there is another, equally impressive, yet far-less famous viewpoint: the one from Huayna Picchu itself. The trek up the mountain is hard but the view over the ruins below, the densely forested mountains and the meandering Urubamba River are worth it.


© PixieMe/Shutterstock

4. Gaze down over the Grand Canyon, USA

You have to see the Grand Canyon from above. Yet even swotting up on the statistics (more than a mile deep and, in places, 18 miles wide) cannot prepare you for the experience of staring down into this vast abyss.

When travel is possible again, how you decide to get your dose of vertigo is up to you: hike to a viewpoint, fly over it, or try the Skywalk, a glass-bottomed platform lets you glimpse the canyon between your feet – if you're brave enough.

Grand Canyon from Desert View Point, South Rim with the Colorado © Josemaria Toscano/Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

5. Trekking in Bac Son valley, Vietnam

Hike through the paddy fields of the Bac Son valley in northern Vietnam and you'll see some of the country’s most stunning vistas.

But the best views are from the mountains themselves. From here you can see the river lazily twist through a patchwork quilt of acid-yellow, bright-green and ochre fields, dotted with stilt houses and flanked by imposing mountains.

Panoramic view of Bac Son valley from the top of Mount Na Lay in Bac Son district, Lang Son province, Vietnam © Quang nguyen vinh/Shutterstock

Panoramic view of Bac Son valley from the top of Mount Na Lay in Bac Son district, Lang Son province, Vietnam © Quang nguyen vinh/Shutterstock

6. View Sydney from the Harbour Bridge, Australia

The "coat hanger", as it’s affectionately dubbed by locals, was the longest single span bridge in the world at the time of its construction. Once lockdown restrictions have been removed, those with a head for heights will once more be able to climb the bridge’s 503m-long, 134m-high framework, scaling the steel arch to the summit – an excursion that’s rewarded with 360-degree views of the city, from the glittering harbour to the iconic white-fins of the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Harbor bridge and the Opera House in Sydney © ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

7. Sky dive over Dubai Islands, UAE

For the most extreme view of one of the world's most extreme cities, you'll need to fling yourself out of a plane. As the adrenalin rush hits you, prepare to be transfixed by the view: 13,000ft below you futuristic Dubai displays its wonders, soaring skyscrapers, harsh desert and the sandy-edged fronds of the Palm Jumeirah stretching out into the turquoise ocean.

Dubai Palm Jumeirah Island, Dubai © Delpixel/Shutterstock

Dubai Palm Jumeirah Island, Dubai © Delpixel/Shutterstock

8. Take in the view from The Peak, Hong Kong

There’s no shortage of places to get high in Hong Kong; in a city of soaring skyscrapers lofty views are a given.

Yet one of the best has to be the view from The Peak, Hong Kong’s highest mountain. A circular walk around the wooded mountain offers the best views of the skyscraper-packed cityscape, as well as vistas of the bustling harbour and Outlying Islands.

Hong Kong sunrise © leungchopan/Shutterstock

Hong Kong sunrise © leungchopan/Shutterstock

9. Paraglide through Wengen, Switzerland

Ditch the skis for an exhilarating paragliding trip over Wengen, a mountainside village in Switzerland famed for its celestial views. This is picture-perfect alpine scenery: charming chocolate-box houses and frozen, glacial mountain tops.

In summer the lush slopes contrast with the ice-capped tips of the Jungfrau massif; winter vistas are even more breathtaking, revealing an impossibly photogenic snow-dusted landscape.

Wengen, Lauterbrunnen view, Switzerland © A.Siripatana/Shutterstock

Wengen, Lauterbrunnen view, Switzerland © A.Siripatana/Shutterstock

10. See the Great Barrier Reef by helicopter, Australia

Visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is made up of 2900 individual reefs, 900 islands and countless sandy cays. Seeing it from space may be out of reach for most, but helicopter flights give equally as impressive views of this natural wonder.

When airlines and tour outfits reopen, hop on a flight in Cairns, from where you'll glide over the endless indigo-stained ocean and the Whitsunday’s dreamy swirls of golden sands.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia ©  I Shafiq/Shutterstock

Great Barrier Reef, Australia © I Shafiq/Shutterstock

11. Fly over Angel Falls, Venezuela

Nineteen times the height of Niagara Falls, the 979m-high Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in the world. The cascade plunges from Auyán-tepui, one of the tepui (table top mountains) that dominate the jungle landscape here, and the best way to see it is undoubtedly from the air. Watching the Churun River surge over the mountain edge, its easy to see why locals call it the "falls from the deepest place".


© Shutterstock

12. Look down on London from the Shard, England

Dramatically piercing the London sky, the 1017ft Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building. With viewing platforms at a lofty 800ft above the capital, the Shard easily trumps other vantage points in the city. And with those dizzying heights come 40 miles of jaw-dropping views – a panoramic sweep of London that ticks off its biggest sights, from Tower Bridge to the London Eye.


© Shutterstock

13. Paraglide over Ölüdeniz, Turkey

The Turquoise Coast has more to offer than blissful beaches. The resort of Ölüdeniz has been consistently ranked as one of the top spots in the world for paragliding, with paragliders regularly launching from the 1960m-high Babadag (Father Mountain), swooping slowly down to the golden arc of sand that curves around the resort's famous azure lagoon.

Hiking on Lycian way trail © art of line/Shutterstock

© art of line/Shutterstock

14. Climb across a stone forest, Madagascar

Remote and otherworldly, Tsingy de Bemaraha national park, the largest stone forest in the world, lies a five-day journey from Madagascar’s capital. It’s worth it: a bizarre labyrinth of razor-sharp spires, narrow ravines and hidden caves await.

This seemingly inhospitable landscape teems with wildlife, too: lemurs, parrots and lizards can be spotted amid the serrated rock towers.


© Pierre-Yves Babelon/Shutterstock

15. Take a helicopter over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

If you’re feeling flush, when flights resume take to the skies for one of the world’s most famous views: Rio de Janiero from the air. As well as admiring the concrete jungle squeezed between the mountains and Atlantic ocean, there's plenty to look out for: the golden swathes of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the rounded hump of Sugar Loaf mountain, and possibly most famous of all, the glorious statue of Christ the Redeemer with arms outstretched over the city.

View of Rio de Janeiro and Sugarloaf Mountain from Corcovado view point, Brazil © galaro/Shutterstock

© galaro/Shutterstock

16. Fly over the Blue Hole, Belize

The world’s largest sinkhole lures many divers into its inky depths; this indigo abyss plunges to over 100m. However, it is from above that the Blue Hole really comes into its own. Flying over this natural phenomenon in a glass-bottomed helicopter allows you to truly grasp the magnificence of the collapsed cavern.


© Globe Guide Media Inc/Shutterstock

17. Fly in a microlight over Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe

An awe-inspiring tower of cascading water, the "Smoke That Thunders" (as Victoria Falls is locally known) can be seen from 30 miles away.

On the ground it can be hard to grasp its sheer size – a true giant at 1.7km wide and 110m deep – yet from above, soaring in a microlight, its true magnificence is unveiled. Below your dangling feet, torrents of water plunge over the precipice and iridescent rainbows form in the billowing spray.


© e2dan/Shutterstock

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