Ask fellow travelers what the best view in the world is and you’ll not only be met with myriad answers and enthusiastic responses, but you’ll also create a heated debate with no objective way of being settled. But this is precisely why this topic, irresolvable as it is, pushes travelers to scour the world for that perfect panorama which will send them into a camera-clicking frenzy, make them emit lengthy ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’, trigger epiphanies and occasionally make them part with a considerable sum of money. While the quest for the most spectacular view is still entirely in your hands, we’d like to make your search a little bit easier by suggesting nine ways you can search for, and hopefully find, some of the world’s most awe-inspiring views.
Head to the top floor
Wherever there’s a view worth enjoying and no natural high points available to do so, man will probably have already solved the problem by building towering structures of his own, each with a top to be reached for the ultimate sweeping vista.
To get there, you might need to queue for a couple of hours among a sea of fellow tourists (the Tour Eiffel in Paris), pay a little admission fee (the Empire State Building’s $19.29 dollars), head up absolutely free (Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Offices building), climb a ridiculous number of steps (London’s Monument with 311), take a quick and comfortable lift (Istanbul’s Galata Tower), get to the top of a church tower (Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja) or Mosque minaret (Delhi’s Jama Masjid).
But here’s an option you’ve probably never heard of; In Ushiku, Japan, you can climb up inside the chest of a 400-foot-high Buddha to enjoy a view of the surrounding landscape. When it comes to such sorts of observatories, travelers couldn’t be more spoiled for choice.
Take a train journey
If you just can’t get enough of stunning scenery and you’re not that keen on spending a few hours locked up in a little sealed machine thousands of feet up in the air, consider a longer and more rewarding way of getting from A to B: a train journey. While the king of all train trips is often considered to be the Trans-Siberian, this route is in fact not particularly visually interesting, with some even describing it as monotonous.
For train rides which are not just a means to an end but an experience in themselves, try some of the following options; Cross North America on what is known as ‘The Canadian’, a four-day train which will take you from Toronto to Vancouver across a changing landscape of mountains, prairies and forests. Enjoying the view on this train couldn’t be easier: there’s even a skyline car with panoramic dome. In Europe, get a taste of Switzerland with a trip on the Bernina express from Chur to Lugano, this time for scenery featuring glaciers, valleys and Southern Switzerland’s palm trees, also with panoramic car option. For an Asian alternative, try the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as ‘Darjeeling toy train,’ for a journey across green hills, tea plantations and hundreds of bridges.
Get to a mountaintop…the easy way
Mountains are not just beautiful to look at from afar, they also offer a great spot from onto which you can get unobstructed bird’s eye views of your surroundings. Such is the allure of standing at the top of these majestic million-year-old rock formations that travelers around the world are happy to part with (sometimes quite) a bit of their travel money to reach them.
Whether you’re on Sugarloaf mountain looking down onto Rio De Janeiro , on Table mountain taking in Cape Town or on Seoul’s Namsan, you’ll usually have to get on a cable car or gondola to reach the top, which is actually half the fun. Switzerland is a country particularly rich in mountains which you can conquer, though be warned that prices for a cable car round trip can be as high as a cheap airplane ticket. Check out Klein Matterhorn (literally meaning ‘little’), from where the site of the iconic Matterhorn awaits you, Titlis’ rotating cable car ride, or a trip up to the top of Schilthorn, which made it onto the big screen in a James Bond movie, and many many more.
Sleep at the top of the world
Views equal money, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the accommodation business. So if you decide you want to wake up to a stunning view directly available from your window, you’ll have to pay a premium for it. Having said that, if you can afford to splurge at least for a night or two on that ultimate room with a view, your choices are pretty much endless.
Take your pick from any of the following: a Tree top hotel in Sweden, a glass igloo in Lapland, perfect if you want to witness your long-dreamed of Northern lights while staying warm, a Norwegian lighthouse with wild ocean views, or an eco-luxury cliff retreat on the Patagonian coast. Despite the eye-watering price tags attached to most of these rooms, we mere mortals with a limited budget can, at least, take comfort in the fact that if we really want to ogle a stunning view as we are falling asleep, we can still resort to good and cheap camping. For ideas about where to pitch your tent in the American continent, check out campingwithaview.com.
Enjoy dinner or drinks with a view
There is something particularly appealing about satisfying one’s hunger and quenching one’s thirst at a certain height, away from the hustle and bustle at street level. Getting acquainted with the famous Turkish kebab in one of the many roof top restaurants in Istanbul is not to be missed, especially since most such restaurants offer spectacular views over the minaret-dotted cityscape. Neither is dining at the nearest available rotating restaurant (if you can afford it and secure a booking,) in cities like Vancouver, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and even on top of Schilthorn, a Swiss mountain, boasting the world’s highest revolving eatery.
For a more relaxed drink with a view, head up to the top floor Gravity Bar in Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse, Madrid’s The Penthouse, Kuala Lumpur’s Luna Bar, or Chicago’s Signature Lounge.
Check out the world beneath your feet
For some, a great view seen from up high on its own is not enough to qualify as a memorable experience. Add an adrenaline rush to the equation – say by providing glass-bottomed observatories – and you’ve just created enough reasons for adventure junkies to come take a look. It was precisely by coming up with such a feature that Chicago’s Willis Tower managed to recapture the public’s imagination after it lost its claim to the title of highest building in the world. Other spots around the globe where you can seemingly float over a view dropping sharply beneath your feet include the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the Calgary Tower, the Sydney Tower Skywalk, and for a bit of an added twist, the glass bottomed elevator at the CN Tower in Toronto.
Take a scenic coastal road trip
Wandering the world by hitting the road is one of the best ways to travel slowly and allow enough time to soak up the views, but as more and more scenic roads get assimilated into straight, characterless highways, your best choice if you’re looking for uninterrupted scenic driving is to hit the coast.
Explore Australia’s famed Great Ocean Road, California’s long straight coast, Hawaii’s twisty Road to Hana, or the absurdly photogenic Amalfi coast in Italy. It’s also easy to stop along the way and linger over a moody sunset from atop towering cliffs, protruding rock bluffs or elegant white lighthouses open to the visiting public.
Head to the tree tops
Walking among mighty hundred-year old trees is certainly memorable in itself, but nowadays, finding options for tree top walks on structures suspended tens of feet off the ground are widely available, and perfect if you want to enjoy a different sort of view composed of tree canopies and their otherwise illusive inhabitants. Venture onto the Valley of the Giants tree top walk in Western Australia, bounce on the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, stroll along the world’s longest at the Bavarian forest national park in Germany, or explore the rainforest in Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore.
Take to the sky
When the highest observatory on the highest building is no longer enough, there is still a way to get an even better view of your surroundings; take to the sky by panoramic plane, hot air balloon and helicopter. Once again, it seems that the desire for humans to see further and wider has made the tourist industry especially rich in options. Take a helicopter ride over New York City, the Grand Canyon or Athens, a hot air balloon trip over the alien-like landscape of Turkey’s Cappadocia region, Stockholm’s urban space or the Serengeti plains at dawn, and an airplane tour of the Hawaiian Islands.