Whether we're admiring world-famous skylines, gazing at snow-capped mountain peaks, or marvelling at jaw-dropping natural wonders, we can never get enough of a great view. We love to snap envy-inducing photos of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and legs that appear to dangle freely from thousand-feet-tall skyscrapers. But sometimes the view is so impressive that we have to put the camera away and simply look on in amazement. These six locations are home to some the world’s most spectacular viewpoints and lookouts.
Aurora Sky Station
Most intrepid travelers dream of witnessing the dancing light emissions of the Aurora Borealis at least once in their lifetime. Set on the eastern slopes of Mount Nuolja in Swedish Lapland, the Aurora Sky Station bills itself as the best place on earth to experience northern lights. The station sits at a height of 900 meters and is accessible via a chairlift that glides above the dramatic landscapes of Abisko National Park.
Night visits during the winter months are obvious highlights at the lookout. Look on as ethereal-like blue, green, pink, violet and yellow flares illuminate the star-filled sky. There’s an option to combine a visit with a gourmet dinner of Lapland and Nordic dishes. Come the summer months, and its time to cruise above flower-filled mountain slopes and hike beneath the glow of the midnight sun.
Soaring to 1,982 feet above the south bank of the Zhujiang River in Guangzhou’s Haizhu District is the Canton Tower. Designed for the 2010 Asian Games, it briefly held the title of the world’s tallest tower and is still among the planet’s tallest freestanding structures. Not content with just the one observation deck, the tower has half a dozen options for enjoying panoramic city views. Peer out from the 480M Look Out, 450M Lookout and the Sightseeing Observation Decks. You can even walk between the 32nd and 64th floors via a 1,000-meter-long spiral staircase.
Perhaps the most daring of the tower’s attractions is the Bubble Tram. Sixteen glass-sided cabins travel around the perimeter of the tower at 1,509 feet and invoke the sensation of floating. Nights are notably impressive, when the tower emits lights and glows in a rainbow of colors. If that isn’t enough, there’s a selection of sky bars and revolving restaurants to choose from.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Perched atop the 2,329-feet-tall granite peak of Corcovado in Rio De Janeiro, BRazil is one of the world’s most instantly recognizable statues. With his arms spread out wide, the Art Deco-style Christ the Redeemer appears to be embracing the city below him. It’s both a sacred pilgrimage spot and an iconic observation deck. Views extend over the islands and sparkling waters of Guanabara Bay, which is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Emblematic sights, such as Sugarloaf Mountain and the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, are all visible.
There are adventures to be had on the way up to the viewing platform, too. Take a relaxing train ride through the lush rainforest of Tijuca National Park onboard the Trem do Corcovado. Or go the energetic route by hiking up a scenic wooded trail from Parque Lage, on the northern shoreline of Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.
New York City, USA
New York City’s newest and highest observation deck outdoes anything that the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock have done before. The Edge is the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, and promises that "you’ve never experienced New York like this before." You’ll find it situated on the 100th floor of a gleaming glass skyscraper in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards neighborhood.
The adventure begins with a 52-second ride in high-tech elevators. As you go up, the walls spring to life with images of the city’s legendary landmarks. The 1,100-feet-high deck is a glass-walled, triangular platform that juts out from the skyscraper. Views stretch from Central Park to the north, all the way down to the Statue of Liberty to the south. If you're feeling really brave, you can also look straight down 100 stories through a section of glass floor. Should it all become too dizzying, you can always retreat to the comfort of the champagne bar.
Here’s what one of our writers had to say about the Edge experience.
Iceman Ötzi Peak 3251m
South Tyrol, Italy
On the Schnals Valley Glacier and close to the Italian-Austrian alpine border is the elegant Iceman Ötzi Peak 3251m viewing platform. It takes its name from Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old iceman mummy discovered by hikers at nearby Similaun mountain. Architects used Corten (or weathered) steel in the lookout’s construction for its ability to harmonize with the natural environs. The use of minimal supports creates an almost floating structure. To get here, visitors must ride a cable car to Europe’s highest hotel, and then climb a mountainside staircase.
Views incorporate the national mountain border, rugged peaks, sprawling snowfields and 11,831-feet-tall Similaun. Particularly impressive is a geometric viewing funnel that ends at a suspended glass-sided platform. It draws your eyes to the exact place where Ötzi was found in 1991 while at the same time generating the feeling of hovering above the glacier.
Vøringsfossen Waterfall Step Bridge
Cascading 535 feet into a rugged gorge, Vøringsfossen waterfall has for long been one of Norway’s most-loved natural sights. To make it even more spectacular, architects designed a 99-step footbridge and fixed it to either side of the gorge. The 154-feet-long structure is a true architectural marvel, and its ends have a height difference of 52 feet. A combination of cranes, helicopters and mountaineers were used to hoist and attach the parts. In the long run, the bridge will form part of a larger project that will include a café, footpaths and more viewpoints.
Walking across the bridge, one can appreciate the enormous volumes of water that flow from the Hardangervidda plateau and plunge into the Måbødalen valley. It presents an intimate encounter with both the power and solitude of nature. With the valley walls tumbling down deep below, stepping into the void has rarely felt so real.