Some of Mother Nature’s most awe-inspiring creations are best seen from a particular vantage point. Here are some of the most humbling spots in the world and how to best experience them—whether it’s above, below, inside, or even beyond.
Victoria Falls by micro-light flight
At the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe lies Victoria Falls, known in the Tonga language as “the smoke that thunders.” Plunging a staggering 100 metres, its cascades form the world’s largest waterfall—and a spectacle that’s simply overwhelming in scale. While the falls can be toured on footpaths that take you in front of the cascades, its wonders are best seen from above. Take a micro-light flight (which lasts from 15 to 30 minutes), soaring silently over the crashing water below.
Redwood National Park by bicycle
Often measuring more than 100 metres in height, the redwoods in Northern California’s Redwood National and State Parks are the tallest species of trees in the world. In some cases, their trunks are so wide that you can walk, bike, or even drive right through the base. These towering giants form a dense canopy, leaving the forest floor below a fantasy landscape that’s best explored from the back of a bike. The National Parks Service has turned old logging roads into a network of trails that are ideal for two-wheeled touring.
Sugarloaf Mountain by cable car
Rising dramatically above the electric streets of Rio de Janeiro, Sugarloaf Mountain juts into the Atlantic Ocean, providing sweeping views of the beaches and towers of one of the world’s greatest cities. The mountain’s cable car—founded in 1912—makes the trip to the mountaintop easy, whisking more than 2,000 passengers every day from sea level to its nearly 400-metre summit.
Grand Canyon by helicopter
If you’ve ever had the chance to peer over the edge of the South Rim, you’ll surely agree that the Grand Canyon lives up to its name. The vertigo-inducing 446- kilometre gash across the northern half of Arizona actually measures 30 kilometres wide in some stretches. The best way to appreciate this geological giant is directly overhead, from the cabin of a chopper. Helicopter tour operators including Papillion Airways will give you a breathtaking bird’s-eye view, swooping low to give you closer looks at the canyon walls and the blue ribbon of the Colorado River.
Masai Mara by hot air balloon
Kenya’s Masai Mara is both a natural and cultural wonder. Thick with thriving examples of African wildlife, the grassland is crawling with lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Here you’ll find zebras, giraffes, and various species of antelopes living side by side with the Masai people, who maintain time-honoured traditions to the delight of visitors from around the globe. Your best bet is to wake up early—the calmest winds are at dawn—and watch the sun rise over this spectacular setting in a hot air balloon.
Sacred Valley of the Incas by raft
Drawn by the irresistible lure of Machu Picchu, more than a million people visit the Sacred Valley of the Incas every year. If you want to escape the throngs of tourists, however, consider venturing down the Urubamba River by raft. Bisecting the verdant valley floor and flanked by snow capped peaks that soar to 6,000 metres, the river isn’t the wildest ride in the world, but rapids can reach Class III—enough to add some significant splash to your vacation.