"Sometimes you don't realize your fear of heights until you stand at the edge of the cliff, ready to jump."
It is exhilarating to stand on top of the world admiring the natural beauty of our planet spread beneath us. Bone-chilling ravines, steep cliffs, thundering waterfalls, snow-clad peaks or serene rivers, nature has been very kind to us.
You need not be a rock climber or a mountaineer to experience planet Earth in all its glory. We have here, the most amazing viewing platforms that help us do just that. So climb atop one, and take a deep breath as you savor the view.
The Best Viewing Platforms
I begin with a place that is a natural marvel. Human achievements aside, the Pulpit Rock in Norway is a colossal cliff, 604 meters above Lysefjorden in Ryfylke, in the western part of the country. You need to hike for approximately 2 hours on this rugged trail that begins 270 meters above sea level. The reward? A panorama of the heavenly Ryfylke valleys. A point of caution, though. The authorities have decided not to hinder the view by installing railings of any kind, making this a no-no for all acrophobic individuals.
Speaking of acrophobic people, here is a viewing platform that spells safety with an "S". The Dachstein Skywalk platform in Austria sits above the steep face of the Hunerkogel, 2700 meters high. As a tiny part of the base is glass, you are free to gaze down the icy valley, or look straight ahead. If the weather Gods are kind enough, you would be able to look as far as Slovenia in the south and Czech Republic in the north.
The immortal lure of the Grand Canyon is legendary. The year 2007, however, saw a surge in the number of visitors with the inauguration of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Situated in the Grand Canyon West area, close to the Colorado river in Arizona, U.S.A., the skywalk is 1450 meters high. You need to walk over this horseshoe-shaped bridge wearing special anti-scratch socks, as you would want to keep the glass bottom crystal clear for generations. Soak in the splendor of the Grand Canyon as it surrounds you, leaving you enthralled.
Aiguille du Midi is a mountain located in the French Alps, in the Mont Blanc region. The viewing platform here makes you want to reach out and touch the Mont Blanc that lies tantalizingly ahead. The highlight of your visit is the two-part cable car ride that starts in Chamonix, in which an altitude of 2800 meters is covered in 20 mind-numbing minutes. This allows the non-mountaineers to get up close with the steep facade of this mountain as it zips past.
This is your front-row seat to one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. Built on the Iguazu river on the Argentine-Brazilian border, you get to see the cascading waters of the 275 falls that plunge to a depth of 70 meters. If you are able to shift your focus from the natural marvel of the Iguazu falls, do take in the greenery that houses several exotic bird species and revel in the mist that surrounds you.
The magical Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border are a sight to behold. With a width of 1.7 km and waters crashing to a depth of 100 meters, the Knife Edge Point, as it is also called, takes you right in the midst of the action. On your lucky day, you can catch the sunlight stream through the waterfalls, forming 2 or 3 beautiful rainbows. This is one spectacle you will cherish for the rest of your life.
Another visit to Norway is on the cards, as it is imperative to pay a tribute to this incredible structure. A steep walkway over the Aurland fjord, it gives you an illusion that you will slip downwards at the end of the ramp. A glass shield obviously stops that from happening. What it does give you is the feeling that you stand suspended over a deep valley, just before gravity gives way and you crash land into the woods below. Nothing of this sort happens, but it's fun, nevertheless, for all the gooseflesh fans.
Also known as the Sears Tower, this 442 meter structure stands tall in Chicago (U.S.A.).The Skydeck on the 103rd floor hangs 412 meters high. If the 60-second elevator doesn't scare you, your first step into the glass cabin is sure to give you cold feet. Make sure you notice the building sway slightly as you are in windy Chicago. Views from the balcony cover four states - Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, of course, and the "only on a clear day" rule applies for the first three!
If you ever happen to be in Wisconsin, don't even imagine leaving before you pay a visit to this astounding architectural marvel near Spring Green. Stroll around this distinctively Oriental structure as you gape at the ingenuity of the architect, Mr. Alex Jordan, Jr. The proverbial icing on this cake is obviously the Infinity Room, that juts out 218 feet over a picturesque valley. The windows on either side help you enjoy the view, and each step taken leads you into infinity. No jumping in this room, mind you, as this gravity-defying room does not have any support pillars beneath.
Il Binocolo translates as "The Binoculars" in English. As the name suggests, it is a wonderful viewing platform on the Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano, Italy. It gets its name from the binocular-shaped roof at the end of the walkway. What lies beneath is a gorgeous valley with vineyards and orchards, not to mention the green mountain slopes that envelope you.
Serenity and an endless expanse of the Alps will keep you company as you stand on the Top of Tyrol, located on the Stubai Glacier, Austria. Swirl around to see the clouds gathered on the mountain summits, a truly stunning view indeed. If trekking is not really your thing, they have a railway that takes you 3,200 meters up the Stubai mountain and on to the platform.
Every viewing platform that we just reviewed offered us unrivaled scenic beauty. So besides that, what does the Landscape Promontory in Switzerland give us? How about shifting your focus from the view to the floor tiles? These floor tiles have symbols about history and literature, with explanations provided in the railings. Enrich your knowledge as you enjoy the view.
A visit to unforgettable sights like these would be a dream come true for any travel buff. These amazing viewing platforms take us closer to nature, away from the bustling city life. They help us get in touch with the pristine side of our wonderful planet, a side that we haven't yet managed to tarnish.