If you are a seasoned traveller, you might have visited a few of these freaky high sites around the world. But if you’re just beginning to write your bucket list of places to visit, you might want to take note of one or ten of these gorgeous places. They will take you on a journey from the North and South Americas to distant Pakistan, Norway, and China. From there you can buy tickets to Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, or Peru. And if you’re too lazy, you can always stay at home and travel to Hawaii to see the tallest mountain on Earth.
There is some undeniable thrill in experiencing extreme heights, whether they are set in vertiginous mountains or deeper toward the Earth’s core, among the snow caps of Everest or in a desert climate of the Middle East.
From natural formations to man-made skyscraping creations, this list is comprised of things and places for any taste. Even if you consider yourself a gourmet. But for the most part you can expect feelings varying from slight discomfort to oxygen starvation to freezing cold. So get your gear, and prepare to climb, swim, ride, and walk to reach these heights. They are definitely worth it.
17. Death Road – Paraguay
Yungas Road, that was built by Paraguayan prisoners of war in the 30s, is considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in the world, and has many names, some more menacing than others like ‘Road of Fate’ and ‘Death Road’. Stretching 35 miles (56 km) from La Paz to Coroico in Bolivia, it wags and waves between the cliffs changing terrain from Altiplano to rainforest.
An attraction to mountain biking tourists, the road has killed 18 cyclists since 1998, and takes the lives of 200 to 300 travellers each year. The main dangers that a tourist can face on this single-lane track are rain and fog, water runoffs, and rockfalls.
Death Road also became an attraction for TV creators, and appeared on Top Gear, IRT: Deadliest Roads, and Gap Year South America. Mitsubishi have even chosen Yungas Road as a set for a TV commercial for Mitsubishi Outlander in 2011.
16. Petronas Twin Towers – Kuala Lumpur
One of the main attractions of Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Twin Towers used to be the tallest buildings in the world until 2004, when they were surpassed by Taipei 101. Mere 452 meters (1,483 feet) in height, the twins need to be stacked to surpass Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Their architecture and design, however, made them one of the most recognizable and important contemporary landmarks, not only in Kuala Lumpur, but in the world.
The towers allow visitors any day from Tuesday to Sunday; open hours from 9 to 9. You can see the Skybridge (the highest two-storey bridge in the world) connecting the twins, the Observation Deck, and the gift shop.
Besides architectural magazines, the Petronas Towers even appeared in pop culture. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Just Cause 2 both feature the towers. And the buildings were also shown in the first episode of the series 24, movies Fair Game and Independence Day Resurgence.
15. Karakoram Highway – China-Pakistan
If the Karakoram Highway seems like an unsafe place to ride now, it was even more so during its construction between 1959 and 1979. Around 810 Pakistani workers and 200 Chinese workers lost their lives there. One of the highest paved international roads in the world, the highway elevates 15,397 feet (4,693 m) and runs 810 miles (1,300 km) from the Chinese city of Kashgar to Pakistan’s Abbottabad at a maximum altitude of 15,403 feet (4695 m).
KKH is some road to travel, and definitely makes for one of the most exciting road trips a traveller can take. Although it wasn’t always open to foreigners, right now a simple visa will grant you the path through the Pakistani mountains.
The buses that travel from Pakistan to China through KKH are decorated with colorfully bright tassels and peculiar details, but if you feel like sightseeing you can make stops along the way sleeping in guesthouses, taking up hiking or climbing.
Bonus: While travelling through Karakoram Highway, one traveller reported that he was hidden by security guards while waiting for a bus, and then had armed guards protecting him on the bus. So plan your travels with safety considerations in mind.
14. Burj Khalifa – Dubai
Still the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa dwarfs every other tower in Dubai and the world. It stands 829.8 meters (2,722 ft) including the tip, and it cost a whopping $1.5 billion to build. Designed by Adrian Smith, the Burj Khalifa was named in honor of Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates after he lent money to pay out Dubai’s loan for construction projects like Burj Dubai (building’s original name).
Thin but tall, the building has 160 storeys, 57 head-spinning elevators, 8 escalators, and a few observation decks designed for tourists visiting the tower. Mixed use structure includes corporate suites, residential homes, and Armani hotel suites and residences.
When visiting one of the the tower’s observation decks, SKY, expect to travel 555 meters high on an elevator at 10 metres per second, and end your tour with a visit to the gift shop full of tower-themed souvenirs.
13. Ojos del Salado Pool – Chile-Argentina
Ojos del Salado is the highest mountain in South America, but it also houses the highest lake in the world with an unofficial name Ojos del Salado pool. Located 20,997 feet (6,400 m) above sea level, the lake varies in size from 35 to 100 meters in diameter, probably depending on snow, but it has the most beautiful turquoise waters.
Ojos del Salado lies on the Chilean-Argentinian border and it is actually the world’s highest active volcano. It is named after the salt deposits that create lagoons in the mountain’s snowfields and resemble the eyes.
The volcano’s elevation is 22,615 feet (6,893 m), making it the second highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere. Even though the proximity to Atacama Desert renders the mountain climate dry, the crater lake still makes for an attractive plunge pool at a dizzying elevation.
12. Angel Falls – Venezuela
Any waterfall is a mesmerizing sight to behold, but Angel Falls must be the pinnacle of that natural beauty. Also known as Kerepakupai Meru (waterfall of the deepest place) and Parakupá Vená (the fall from the highest point), this highest uninterrupted waterfall has a height of 3,212 feet (979 m). It was named after a US aviator, Jimmie Angel, whose airplane malfunctioned when he tried to land on a nearby flat top mountain.
Located in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, Angel Falls is the country’s main attraction that isn’t easy to reach, as it requires a river trip, and the river waters are only deep enough for transport during a period between June and December. It is also the best period to see the waterfall in all its splendour, because it tends to diminish during the dry season.
11. Millau Viaduct – France
Millau Viaduct is the highest bridge in the world. Standing 343 metres (1,125 ft) tall, it was opened back in 2004 in southern France over the valley of the River Tarn. The cable-stayed bridge has 7 piers, all of different heights (second is the tallest 244.96 meters or 803 feet) that partially surpass the Eiffel Tower.
The bridge’s design allows to see the green valley very well, that is when the clouds don’t settle too low. At the Aveyron viewing area, you can take a break and enjoy the local gastronomy or visit the tourist information center.
10. Mauna Kea – Hawaii
Mount Everest might be the highest mountain, but Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano in Hawaii, is the tallest (yeah, there is a difference). It extends additional 20,000 feet (6,000 m) below the water surface, bringing its height to the total of 33,465 feet (10,200 m).
Aside from its size, Mauna Kea can boast an impressive age of over 1 million years, with the last eruption taking place around 4500 years ago. Still dormant rather than extinct, the shield type volcano can possibly wake up from an earthquake.
9. Jeddah Tower – Saudi Arabia
At the time of writing, Jeddah Tower is still an incomplete project, but it’s the one that is supposed to overshadow Burj Khalifa. With an advantage of 172 meters (564 feet), the building also known as Kingdom Tower is estimated at $1.2 billion, and is expected to be finished in a period of five years (construction started in 2013), employing 80,000 tons of steel.
Also designed by Adrian Smith, the tower’s original height was planned to be 1.6 km (1 mile), but the geology of the area was deemed unsuitable for such a high structure. Still, the tower is expected to become the world’s tallest building with the highest observatory in the world.
8. La Rinconada – Peru
An old mining town in Peru, La Rinconada is the highest settlement in the world. It lies 16,700 feet (5,100 m) above sea level. The majority of its 50,000 population are miners, who come to La Rinconada specifically to mine gold.
Although the population is ever-growing, the town has no heating, plumbing, or sanitation, and mercury contamination is just one of the mining hazards plaguing the town.
Another unfortunate thing about this elevated town that surpasses any other elevation in England, France, and Germany is that the mine doesn’t pay anything to its workers for 30 days. On the 31st day, they are allowed to take any amount of ore they can carry, which may or may not include the nuggets of gold.
7. Mount Everest – Nepal
Mount Everest or Sagarmāthā is the Earth’s highest mountain. It elevates 29,029 feet (8,848 m), and is considered to be the top challenge for climbers because of the bone-freezing weather, sickness-causing altitudes, and various mountain hazards like avalanches.
Everest saw the first humans reach its summit in 1953. The climbing pair of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay along with a Sherpa climber from India buried a few sweets and a cross at the top of the mountain before making their descent. Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi are the climbers who share 21 ascensions to Everest between them, climbing the mountain three times in 2011 alone.
Aside from people, Mount Everest also accommodates spiders, 50 tons of waste, and the bodies of the fallen climbers. To battle the growing mountain of trash, the climbers are required to bring down 18 lbs (8 kilos) of waste upon their descent.
6. Geiranger Fjord – Norway
Geiranger Fjord is a magnetic tourist attraction in Norway. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fjord boasts plenty of beautiful locations, waterfalls, and lookout spots. Stretching 9.3 miles (15 km), the fjord can be accessed by a ferry. Once you step off onto the green landscape, there are plenty of things to see.
A small village of Geiranger offers a few places to stay, and if you’re in the mood for some outdoor activities you can take up hiking and fishing. Driving the roads can be a single most exciting thing you can do there, as they zig and zag through the green hills of the Geiranger Fjord.
5. Voronya Cave – Abkhazia
Krubera or Voronya Cave is the deepest cave on Earth. Located in the Arabika Massif in Abkhazia, it reaches the depth of 5,610 feet (1,710 m). Its record-breaking depth became known in 2001, when Ukrainian Speleological Association confirmed that the cave surpasses the then deepest cave, Lamprechtsofen in the Austrian Alps by 262 feet (80 m).
But this is just Krubera’s reached depth. In 2004 and 2007 the cave’s depth was confirmed to be greater than 6,561 feet (2,000 m) with 7,208 feet (2,197 m) being the deepest anyone dived in Krubera.
Even though it’s not technically a height, this cave is a great challenge to those who seek excitement in climbing regardless of direction.
By the way, its Russian name, Voronya Cave, means Crow’s Cave, and comes from Kiev speleologists who in the 80s spotted a large number of crows nesting the cave’s entrance pit. Its original name, Krubera, comes from the name of a noted Russian geographer Alexander Kruber.
4. Peak Victory – Kyrgyzstan
Peak Pobedy (Peak Victory) or Jengish Chokusu in Kyrgyzstan is one of the five 7,000-meter peaks in the former USSR, three of which are also located in the country. It stands 2,440 feet (7,439 m) tall covered with snow and a thick layer of ice that adds another 49 feet (15 m) to its altitude of 22,949 feet (6,995 m) above the sea level.
Lying on the border with China, Jengish Chokusu is the highest part of the Tien Shan, but was the second highest in USSR after the Peak Communism in Tajikistan. It was also named Khan Tengri by the locals before the Soviets and is called Tömür in China.
The mountain has several summits, and borders with the Zvezdochka glacier. It was first climbed by a Soviet team in 1938 and later in 1943, when the government sent a team of climbers to celebrate the victory in Stalingrad.
3. Glen Canyon – Utah, USA
Grand Canyon is probably on the bucket list of most travellers, but there are more than a few canyons worth seeing around the world. Glen Canyon happens to be in Utah. Named in 1879, the canyon had its ecosystem destroyed by the construction of the 1963 dam, but now, there is a Glen Canyon National Recreation Area that offers travellers such activities as hiking, swimming, boating, and fishing amidst the spectacular sights.
Stretching all the way down to Arizona, the recreation area also boasts the second largest human-made lake, Lake Powell, in the U.S.
One of the other canyon’s attractions is Horseshoe Bend, a meander of the Colorado River located 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. It looks incredible and is very photogenic from the lookout area.
2. Elba Italian Restaurant – China
Although Burj Khalifa’s ‘At.mosphere’ is the highest restaurant in the world (441 meters or 1,450 feet), Elba comes as the close second at 423 meters (1,397 feet). Located at the St. Regis Hotel in Shenzhen, China, the restaurant’s specialty lies between pasta and pizza.
Not as freaky as some of these other heights, the restaurant is rather characterized by the luxury Venetian-inspired and avant-garde style decor with impressive crystal chandeliers and a shelf display of fine wines.
The restaurant’s serving style is à la carte (according to the menu), and their dress code is Smart Casual, allowing no flip flops, sleeveless shirts, or shorts. It is definitely for those travel moments, when you want to dress up.
1. Hyperion – California, USA
Loved climbing trees during childhood? Here is any kid’s ultimate challenge— Hyperion— the world’s tallest tree. Towering 379 feet (115 m) above ground, Hyperion surpasses the world’s next tallest tree, the Stratosphere Giant, by 10 feet (3 m).
Living quietly somewhere in California’s Redwood National Park, Hyperion is 600 years old (equivalent to 20 human years), and is still growing.
Hyperion was discovered exactly ten years ago by two naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, who used laser equipment to measure the height of the three tree giants they’ve encountered while trekking through the park. Later, a team of scientists under the guide of Humboldt State University ecologist Steve Sillett re-measured the giant using a more hands-on approach for better accuracy— climbing. They managed to confirm the record-breaking height, and documented the whole thing with the help of National Geographic.