One of the best ways to learn about and see the beauty of the world’s top sites is from above. I don’t mean from a plane, but from the many purpose-built observation decks and sky walks you can find across the globe. From the recently-built Glacier Skywalk in Canada, to the breathtaking views of the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, there are a number of cleverly-constructed, tourist-friendly viewing platforms that need to be seen to be believed (even if you’re afraid of heights). Read on for ten top sky walks you should check out on your travels.
10 Grand Canyon Skywalk in the United States
If you want to enjoy a really great view of the famous Grand Canyon, but don’t want to put yourself in a tiny airplane, take a visit to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The horseshoe-shaped platform was constructed in 2007, and features a cantilever design and transparent glass to give visitors a feeling of floating over the canyon that’s more than 200 meters below. The Skywalk gives tourists a truly breathtaking view of the iconic landscape and was in fact, voted the “Best New Bridge” in the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine in 2012.
9 Arenal Sky Walk in Costa Rica
If rain forest walks and views of waterfalls are your thing, add a trip to the Arenal Sky Walk in Arenal, Costa Rica to your itinerary. The Sky Walk is set within the preserves of Santa Elena Reserve, a “cloud forest” that travelers can explore on a three-hour hiking tour, via Sky Walk suspension bridges. The two-mile trail system takes walkers over five suspension bridges, to two observation points and past two waterfalls. Travelers can choose to be accompanied by a naturalist guide for the duration of the hike, or can take the walk at their own pace on an individual basis.
8 Sky Tower at Sky City in New Zealand
If you’re planning a holiday to New Zealand, then don’t miss a trip to Auckland’s Sky Tower within the Sky City entertainment complex in the heart of the CBD. The Tower is the highest man-made structure in all of New Zealand and stands at 328 metres. Visitors travel up to one of three viewing platforms, in order to enjoy 360-degree views of the beautiful harbor city, as well as the surrounding areas, showcasing up to 80 kilometers in each direction. If you really want to get the adrenaline pumping, then ensure you inch your way around the Tower’s pergola on the SkyWalk, where you’ll be standing on a ledge that’s 192 meters off the ground. For extra thrills, sign up to SkyJump off the Tower afterwards – it’s the highest tethered jump in the country and is sure to get your heart racing. You can relax afterwards at the on-site Orbit restaurant, the only revolving eatery in Auckland.
7 Tianmen Mountain Skywalk in China
The Skywalk on Tianmen Mountain is one of the most remote observation decks on the globe, and is located more than 950 kilometers from Guangzhou. Head to this Skywalk and you’ll have the chance to check out awe-inspiring views of the surrounding Hunan Province mountains, and feel far away from the rest of the world on the scenic path that sits more than 1400 meters above the ground. Just don’t forget to take off your shoes! Yes, believe it or not, the less than one-meter wide Skywalk is made from glass and there aren't any cleaners who are willing to clean it! Travelers must therefore place soft, sock-like booties on their feet before stepping onto the platform.
6 The CN Tower in Canada
In Toronto, Canada, you can head to the CN Tower for a magnificent view of the city below. The Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world and its observation deck has a glass floor (the first of its kind ever built). The deck features only about 6cm of glass to suspend visitors 113 storeys above the ground. Higher still is the Sky Pod, 147-storeys high and just under 450 metres off the ground, with a 360-degree view of Toronto. If you really don’t mind heights, then pay a little extra to head to the EdgeWalk, the world’s highest, full circle hands-free walk that opened in 2011. The EdgeWalk puts visitors on a 1.5 metre-wide ledge that encircles the top of the Tower’s main pod (attached, via harness, to an overhead safety rail) and then encourages participants to lean back out over the edge with nothing but air and amazing views beneath them.
5 Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia
If you've seen the popular 1999 movie Entrapment, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery, then you had a glimpse at the awesome building that is known as the Petronas Twin Towers, in the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The soaring twin structure reaches over 450-metres high and features 88 storeys. Within the remarkable building lies one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and views not to be missed. Visitors can take part in an interactive tour of the Towers that starts with a display of the history of the building, then heads north in an elevator that travels 170 metres up. Stepping out of the lift, travelers find themselves on the Skybridge, a structure that connects the two towers and is actually the highest two-storey bridge in the world. You can also venture further up to the Level 86 observatory, for even more breathtaking views of Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding hillsides.
4 Skyway at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore
Next time you’re travelling to Singapore, don’t miss a trip to the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, in the area known as Marina Bay. The Supertree Grove is filled with 12 uniquely-designed trees that range from 25 to 50-meters tall, and that provide shade and beauty during the day, then a cool display of light and sound at night. These Supertrees create height within the Gardens to balance the tall developments in Marina Bay, and they are now also home to the OCBC Skyway. Opened in 2012, the unusual sky walk connects two of the Supertrees, sits at 22 meters high and is 128-meters long. Travelers can utilize the Skyway to get one of the most amazing views in Singapore, as well as to check out the Gardens’ 101 hectares of lush flowers, vertical gardens and arboreal displays.
3 Aurland Lookout in Norway
Within Scandinavia, the Aurland Lookout in Aurland, Norway has been dubbed the “Earth’s Catwalk” and is a popular tourist destination, not just for those who love scenic views, but also design lovers. The Lookout was artfully designed by commissioned architects Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhelmsen, and the man-made marvel now sits 2000 feet above the Aurland fjord. The viewing platform and scenic rest-stop won first prize in a Norwegian tourist routes competition, no doubt due to the smooth, flowing design and slanting construction that makes people feel very much “at one” with nature. The end of the horizontal platform curves downwards to form the structure’s support and even though it’s closed off with a thin sheet of glass to provide amazing views, a walk to the edge is not for the faint-hearted.
2 Suspended platform at Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
You’ve probably heard about the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Iguazu Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, but did you know the site also has a suspended platform where you can truly feel the water on your face, and hear the roar of the 200 different waterfalls? The massive Iguazu River stretches almost three kilometres across, and drops over 80 meters vertically down, showcasing one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful sights. Apart from the breathtaking Falls, the area is also surrounded by subtropical rainforest that is home to hundreds of different wildlife species, as well as more than 2,000 varieties of plants. Visit the suspended platform at the Iguazu Falls and you’ll be able to witness, up close and personal, the majestic nature of this iconic spot.
1 Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park, Canada
Are you a nature lover who can’t get enough of National Parks and mountain views? If so, put a visit to the newly-opened Glacier Skywalk in Canada on your bucket list. Situated along the scenic Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, the Skywalk is home to not only an observation deck, but also a Discovery Trail. This fully-accessible, cliff-edge walkway extends along the beautiful Sunwapta Valley and features lots of interpretive signage along the walk, so that tourists can get a good education about the area they’re looking at. After taking your time on the Discovery Trail, you can head to the observation platform, a structure that’s set 280 meters above the Sunwapta Valley. The deck has a glass floor that gives travelers grand views from all angles, of both the ice-capped mountains and the glacier-carved landscape below.