Chureito Pagoda, Japan
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Arakurayama-Sengen Park in the Yamanashi Prefecture, two hours’ drive east of Tokyo, is one of Japan’s foremost spots for the practice of hanami, the Japanese pastime of admiring flowers. This traditional pagoda stands five storeys tall and the best feature is its viewing platform, which captures the snow-dusted peak of Mt Fuji, rising majestically into the sky in the distance.
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The Cinque Terre, a clutch of five colourful coastal villages in the north-western curve of Italy hugging the Ligurian Sea, receives a steady stream of visitors owing to its position overlooking the confetti-like towns. A walking track links the towns in a string skirting the ocean, with sensational views at every turn.
Arc de Triomphe, France
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Ascending to the spire of the Eiffel Tower is an indisputable bucket list activity but it means excluding the 324-metre spindle of wrought iron lattice from your view in the process. Two kilometres away, the Arc de Triomphe stands resplendent – and almost within throwing distance of the city’s most recognisable landmark.
30 Rockefeller Plaza, USA
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It’s not hard to find a rooftop with an impressive view in New York, where Manhattan skyscrapers are as densely packed as people in the subway carriages below. Most visitors make haste to the Empire State Building for a panorama but at 30 Rockefeller Plaza – the site of Rockefeller Center, also dubbed “Top of the Rock” – you’ll catch that iconic building in your photos, too.
Arthur’s Seat, Scotland
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Towering over the cobbled city of Edinburgh, the elevated Holyrood Park – and its highest point, the hill of Arthur’s Seat – is actually the site of both an ancient fort and a dormant volcano that spat out its last spout of lava almost 340 million years ago. With the distinctive Scottish character of emerald-green grass blanketing rugged cliff edges, Arthur’s Seat gives an expansive overview of the capital below.
Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
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Open-palmed at the peak of Mount Corcovado, the soapstone-tiled Christ the Redeemer statue is one of South America’s most recognisable landmarks. Towering at 38 metres tall (including the concrete pedestal), the viewing section at its feet has the benefit of being elevated to a total height of over 730 metres, thanks to its position atop Rio de Janeiro’s tallest peak. Your view over Rio’s beaches and the Tijuca Forest National Park, where the statue is located, is unsurpassed.
12 Apostles Visitor Centre, Australia
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The result of centuries of ravaging storms, Victoria’s scatter of haphazard stack formations has been known as the 12 Apostles since the 1920s, despite the fact the original number only amounted to nine. Eight remain but the views from the 12 Apostles Visitor Centre in Princetown afforded over the wild, frothy oceans of southern Australia are truly stunning.
Mount Srd Lookout, Dubrovnik
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Although the fortification of Croatia’s capital served a defensive purpose when construction began in the early Middle Ages, these days the walls of the self-contained city act as a unique way for visitors to see the rust-coloured roofs and crashing Adriatic Sea. But the best panorama of Dubrovnik is from the top of the nearby Mount Srđ, which peaks at more than 400 metres. Don’t worry: you don’t have to tackle it on foot – there’s a cable car to take you to the top in three to four minutes.
Echo Point, Australia
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Hovering at the edges of the Jamison Valley, Echo Point displays the oft-misted valley of the Blue Mountains perfectly, including the clustered trio of sandstone rock formations known as the Three Sisters. Thrillseekers can dive into the bush-covered canyon by taking a trip to the bottom on the world’s steepest passenger railway, the Scenic Railway, and appreciate the World Heritage site from another angle.
Grand Canyon Skywalk, USA
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Opened in 2007, this glass-bottom viewing platform gives Grand Canyon visitors a whole new perspective on this 1800-metre-deep chasm. The skywalk charts a horseshoe course 20 metres out from the cliff edge, a staggering 1.2 kilometres above the canyon below. A warning: the view between your feet and the plummeting abyss isn’t for the faint of heart.
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The Great Wall of China snakes over some of China’s most picturesque landscapes, including the mountainous region of Luanping County. Located 130 kilometres northeast of Beijing, this section of the wall features other fascinating defensive features such as watchtowers, shooting holes and gun emplacements. Here, the wall section known as Jinshanling presents one of the better-preserved parts of the defensive structure and a stunning panorama over the ripples of land that encircle it.
Griffith Observatory, USA
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The views from the Griffith Observatory, opened in 1935, are two-fold: in addition to peering into the night sky, visitors can see Los Angeles from an elevated spot. The location has been immortalised in a cluster of Hollywood films including Rebel Without a Cause, La La Land and The Terminator thanks to its premier position overlooking the sparkling sprawl of the city.
La Sagrada Família, Barcelona
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Although the whimsical, Catalan Modernist architecture of Antoni Gaudí is the drawcard for most visitors to this Barcelona church, few know that two spires of this unfinished theatrical masterpiece offer spectacular views of Barcelona through rock-like openings high in the tower.
London Eye, England
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Ferris wheels don’t come much bigger than the London Eye, which rolls 135 metres above the bustling city of London. Stepping on at Southbank in the city’s southern sprawl, passengers will be treated to a 30-minute revolution that lays out the metropolis in dazzling detail, delivering views as far as 40 kilometres away in all directions on a clear day.
Marienbrücke Bridge, Germany
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The German castle of Neuschwanstein and its dramatic, spiralling turrets make it one of the world’s foremost fairytale-esque places to visit. Set to a backdrop of jagged snow-capped peaks and dense forest surrounds, the castle itself has unbeatable views from its abundant lancet windows but nearby Marienbrücke Bridge (Mary’s Bridge) is a perfect viewing platform for both the castle and its mountainous environment.
Moraine Lake, Canada
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The phrase “postcard perfect” could have been conceived from a lookout point at the end of Alberta’s Moraine Lake in Canada’s Banff National Park, two and a half hours out of Calgary. A crisp, swimming-pool-blue lake reflects the icing sugar mounts of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, creating a scene of such natural beauty even a painting can hardly compare.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
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As a city crammed with glittering high rises, it may seem a difficult task to find a higher point from which to admire them. But Marina Bay Sands and its ship-like observation deck do the trick. Soaring 57 levels over the city, the otherworldly Supertree Grove and Singapore’s plethora of skyscrapers can be appreciated from all angles. There’s also an infinity pool open to brave hotel guests who fancy taking a dip more than 200 metres in the air.
O’Brien’s Tower, Ireland
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The vertical drops of the Cliffs of Moher, on County Clare’s wild, windy west coast, stretch for eight kilometres, spiking in and out of the North Atlantic Ocean. O’Brien’s Tower, a fortress-style structure built in the 19th century, boasts the highest point along the stretch, giving viewers a seemingly endless outlook over the rugged edges of Ireland’s coast.
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While Greece has a seemingly endless scatter of quaint and rugged islands off its mainland, it’s the ever-popular Santorini that continues to attract an ever-increasing number of visitors. Watching the bronze sun throw a shimmer over the white-sheathed houses of Oia clinging to the eastern cliff face remains a must-do experience for any traveller.
Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan
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Draped precariously on the edge of a cliff in Bhutan’s upper Paro Valley, Paro Taktsang Monastery sits around 3000 metres above sea level. To arrive at this perilously high structure – originally built in the 1600s and completely rebuilt in 2005 due to extensive fire damage – you’ll need to ascend over 1000 steps. The view over the lush vale of Paro below, however, is worth every stride.
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
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The world’s tallest dome – the one that crowns St Peter’s Basilica at a height of almost 137 metres – was conceived by Michelangelo himself. Reaching the mosaic-embellished roof of the cathedral requires winding your way through the walls of the dome, as the room becomes smaller and tighter towards the very top. Once you’ve reached the rooftop, however, you won’t feel cramped, as the city of Rome opens up beneath you.
Stegastein Lookout, Norway
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An exhilarating 650 metres above the mirror-esque Aurland fjord, this open-air laminated wood and steel walkway, four hours’ drive west of Oslo, takes in the pristine lake landscapes of Norwegian countryside. From this 30-metre-long protrusion, the knuckle-like mountains occasionally brushed with snow lining the Aurlandsfjord are ready for their close-up, as well as the deciduous trees and primeval forest blanketing the undulations.
Table Mountain, South Africa
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The majestic Table Mountain looms large over the city of Cape Town, with its unusually flat “peak” reaching almost 1100 metres into the air. Its unique shape and rich flora earned it a place on the list of the New Wonders of the World back in 2011. Whatever the weather, the rock is always atmospheric, with fog and clouds so frequently draped over its distinctive shape that they have their own nickname: “the tablecloth”.