Not afraid of heights? These bridges, observation decks, and towers are all situated at some of the highest points on Earth, allowing visitors to appreciate some of the most stunning panoramas they’ll ever see. Visitors don’t come for the view alone, however, as the structures themselves are part of the enjoyment. Many of these observation decks feature glass floors for the heart wrenching experience of seeing hundreds of feet of space directly beneath you. They represent some of the highest observation decks in the world, and they’re all open to the death-defying public.
Glacier Skywalk – A 918-Foot High Observation Deck
First on our list is the Glacier Skywalk, located on the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, partway between the Banff and Jasper National Parks. The skywalk – which just opened earlier this month – features a number of interpretive displays detailing the environment and ecosystem of the region, terminating in a large, glass balcony overlooking a beautiful natural valley. It’s absolutely breathtaking, and even better, it’s located right near one of the best tourist spots in Alberta.
Glacier Skywalk Gallery
Skydeck Chicago Observation Decks at Willis Tower
Next up, we’ve got the balconies on the Skydeck Chicago, known collectively as The Ledge. Basically, this one consists of a series of glass boxes extending out from the skyscraper’s skydeck, located at 1,353 feet above the city streets. This allows visitors to step out and take in a positively dizzying view. Amusingly enough, the whole concept of The Ledge came from all the faceprints, handprints, and forehead-prints visitors to the tower were leaving on the window. The people running the show figured they might as well give people what they clearly wanted – an unobstructed view of the city below.
Skydeck Chicago Glass Observation Decks | Gallery
Tianmen Mountain Park Glass Observation Walkway
Located in Tianmen Mountain Park, this new trail offers a somewhat unusual (and distressing) experience: it’s a 2.5-inch thick glass walkway suspended about 4700 feet in the air. Measuring in at around 2000 feet long, the walkway joins the west cliff at the Yunmeng Fairy Summit,where Zhang Jiajie and Tianmen Mountain meet. Visitors to the walkway are instructed to wear shoe covers in order to keep the glass clean. Wouldn’t want fogged windows interfering with the vertigo, would we?
Tianmen Mountain Glass Walkway | Gallery
Shanghai World Financial Center – World’s Highest Observation Deck
The Shanghai Financial Center is the tallest building-based observation deck on the list, and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful to boot. Standing at 1,614 feet, the tower features a luxurious five-star hotel near the top floor, with a visitor’s center and observatory above. It’s inarguably a marvel of modern engineering, and absolutely breathtaking, whether you’re standing in the observation, relaxing in the hotel, or checking out the structure from ground-level. If you’re ever in the city, you frankly owe it to yourself to stop by and have a look at this one – you won’t be disappointed.
Shanghai Financial Center – World’s Highest Observation Deck | Gallery
The CN Tower’s Edge Walk – Hang Hundreds of Feet over Downtown Toronto
Widely known as the tallest free-standing building in North America (and the 6th tallest free-standing structure in the world), the CN Tower stands tall over the other buildings of downtown Toronto. Apparently, after having several folks parachute from the top of the building (and one stuntman jump off without a parachute, sticking the landing) the Canada Lands Company decided they might as well monetize such thrill-seeking pursuits. Enter the Edge Walk, which equips participants with harnesses and sets them on a hands-free walk around the edge of the tower, bodies hanging perilously over the streets 1500 feet below. Personally, I think I might pass on this one.
CN Tower Edge Walk | Gallery
AlpspiX Viewing Platform – Free-Standing Over the German Alps
Just because an observation deck is simple, doesn’t mean it isn’t still elegant (and beautiful). Take, for example, the AlpspiX viewing platform, situated over the Höllental Valley in Germany. The platform consists merely of two large steel beams, which form a free-standing X over a vertical drop of over 3,000 feet. Even better, the viewing platform is easily accessible after a short walk and a cable car ride. There’s also a nature trail that visitors can wander through at their leisure.
AlpspiX Viewing Platform | Gallery
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – Overlooking Vancouver’s Great Rainforest
High above the Capilano Rainforest in Vancouver is a massive, narrow walkway, which stretches across the whole length of the canyon. Suspended from the cliff face that comprises the canyon’s wall, this unobtrusive bridge allows visitors to set out on an awe-inspiring journey through one of the most beautiful examples of undisturbed nature in the province. Do note that this isn’t a walk for the faint of heart. As I said, the bridge is quite narrow, and in several points, the only thing between visitors and the canyon floor is a layer of (thick) glass.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park | Gallery
The View from the Shard – London’s Best View
London’s highest viewing platform – known simply as The View – might not be open quite yet, but once it finally is, it’s going to be an impressive sight indeed. Situated on floors 68, 69, and 72, The View will be the highest viewing platform in the city, at almost twice the height of any currently-constructed platform. It’ll also provide an unprecedented three hundred sixty-degree view of the city below, allowing visitors to see for up to forty miles. Not only that, it looks cool, too.
The View from the Shard | Gallery
The Grand Canyon Skywalk
Design-wise, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is very similar to the Glacier Skywalk – a large, semicircular viewing platform that stretches out over the canyon, looking straight down onto a 4,000 foot drop. One odd safety feature of the Skywalk is that personal belongings – including cameras – are not allowed out on the bridge. Evidently, people have dropped stuff in the past, sending cameras and the like careening down into the canyon (or perhaps worse, onto the glass). That, or they’re just scared of people doing so – by all rights a legitimate fear.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk | Gallery
[photographs by Chris Murphy on flickr]
The Dachstein Viewing Platform in the Alps
Last on our list is the Dachstein, a beautiful viewing platform that stretches out over one of the most impressive glaciers in the world. The Skywalk is right next door to the Ice Palace, a massive structure carved out of the interior of the glacier. It’s probably one of the most beautiful and memorable places you’ll ever go even without the viewing platform – with the view, it just gets even better.
The Dachstein Viewing Platform | Gallery
Are there more heights to brave in the world that we, uh, overlooked? Share them in the comments below, or hit us up on facebook or twitter. In the mean time, be sure to check out these other awesome lists about the world’s most incredible things:
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