10 views that will test your fear of heights
by Josh Lew
Don’t look down
Some of the world’s best overlooks are not for the weak of heart. These vantage points offer unbeatable views, but reaching them — or sometimes even standing on them — requires you to put aside your fear of heights, like this view from Tianmen Mountain pictured here.These remarkable places will take your breath away — and make your heart beat much faster!
Step into the Void, France
This viewing platform is on the peak of Aiguille du Midi, a 12,650-foot mountain in Chamonix. The rocky summit of this member of the French Alps is intimidating in and of itself, and some people think it resembles a church spire because of the way it towers over the lower slopes. Step into the Void, which first opened in 2013, is a small glass room that hangs out over the edge of the summit.
By “glass room,” we mean that the entire box-shaped alcove is made of glass … including the floor. Visitors who want to “step into the void” have to don slippers so that they don’t scratch or scuff the floor. The drop underneath the floor is about 3,400 feet.
The Ledge, Willis Tower
The Willis Tower (perhaps better known by its previous name, the Sears Tower) has long stood as one of the tallest buildings in the United States. Attached to it are four small glass balconies that jut out from the side of 103rd floor of the building. Sightseers and thrill-seekers can look down through the glass floors of these balconies to the street, which is 1,353 feet below.
The views are incredible. Not only can you get a different angle of one the world’s most famous skylines, but you can also see almost 50 miles into the distance. On a clear day, that’s far enough to see four different states on a: Illinois (obviously), Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.
NZ Skywalk at Auckland Sky Tower
New Zealand is a haven for extreme sports lovers, and Skywalk fits right in with this image. Located on the top of a telecommunications tower in the heart of the city, Skywalk certainly offers some great views, but unlike the previous two scenic overlooks, this one has no glass between sightseers and the elements. People get to stroll around a four-foot-wide walkway that is 632 feet above the street.
Anyone who wants to enjoy this view (or wants to conquer their fear of heights) has to wear a jumpsuit so that nothing falls out of their pockets, hitting pedestrians below. Everyone is tethered with a safety harness. A backup tether is put in place as well. The guides who lead each group around the walkway often encourage people to lean out over the edge and let the tethers support them.
Stairway to Nothingness
This is perhaps the most aptly named scenic overlook on our list. Located in the Austrian Alps, the “Stairway to Nothingness” stops abruptly after leading people out over the edge of a cliff. The drop to the glacier below is about 1,400 feet. Panes of glass are the only thing between the views and the viewer.
Singapore SkyPark Pool
Not all scenic overlooks require you to walk up to the edge. In Singapore, there’s one spot where you can swim up to the edge. Think of the SkyPark on the top of the Marina Bay Sands as having the ultimate infinity pool. It goes right up to the edge, giving swimmers a view of the ultra-modern city-state’s skyline.
You won’t have to fight for a space to enjoy the view. The “vanishing edge” stretches for just under 500 feet. Street level is 57 floors below the pool. For those not eager to get too close to the edge, the rooftop area also has a viewing deck, a restaurant, a nightclub and gardens.
CN Tower Glass Floor
Toronto’s CN Tower has several thrill-inducing features. The first and most accessible is a glass floor on an observation deck that is more than 1,100 feet above street level. People can stand and sit on the glass, which is only about 2.5 inches thick. Despite its thinness, the CN Tower claims that the glass could hypothetically hold 35 adult moose.
The tower also has a glass-floor elevator and a skywalk, called the EdgeWalk, which is similar to the walkway around the top of the Auckland Sky Tower.
Grand Canyon Skywalk
This cantilever bridge stretches out over the Grand Canyon. It has a half-circle shape, so visitors can look straight down without any obstructions blocking the view. The drop to the canyon floor is around 4,000 feet. Sightseers can look right over the edge or they can peer straight down through the glass floor.
Despite the seemingly precarious perch on which it sits, the skywalk is made to withstand extreme weather. The bridge was built to hold up in high winds, harsh winter weather and other conditions that are not normal for this part of Arizona.
Tianmen Mountain is in a remote corner of China’s Hunan Province. The journey to the upper slopes on this rock formation, which resembles the kind of mountain seen in classical Chinese art works, is filled with thrills. Panorama seekers take a 24,000-foot cable car ride up to the summit. Narrow walkways with guardrails circle the cliffs near the top of the mountain. The path is literally bolted into the rock. At the end of the route there is a hanging bridge that connects two of Tianmen’s peaks.
Parts of the walkway feature glass floors so people can look down several thousand feet to the landscapes below. There is also a 7-mile hiking route up the side of the mountain on winding walkways.
Glacier Skywalk, Canada
The Glacier Skywalk is in Alberta, Canada. The cliff-side trek to reach the scenic overlook starts at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Center. The walkway goes along the edge of a cliff above the Sunwapta Valley. The view from the path includes the Canadian Rockies and glaciers.
The trail ends at a glass-floor observation deck that is 918 feet above the valley. Along the route, there is information about the valley, mountains and glaciers. The interpretive installations cover the geology, nature, anthropology and hydrology of the valley and mountains.
Eureka Skydeck, Melbourne
The Eureka Skydeck is one of the highest building-top vantage points in the Southern Hemisphere. The deck covers the entire 88th floor of the Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Australia. The trip up to the deck can be as thrilling as the view. The elevator that carries guests skyward reaches the highest speed of any lift south of the Equator.
There is a small outdoor section on the Skydeck that is known as the Terrace. When wind speeds are high, this area is closed off and guests are required to stay inside. The Edge, meanwhile, is a glass cube that hangs 10 feet out over the side of the building. Visitors can look through the floor to the street, which is almost 1,000 feet below.