On the banks of the Irrawaddy River and in the shadow of the Rakhine Yoma mountain range, 2,230 Buddhist temples rise out of the mist. This is Bagan, one of the most magically beautiful sites in the world. Built in the 11th through 13th centuries, only half of the original temples have survived the combination of earthquakes, erosion, and the Mongol invasion. The stunning temples feature frescoes and carvings, but only a few dozen are actively maintained. The natural setting and sheer number of temples mean that the site is best viewed from the air. The classic Balloons over Bagan runs hot air balloon flights at dawn, starting at $320 per person. Plan ahead, though, because trips book up months in advance.
Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), Zambia/Zimbabwe
The Zambezi River defines border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and creates one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls. The river is 1.25 miles wide when it goes over the falls, and it drops 354 feet, almost twice the height of Niagara Falls. The rising mist can be seen from 12 miles away, and inspired the local Kololo name Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders.” (Scottish explorer David Livingston named the falls for Queen Victoria when he discovered them in 1855). The mist can obscure the view during the summer rainy season, so wait until November when the falls are dryer to plan a trip. Get drone’s eye view of the river and the falls yourself with a helicopter tour fromZambezi Helicopters.
Bungle Bungle Range, Australia
Located in Purnululu National Park in the western Australia, the Bungle Bungle Range is made of up of huge sandstone mounds that rise up to 820 feet out of the desert. Layers of silica, algae, and other sediments produce a multi-colored striped effect on the beehive-shaped structures, and the colors can vary with the seasons or the weather. The climate and geology make the 350 million year old range completely unique in size, shape, and appearance. The aerial view is fantastic, but make sure to research drone regulations before flying. For those of us without the equipment, helicopter flights leave from nearby cities and start at $269 fromHeliSpirit.
Hallstatt is often called the “Pearl of Austria,” and it truly deserves the name. It sits nestled between the snow-capped eastern Alps and the glassy and mirror-like Hallstätter See, contrasting the striking natural setting with quaint local architecture. Located in the Salzkammergut region, this tiny city of less than 1,000 people has been producing salt since the 2nd millennium BC and is home to some of the world’s oldest salt mines. To add to the old world charm, cars are not allowed in the city during daylight hours between May and October. In the absence of a drone camera, taking the ferryacross the lake provides the best view of the scene.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay sits east of Hanoi in the Gulf of Tonkin, and is famous for the towering limestone islands that dot the coastline. The archipelago contains over 1,600 islands, carved by the constant erosion of the sea into caves, arches, and towers. Most of the islands uninhabited, and the mist and fog that rise from the bay contribute to its mysterious quality. The name, which means descending dragon, comes from a local legend that holds that the islands were created when Mother Dragon sent her children to protect Vietnam from invasion. The pearls that dropped from their mouths became the islands, and prevented the invaders from entering. Boat cruises are a popular way to see the islands, but the relatively new seaplane flights can provide a drone-worthy view, and start at $275 per person.
This post was posted by TheHipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on [October 29, 2015].