Experiencing an unknown city is always exciting. That’s the great thing about travel – it allows you to try new things and explore new places. While wandering through a city on the ground is interesting, it’s also worthwhile to see a destination from a unique perspective you normally wouldn’t get to view.
Below, you’ll find beautiful aerial shots taken above some of your favorite cities. The lit up Las Vegas skyline twinkling various colors against a nighttime backdrop, the grey and intimidating buildings of the Big Apple as seen from above and the glossy and luxurious architecture of Dubai from a bird’s-eye view, are some of the stunning shots captured by photographers.
To see some of the best aerial views of cities from around the world, check out the gallery below.
Queenstown is a seemingly quaint town that resides in the shadow of the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island. Walking its streets, one could easily mistake it for Boulder, Colorado. But like the American town that it resembles, Queenstown’s quiet appearance belies an adventurous spirit that pervades the people and activities that make this hamlet a popular tourist destination all year round. I spent roughly 36 hours in Queenstown and was consistently amazed by its natural beauty and friendly population.
How does a town of 10,000 people become a mecca for tourists? The proximity to some of New Zealand’s best ski fields certainly helps. But Queenstown is also the self-proclaimed “jet boat capital of the world” and the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping operations. For adrenaline junkies, Queenstown is a playground for the imagination.
Queenstown experienced its initial boom after a gold rush in the area during the 1800s. When the region had been picked clean of the precious metal, the population dipped below one thousand. The residents, in need of income to survive, capitalized on the local geography and turned Queenstown into a tourist hot spot. Now, Queenstown relies almost solely on tourism to survive and does so quite well.
So, how can you enjoy the the great outdoors and scare yourself silly while in Queenstown? Simply get out of bed and you can’t help but stumble upon any number of activities.
Million Dollar Cruise – Queenstown borders Lake Wakatipu, which is a boater’s paradise. For an entertaining lesson on Queenstown’s history and stunning views of both the town and the mountains that dominate the horizon, Million Dollar Cruise offers 90-minute sightseeing tours that provide a wonderful introduction to Queenstown. Owned and operated by Wayne & Betty Perkins, the cruise feels more like a day spent with friends telling you about their hometown than a commercial tour. That, by the way, is a good thing. Bundle up, though. I was there in the Spring and it was blustery out on the deck where the best photo ops are found.
Shotover Jet – Queenstown’s winding rivers through steep canyons made it the perfect place to become the “jet boat capital of the world.” Jet boats have flat bottoms which allow them to spin 360 degrees and seemingly move laterally. Shotover Jet operates in the Shotover River and has an office right in town, making bookings quite convenient. At $109NZ for adults and $69NZ for children, it’s a tad overpriced. But they have to pay for the 40 liters of petrol they burn every 30 minutes somehow. If you need a good family friendly activity that will impress your kids, go for it. Otherwise, I wasn’t convinced that it’s worth the money.
A.J. Hackett Bungy – Queenstown’s most famous adventure activity is also the world’s first of its kind. A.J. Hackett opened the first commercial bungee jumping enterprise on Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988 and it still operates today. A.J. Hackett now has other jump locations and Kawarau Bridge is by no means the highest, but it’s the original and that’s a draw for tourists. While the boldest of visitors may opt to jump off A.J. Hackett’s gondola 439 feet above the Nevis River, first-time jumpers will want to start at Kawarau and it’s 141-foot jump. That’s what I did and their friendly staff helped me overcome my fears and take the plunge. Would I bungee again? I’m not sure. But I am glad that I did it at the birthplace of commercial bungee.
Skiiing – You can get from Queenstown to a ski field in under 20 minutes. Coronet Peak and the Remarkables are the two closest ski fields and require nothing more than a short drive. Cardrona is only 40 minutes out of town and Treble Cone is a mere 90 minute drive. All four ski fields offer an abundance of ski and snowboard trails that draw visitors in hordes from June through October.
Whether you want to walk Queenstown’s quiet streets and window shop or trick your brain into thinking that you’re plummeting to your death, Queenstown has something for everyone (assuming you like the outdoors). After a whirlwind tour of the town, I was a tad disoriented but no worse for wear. Queenstown may have traded its gold rush for head rushes, but it’s absolutely worth a visit. Just try to have better form than I did when you leap off Karawau Bridge.
Mike Barish traveled to New Zealand on a trip sponsored by Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Mike was free to report openly on his experiences. He never spit out the wine and managed not to cry during any of the death-defying activities that Kiwis love. At least not in public. Read more of Gadling’s In the Corner of the World series here.
Fresh from my return from New Zealand, I can’t stop thinking about the range of beautiful scenery found in the corner of the world. Perhaps it’s because I’m jet lagged and can’t fall asleep.
This photo, taken by The Wide Wide World in Queenstown, NZ, summarizes what you’ll see in a typical day on the South Island: vast, sprawling landscapes, tall mountains, placid lakes and beer. I miss it already.
Have any cool photos you’d like to share with the world? Add them to the Gadling Pool on Flickr and it might be chosen as our Photo of the Day. Make sure you save them under Creative Commons though, otherwise we can’t use them!
When most people go on vacation they like to visit someplace relaxing, maybe spend some time on the beach or hop a cruise ship and spend their days in a deck chair. Others prefer something a bit more active, preferring to hike, bike, and paddle their way across the destination of their choice. For those active travelers, Backpacker Magazine has put together a list of the best multisport destinations on the planet.
This list of adventure getaways spans the globe from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Queenstown, New Zealand, with several points in between. Each of the places on the list excels in outdoor activities, offering up excellent opportunities for trekking, world class mountain biking trails, and the opportunity to put those kayaking skills to test in a variety of conditions ranging from whitewater to sea water.
Take Vancouver Island for instance. Visitors have the option to sea kayak amongst dolphins and a variety of whale species, including the a pod of orcas that number more than 200. The unique environments of the region also allow hikers to explore rainforests and mountain tops alike, which also happen to offer some great rock climbing. And if that wasn’t enough, Vancouver is famous for its amazing mountain biking trails, with something to offer beginners and advanced riders alike. But amongst multisport fans, Vancouver Island is hardly a secret. For those looking to go someplace a little less well known, and more exotic as well, check out Darjeeling, India. Backpacker calls the region “one of the world’s great adventure hubs”, and with good reason. The place offers high altitude trekking and mountain biking, going up to altitudes as high as 12,000 feet, and whitewater rafting on the Teesta River, which boasts Class II-IV rapids. And when you’re done playing in the backcountry, you can take a jungle safari on the back of an elephant. Top that Canada!
The other destinations that make the list are equally impressive, and each has their own special attractions to lure in the multisport adventure traveler. Just make sure you pack all the right gear, and don’t worry about getting any rest, you can do that when you get back home.
Queenstown in New Zealand is renowned as the adventure capital of the world, but after spending a week there researching for Lonely Planet, I’ve realised some of the resort’s adrenaline fuelled activities don’t necessarily give travellers the best opportunity to experience the stupendous landscapes that surround you like out-takes from a Lord of the Rings DVD box set.
In reality some of the more popular thrill rides like the Nevis Highwire Bungy (anyone for 8.5 seconds freefall?) or the Shotover Canyon Swing are really just too damn fast to take in the incredible scenery that overwhelms every vista. But tandem hang gliding? Now that’s a different story…
I’d done skydiving before, but hang gliding is a whole new gig. Yes, it really did feel like flying as my Argentinean pilot Gerard surfed the glider on the slipping and sliding thermals rising around the ridges of Queenstown’s Coronet Peak.
Still thrilling as hell, and I’ll take fifteen minutes in the air surrounded by the dramatic peaks of the Remarkables mountain range over a sub ten-second injection of adrenaline any time.