Top 10 most spectacular helicopter tours in the world

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today: Top 10 best destinations in the world for a helicopter tour

Our beautiful planet is home to an abundance of spectacular scenery and epic cities, some of which are best explored from above. Taking a helicopter tour not only provides travelers with an unforgettable bird’s-eye perspective of an area, it also offers a thrilling and entertaining experience and plenty of postcard-perfect photo-ops. In addition, helicopter tours are often the only way visitors can enjoy viewing more remote areas of a region.  From beautiful coral reefs and active volcanoes to stunning waterfalls and iconic city skylines, here’s my roundup of the world’s 10 most spectacular helicopter rides that you should consider the next time you’re feeling it’s time for an adrenaline rush.

There is more information (with YouTube videos) below the slideshow. Think I missed one? What’s your favorite helicopter tour? Leave a comment.

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10. RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Home to the Samba and the Caipirinha cocktail, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, nestled among spectacular mountains, lush greenery, and white-sand beaches alongside the Atlantic Ocean. Locals like to say that “God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio,” and it’s not hard to understand where that comes from when you stand by the world-famous Corcovado statue or at the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, enjoying one of the globe’s most exciting panoramas. And what could be better than a sightseeing tour of Rio de Janeiro from the air? From the vantage point of a helicopter, you’ll have unforgettable views of this beautiful city, nestled against a backdrop of granite peaks rising from Guanabara Bay.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL


9. VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE & ZAMBIA

Representing the world’s greatest curtain of falling water, Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as – at the height of the rainy season – more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two km (1,2 miles) into a gorge over one hundred m (328 ft) below. The wide, basalt cliff over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a placid river into a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges. The best way to appreciate the true splendor of the falls is to view them from the air. Due to the location of the heliport, the helicopters are over the spectacular scenery of the Zambezi River within 30 seconds after take-off.


8. NEW YORK CITY, USA

The Big Apple is defined by its iconic Manhattan skyline, a mesmerizing silhouette created by dozens of glimmering skyscrapers and easily recognized by almost anybody in the world. The crown jewel in New York’s skyline is the 102 story Empire State Building, which stood as the tallest building in the world from its completion until 1972 (now it it’s the 37th tallest skyscraper). Currently, the tallest skyscraper in New York is the 104-story One World Trade Center, which rises 51 m (1,776 ft) above the sacred site where the Twin Towers were destroyed in the 2001 terror attack. One of the best ways to take in the New York City skyline is by air, with several helicopter companies letting you dangle your feet over famous Manhattan landmarks for amazing photos!


7. GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the planet’s greatest natural wonders. It is the largest reef in the world and consists of nearly 3000 individual reefs, 880 islands and hundreds and thousands of different types of plant, bird and marine life. Swimming with the fish and admiring the colors of the coral is a must for any holiday to the Great Barrier Reef. But to get a complete grasp of the sheer magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef, you need to stop swimming with the diverse marine creatures, get out of the water, let your feet leave the pure-white beaches, book a helicopter tour, and admire the reef from the air. On sightseeing flights to and from the reef, you will experience some breathtaking views over the Whitsunday Islands and over the coral reef formations that make this part of the world so unique.


6. GRAND CANYON, USA

A powerful and inspiring landscape,  Grand Canyon National Park is one of the USA’s most popular tourist destinations. Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms carved by the Colorado River decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep. The Grand Canyon reveals nature’s sheer force with its towering buttes, pinnacles and mesas, and its immense size leaves many visitors weak in the knees. One of the most exciting ways to see the Grand Canyon is on a helicopter tour, with departure from either Las Vegas or near the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park. Flying above and beneath the rim of the Grand Canyon will offer views you can’t see from any viewpoint on the ground and will create memories for a lifetime.


5. TIME + TIDE MIAVANA, MADAGASCAR

Time + Tide Miavana is an incredibly luxurious resort located on remote Nosy Ankao island, which part of a five-island archipelago off the north-east of Madagascar. The island is only accessible by helicopter, either from Nosy Be or Antsiranana (formerly Diego-Suarez). A perfectly relaxing journey, the helicopter flight offers breathtaking vistas of the wild landscapes of one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers, including bird’s eye views of humpback whales in the Indian Ocean below if you are lucky. When you fly in and/or out via Nosy Be, the flight path will take over Ankarana National Park, a spectacularly eroded limestone fortress of sharp ridges, patches of dense tropical jungle, deciduous forest, deep caves and canyons (actually the biggest underground network of Africa) and rushing rivers.


4. BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

Under a one hour flight from the South Pacific island of Tahiti or Moorea, the island of Bora Bora, with a lagoon resembling an artist’s palette of blues and greens, is love at first sight. Romantics from around the world have laid claim to this island where the castle-like Mount Otemanu pierces the sky. Lush tropical slopes and valleys blossom with hibiscus, while palm-covered motu circle the illuminated lagoon like a delicate necklace. Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. You can also experience the beauty of Bora Bora’s lagoon by helicopter. After a safety briefing with your pilot, you will be equipped with a headset with microphones and enjoy a guided tour of this magnificent island with bird’s eye views of the lagoon, the overwater bungalows, Mt Otemanu and the various motus that surround the island.


3. FRANZ JOZEF GLACIER & FOX GLACIER, NEW ZEALAND

The glassy rivers and snow-capped peaks of the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are among the highlights of New Zealand’s South Island, and the West Coast glaciers are even more spectacular from above. The exhilarating helicopter ride over the glaciers can be combined with a hike through the most spectacular glacier features. Adrenaline levels start to spike as you board a helicopter and are whisked away over the jaw dropping landscape – an opportunity to take in the full panoramic majesty of Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere nestled within the surrounding mountains. Next, your pilot will land you high up on the glacier itself, where a guide will help you make the final preparations for your hike before you head off to explore the pristine features of this incredible icescape.

FRANZ JOZEF GLACIER & FOX GLACIER, NEW ZEALAND


2. SANTORINI, GREECE

The Greek island of Santorini is arguably one of the world’s most idyllic islands and ranks among my favorite destinations on earth. Perched high above the deep blue Aegean Sea, Santorini’s whitewashed villages are clustered atop dramatic cliffs, with black sand beaches resting at the bottom. The island was shaped some 3,600 years ago by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, which left a giant water-filled crater measuring about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4 mi) and surrounded by 300 m (980 ft) high cliffs on all sides. One of the best ways to appreciate the island’s natural splendor is to fly over the world-renowned caldera by helicopter, especially around sunset time. Peak Helicopter Service offers a choice between two helicopter tours, the standard 20 minute or the extended 30 minute tour.


1. KAUAI, HAWAII, USA

Most of Kauai’s awe-inspiring sights are inaccessible from the ground and can only be seen and appreciated by a thrilling helicopter tour. Not only is helicopter tour the best way to explore the rugged interiors of Kauai without getting your feet muddy, it’s also only way to grasp the magnitude of the phenomenal Napali Coast. You’ll get a front-row seat to inaccessible scenic areas and get a bird’s eye view of some of the world’s most natural beauty. The most popular tours last 60 minutes and take you through Kauai’s lush tropical interiors of Waialelale Crater, Waimea Canyon, and along the Napali Coast with a lot of extras in between, such as a flight over Manawaiopuna Falls, a backdrop in the film ‘Jurassic Park’. Some companies offer a 90 minute flight that will allow more time to see Kauai’s unparalleled beauty or an open-door ride for a more thrilling experience.

KAUAI, HAWAII


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2 Comments

  1. Hello
    Your 10 selected helicopter rides are amazing, especially the Victoria Falls one which I enjoyed a couple of years ago….but I would also add two other rides, in a hot air ballooning category….unless that is another article: Cappadocia Balloon Rides and Bagan, Myanmar Ballooning.
    Enjoy your website and the detailed information….of course, love to travel.
    On my office wall, I have the quotation: “Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport”….and I know you and your readers would agree.
    Thanks for all your efforts (as if luxury adventures are an effort!!)…
    Good wishes,
    Patty Randall
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

  2. My favourite helicopter flights are beside the mentioned,which I all did except Madagascar:
    Big Island 2 hours above the volcanos,
    Cambodia Tonle Sap and Angkor,
    San Francisco with Golden Gate,under the bridge,this I did twice,
    Tasman Glacier with stop on the Glacier in New Zealand,
    Greenland Glacier from Ilulissat,with stop on the top of the glacier,it is 1500 km long.
    Iceland 2 hours ride ,volcano,waterfall,landing on the glacier and geysir area.
    Botswana flight from Maun to the Camp Pom Pom in Okawango with animal watching.

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