One of the best experiences you can have while travelling is taking a scenic flight on a small aircraft. Nothing beats front row seats to some of the world’s most incredible sights. If you are lucky, you may even have the chance to be the co-pilot for the day.
*This post has been updated to include some new scenic flights.
Here are some scenic flights from around the world from travel bloggers:
Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
Recently we were lucky enough to get a flight to the Tasman Glacier which was absolutely amazing!! If you are in the Mount Cook area and get the chance, budget and weather permitting, take the scenic flight. The scenery is breath-taking and the sheer scale of the glacier is incredible. We landed near the top of the glacier and were able to leave the plane and walk around leaving fresh footprints in the perfect snow. It was very warm with no wind, even at that height. It’s so still up there, no noise except for the occasional distant avalanche. (The cover photo for this post is also from Off the Main Road NZ)
Pauline – Off the Main Road NZ
Tiger Moth Flight over Wanaka, New Zealand
If you visit Wanaka, make sure you check out Classic Flights for an amazing, unforgettable trip. When you arrive the pilot will give you a leather flying jacket and leather flying helmet – I thought it was just to look the part but actually it is quite cool once you get in the air. The plane has an open cockpit with wires and levers exposed so you see everything that is going on.
The flight takes you over Wanaka township and the lake then back over Albert Town and up the river back to the airport. The scenery was amazing, this is one of the most spectacular scenic locations in New Zealand and seeing it from the air on such a beautiful day was breath-taking!
Pauline – Off the Main Road NZ
Dunedin, New Zealand
The flight on a two-seater plane over my boyfriend’s hometown, Dunedin was one of my most unforgettable experiences in New Zealand. I never imagined flying over a part of New Zealand’s South Island on such a small aircraft. We flew just below the clouds and had a wonderful view of the landscape below. The scenery varied from residential areas to farm lands, from hills to beaches. From Mosgiel, where we started, we flew over the rest of Dunedin, across the harbour and the rest of the Otago peninsula. On the way back, we flew next to the coast, the scenery was just dramatic. It was gorgeous! From the air, everything – even the waves seem to stand still. The flight took about an hour and ended with the stunning view of the sunset.
Gia – Mismatched Passports
Nazca Lines, Peru
As the aircraft banked hard to the left, lurching my stomach into my mouth, I searched for lines etched into the desert. Scouring the arid landscape, the ancient markings suddenly converged to form a whale. I was mesmerised for the next 30 minutes.
The Nazca Lines are one of history’s great mysteries but to truly appreciate them they should be seen from above.
A monkey, an astronaut, a hummingbird, a spider, all as clear that day as they were to the Gods for whom they were created 2000 years ago.
When most people think of Peru, they recall grand photos of Machu Picchu breaking through the cloud, but for me the Nazca Lines are the true wonder of the world.
RELATED POST: Exploring the Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu
Andrew and Emily – Along Dusty Roads
Rocky Mountains, Canada
The Rocky Mountains are vast mountains in North America; spanning over 4,800km across two Canadian Provinces and six American States. Growing up in British Columbia I’ve always been completely mesmerized by their size and scale. Just recently we got the chance to view a part of the Rockies, along the British Columbia and Alberta border, from around 8,000 feet in a small airplane! It truly was a dream come true and it somehow magically ended up getting booked for my birthday!
We went up, with a local flight school here in Northern British Columbia, in a Cessna 172. I selfishly took the co-pilots seat and Thomas got the back seat. We flew from Prince George to Mount Sir Alexander in the Kakwa Provincial Park; passing over many lakes, rivers, smaller mountain ranges and about a zillion trees displaying their beautiful fall colors on our way there. It was an absolutely breathtaking experience, one I certainly could never, ever forget!
I truly believe you really can’t comprehend the sheer size of some mountains on Earth until you’re up in the skies flying at their height and staring out the window in amazement!
Dawn – Dawn Kealing
Mountain Province, Philippines
The Mountain Province is one of the most beautiful regions in the Philippines. High up in the north, it’s characterized by cold weather, rice terraces, and the kindest locals. Many tourists go there during the holidays, despite the very long travel time and sometimes bad roads resulting from landslides. From Baguio City, for example, going to Sagada will take you seven hours by bus.
RELATED POST: El Nido, Palawan: Paradise in the Philippines
I was very lucky then, to be able to ride a helicopter from Baguio to Sagada early this year. I was with a TV production outfit and the stars of the show didn’t want to waste their time commuting by bus. The view from 7,000ft high of the Mountain Province was priceless, and instead of 7 hours, it only took us 30 minutes. Helicopters can be rented, yes, but at $1,700/hour, it is hardly worth it!
Aleah – Solitary Wanderer
On a recent trip to the Maldives, we took one of the longest seaplane flights you can take there, flying from the capital, Male, to the beautiful luxury resort of JA Manafaru on the northernmost atoll. As is the case with most seaplane flights in the Maldives, our pilot was barefoot for the duration of the flight. Both take-off and landing were very smooth, and the views of the many islands – some inhabited and some not – were both beautiful and fascinating in equal measure.
RELATED POST: A Mid Range Maldives Resort Experience: Asdu Sun Island
Paul – A Luxury Travel Blog
When arriving at the IDW Esperanza Resort in Lithuania, we were told that we were going to be shown the resort from the air. Assuming that we were being led to a viewing platform on a forest hillside, we reached a clearing in the woods where we found a helicopter waiting. Moments later, we were airborne on a completely unexpected flight in which we took in an amazing aerial view of Trakai, Lithuania’s old capital.
RELATED POST: A Fairy tale in Europe: One Week in Slovenia
Paul – A Luxury Travel Blog
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Movie directors choose Blue Hawaiian Helicopters when they come to Kauai to shoot movies (think “Pearl Harbor” and “George of the Jungle”). Their tours are thrilling, with drops into canyons, tight turnarounds in steep narrow crevices, close-ups of waterfalls, and an occasional rainbow spotting. The current price is just over $200 for just under an hour in the air.
RELATED POST: Backpacking in O’ahu: Snorkelling in Hanauma Bay
Carole – Travels with Carole
Fraser Island, Australia
Getting a scenic flight over Fraser Island, Australia was very unexpected! For those of you who don’t know, the island is just off the East Coast of Australia and is one of 3 places in the world that has an airport on sand. It’s the world’s largest island which is sand only and a hub for all wildlife. At only $75, it was a real bargain and the 7 of us squished in with me being lucky enough to sit co-pilot for the journey! From above, we were able to see the famous butterfly lake, the incredible sand dunes, the whole wreck of the SS Maheno and even a massive tiger shark swimming in the surf. If you ever find yourself on Fraser Island, give it a go!
Millie – Millie Goes
Stewart Island, New Zealand
The flight to Stewart Island from Invercargill airport is such a unique experience (and a great alternative to the ferry!). The journey only takes about 20 minutes but the views during that short amount of time are spellbinding! You also get to experience what it’s like to be on tiny plane and maybe even have the “co-pilot seat” for a few minutes! Stewart Island is New Zealand’s coolest islands and a must-visit for both locals and tourists alike. It’s a unique region rich in bird life and natural wonders.
Gia – SeetheSouthIsland
Wellington, New Zealand
I had the pleasure to be invited to fly in a glider plane just outside of Wellington, New Zealand a couple of years ago, and it was truly the experience of a lifetime. The plane was towed up into the air using a rope, and then we were left to glide in the eerie silence of a plane without a motor. Both the front and back seat had the ability to steer, and my friend let me fly the plane for a bit. I lasted about ten seconds before I was so freaked out that I was going to crash (he insisted I wouldn’t!), and had him take over again. You can visit any gliding club around New Zealand or elsewhere to experience this for yourself!
Danie – Like Riding a Bicycle
Hong Kong has an incredible city skyline and one of the unique ways to see this view is by taking a scenic helicopter ride over Victoria Harbour. While our flight experience fell short of expectation since we didn’t end up doing a proper tourist flight, we still saw a glimpse of this beauty from above. Our first trip on a helicopter was not so bad either.