Whether you’re in the Himalayas, Maldives or the Great Barrier Reef, these incredible natural wonders are beautiful from every angle you travel.
But the view from a prop plane, helicopter — or even a hot-air balloon — is hard to beat on foot.
Ready for liftoff? From a Cessna over the majestic Fiordland region of New Zealand to island puddle jumpers in Fiji, these are nine of the most scenic flights in the Asia-Pacific region.
1. Milford Sound, New Zealand
There’s a reason director Peter Jackson chose to shoot the “Lord of the Rings” films in southern New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park.
For starters, the landscape is stunning — picture dramatic craggy cliffs and snow-capped peaks that will make you feel infinitesimally tiny.
In the center of it all lies the Milford Sound, where the Tasman Sea flows inland between high cliffs and Mitre Peak looms in the distance.
There are several ways to experience it — hike, drive or fly — but you’ll get the best views from the air.
For those who prefer a plane, Air Milford enables travelers to combine a scenic flight with a cruise along the sound.
Meanwhile, tours with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters warrant a worthy splurge. The nimble choppers will get you as close as possible to the untouched hinterland.
You’ll hover over ancient forests and empty valleys, fly by waterfalls and, if weather allows, even park for a few quiet moments atop the Mt Tutoko glacier.
Some itineraries even squeeze in time for a nature trek along the shores of the glossy sound, where you’ll spot penguins and seals.
Home to 333 islands, Fiji is a vast archipelago that’s impossible to experience without easy access to a Cessna.
Luckily, several airplanes and helicopter services have developed day-trip itineraries to help travelers hop from the big island of Viti Levu to the popular Mamanuca Islands southwest, and over to lush Taveuni in the northeast.
In addition to the spectacular bird’s eye view, most seaplane and helicopter tours will also provide a meal or activity, be it a Champagne lunch at Tokoriki Island in the Mamanucas with Island Hoppers Fiji or a bespoke picnic at the famous Blue Lagoon with Turtle Airways.
Then there’s the “Mystery Flights” organized by Pacific Island Air, where travelers won’t know where they’re spending the day until they hop on board.
3. Bagan, Myanmar
Balloons over Bagan
As the first commercial hot-air balloon outfit in Asia, Balloons over Bagan launched its first flight about 20 years ago.
Since then, the postcard image of Bagan has been synonymous with sunrise flights over the mystical archaeological zone — picture tens of thousands of Buddhist monuments, shrouded by a gentle mist.
The company has since expanded to offer two-day balloon safaris, which takes travelers from Inle Lake in central Myanmar to the Pindaya Caves northwest. The experience includes private breakfasts, village tours, half-day cooking experiences, cycling excursions, bonfire dinners and more.
Just be sure to check the seasons before you plan a trip, as balloon operations usually run from October to April, with the high season in January.
4. Hamilton Island, Australia
While most might experience the Great Barrier Reef on the water, we’d highly recommend an aerial view.
From a home base on Hamilton Island, off the northeast coast of Australia, intrepid travelers can hire a seaplane or helicopter to traverse the tropical paradise.
Stop first on the white sands of Whitehaven Beach, pay a visit to the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands, fly over iconic Heart Reef or land at the permanently moored Reefworld pontoon for a day of snorkeling around Hardy Reef.
From 10-minute heli rides to full-day seaplane excursions, you can experience the best of both worlds with companies such as Hamilton Island Air or GSL Aviation.