Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, stretches more than 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) and encompasses some 900 islands. Seeing this vast aquatic ecosystem from above is the perfect complement to diving its depths, filled with hard and soft corals, whales, fish, sharks, rays, and turtles. Several helicopter tours depart for the reef from Port Douglas and Cairns, soaring over incredible sights like the Daintree Rainforest and thundering Barron Gorge waterfalls on the way. Alternatively, pair your Great Barrier Reef tour with a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, set around a traditional rainforest village.
Take a scenic helicopter ride to the outer reef and land on a floating helipad in the Coral Sea. After lunch and a swim or snorkel in the crystalline waters, you can cruise to Cairns by boat, extend your stay with a scuba-diving lesson, or return by helicopter for one last aerial look at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Grand Canyon National Park, USA
Grand Canyon National Park lives up to its stellar reputation as a must-do—especially when you see million-year-old canyon walls cascading down to a rushing river from the air. Stretching more than 1,900 square miles (4,920 square kilometers), this landmark has loads of helicopter tour options conveniently departing from Las Vegas, including a scenic tour of the West Rim and Hoover Dam from the Strip and a flight with skip-the-line access to the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
Must-do ride: VIP Grand Canyon Sunset Helicopter Tour with Dinner
Turn a helicopter tour into a romantic excursion with this 35-minute scenic ride to the Grand Canyon’s remote West Rim, where you’re served a gourmet dinner—complete with china, table linens, flowers, and Champagne—at sunset.
From above, take in the diversity and beauty of Iceland, known for its dramatic volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and lava fields. Whether you choose a helicopter flight over Reykjavik and its surrounding mountains, soar atop Thingvellir National Park, or travel to the farthest reaches of the moon-like Reykjanes Peninsula, the vibrant landscapes of Iceland are unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Must-do ride: Fire and Ice Helicopter Tour from Reykjavik
This 2-hour helicopter tour soars past Iceland’s highest waterfall and above snowy glaciers and active volcanic terrain. Touch down twice on your ride, first at the frozen Thórisjökull glacier, then at the steam-spewing Hengill geothermal area, set in a remote valley accessible only by helicopter or an hours-long hike.
Though each of the eight major Hawaiian Islands is wholly unique, one thing is true no matter where you go: seeing the state’s verdant landscapes, cascading waterfalls, lava-spewing volcanoes, and crescent-shaped beaches from above is an unparalleled experience. On an adventure helicopter tour of Kauai, appreciate the bounty of the Garden Isle through diverse sites such as Manawaiopuna (Jurassic Park Falls), Waimea Canyon, and the Na Pali Coast. Maui helicopter tours offer a bird’s-eye view of the famed Road to Hana and the island’s most famous waterfalls. On the Big Island, nothing beats a flight over an active volcano, while a city-meets-beach journey on Oahu takes in world-famous Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor alongside lush valleys and the azure waters of Hanauma Bay.
While most travelers to Maui drive the famous Road to Hana, this luxury tour offers an alternative to making all those hairpin turns yourself. Your spacious limo-van stops at all the requisite sights, including Waikani Falls and Ke’anae Point. Then, rather than drive all the way back, board a helicopter for a scenic 40-minute flight back to the west coast, taking in aerial views of Haleakala Crater, remote waterfalls, and Maui’s rugged coastlines.
South Island, New Zealand
If landscape photography is your thing, there’s no better way to get frame-worthy shots of New Zealand’s South Island than to soar high above its otherworldly mountain ranges, lakes, fjords, glaciers, and icefalls. Brace the cold and book a helicopter tour to Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, or follow your inner daredevil on a heli-hiking excursion among the glacial caves, pinnacles, and crevasses of Franz Josef.
Get ready for a picture-perfect day exploring the UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park by land, sea, and air. After a 2-hour cruise from Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, take a 40-minute helicopter flight over Mount Tutoko and Lake Wakatipu, with a brief landing on Donne Glacier (for photos, of course).
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
There’s a reason Rio is called the Cidade Maravilhosa—it’s all powder-soft beaches, shimmering lights, and rain forest–backed cityscapes combining with a mesmerizing soundtrack of samba, rock, bossa nova, hip-hop, and funk. Gain insight to the soul of the city by flying high above it, where you can appreciate the true scale of Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana Beach, Christ the Redeemer, and the vast city itself.
Must-do ride: Rio de Janeiro Helicopter Tour
This 1-hour aerial excursion begins and ends at your Rio hotel. See the granite peaks of Sugarloaf and Corcovado, Rio’s legendary beaches and sparkling Guanabara Bay, and the famed Christ the Redeemer statue—so close, you’ll feel like you might be able to touch it.
New York City, USA
When you’re walking the streets of New York City—surrounded by towering skyscrapers and honking horns—it can be hard to appreciate its architectural and even natural beauty. But you can get above it all and be awed by the city’s dynamic landscape, from the landmark-littered island of Manhattan to the iconic bridges and far-reaching boroughs.
Must-do ride: Big Apple Helicopter Tour of New York
Forget schlepping around on the subway. This small-group flight allows you to take in many of NYC’s top highlights in as few as 15 minutes. Expect to spot the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building, among other world-famous sights.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
A vacation in Punta Cana, the crown jewel of the Dominican Republic, guarantees lots of time relaxing among sun, sand, and surf. For a different perspective, consider a scenic flight over the country’s entire southeastern corner. Enjoy exhilarating coastal views and catch sight of the spot where the massive Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.
Must-do ride: Helicopter Tour from Punta Cana
Get a novel vantage point of popular Punta Cana with this bird’s-eye tour that departs directly from your hotel (or chosen pick-up point). Depending on the duration of your flight—from 10 to 40 minutes—you beach-hop from above, pausing over Bavaro Beach, Bavaro Lagoon, Uvero Alto Beach, or Macao Beach.
For more must-do activities around the world, head to TripAdvisor!