Our amazing planet photographed from the skies



Slide 1 of 43: The planet looks pretty amazing from up high. From rugged stretches of the coast to scenic national parks, many spots take on a whole new dimension when the camera is pointed downwards. We've picked some of our favorite aerial shots that capture the Earth from new heights.
Slide 2 of 43: Shark Fin Cove is a glorious stretch of coastline in Davenport, Santa Cruz County in the Golden State. It's named for the fin-like hunk of rock that rises from the Pacific Ocean moments from the shore, and in this aerial shot you can appreciate the drama of the frothing waves and sheer cliffs.
Slide 3 of 43: The pretty Maltese island of Gozo is famous for its salt production with large clusters of salt pans collecting on the north coast. From above, these pans appear like a mosaic with hues of earth brown, white and sand punctured by emerald-green water.
Slide 4 of 43: Calm, blue ocean and soft, white sands characterize Grace Bay on Providenciales (Provo), part of the idyllic Turks and Caicos archipelago. It's pristine and quiet, with colorful cays and marine life flourishing in the waters – the stillness here is captured from above.

Slide 5 of 43: From the air, the lush, terraced rice fields of Tegallalang look almost otherworldly, scattered with palms, flowering shrubs and thatched huts. They stretch out about six miles (10km) north of the Balinese town of Ubud.
Slide 6 of 43: The formidable Namib Desert is thought to be the oldest in the world, with its sunset dunes and famous petrified trees. From above, the expanse appears like a golden ocean with sandy waves rippling and breaking below. The occasional oryx may break up the orange abyss.
Slide 7 of 43: This wave-beaten outcrop is the most westerly point in Europe, situated in Portugal's Peniche area. From up high, the drama of the natural rock formations come into the fore. Beaten into shape by wind and water over many years, the crags look like mismatched jigsaw puzzles, with determined greenery forcing its way through the cracks.
Slide 8 of 43: The Niagara Falls is a cluster of three sensational cascades: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Pictured here in aerial view is Horseshoe Falls, so named for its curved shape. The magnitude of this thundering arch of water – it's 188 feet (57m) in height and it bends round for some 2,200 feet (671m) – is only truly comprehensible from above.
Slide 9 of 43: The Land of Ice and Fire is a stunner whichever way you look at it, but from above there's extra drama. This highland road slices through Iceland's Interior, not far from the volcanic fissure of Laki. A bird's-eye view shows how the lime-green moss contrasts with the ink black of the lava rocks.

Slide 10 of 43: Chile's Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on the planet with rust-red rocks, cracked earth and white salt pans. From the sky, you can see how green-blue lagoons break up the arid expanse. They include smaller pools like the one pictured, close to the town of San Pedro de Atacama, plus spots such as Laguna Cejar, shaped a little like a fish, and larger Laguna Tebinquiche.
Slide 11 of 43: San Francisco is famed for its steeper than steep roads and this aerial shot shows the tight twists and turns of a section of the city's Lombard Street. You can see why it's affectionately known as 'Crooked Street'. It was built this way to help combat the steepness of the road but its abrupt hair-pin bends present their own set of challenges.
Slide 12 of 43: The Great Ocean Road runs along the south coast of Australia in Victoria and the stunning Twelve Apostles puncture the route. These limestone sea stacks were formed by erosion thought to have begun between 10 and 20 million years ago, and today they jut from the Southern Ocean, still lapped by foaming waves.
Slide 13 of 43: Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches for 580 square miles (1,502sq km) and is home to wildlife such as wildebeests, impala and the Big Five: leopards, rhinos, elephants, cape buffalo and, of course, lions. Here, two courting lions gaze up at a curious phenomenon above them.
Slide 14 of 43: These otherworldly rock formations are found in Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on Kauai Island, which is often dubbed the 'Garden Isle' for its abundance of forest and greenery. Indeed, Nā Pali's russet mountains – rugged and deeply ridged – are splashed with green as they plunge towards champagne sands and the Pacific Ocean.

Slide 15 of 43: Berthoud Pass is a lofty route through the Rocky Mountains in the southwestern state of Colorado. The pass sits at an elevation of 11,307 feet (3,446m), stretching from Clear Creek Canyon to Fraser River, and has been used since the 1860s. From directly above, the snow-covered evergreens seem almost to burst from the ground, an explosion of frosted branches and leaves dusted in white.
Slide 16 of 43: The Okavango Delta in Botswana is described as 'Africa's last Eden' – not too bold a claim given the unspoiled nature of this sprawling wetland area. The fluctuating delta is created as the Okavango River floods the Kalahari Desert, and some 160 species of mammal can be found here, from the African bush elephant to big cats like lions and cheetah. Here, two lone hippos wade through the lush wetlands.
Slide 17 of 43: These 'rainbow mountains', found in Zhangye National Geopark in northern China, look like they've been painted by hand. They take on their color from many millions of years of mineral and sandstone deposits, while the dramatic dimples and ridges were chiseled out by wind and rain. A top view brings the bands of dandelion yellow, red and electric blue into breathtaking focus.
Slide 18 of 43: With an area of less than eight square miles (21sq km), dinky Silhouette Island is part of the Seychelles archipelago. The surrounding waters are a National Marine Park and Silhouette National Park protects more than 90% of the island's land. That means this glorious aerial image shows the real thing: pristine white beaches scattered with rocks and edged by clear blue ocean and forestland.
Slide 19 of 43: Switzerland's Rheinschlucht, or Rhine Gorge, in the east of the country, was made to be viewed from above. Often dubbed Switzerland's Grand Canyon, the area is filled with forest-covered banks which stand proud at the edge of the Rhine. Winding roads like this one beat their way through the trees too.
Slide 20 of 43: Rio de Janeiro is a joy to admire from heady heights. This downward-looking view of Copacabana beach offers a glorious glimpse of the swirling mosaic sidewalk that fringes the palm-lined sands. Love this? These fantastic travel photos will make you feel better about the world too.
Slide 21 of 43: The Ningaloo Marine Park, off the shores of Exmouth, protects a 160-mile-long (257km) reef, and is home to more than 500 species of fish and 200 types of coral. From this eagle viewpoint, you can see how the cyan waters meet the pale shores of Cape Range National Park, known for its sandy beaches, rugged gorges and orange rockscapes. We're too high in the sky here to spot the park's resident wildlife, but kangaroo, wallabies, dingoes and more make their home here.
Slide 22 of 43: While it may look like a giant paint palette, this pink landscape is actually made up of salt flats and is situated in the seaside resort of Colonia de Sant Jordi in Mallorca's Ses Salines district. Salt is a major export here and a great source of local pride – a symbol of a salt mound even appears on the area's coat of arms. The colors (earthy pink, deep tan and rich nude) pop when captured from up high.
Slide 23 of 43: The lavender fields of France's Provence region explode in a fragrant haze of purple from around mid-June up until August (though they're at their peak in early July). Looking down, though, you can admire the precise lines of purple sweeping in diagonal lines across the landscape.
Slide 24 of 43: Shifen Waterfall, in Taiwan's Pingxi District, is not the world's most famous cascade but it's one of the best looking from above. It crashes over terraced rock for more than 66 feet (20m) but despite its power, the water remains gloriously glassy on top, like an infinity pool at a swish hotel. A top view captures the water's surprising stillness. Discover more of the world's most dramatic waterfalls.
Slide 25 of 43: Close to the Omani town of Al Hamra, Misfat Al Abriyeen is a picturesque mountain village in the country's north. It's best known for its traditional mud-brick houses which cling to the mountainside. Here, their flat, cube-like roofs are highlighted by the bright green date palms all around.
Slide 26 of 43: Built in 1780, Clarence Battery broods over the Channel Island of Guernsey. It's a well-preserved slice of history and this aerial snap shows the ruins of the defensive battery, as well as the rocky shoreline, the dense surrounding thickets and the lapping waves of the English Channel. 
Slide 27 of 43: The Hverir Geothermal Area, part of North Iceland's so-called 'Diamond Circle', is a landscape filled with simmering mud pots and hissing hot springs. This eye-popping view from the sky shows the brilliant tones of blue and yellow, not too dissimilar to the USA's famous Grand Prismatic Spring.
Slide 28 of 43: Traversing the imposing Fagaras peaks, the mountain road of Transfăgărășan spools out for some 60 miles (97km), slicing through a moss-green landscape as it goes. Its sharp switchbacks look particularly dramatic from above.
Slide 29 of 43: Captured with a drone, this sea of trees carpets the Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Rivaling the displays put on by forests in New England, the leaves here explode in a riot of crimson, ocher, tan and russet come fall. Read on to discover the world's most wonderful views.
Slide 30 of 43: Chapman's Peak, stretching out along South Africa's Cape Peninsula, tumbles hundreds of feet into the South Atlantic Ocean. The mountain stretches out from the Cape Town suburb of Hout Bay and this stunning top shot shows the craggy rocks lapped by a hungry sea.
Slide 31 of 43: Rub' Al Khali, part of the Arabian Desert, means 'empty quarter' in Arabic and this sprawling area covers swathes of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the UAE. It lays claim to being the largest continuous area of sand on the planet. From above, the shrub-flecked landscape appears surreal with sandy orange crests and shadowy ridges. It's not hard to see why it was used as a location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Slide 32 of 43: A UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1970s, Plitvice Lakes National Park protects a picturesque natural area in central Croatia. Known for its waterfalls, interlocking lakes, karst rock formations and forestland, the park looks as stunning from the sky as it does from the ground. See more beautiful images of Europe's national parks.
Slide 33 of 43: This colorful tapestry of rice paddies can be found in the rural district of Tri Tôn in Vietnam's An Giang province. The fields – a velvety jigsaw of emerald, shamrock and gold – spread out across the Mekong Delta and look spectacular from up high.
Slide 34 of 43: A stunning islet floats in sapphire Lake Bled. Eponymous Bled Island is dominated by a fairy-tale church, which is known by several names including the Church of the Mother of God. From the air, you can also see Provost's House with its bold, sloping roof and the dense, mottled greenery that surrounds the isle.
Slide 35 of 43: This dazzling glacial lagoon sits immediately south of Vatnajökull National Park. Jökulsárlón plunges down for hundreds of feet, though its placid surface, dotted with 1,000-year-old hunks of ice, gives no whisper of its great depth, especially when viewed from the sky.
Slide 36 of 43: The serene oasis of the Maldives' Vaavu Atoll boasts pristine coral reefs and diverse marine life, including bright butterflyfish, manta rays and even hammerhead sharks. This dreamy bird's-eye shot skims over the turquoise waters, showing the clusters of coral beneath the surface and a lone shipwreck poking out from the water.
Slide 37 of 43: Santorini's sugar-cube buildings take on new life when seen from the air. Captured here is the village of Pyrgos Kallistis (better known as just Pyrgos) and the white-washed houses, labyrinthine passageways and contrasting blue domes appear like a geometric pattern. 
Slide 38 of 43: A sprawling area of California desert land, Death Valley encompasses endless sand dunes, peaks and salt pans, and is one of the hottest places on the planet. Captured from above the stark landscape comes into full focus – in this aerial photo, a barren, sandy plain is sliced open by a lonely highway. Discover more hidden wonders in the world's deserts.
Slide 39 of 43: The Thai island of Koh Lipe floats in the Andaman Sea, fringed with sugar-white sands. From the sky you can appreciate the crystal clarity of its waters, dotted with colorful boats and filled with rich coral reefs.
Slide 40 of 43: One of the USA's most revered natural wonders, Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the country, is located in Yellowstone National Park. The pool is a fierce blue with a ring of acid yellow and bright orange framing it like fire, and its psychedelic colors are caused by bacteria that thrives in the heat. From above you can appreciate its scale (it's 370 feet/113m in diameter) and the way its rainbow colors contrast with the pale earth all around. 
Slide 41 of 43: Green-topped cliffs, cobalt waters and pale gold sands characterize this strand on the Greek island of Zakynthos. But Navagio is best known for the ambient shipwreck settled on the sand, earning it the moniker of 'Shipwreck Beach'. Once sailed by smugglers, the ship is thought to have been washed up in the 1980s – here it appears as a mere speck on the sand, protected by arching limestone crags. 
Slide 42 of 43: You might not consider Portugal a key place for tea production but the Gorreana Tea Factory on São Miguel Island in the Azores archipelago has been operating since 1883. It claims to be the only tea plantation in Europe and a view over the fields shows prim rows of tea plants, broken up only by the odd tree or diagonal pathway.
Slide 43 of 43: Joffre Lakes Provincial Park in southeastern British Columbia is a vision in blue and green, its turquoise lakes hemmed in by a rush of evergreen trees and glacial peaks. The wild park is inhabited by grizzly bears and mountain goats, and its dramatic blocks of color are even more striking from above. Now check out the jaw-dropping places you can only see in photos

Bird’s-eye views you won’t believe are real

Shark Fin Cove, Davenport, California, USA

Salt Pans, Gozo, Malta

Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos Islands

Tegallalang rice terraces, Indonesia

Namib Desert, Namibia

Estrada Marginal Norte, Peniche, Portugal

Niagara Falls, Canada/USA

Road near Laki Volcano, Iceland

Atacama Desert, Chile

Lombard Street, San Francisco, California, USA

Twelve Apostles, Victoria, Australia

Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Forests around Berthoud Pass, Colorado, USA

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Zhangye National Geopark, China

Silhouette Island, Seychelles

Rheinschlucht, Versam, Switzerland

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is a joy to admire from heady heights. This downward-looking view of Copacabana beach offers a glorious glimpse of the swirling mosaic sidewalk that fringes the palm-lined sands. Love this? These fantastic travel photos will make you feel better about the world too.

Ningaloo Marine Park, Exmouth, Australia

Colonia de Sant Jordi, Ses Salines, Mallorca, Spain

Lavender fields in Provence, France

Shifen Waterfall, Taiwan

Shifen Waterfall, in Taiwan’s Pingxi District, is not the world’s most famous cascade but it’s one of the best looking from above. It crashes over terraced rock for more than 66 feet (20m) but despite its power, the water remains gloriously glassy on top, like an infinity pool at a swish hotel. A top view captures the water’s surprising stillness. Discover more of the world’s most dramatic waterfalls.

Misfat Al Abriyeen, Oman

Clarence Battery, Guernsey, UK

Built in 1780, Clarence Battery broods over the Channel Island of Guernsey. It’s a well-preserved slice of history and this aerial snap shows the ruins of the defensive battery, as well as the rocky shoreline, the dense surrounding thickets and the lapping waves of the English Channel. 

Hverir Geothermal Area, Iceland

Transfăgărășan, Romania

Fall leaves, North Carolina, USA

Captured with a drone, this sea of trees carpets the Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Rivaling the displays put on by forests in New England, the leaves here explode in a riot of crimson, ocher, tan and russet come fall. Read on to discover the world’s most wonderful views.

Chapman’s Peak, Cape Town, South Africa

Rub’ Al Khali, Arabian Desert

Rub’ Al Khali, part of the Arabian Desert, means ’empty quarter’ in Arabic and this sprawling area covers swathes of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the UAE. It lays claim to being the largest continuous area of sand on the planet. From above, the shrub-flecked landscape appears surreal with sandy orange crests and shadowy ridges. It’s not hard to see why it was used as a location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1970s, Plitvice Lakes National Park protects a picturesque natural area in central Croatia. Known for its waterfalls, interlocking lakes, karst rock formations and forestland, the park looks as stunning from the sky as it does from the ground. See more beautiful images of Europe’s national parks.

Mekong Delta rice fields, Vietnam

Bled Island, Slovenia

Jokulsarlon, Iceland

Vaavu Atoll, Maldives

Pyrgos Kallistis, Santorini, Greece

Santorini’s sugar-cube buildings take on new life when seen from the air. Captured here is the village of Pyrgos Kallistis (better known as just Pyrgos) and the white-washed houses, labyrinthine passageways and contrasting blue domes appear like a geometric pattern. 

Death Valley, California, USA

A sprawling area of California desert land, Death Valley encompasses endless sand dunes, peaks and salt pans, and is one of the hottest places on the planet. Captured from above the stark landscape comes into full focus – in this aerial photo, a barren, sandy plain is sliced open by a lonely highway. Discover more hidden wonders in the world’s deserts.

Koh Lipe, Thailand

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, USA

One of the USA’s most revered natural wonders, Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the country, is located in Yellowstone National Park. The pool is a fierce blue with a ring of acid yellow and bright orange framing it like fire, and its psychedelic colors are caused by bacteria that thrives in the heat. From above you can appreciate its scale (it’s 370 feet/113m in diameter) and the way its rainbow colors contrast with the pale earth all around. 

Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece

Green-topped cliffs, cobalt waters and pale gold sands characterize this strand on the Greek island of Zakynthos. But Navagio is best known for the ambient shipwreck settled on the sand, earning it the moniker of ‘Shipwreck Beach’. Once sailed by smugglers, the ship is thought to have been washed up in the 1980s – here it appears as a mere speck on the sand, protected by arching limestone crags. 

Gorreana Tea Factory, the Azores, Portugal

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, Canada

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park in southeastern British Columbia is a vision in blue and green, its turquoise lakes hemmed in by a rush of evergreen trees and glacial peaks. The wild park is inhabited by grizzly bears and mountain goats, and its dramatic blocks of color are even more striking from above.

Now check out the jaw-dropping places you can only see in photos

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