Top Six Skywalks
Fears can be as simple as disliking enclosed places or not wanting to see snakes or spiders, but one of the most common fears held by adults is of heights.
In fact, it is estimated that up to 5% of people are afraid of heights. While the other 95% of us are more likely have a positive experience at the top of the Eiffel Tower, there are still situations where even the most fearless travelers would worry about taking that next step.
Since daredevils come with all preferences, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist have identified the "Top 6 Skywalks (aka Places Not to Look Down)", in both manmade and natural settings, that might scare even the most non-acrophobe.
￼Briefly the tallest building in the world, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is a tribute to American ingenuity and Chicago’s days as the Second City. The Tower’s Skydeck, which opened in 1974, attracts more than 1.3 million visitors annually to the 103rd floor of the building; its glass walls provide unobstructed views of Chicago and up to four states bordering the city.
In July 2009, the Tower and the city raised the ante by building The Ledge, a series of glass bays that jut out 4.3 feet from the Skydeck, allowing visitors to stand over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. By looking down, visitors get a direct view from 1,353 feet above street level!
￼The newest of the attractions on this list, the Grand Canyon’s Skywalk, was built in 2007 to much acclaim and interest. Ironically, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is not located inside the National Park or near Canyon Village, but at Grand Canyon West, a Native American tribal park owned and operated by the Hualapai Indians about 5 hours from the main National Park.
For those daring enough to step out onto the horseshoe shaped platform, looking down will present them with a 500 to 800 view of the Colorado River in the base of the canyon. Grand Canyon West requires a permit for entry and an additional permit for the Skywalk.
￼In addition to serving as a major communications hub within the city, Toronto’s CN Tower is also the city’s tallest landmark and a tourist attraction in its own right, providing a number of activities testing one’s resistance to heights. The Tower’s glass floor, the first of its kind in the world, has only 2.5 inches of glass suspending visitors 113 stories above the ground!
If you want to try higher, take an additional elevator up another 33 stories to Sky Pod, where you can see a 360 degree view of Toronto from 1465 feet (447m) above the ground. Speaking of 360 degree views, the tower also has a revolving restaurant called 360, featuring the world’s highest wine cellar and an unforgettable romantic setting.
For the even more daring, the tower has recently started offering EdgeWalk, the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk, on a 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide ledge that encircles the Tower’s main pod, over 1168ft (356m and 116 stories) above the ground.
By far the most remote of our chosen skywalks, located over 1,323km (800 miles) from Shanghai and 1,012km (628 miles) from Guangzhou, the Skywalk on Tianmen Mountain is also unique in the astonishing height at which it was built, while also being built onto a natural object.
The pathway, which runs alongside the Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, suspends the visitor 1,430 meters high in the air, providing amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the nature of Hunan Province.
A fun fact about this Skywalk: visitors are required to wear sock booties because they have been unable to find workers willing to clean the glass floor at this height!
￼The Shanghai World Financial Center (or SWFC) is a mixed-use building located in the Pudong district on the east side of the Huangpu River. In addition to containing a hotel, offices, and conference rooms, the SWFC contains three great lookout spots, including the world’s highest observation deck.
Sky Arena 94, located 423 meters above street level, provides a regal room for special events, while Sky Walk 97 is a viewing area 439meters above the ground floor. The true gem of the building is Sky Walk 100, which at 474 meters above the ground, is the world’s highest observatory and surrounds visitors with glass on 3 sides.
Any vantage point provides visitors with a great view of The Bund, the Oriental Pearl Television Tower, and the former highest building in Shanghai, the Jin Mao Building.
Unlike our other two natural skywalks, the Top of Tyrol doesn’t have a glass floor; however, the weather-resistant steel caged floor of the platform means visitors can see directly below them all 10,500 feet to the ground.
The platform, which was designed by Aste Architecture, is on the Great Isidor in the middle of the Stubai Glacier, providing a panoramic view of over 3,000 meters, with sights including the Ötztal Valley, the Stubai Alps, and the Dolomites.
While it’s rarely accessible in wintertime, you can visit the Top of Tyrol almost anytime during the summer months. In fact, there is even a yoga workshop being held on the platform this month!
While these skywalks are the best for looking at your feet and also getting a terrifying look at the ground below, there are a few other notable spots that may lack the direct view down, but still provide a great panoramic view out.
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates is the tallest man-made structure in the world, and also has the world’s 2nd highest outdoor observation deck on its 122nd floor.
In December 2011, it was surpassed by the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, whose rooftop observation deck is at 488m (1,601 feet) above the ground, making it the highest and largest outdoor observation deck in the world.
For those preferring the natural route, Kjeragbolten is an enormous boulder wedged in a mountain crevice of the Kjerag, giving visitors an expansive view of Lysefjord, Forsand in Norway.
Lastly, the quirky heights-enthusiast may enjoy the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest ferris wheel.
Whether you prefer nature or manmade, we’re sure any of these options will give you an adrenaline rush you’ll never to forget.
This article is part of our "Summer 2012" series. Want to read more?
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