Six of the best scenic flights

MILFORD SOUND, SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

It's one thing to drive to, and cruise around, the magnificent Milford Sound; it's quite another to soar over the dazzling snow-topped Alps, the glittering glaciers and around the thundering waterfalls with a scenic flight. How much more special to gaze down on those peaks, knowing it's a view that few others have ever glimpsed – and without the agony of climbing there? The pilot also routinely points out the masses of fur seals, penguins and pods of dolphins. The two-hour Cessna Caravan return trip from Queenstown, with a two-hour stopover in Milford is $NZ465 for an adult, $275 for a child. Phone +64 3442 2351, see airmilford.co.nz

THE BUNGLE BUNGLES, KIMBERLEY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

It's hard to appreciate the sheer size and majesty of the Kimberley outback unless you're in a helicopter – without a door – looking out over it as far as the eye can see. This is one of my favourite flights in the world, and with good reason. As well as those famous beehive-shaped striped ochre rock domes, with an area nearly 100 times that of Uluru, there's also the dramatic escarpments of the Picaninny​ Gorge, the wandering creek bed, the glorious Purnululu National Park and the fabulous absence of roads. And while it takes a good few minutes to get used to the lack of a door, it's so much better for photos. A 30-minute flight April-October costs $399 a person (minimum two people) from Purnululu, while there are shorter and longer flights and from other locations, such as Kununurra, Warmun and Lake Argyle. Phone (08) 9168 7335, seehelispirit.com.au

ANTARCTICA

We have the only day flight in the world that circles over the chilliest, most remote and hardest-to-get-to continent on earth, offering all the glorious sights without any need for thermals, weeks on a ship and seasickness pills. Antarctica Flights charters a Qantas jumbo for four 13-hour scenic flights a year, complete with seat changes to maximise the views, documentaries about the frozen wastelands, expert lecturers on board and live crosses to research stations. Flights depart from Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and Perth and cost between $1199 and $7999, depending on class and view. Ph 1800 633 449, see antarcticaflights.com.au

THE NAZCA LINES, PERU

The mind-boggling scale and detailed intricacies of the massive drawings of animals, birds, insects and abstract shapes scorched into the desert four hours south of the Peruvian capital Lima can only really be appreciated from the air. This was the inspiration for Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods? which purported the lines, dated to 200BC, were put there by visitors from outer space. Somehow, up in the air looking down on the World Heritage site, it's so stunning, you can understand his mad rhetoric. Add it on to a three-day trip from Lima starting at $620 with Chimu Adventures (phone 1300 470 130, see chimuadventures.com). Alternately, a 35-minute Cessna 206 flight is $US102, with a pick-up from any Nazca hotel (good to take a ginger travel calming pill beforehand); phone +51-975-612-550, see NazcaFlights.com

MASAI MARA, KENYA

Drift in a hot air balloon over one of Africa's most spectacular wildlife parks, looking out for lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo – totally undisturbed by your flight. The quiet and stillness are a joy when compared with other ways of viewing the locals, and the balloon flies at treetop height, or lower, finishing off with a champagne breakfast cooked in the bush wherever you land. The ride is an easy, and must-do, inclusion of many trips through Kenya. Bench Africa's eight-day Kenya Highlights package, including a one-hour balloon ride, costs $3995 a person (not including international flights). Phone 1300 237 422, see benchafrica.com.au

CRYSTAL AIR CRUISE, THE WORLD

And for the ultimate scenic flight … This fabulously fitted-out luxury private jet, described by Traveller editor Anthony Dennis as an airborne palace, offers a series of bespoke individual journeys or some showcase trips, like their 10-day "Resort to Renaissance air cruise". Departing Hong Kong, this one stops on an island on the Maldives for some scuba adventure and relaxation, then the deserts of Abu Dhabi for dune-bashing and high-speed racing at Ferrari World, and finally in Rome for some sight-seeing, including the Vatican, Colosseum and Trevi Fountain, before returning to Hong Kong. A snip at just $US28,000 a person twin-share, and $US30,000 a single. See CrystalAirCruises.com

Comments