If you have a head for heights but no mountaineering skills, then these lifts, cable cars and trains hoist you to some of the planet's highest places.
Qingzang Railway, Tibet, China
The Qinghai-Tibet is world's highest railway line, running for 1956 kilometres between Xining and Lhasa and hitting its highest point at 5072 metres. The world's highest station, Tanggula, sits at 5068 metres below a glacier. Pressurised train carriages are topped up with oxygen for the comfort of passengers as they gaze out at outsized mountains, glacial rivers and herds of yaks. See chinatibettrain.com
Jungfrau Railway, Interlaken, Switzerland
The red train to the Jungfrau opened in 1912. It runs past cow-chewed meadows and waterfalls towards snowy peaks, bores through tunnels in the Eiger's north face, and deposits you at Europe's highest train station at 3454 metres. You get a panorama of Alps and views all the way to Germany. A new part-way Eiger Express cable car from Grindelwald now shortens the journey. See jungfrau.ch
Burj Khalifa elevators, Dubai, UAE
The world's tallest lift descends well over two kilometres into a South African mine, but tourists will have to make do with those in the 830-metre Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. The longest elevator runs 140 floors and rises at 10 metres per second allowing you to visit the world's highest observation deck (555 metres) with no strain on your lungs. See burjkhalifa.ae
Peak 2 Peak Gondola, Whistler, Canada
Although this gondola doesn't reach impressive heights, it provides the world's biggest drop at the point where it crosses a creek, 436 metres below. For a while it was the world's longest free span between supporting towers at just over three kilometres. It connects Whistler to twin ski area Blackcomb in 11 minutes and provides staggering views over mountains, glaciers and coastal rainforest. See whistlerblackcomb.com
Imperial Express, Breckenridge, USA
North America's highest chairlift is short (three minutes) but rises to 3914 metres just beneath Peak 8 at this Colorado ski resort. Rug up, since Breckenridge is cold and windy and this lift is particularly exposed above the tree line. Wind often shuts it down. You get a banging Rocky Mountains panorama but face tough skiing on the way down, with most runs rated double-black diamond. See breckenridge.com
Central Andean Railway, Peru
The world's second-highest railway line, built for mining but now also running tourist trains, leads through sumptuous Andean scenery between capital Lima and Huancayo in the central highlands. The corkscrew track will make you dizzy. The 13-hour journey involves 66 tunnels and 59 bridges and tops out at 4782 metres. Coca tea, a stimulant said to combat altitude sickness, is in free flow. See ferrocarrilcentral.com.pe
Main Gondola, Gulmarg, India
Gulmarg in the Himalayas is the world's highest ski resort, and no ski lift gets you higher than 3980 metres. Skiers can opt to chicken out at the halfway station and use groomed slopes; skiing from the summit requires tackling wall-like, ungroomed runs that plunge 930 metres. Non-skiers can simply admire the views over Kashmir and towards Naga Parbat, an 8126-metre peak. See skigulmarg.com
Bailong Elevator, Zhangjiajie, China
This glass double-decker lift rises 326 metres up a cliff, making it the world's tallest outdoor elevator and reducing the effort of getting to the summit viewpoint from a multi-hour hike to just under two minutes as magnificent scenery rises around you. Its operates amid a World Heritage-listed scenic area of spectacular pine-clad outcrops of rock straight from a Chinese scroll painting. See zjjnfp.com
Cog Railway, Pikes Peak, USA
A 3.5-hour return train ride takes you up this 4302-metre Colorado peak wedged among dozens of others in the Rocky Mountains. This has been the world's highest and longest cog railway since 1891 – but don't fret, tracks have been reconstructed, trains renewed and the whole thing was reopened in 2021 after a US$100 million refurbishment. A super-sustainable new visitor centre sits at the summit. See cograilway.com
Merida Cable Car, Venezuela
Travel to Venezuela isn't currently advised, but this deserves a mention because no other machinery other than a train gets you higher than this recently rebuilt series of four cable cars from Merida to Pico Espejo at 4756 metres. It has outlooks to Venezuela's highest mountain whose summit is only 222 metres higher than the viewing platform. The final section travels 3.5 kilometres between support towers, also a world record.
Brian Johnston has travelled as a guest of numerous tourism offices and travel companies.