If you’re afraid of heights, then you’ll be well aware of the variety of scenarios that can trigger your fear. Oftentimes, we might find ourselves evaluating ahead of time whether we’ll feel comfortable in a certain situation. This is certainly true when planning a trip. While those around us might be thinking in terms of beautiful views or exhilarating experiences, you might instead by wondering how you’ll cope in high places.
In this list, we’ll run down some tourist destinations which may not be suitable for people with severe acrophobia. In some cases, this may be a matter of adapting your trip to help you to feel more comfortable, while in other instances, you may prefer to steer clear altogether. Let’s check it out!
1. Gulongxia Scenic Area, China
We’re starting off at southern China’s Gulongxia Scenic Area, which is around an hour from the city of Guangzhou. Travellers to this destination enjoy breath-taking views over the Gulong Canyon and its waterfalls. Though you may not have heard of it before, you might have come across social media posts from the area such as the one featured below.
Reaching the top of the infamous ‘Buddha hand’ looks pretty frightening in the video above. It’s worth noting, though, that the choice of angles is somewhat deceptive, making it appear a more intrepid climb than it really is. In reality, you only need to ascend around 15 steps, and there’s safety netting below to protect you in the unlikely event that you take a tumble.
Gulongxia has yet more in store, as there’s also a 72-metre long glass bridge leading to a glass platform overlooking the falls. It’s safe to say that this place wasn’t designed for the faint of heart!
2. Kjeragbolten, Norway
Another destination that’s become popular in the age of Instagram is Kjeragbolten in Norway. In contrast to the previous entry on the list, though, this one is completely natural—and possibly even more terrifying. It’s a boulder suspended between two cliffs, with the Lysefjord below visible.
Once again, angles make this one look a bit scarier than it is. From the photo above, you might think that you need to lower yourself onto the boulder from the surrounding rock, which isn’t the case. Nonetheless, once you’re on Kjeragbolten itself, you really are stood just above a sheer 984-metre drop. Plus, while you won’t need to do any proper rock climbing to get up there, the hike can be fairly strenuous, with sections of slippery ground and narrow paths.
Also in the vicinity is another popular photo-snapping spot: Preikestolen. Hike up here, and you’ll reach a distinctive flat-topped ledge jutting out over the same fjord, rewarding you with picturesque scenery. The route is less difficult than the one taken to reach Kjeragbolten, so this may be a better choice if you’re a less confident climber.
3. Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
Perhaps the defining landmark of the American West, the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in the USA. In fact, it attracts 5.9 million visitors each year according to the Department of the Interior. We’re willing to bet that a fair number of those heading in that direction have a fear of heights, despite the fact that the canyon is more than a mile deep in some parts.
We wouldn’t recommend all of its trails to visitors with acrophobia, with some being very steep and unmaintained. Nonetheless, some of the easier Grand Canyon hikes, such as the Rim Trail, offer the opportunity to explore the national park along good-quality paths with fairly easy inclines. Alternatively, you could attempt a slightly steeper option, such as the Bright Angel trail attempted in the video below.
4. Step into the Void, Aiguille du Midi, France
Sticking with natural landmarks, but travelling to the other side of the Atlantic, we arrive in the French Alps. Just a short distance from the range’s most famous peak, Mont Blanc, lies the mountain Aiguille du Midi—roughly translating as ‘the midday needle’.
There are around 20 peaks in the Mont Blanc massif that are larger than the Aiguille du Midi. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most popular destinations in the area, thanks in no small part to the direct cable car that links it to the ski resort of Chamonix. If you have acrophobia, the prospect of this trip may be intimidating on its own, with an ascent of more than 2.8 kilometres. According to Chamonix’s tourism website, that’s the highest vertical ascent of any cable car in the world.
Those who do take the journey up will get 360-degree views over the Alps, with the chance to grab some incredible photos of the nearby Mont Blanc. You’ll also get to see ‘the world’s highest museum’, which is dedicated to the history of mountaineering.
However, acrophobes may prefer to avoid the Step into the Void part of the attraction. This consists of a glass-panelled viewing box suspended 1,000 metres above the ground. Go for it if you’re feeling daring!
5. Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia
If you’ve checked any of your social media feeds recently, you might well have come across a clip from the Instagram post below:
The video itself looks almost unreal. At the very least, it appears to be incredibly dangerous. It features creator Amairis Rose seeming to dangle over the edge of one of the world’s largest waterfalls: Victoria Falls. If you have a fear of heights, it might be enough to send shivers down your spine. News articles have even been written about the seemingly death-defying stunt. But how is she doing it—and could you really survive?
The answer is that there’s a natural feature of the falls that makes it possible to swim there (relatively) safely at certain times. It’s known as the Devil’s Pool, or alternatively as the Armchair. One local tourism guide notes that, while they used to warn tourists against the swim, they now feel that it is safe enough to take tourists there, provided that the water level is low enough. Despite this, no one would judge you if you didn’t feel comfortable braving the waters!
6. Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
We’re staying in the water for our sixth entry on this list, but this time we’re going with a man-made attraction: the infinity pool at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands hotel. It’s the world’s largest rooftop pool of its kind, and provides you with the ability to look down over the skyline of one of the world’s great cities.
Entry to the pool is restricted to hotel guests, and with rooms starting at S$599 (≈£370) per night, this is certainly one of the most exclusive experiences featured here. You can, however, check out a virtual 360° view via the Marina Bay Sands website. You’ll be able to see the illusion of a seemingly edgeless pool suspended above Singapore. In reality, of course, you’re perfectly safe—but it’s easy to see why this kind of pool can trigger vertigo on first glance!
7. Mount Hua, China
As we reach the halfway point in our list, it might be time for a relaxing cup of tea. However, we wouldn’t recommend that anyone with a fear of heights gets their chai fix from the teahouse at the top of China’s Mount Hua.
Undoubtedly one of our most extreme picks, Mount Hua, or Huashan, has been described by Slate as the “home of the world’s scariest cup of tea”. Why is it so harrowing, you may ask? Well, take a look at the video below for a good idea as to what you can expect.
First off, you’ll have to ascend steep stairs carved directly into the mountain, which often come without any supports or handrails to help you maintain your balance. From here on out things only get more difficult, with some parts of the journey up consisting of notches in the rockface. The most infamous section, however, has to be the Chang Kong Cliff Walk, which sees you traversing planks of wood and narrow pathways along the rock. Though you’re required to wear safety equipment, the sense of terror is definitely real.
8. Donnerkogel, Austria
The next destination in our list is in another mountainous location—and it’s also at the more extreme end of the spectrum. Here, we’re checking out the Donnerkogel peak in the Austrian Alps.
We’ve discussed climbing a via ferrata with acrophobia on this blog before, so it won’t come as too much of a surprise for regular readers to see us featuring the Donnerkogel here. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, though, a via ferrata is a type of climbing route that includes anchors in the rock such as rungs, rails and chains. These help to make the ascent easier, but they can still prove a fearsome experience.
Donnerkogel is one of the classic examples of a via ferrata, featuring a 40-metre-long ladder suspended over a gorge that’s been nicknamed the ‘stairway to heaven’. Though this is undoubtedly the most well-known part of the route, hikers on AllTrails note that it isn’t the most technically difficult part, with the climb also requiring some scrambling. If you don’t fancy taking it on for real, you can check out the experience in the video above.
9. Blackpool Tower, UK
Surprised to see Blackpool Tower making the list? Lancashire’s answer to the Eiffel Tower might only come in at around half the size of the Parisian original, but it still provides sweeping views stretching as far afield as the Lake District and the Isle of Man.
If you have acrophobia, the prospect of ascending to the top of the tower may be daunting. One particular aspect that may cause you to think twice, however, is the SkyWalk section of the Blackpool Tower Eye observation deck. Formerly known as the ‘Walk of Faith’, this part of the tower features five-centimetre-thick glass floors, allowing you to peer at the town’s famous promenade from above.
10. Eiffel Tower, France
We couldn’t include Blackpool and leave out the OG! The Eiffel Tower was first built to celebrate the 1889 Exposition Universelle and the one-hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution. Today, the tower remains an icon of engineering and the defining symbol of the city of Paris.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why acrophobes may be torn on whether to visit. At the time it was built, it was the world’s tallest man-made structure, and while it’s since been overtaken, the top floor is still a dizzying 276 metres from the ground. (The current record holder is also on this list, so stay tuned!)
If you’re feeling up to the challenge, then you can climb the stairs up to the second floor of the tower, which is 115 metres high. Alternatively, you can simply take the lift up—this is the only way you can get to the third and highest floor. Many sections of the tower are enclosed by a steel mesh, including the upper level of the third floor. This does impact the view somewhat, but should also help to allay some of your fears. Other parts of the tower, including the upper level of the second floor, are protected by railings instead.
11. Edge, New York, USA
Next up, we’re focusing on another building known for its observation decks. Instead of an Old World classic, though, we’re heading to one of the Big Apple’s newest tourist spots: Edge. Located at 30 Hudson Yards, it claims to be the “highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere”.
The key attraction at Edge is the triangle-shaped viewing platform that projects out from the building’s one-hundredth floor. Its apex provides you the opportunity to get a photo with a near-uninterrupted view of the New York skyline. While the height might get your pulse racing a little, you can rest easy in the knowledge that the entire floor is surrounded by panes of glass, offering spectacular views while minimising any risks.
If you really feel like pushing yourself to the limit, though, there’s also the option to try out City Climb. This sees you climb an outdoor staircase to reach the top of the building. While you’re protected by a harness and jumpsuit, there’s no barrier here—and you can even lean out over the edge. See for yourself in the video below!
12. Langkawi Sky Bridge, Malaysia
The island of Langkawi‘s lush, green mountains and white sand beaches have made it one of the must-visit spots in Malaysia. For an opportunity to gaze over the landscape like never before, head to the Sky Bridge, which advertises itself as the ‘world’s longest curved bridge’.
Getting to the Sky Bridge itself involves taking a cable car up to a platform on the Gunung Mat Chinchang mountain—a journey which may itself be a bit off-putting to those suffering from acrophobia! From here, you then need to travel back downhill to reach the bridge itself. You can either walk down a steep path, or take the SkyGlide: think somewhere between a lift and a funicular.
Though the bridge itself isn’t too scary, it is suspended above a valley at an elevation of around 660 metres. It can also sway slightly in high winds, which might make you feel a little off your balance. Some sections also feature glass flooring, so if you don’t fancy looking straight down, avoid these!
13. Interlaken, Switzerland
A departure from some of the other entries on this list, we’re featuring the Swiss resort of Interlaken not so much for a particular attraction but for the activities it’s famous for. On its official tourism website, the town describes itself as “Europe’s number one destination for adventure sports”. If you have a fear of heights, you might break into a cold sweat simply checking out the list of options, which include:
- Bungee jumping
- Canyon swinging
- Hang gliding
- Treetop adventure courses
If jumping from every conceivable place isn’t quite your thing, you might be wondering if it’s possible to simply enjoy the beauty of the Swiss Alps in a more sedate manner. Don’t worry: Interlaken is very much a choose-your-own-adventure kind of destination. You’re welcome to keep your feet firmly on the ground should you wish!
14. Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates
Bringing our roundup to a close is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. We couldn’t complete a list of tourist destinations to avoid if you have a fear of heights and not include the world’s tallest building, after all!
In comparison to some of the other places featured on this list, though, you might actually find this to be one of the less frightening options. Yes, there are two observation decks to visit here: the original At the Top deck on the 124th floor, and the newer SKY level on the 148th floor. However, while you can go outside, the space is still relatively enclosed. Plus, there’s also the promise of complimentary signature refreshments to keep your mind from remembering that you’re 555 metres from the ground!
That’s all for our roundup! Of course, there are plenty of other locations that could trigger your fear—after all, it’s even possible to feel acrophobia in space! Do you agree with our picks, or would you have no trouble visiting the destinations listed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!