Aerial photography is not particularly easy to do. For one thing, you’re generally going to be in a moving airplane with crappy windows, or you’re going to be in a choppy helicopter. Considering the cost of plane and helicopter fuel (if you have your own), this also makes waiting around for better lighting somewhat less of an option. So to get a good aerial shot, you need to plan to be in the sky at the right time, know how to avoid window reflection, and be able to take the photo at a quick enough shutter speed that the motion of the airplane doesn’t make the image blurry.

For these reasons, an incredible aerial shot is that much more impressive than an incredible shot taken on land. Naturally, one of the favorite subjects for aerial photography are famous places and landmarks, and, unsurprisingly, they can turn out pretty awesome.


Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming, USA

The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of Yellowstone’s most popular attractions. The color is caused by bacteria that grow around the edge of the hot spring.


Niagara Falls

Straddling the US-Canadian border, Niagara plunges over 165 vertical feet, which gives it the highest flow rate in the world.


Central Park, New York City, USA

This picture perfectly demonstrates just how huge Central Park is, especially in such a densely packed city. Its real-estate value has been appraised at $528.7 billion dollars. Not that it ever will (or should) be sold.


Barcelona, Spain

My first thought looking at this was, “Holy crap, Barcelona is a well-planned city.”


Bac Son Valley, Vietnam

A rural area in Vietnam's northeast, this lowland is a heavenly quilt of rice paddies.


Marina Bay, Dubai

Another manmade concoction of the Dubai government, the marina will eventually host over 120,000 residents along its canals.


Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

The Na Pali Coast is on the oldest inhabited Hawaiian Island, Kauai.


Paris, France

My guess is you could take hundreds of incredible aerial photographs of Paris, but I love this one for showing just how thick of a vein the Champs-Élysées cuts through the city.


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gorgeous Rio will be in the news a lot in the coming two years: This year, it’s hosting the World Cup, and in 2016, it’s hosting the Summer Olympics.


Seattle, Washington, USA

An absolutely incredible shot of Seattle, clouds and all.


The Bungle Bungles, Purnululu National Park, Australia

The Bungle Bungles are made up of sedimentary rock and have been slowly formed over the last 350 million years.


Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver is consistently called one of the most livable cities in the world, and this picture shows at least some of the reasons why.


Yankee Stadium, New York City, USA

I hate the Yankees, and I hope he chokes on that throw, but, God, this is an awesome picture.


The “Tree of Life,” Tsavo National Park, Kenya

This acacia tree is situated in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. The lines leading to and from it are likely paths beaten by animals seeking its shade or food from its leaves.


Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Sydney’s most famous beach, Bondi Beach, was the location of the 2000 Summer Olympics Volleyball Championships.


Bern, Switzerland

This is a shot of Bern’s Old City, within Switzerland’s capital.


Roman Colosseum, Italy

Now here's a scene you don't see every day—the Colosseum from above while under a blanket of snow.


San Francisco, CA

Neat and tidy rows upon rows of pricey homes.


Mount Everest

A majestic swirl of glaciers and snowfields surrounds the world's highest peak.


Longleat Maze, England

Redefining the term "English garden," the complexity of Longleat Maze can only be fully appreciated from above.


London, England (The City)

London's financial district is all aglow, featuring "the Gherkin" building.


Golden Gate Bridge, California

The Golden Gate Bridge and fog—two enduring San Francisco institutions.


Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Ahhh, translucent turquoise water and perfect symmetry.


Amazon River

This is just a slice of the second (or first, depending on who you ask) longest river in the world.


The Pyramids at Giza, Egypt

One thing you never quite get a sense of by looking at people’s pictures of the Pyramids is just how close the city of Cairo presses up around them. If you look at the center left of the picture—right beneath the meandering road that leads into the Pyramids, you can see the Great Sphinx, too.


Turin, Italy

Set in the Alps, Turin remains one of Italy’s most beautiful cities—and that’s a list with a lot of competition.


Maelifell Volcano, Iceland

The Maelifell Volcano sits at the edge of the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier in southern Iceland.


Shanghai, China

Shanghai is the world’s largest city proper with 24 million people. You can see why. Another note: Though this picture looks a bit old, you’ll notice the Shanghai World Financial Center among the towers in the Pudong skyline (it looks like a can opener). This means the picture was taken no earlier than 2008. The picture looks old because of smog.


Grand Canyon, Arizona

A fresh perspective on the much-photographed chasm.


Mexico City, Mexico

Another incredible picture of urban sprawl: Mexico City is the Western Hemisphere’s largest metropolitan area, stretching out over 573 square miles.


Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Yes, those islands are fake, and yes, that one archipelago is designed to look like the globe.


Mogadishu, Somalia

The Somali civil war that’s been centered in Mogadishu is now in its third decade.


Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana

A wild shot, but the wildest thing is there are people living on those tiny strands of land!


Moscow, Russia

Hey guys, do you think it’s cold in Moscow?


Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The world's largest living organism sprawls beneath shallow waters.


Vatican City

The tiny city-state in the heart of Rome stretches over only 110 acres and is home to only 839 people. It’s also worth about $15 billion.


Rice terraces, China

These ancient, man-made rice terraces are fairly common throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam, China, and the Philippines.


Sydney, Australia

The fish-eye effect should be used more frequently for aerial photos. Also, I should spend more time in Sydney.


Male, Maldives

Even if we have just a modest rise in ocean level, we can expect most of the Maldives to end up underwater. To highlight the threat to his country by global warming, the President of the Maldives once held a cabinet meeting underwater.


Tulip fields, Spoorbuurt, Holland

The famously photogenic tulip fields in Holland are still incredibly photogenic from above.


The Acropolis of Athens, Greece

The Acropolis in Athens dates back to the 5th century BC. It was initially situated on the edge of the town of Athens.


Chicago, USA

Chicago’s skyline looks like the spine of a dragon on the edge of Lake Michigan. And keep in mind, the black tower to the right, the Willis Tower, is the eighth-tallest building in the world.


Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

One of Vietnam’s most popular (and beautiful) tourist destinations, Ha Long Bay has been inhabited by humans for at least 18,000 years.


Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This picture is of the canals within the Singelgracht. They were built in the 17th century, and they're a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Cape Town, South Africa

I would be shocked to find out there’s ever been a picture taken of Cape Town that wasn’t beautiful. You can see the famous Table Mountain in the background.


Venice, Italy

The entire city of Venice is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to the fact that it’s absolutely stunning and, you know, has canals instead of roads.