There’s just something about getting a view from up high… I can’t seem to think of one word that describes how it makes me feel.
I feel welcomed by the country, humbled, in awe, excited to explore…
It’s my favorite thing in the whole world to do when I get somewhere new! Where can I get an EPIC view?!
Unfortunately, my Africa and Middle East travels are lackin! It’s been so long since I’ve visited both of these areas of the world.
Not on purpose, it’s just that my list is so big, and I hate to rush things…
So here are just SOME of Africa and the MIddle East’s most epic viewpoints that are certainly inspiring me to grab a plane ticket and go! What about you?
Africa and The Middle East’s Most Epic Viewpoints
De Vasselot Nature Reserve in Nature’s Valley, South Africa
The Garden Route is one of the most gorgeous drives in South Africa. It’s a 300km section of road filled with lush greenery and sweeping views. When driving from Cape Town, after passing Plettenberg Bay and just before the Eastern Cape border, lies the small village of Nature’s Valley. It’s best known for its warm water, white sand beaches and a hotspot for the more off the beaten path holiday maker. If you’re a hiker, this place is heaven on earth and it’s also the end point for the infamous Otter Trail, a 5 day, 44km hike. This photo was taken from the top of the De Vasselot Nature Reserve after an intermediate hike through proteas and other fynbos overlooking the Tsitsikamma Mountain range. Best place to start is at De Vasselot campsite, cross the road and start walking. You can then either trek back or continue ending up at the Nature’s Valley Information Center, where you can have a pizza.
Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda
My dad and I visited Lake Bunyonyi during our backpacking trip in Uganda. On our hike to the Arcadia Lodge (where we wanted to drink some fresh juice with views over the lake), we encountered this amazing view which we could admire for hours. We especially loved the different sizes and shapes of the green islands. Some islands in the distance were covered in mysterious clouds. Locals were crossing the lake with a dug-out canoe while birds were whistling in the distance. Did you know Lake Bunyonyi is home to over 200 species of birds? The lake is situated in the southwestern corner of the country and easily accessible from the capital Kampala. We took the night bus from Kampala to Kabale with Trinity Express.
Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
We were at the beginning of a 6 week trip in Africa and embarking on our first safari of the trip in Tanzania. As we ascended to the rim of the Ngorongoro crater we came to this viewpoint overlooking the world’s largest volcanic caldera: a huge valley teeming with wildlife. Our excitement to be at one of Africa’s greatest attractions was heightened as we looked out at the green vista views of the valley below. As we descended into the crater, we started snapping photos of all of the animals we started seeing: zebras, buffalo and wildebeests. We needn’t to have started taking photos yet because once we started exploring the caldera floor we were able to get up close and person with Africa’s big five animals.
Fish River Canyon in Namibia
Recently we spent three weeks on an overland safari across Namibia, and one of the places I liked best was definitely the Fish River Canyon, the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon! We visited the Fish River Canyon at sunrise and there was nobody else there – the canyon is quite remote, close to the southern border with South Africa, and as a result not many people visit. There are three main viewpoints over the canyon – this picture was taken from the main viewpoint in the center, but you can also walk between the viewpoints following the rim of the canyon and enjoy spectacular views throughout. You can also hike along the canyon, a really wild 5 day hike camping the whole way. I really want to go back to Namibia to do it!
Situated just an hour north of Addis Ababa by plane, lies one of Ethiopia’s prized jewels: the ancient town of Lalibela. Seemingly frozen in time, Lalibela and its famous rock-hewn churches remain relatively untouched, continuing to draw curious travellers off the beaten path. Interestingly, Lalibela was once known as “Rhoha” which translates to ‘paradise in the mountains’. As you can see, the pristine and rugged beauty of Lalibela’s landscapes truly lives up to this name, yielding heavenly panoramic views of craggy mountain tops and dusty canyons below. Learn about the town’s 11th-century origins, sip on Ethiopia’s decadent coffee while taking in the scenery, practice your photography, or embark on a mountain trek to get a closer glimpse; either way, there is something for everyone in Lalibela, Ethiopia!
Bab Ftouh, Marrakech, Morocco
Jemaa El Fnaa is the lifeblood of the Marrakech Medina. Early in the morning orange juice vendors arrive, serving the best juice in the world for a pittance, while tour groups use it as a pick-up point for vehicles that can’t fit in the tiny derbs.
Later dancing cobras and monkeys infiltrate the square, only to be usurped themselves by hundreds of stalls each selling the “best food in the Medina”. Lights blaze from the stalls and mingle with brazier smoke, filling the night sky with an exotic glow. With the sinking sun, the orange buildings shine, a sign that it is time to claim a table on the balcony of Café Terrasse Bab Ftouh. Not only is this a great vantage point, but the café has decent food, cold drinks and honest prices.
Patches of light appear in the now black square, circled by locals keen to hear Berber stories, musicians and entertainers. The chance to alternate between watching from above and mingling below in this age-old square of Marrakech is irresistible.
Olumo Rock in Nigeria
Olumo Rock is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nigeria, West Africa. Located in Abeokuta which literally means “under rock”. Olumo Rock was a former fortress that shielded the villagers during the many inter-tribal wars of past. The vantage point meant that they could easily see their enemies, thus they enjoyed many victories. The climb up is very precarious as there are no guard rails and the ground very slippery, often requiring crawling, but once up there, the view is spectacular. The red roofs of the city and the river that snakes along it make a really enjoyable hike. The elders that used to guard the rock have long died off, but the burial ground of the last elder can be seen at the top. The fertile land around the rock used to produce healing waters, but that too has since dried up. Olumo Rock is definitely an amazing piece of Yoruba tribal history.
Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
The views don’t get much better in Cape Town than on top of the iconic Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain 3558 feet above sea level. To get to the top visitors have two options, to hike or to take the cable car. Hiking is certainly the more active and cheaper of the two options, but the Table Mountain cable car is one of the most popular things to do in the city. Once at the top visitors can sit back and enjoy the views, hike around, grab a coffee at their mountain cafe, or try their hand at abseiling. For the best photos, I recommend going up Table Mountain before sunrise or just before sunset.
Manchewe Falls, Malawi
The impressive Manchewe Waterfalls are the highest in Malawi, at 125m topping Victoria Falls. The Livingstonia area is all about the views with Manchewe Falls and Lake Malawi being the most spectacular. The viewpoint over the falls is located about an hour’s walk from Livingstonia. There is a small winding bush path that leads to Kazichi cave behind the waterfall, allowing for an amazing shower and more glorious views through a curtain of water. The local Phoka people used to hide from attacks and slave traders here, behind the waterfall.
NamibRand National Park, Namibia
Flying over the NamibRand National Park on a hot air balloon, is an impressive experience. The Naukluft section of the park is made up of high, isolated rocky red granite outcrops that sprout suddenly from the otherwise flat surroundings. The outcrops are rich in feldspars, crystallized from magma, and sandstone, sand-sized minerals and rocks. The Namib desert, UNESCO listed since 2013, is arguably the oldest in the world and said to contain the tallest sand dunes, some towering above 300m. The dunes extend like a sea of sand for over 50km into the Atlantic Ocean and are easily recognizable by their orange, red and pink hues coming from the red oxidized iron in the sand. The brighter the color the older the dune.
(Please note I am not trying to be 100% geographically correct with my separations of these regions and countries… Nobody would agree on the same thing anyway! I simply found it to be easier to split them as I have done so.)
Makhtesh Ramon Crater in Israel
When most people flock to Israel, they spend their time exploring the spiritual city of Jerusalem, floating in the dead sea, and partying it up in Tel Aviv. While all of these places are amazing (and should not be missed), you should definitely make your way into the Negev desert to check out the massive Makhtesh Ramon crater. It’s like the Israeli version of the Grand Canyon, and all you need to do is drive to this epic viewpoint! It really is amazing to stand on the edge, and look out at this magnificent site!
Wadi Bani Awf in Oman
In March 2017 I visited Oman, an unknown destination to many. This peaceful country in the Middle East not only has an incredibly friendly population, there is also amazing scenery to be found! Many people think Oman is just one big desert, but they are very wrong… Yes, there is desert, but there are also crystal-clear wadi pools, deserted beaches, lush forest in the southern area around Salalah and remarkable mountain views.
One of my favorite things about Oman were the many off-road routes. With our 4×4 jeep we spent two weeks exploring the Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhdar mountain ranges. Wild camping is legal in Oman and we camped at beautiful deserted spots under billions of stars.
But the milky way wasn’t the only spectacular view, one of my favorite Oman pictures is the one I took while driving an adventurous off-road trail through Wadi Bani Awf. The drive was nothing short of spectacular, the narrow road winded up and up and up and the views got better and better. A word of advice: this off-road track takes a couple of hours, make sure you have enough water and petrol!
Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates
I had visited Burj Khalifa in April this year. After exploring the ground level of Dubai for almost 2 weeks, I finally decided to climb its tallest building, the tallest in the world actually, which measures exactly 826 meters, for the most breathtaking view. We reached floor 124 with an extremely fast elevator (10 m/ second). Although I previously visited very tall buildings (Empire State Building, Willis Tower), the view at the top of Burj Khalifa had a huge impact on me. Floors 124 and 125 are connected through stairs, so we were able to enjoy a 360-degree panorama of Dubai on both of them. We easily saw the other impressive towers of the city, the famous Burj al Arab hotel, the sea, but also the dancing fountains at the base of the building, which seemed huge from the ground and extremely small from this height. In fact, everything around looked like a lego game, and the whole panorama seemed surreal. It is definitely a unique experience that I recommend to anyone visiting the United Arab Emirates.
The Mountain Retreat of Abyaneh, Iran
Set 2,500m up in the Zagros mountains, the hillside village of Abyaneh is a literally a breath of fresh air. Escaping the scorching July heat from the dusty plains of Kashan and Natanz north of Isfahan, the road to Abyaneh is long, winding, and holds some of the most stunning mountain views in Iran. Even in sweltering summer, it would be easy to believe you’d left Iran and been dropped into an alpine valley.
Visiting Abyaneh is also like stepping back in time. This sleepy mountain village is remote and locals still speak a Persian dialect that is based on the language from several hundred years ago – dubbed “Middle Persian”.The village is over 1500 years old. Here life moves at a slow pace, and aside from domestic tourism, the main business is selling dried fruits.
Alamut Valley in Iran
In the Alamut Valley of Iran lie remnants of the “Castles of the Assassins”, ancient fortresses once occupied by Shia Ismaili Muslims between the 11th and 13th centuries AD. The Alamut Castle is the most famous of the fortresses, sitting high atop some bizarre rock formations overlooking the valley. Not much is left of the ancient castle, but the views from the assassins’ mountaintop real estate are just as stunning as they were a millennia ago!
Spring or fall is the best time to visit the valley, as colors will be at their most vibrant and you’ll meet handfuls of friendly Iranians en route. The perfectly positioned castle ruins can be reached by car (or a lot of very lucky and well-timed bus transfers) from Qazvin, a minor city in northern Iran only half a day’s journey from Tehran. If you want to visit in true Iranian style, pack a picnic blanket, a thermos of chai, and some bread and spreads and make it a grand day out!
The Dead Sea from Masada in Israel
I don’t use the phrase often, but “must-see” is the only way to describe Masada. A hilltop ruin with a dramatic story of resistance attached to it, it overlooks the southern tip of the Dead Sea in Israel. The location is awe-inspiring along with its story, and the ruins, dating from King Herod’s time, are fascinating to explore.
You can get to Masada easily: take the cable car and arrive in about three minutes. It only operates after 8:00, though. The best way, though, is to take the walking path up before dawn. This will bring you to the top in time to watch the spectacular sunrise over the Dead Sea. It’s a tough climb so early in the morning, but if you stay at the Masada Guest House just below, you can get up at about 4:00 and join any others who are walking. And you’ll be there in the cool of the morning before any large tour groups arrive.
The Treasury in Petra, Jordan
Petra is by far the most amazing place to visit in Jordan, not to mention one of the biggest and most beautiful archeological sites in the world. It took me two full days to explore it.
The most amazing view there is that of the Treasury. Looking at the various images of Petra available on social media and talking to the locals, I learned that there is a viewpoint from which it is possible to admire it. I spent the late afternoon of my first day in Petra searching for it, ultimately unable to find it. Later on that day I learned that in order to get there I’d need a guide as the path is pretty much hidden.
The following day, I hired an official guide (which cost me 80 Jordanian Dinars, around $112 USD) who took me all the way up to the viewpoint, through a path I would have never been able to find by myself. There were no tourists at the viewpoint: I stood there with the guide and two locals who set up a tiny tea shop there. Needless to say, the view was simply spectacular and totally worth the price of the guide.
A few tips if you are planning to go to Petra and want to make it to the viewpoint but don’t have a budget to splurge. If you are in a group, you can share the cost of the guide (who can also take you around the rest of the site, btw). If you have time, you can wait by the information desk and try to form a small group to share the costs. Alternatively, there are plenty of locals on the site who try to sell donkey or horse rides and know how to get to the viewpoint. You can ask one of them to take you for a significantly smaller fee, though I strongly advise not to ride the animals (the path is totally doable) and advise women traveling alone against it.
Fairy Meadows in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
Located in Gilgit-Baltistan, north Pakistan, Fairy Meadows is a campsite situated in a green lush plain at 3,300 meters, from where you get striking views of Nanga Parbat, a striking peak 8,125 meters high. Nanga Parbat also named the Killer Mountain, is the second highest peak in Pakistan (after the popular K2) and the eighth in the world. It’s frightening name is due to the fact that, throughout the years, Nanga Parbat has taken the lives of many climbers who tried to climb it unsuccessfully. It is also considered one of the hardest mountains to climb in the world.
Due to its high altitude, Fairy Meadows is only accessible in summer, when the snow melts away and it gets filled with a blanket of thousands and thousands of flowers. The view from Fairy Meadows is some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.
Trotner Park in Jerusalem, Israel
If you’re fortunate enough to visit the holy city of Jerusalem do not miss a visit to the panoramic view from Trotner Park. This famous tourist site is very popular with visitors that want to get the perfect Jerusalem view photo. Visitors can take a walk in the park while taking in the breathtaking views beyond the olive trees. To me, there is no better way to experience the magical spirit of Jerusalem other than this gorgeous panoramic view. When I was there I even witnessed a beautiful wedding taking place at the wedding hall of the park of a lucky couple that got married surrounded by this beautiful scenario.
The park is accessible via bus from the city’s central station, however, coming with a car would be the most comfortable way and parking is totally free of charge.
Sooo where are you going first? 🙂
Any to add to the list?!
Are you super into this whole epic viewpoint thing? Want more? Check these out…
Epic viewpoints in…
Pin me, please!
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!