Whether it’s an aerial tramway or a gondola – tramways go back and forth, gondolas circulate between stations – few thrills rival the sensation of floating through the sky, staring at chasms and valleys thousands of feet below and forgetting that all that stands between you and the ground is a bundle of wires strung between a series of poles.
Here’s where we like to get a little bit freaked out … in the best possible way.
1. Peak2peak Gondola (Whistler, Canada)
The 4.4-kilometer Peak2peak Gondola is the only one in the world that connects two mountain peaks.
It also holds two world records.
It’s got the longest free span between ropeway towers (3.03 kilometers/1.88 miles) and it’s the gondola with the highest point above the ground (436 meters/1,430 feet).
At the opening ceremony in 2008, several Red Bull athletes base-jumped from the middle of the gondola.
Last year, another base jumper attempted an illegal jump from the same spot, but was arrested after causing $10,000 worth of damage when he forced the doors open.
Peak2peak Gondola, 4545 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada; +1 800 766 0449
2. Titlis Rotair (Mount Titlis, Switzerland)
The Titlis Rotair is the world’s first rotating gondola.
Passengers are whisked to the top of Mount Titlis – 3,020 meters (9,908 feet) above sea level – in just over five minutes.
The most spectacular part of the journey is the final and highest stretch over one of Europe’s largest glaciers.
At the top, visitors can explore an ice cave and walk over Europe’s highest suspension bridge.
Titlis Rotair, Mount Titlis, Uri Alps, Switzerland; +41 41 639 5050
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3. Mi Teleferico (La Paz, Bolivia)
The world’s highest and longest urban gondola, Mi Teleferico was designed to ferry passengers from the center of La Paz to the district of El Alto, high above the city.
Previously, getting there involved a long, slow journey up a narrow, zigzagging road.
The 11-kilometer-long gondola, which opened in 2014, cost $234 million to build and can carry 18,000 passengers an hour.
Although its main purpose is to cut commute times for local workers, it’s especially popular with tourists, thanks to the fantastic views of the snow-capped Andes.
Mi Teleferico, La Paz, Bolivia
4. Sugarloaf Mountain Gondola (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
More than 37 million people have ridden this Rio gondola since it opened in 1912.
The journey to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is divided into two stages, each lasting three minutes, with each cabin able to carry 65 passengers.
The gondola has made numerous television and film appearances.
In 1979 James Bond and metal-toothed villain Jaws fought on top of one of the cabins in “Moonraker.”
In “The Simpsons” episode “Blame it on Lisa,” Homer’s kidnappers carry out a hostage exchange on the gondola.
It also appears in the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
Sugarloaf Mountain Gondola, Avenida Pasteur, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; +55 21 2546 8433
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5. Vanoise Express (Les Arcs, France)
This gondola, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013, connects the French ski resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne.
To mark the occasion, French tightrope walkers Julien Millot and Tancrede Melet crossed a 186-foot gap between two gondola cars.
In 2014, the resorts staged a Sky Diner event, letting passengers spend an evening inside one of the gondolas eating traditional mountain cuisine.
Each of the double-decker cabins can carry 200 passengers and the 1,824-meter (5,984 feet) journey takes just four minutes.
Vanoise Express, Quartier du Telepole, Plan-Peisey, Peisey-Vallandry, France; +33 04 79 07 94 28
6. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (California)
The world’s largest rotating cable car opened in 1963 and connects the floor of the Coachella Valley with the top of Mt. San Jacinto.
It’s one of just three rotating cable cars in the world – the others are the Titlis Rotair in Switzerland and the gondola at Table Mountain in South Africa.
The tram in Palm Springs was first suggested in 1935, but World War II and the Korean War forced the project to be shelved.
Construction eventually started in 1960, with helicopters used to lower parts into place.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, One Tram Way, Palm Springs, California, United States; +1 760 325 1449
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7. Ba Na Hills Cable Car (Da Nang, Vietnam)
The world’s longest cable car is more than five kilometers long.
It opened in 2013, after various parts were shipped to Vietnam from Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.
The cable connects the foot of Ba Na Mountain with the peak of neighboring Vong Nguyet and holds the record for the largest gondola departure station, which also serves as a museum about the history of the area.
Ba Na Hills Cable Car, Vong Nguyet Hill, Da Nang, Vietnam
8. Stanserhorn Cabrio (Lucerne, Switzerland)
The Stanserhorn Cabrio is the first cable car to feature a roofless upper deck.
When it opened in 2012, the Swiss Post Office released a commemorative stamp to mark the occasion.
It carries passengers 2,320 meters (7,611 feet) from the village of Stans to the top of Stanserhorn Mountain.
Each cabin carries 60 people – 30 on top and 30 in the lower section.
Getting to the base station is an adventure itself, involving a ride on the world’s oldest funicular – a wood and iron creation built in 1891 that still has its original frosted glass and ornate, wood-paneled interior.
Stanserhorn Cabrio, Stansstaderstrasse 19, Stans, Switzerland; +41 41 618 8040
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9. Skyline Queenstown (New Zealand)
The Southern Hemisphere’s steepest gondola carries passengers from Queenstown to the top of Bob’s Peak, 450 meters (1,467 feet) above sea level.
Construction began in 1966 and the gondola opened in 1967. It was upgraded in 1987.
Since 2011, the cabins have also been used to ferry mountain bikers – and their bikes – to the mountain bike park on Bob’s Peak, making it New Zealand’s first gondola bike lift.
Skyline Queenstown, Brecon Street, Queenstown, New Zealand; +64 3 441 0101
10. The Ngong Ping 360 (Hong Kong)
The 5.7-kilometer Ngong Ping 360 connects the center of Tung Chung and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, home to Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.
Visitors can opt for one of two classes of cabin – standard cabins are cheapest, but more expensive ones have glass floors.
The first passengers officially stepped onboard in September 2006, though there was a minor incident before that.
During a trial run, two gondolas collided and the safety system kicked in, leaving 200 volunteers stranded high above Hong Kong for several hours.
The Ngong Ping 360, New Territories, Hong Kong; +852 3666 0606
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Tamara Hinson is a UK-based freelance journalist who has written for publications and websites including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Observer, the Express, BA High Life, Sainsbury’s magazine and CNN.