10 GORGEOUS LOOKOUT POINTS (THAT ALSO PLAY NICE WITH NATURE)

Some of the world’s most stunning landscapes come with stunning lookout points, to boot. Consider Norway. The country is so devoted to its scenic fjords, lakes, and mountains, that it invested $377-million toward building beautiful architectural overlooks from which to observe all that natural beauty. Not every country is that committed, but there are still many observation posts the world over that complement, rather than contradict, their surrounding landscapes. Listed here are ten lookouts of note.

Author: Liz Stinson

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Haim Dotan, Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Bridge


The world’s longest glass bridge was an exercise in compromise. Its architect, Haim Dotan, agreed to build the 1,200-foot bridge only if it could disappear into the landscape of the surrounding Zhangjiajie National Forest. The resulting structure hangs from white cables that stretch from the cliffs to the center of the span and blend into the clouds. The walkway, made from glass panels, allows visitors to peer 1,300-feet down into the canyon below.

Photography: Haim Dotan

Zaha Hadid, Messner Mountain Museum


Famed mountaineer Reinhold Messner has spent the last decade of his life building a network of museums dedicated to his favorite landscape. His final museum, situated on the summit of Mount Kronplatz in northern Italy, is the work of late architect Zaha Hadid. The multi-level concrete structure is built into the side of the mountain and acts like a tunnel, allowing visitors to walk through the landscape itself. At 7,464 feet above sea level, the museum is accessible only by cable car, but the trek is worth it—an observation deck looks out onto the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites, as well as the Zillertal and Ortler mountain ranges.

Photography: Messner Mountain Museum

Snohetta, Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion


A mile-long path leads visitors to the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion, which is nestled into the landscape at the edge of Dovrefjell National Park. Ship builders crafted the undulating pine interior, which is meant to evoke the surrounding Dovre Mountains and gives the space a cabin-like feel. Floor-to-ceiling windows lets visitors observe Europe’s last wild herds of reindeer as they amble past.

Photography: Snohetta

HHF, Ruta del Perregrino


The Ruta del Peregrino stretches nearly 73 miles across the Mexican landscape. Every year, more than 2 million people walk along the path during holy week on their way from Ameca to Talpa de Allende. This spiraling pavilion from Swiss architecture studio HHF, was built to be a permanent lookout point for people during their pilgrimage. Built almost entirely from concrete (save for the metal handrails and a prayer room made from brick), the spiral staircase affords visitors a vantage point from which to observe the countryside, and, beneath it, a shady place to rest.

Photography: Iwan Baan

Rintala Eggertsson Architects, Seljord Watch Tower


The Seljord watch tower extends 36 feet into the air like a giant periscope overlooking Norway’s Seljord lake. The timber structure has a winding staircase that leads people up to three separate lookout points that afford views of the surrounding lake. If you’re lucky you might spot Selma, the serpent fabled to live in its waters.

Photography: Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Saunders Architecture, Aurland Overlook


When building this overlook outside of Aurland, Norway, the architects had a clear vision for the project: Keep the architecture out of it. The 14-foot-wide pinewood platform juts out from the mountainside and curves like an inward-sloping ski jump. A thin pane of glass is all that separates you from dropping into the fjord below.

Photography: Nils Vik

Close to Bone, Vlooyberg Tower


The Vlooyberg Tower in Flanders, Belgium, is a staircase that climbs to nowhere. The stairs abruptly end about 30 feet off the ground, where you can look onto a grassy lawn. Years before the Vlooyberg tower was built, another wooden tower stood in its place until vandals burned it down. The new tower is built entirely from metal, which makes it incredibly resilient against the elements, not to mention arsonists.

Photography: Van Den Bosch

Processcraft, Mirrored Cabin


Two architecture students hand-built this observation cabin in Scotland’s Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The cuboid structure is built from plywood and laminated in mirrored stainless steel, which allows it to disappear into Scotland’s green, rolling hills. The cabin is stunning to look at from the outside, but for those who’d prefer to experience it from within, the architects installed two interior benches that let visitors sit and peer through viewports in the reflective walls.

Photography: Processcraft

J.Mayer.H, Sarpi Border Checkpoint


As you cross the border from Turkey into Georgia, you’ll encounter this doodle of a building. The squiggly white government structure is part of the checkpoint between the two countries. Its curvaceous shape allows for cantilevered lookout points that give views to the water and coastline.

Photography: JM Hayerh

Quilotoa Crater Overlook, Jorge Andrade Benítez


This wooden deck overlooks the crater of an active volcano that just so happens to have a turquoise blue lake inside of it. Given the overwhelming natural intrigue of the location, the architects kept the viewing platform simple. They build a wooden deck that extends over the edge of the crater, giving a view into the volcano through the glass barrier. The idea was to create an experience that felt like flying over the landscape.

Photography: Lorena Darquea