It’s an unwritten rule that the window seat on a plane is always the best place to sit, and with good reason: the views are frankly amazing. There’s simply nothing more magical than passing over a city at night, looking down on the shifting galaxy of lights below. But what about frequent fliers; surely once you’ve seen one magical night time city you’ve seen them all, right? Well maybe, but ghostly distant cities are just the start of it. Over the years people have reported seeing all sorts of amazing things just by looking out the window – some of which will never be seen again, and some of which occur with amazing frequency. Here are the 5 most-awesome things to ever be seen from a window seat:
Fireworks are always amazing: whether you’re right up close in the crowd or watching them from your balcony many miles away. But perhaps nothing beats seeing them from several thousand feet up in the air. If you’re lucky enough to be taking a late-landing flight on New Years’ Eve or an evening flight on July 4th or November 5th, you might just get to experience a gigantic display: like a hundred thousand people welcoming you to their city. If you’re particularly lucky, you might be able to see multiple displays going on at different times – a magical little moment that will have you reaching for your smartphone in spite of the captain’s warning.
A Volcanic Eruption
There are two sides to seeing a volcano unexpectedly detonate from the air. On the one hand, it’s an absolutely breath-taking sight: a fantastic plume of ash flowing upwards into the sky, tinged with fire around the edges. On the other, it’s also fantastically dangerous. Any large scale eruption can send air traffic systems haywire, so you want to hope you’re not around anything like Mt St. Helens when it goes off. However, flying over something like the sporadically and safely erupting volcanoes near Xela in Guatemala is an experience all in itself. Dramatic, awe-inspiring and best viewed from a distance; this is a sight to treasure.
On Earth we get used to some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, but from the air they can be even-more incredible. On a clear day for example, you might see whole swathes of land slowly engulfed by darkness, lights coming on in impossible little towns many miles below, even as you can still see the sun, hovering behind a peak. You might watch entire mountain ranges untouched by human feet burn bright red as if with some intense inner fire; or maybe watch gigantic cloud formations above and below you bleed between all-manner of fantastic colors. What we’re trying to say is that atmospheric effects get even better in the air, including the famous.
If you think seeing the Northern Lights from the ground would be spectacular, you haven’t seen anything yet. From a plane the tips of the entire world appear to be melting, creating a solar effect both beautiful and terrifying. It feels like you’re caught in the middle of an alien abduction gone wrong and at any moment the entire craft will be sucked away into an interstellar vortex. It’s just an illusion of course, albeit a very convincing one. Unlike some other entries on this list, the intrepid traveler can also experience these from space. Speaking of which.
A Shuttle Launch
In May 2011, passengers in a plane passing over Florida were treated to the rare sight of a shuttle launch from the air. From a bank of thick and featureless clouds, a tiny burning dart exploded through in the distance, leaving behind a winding trail of smoke as it made its way towards the stars. The entire spectacle lasted less than a minute, but became the sort of once-in-a-lifetime sight that will stay with those who saw it until the day they die (hopefully no one took that moment to take a bathroom break!). So there you have it, a final, cast-iron reason, if one was ever needed, to make sure you grab the window seat next time you fly.
This is a guest post from Daniel Kendal who feels incredibly fortunate to have recently traveled on an Icelandair flight where he saw the amazing northern lights.