Biggest, Tallest, Fastest: 20 Record-Breaking Travel Destinations
If your travel motto is go big or stay home, you should plan a visit to these record-holding attractions and destinations around the world where size definitely matters.
Come fly away
The first step to most trips is getting there and often that means heading to an airport. Istanbul New Airport, which handled its first flight in October 2018, is being constructed in four phases, according to CNBC, and when it is completed in 2025, it will be the largest airport in the world. Contained within its 18,780 acres are 592,000 square feet of duty-free shopping and a 451-room Yotel hotel with land-side and air-side access. With its current three runways and 15 million square feet of terminal space, it can handle 90 million passengers a year. That’s just shy of the world’s current busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, which according to CNN, currently sees 107 million passengers yearly. Istanbul plans to welcome 200 million customers annually once finished and all of them should know these tips to speed through airport security.
When it took its maiden voyage in 2018, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony Of The Seas, gave new meaning to high seas adventure as it’s 238 feet tall, has 18 decks, and features the 10-story Ultimate Abyss aka the tallest slide on the water. The largest cruise ship is also 1,188 feet long, weighs 228,081 gross registered tons, and can hold 6,680 passengers in 2,759 cabins. It also boasts 24 pools, 22 restaurants and bars, a zip-line, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, water park, mini-golf course, FlowRider surf simulators, and an ice rink, according to CNN.
There is plenty of room at these inns. Currently, the largest hotel in the world by the total number of guest quarters is First World Hotel, a three-star resort in Genting Highlands, Malaysia. Its two towers contain 7,351 rooms.
Stateside, the Venetian Resort Las Vegas, which includes The Venetian, The Palazzo, and Venezia Towers in one mighty compound on The Strip, bests the competition with 7,092 suites. It is currently the second-largest hotel in the world. It also offers 2.25 million square feet of convention space and 1 million square feet of retail operations. For a time, its casino was the largest in the world. Vegas is also home to the world’s most expensive hotel room.
Both properties will have to move over to make room on the list if the construction of Abraj Kudai in Saudi Arabia goes as planned, as blueprints call for 10,000 rooms.
Parks and rec
All 400-plus sites that fall under the purview of the National Park Service are worth exploring, but only one can be the biggest. At 13.2 million acres, Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is larger than Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined. A day’s drive east of Anchorage, this gigantic piece of America’s backyard marks the junction of three mountain ranges (Chugach, Wrangell, and St. Elias) and contains numerous glaciers, volcanos, rivers, valleys as well as the second-highest peak in the United States, Mount St. Elias. It stands 18,008 feet tall.
Speaking of mountains, the seven tallest U.S. mountains are found in a single state, Alaska. The highest one is Denali (formerly called Mount McKinley after the president), which rises 20,320 feet above sea level and is found in the national park of the same name.
But it can’t maintain the title on the world stage. That honor belongs to the 29,035-foot-tall Mount Everest, which is on the border of Tibet and Nepal. According to the Guardian, approximately 5,000 people have scaled the Everest summit either from the easier Nepalese side pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953 or the more technically difficult Tibetan route. But don’t pack your crampons just yet as 300 people have died on its slopes including nine in the very short and crowded 2019 season.
A safer, and certainly cheaper, bet would be to stick to climbing the world’s tallest artificial rock climbing wall as determined by the Guinness Book Of World Records. Located in Reno, Nevada, at the Whitney Peak Hotel, the wall towers at 164 feet tall and the top provides majestic views of the surrounding city, the famous neon welcome sign, and Sierra Nevada Mountains. If it’s too chilly to scale the building’s exterior, head inside to Basecamp’s 7,000-square-foot competition-level bouldering park. It’s fun for all levels of mountaineers and there’s a separate kids’ room.
The world’s deepest lake is also the largest freshwater lake. Lake Baikal in southern Russia is estimated to be 5,387 feet deep. Its bottom is around 3,893 feet below sea level—and it hasn’t stopped growing. Located on an active continental rift zone, it is widening at a rate of almost one inch per year and as it gets wider, it also becomes deeper.
Crater Lake, a volcanic caldera in southern Oregon that formed around 7,700 years ago, sits in the top spot in terms of the United States, despite being only the ninth-deepest lake in the world with a depth of 1,949 feet. Fun fact: Unlike most naturally occurring lakes, no rivers flow into or out of it. It stays filled with a mix of rainfall, groundwater, and evaporation. Summer visitors can take a boat tour out to Wizard Island, which is actually a small cinder cone in the middle of the lake. If you’re lucky, you’ll see The Old Man, a hemlock log that has been floating upright in the lake for more than 100 years.
Walks to remember
You will most certainly get your steps in if you venture out and complete these long trails. There will be blisters on the Trans Canada Trail, which stretches 14,912 miles from its starting trailhead in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in Victoria, British Columbia, and the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. It is the longest maintained and connected hike on the planet. The Great Western Loop is an arduous way to see nine states, 12 national parks, 75 wilderness areas, and the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. All in, it covers 6,875 miles.
Late last year, Chile announced the opening of the 1,740-mile-long trek known as the Route of the Parks of Patagonia. Spanning a third of the South American country, it meanders through 17 national parks from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn and encompasses 11.5 hectares of protected land, according to Travel+Leisure. Dominica is home to the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean. The Waitukubuli National Trail spans the Nature Island for 114 miles and is comprised of 14 segments beginning from Scotts Head in the south to the northern Capuchin.
Take me out to the ball game…
For lots of Americans, summer is synonymous with baseball season. With 56,000 seats for spectators, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles is the biggest baseball park in the world, according to WorldAtlas.com. The third oldest MLB stadium (after Fenway and Wrigley) is so big that it was given its own zip code, 90090, in 2009, which registers as Dodgertown, USA. Because of its size, don’t expect a tour of the park to be a short stop. (Pun intended.) A variety of tours are offered throughout the year and highlights include walking on the field, sitting in the dugout, seeing Jackie Robinson’s trophies, and peeking inside the clubhouse.
Come on in, the water’s huge
Nobody likes a crowded pool on a hot summer’s day so these resorts dreamed big when planning their plunges, which means you can move away from splashing toddlers, swim laps in peace, or blow up the largest swan raft on the market and still not float into anyone else’s personal space. It takes weeks to fill the Crystal Lagoons at Citystars Sharm El Sheikh community in Egypt as the Sinai Desert oasis is the largest man-made body of water in the world. The Guinness World Records folks say it covers 23.9 acres, which is almost four acres bigger than the swimming pool at San Alfonso del Mar resort in Algarrobo, Chile, which happens to have been imagined by the same company. The second-biggest swimming hole holds 66 million gallons and spans the length of 20 Olympic-sized pools. The world’s largest and highest rooftop infinity pool (490 feet long), which gazes out over Singapore from atop the world’s largest public cantilevered platform 57 floors up, is found at SkyPark at the Marina Bay Sands hotel. While these other pools may not be the largest, they are arguably the most gorgeous hotel pools around the world.
Bridging the gaps
One of the pillars of Maine’s Penobscot Narrows Bridge, located next to historic Fort Knox, is topped with the tallest public bridge observatory in the world. Standing at 420 feet/42 stories high, it is taller than the Statue of Liberty and offers 360-degree views of the waterway, the nearby bay, the countryside, and distant mountains. To reach the top, guests take Maine’s fastest and tallest passenger elevator for about a minute.
Across the pond and surrounded by the French Pyrenees range, France’s Millau Viaduct rises 1,104 feet above the Tarn River, making it the tallest bridge in the world. The longest sea bridge however opened in China in 2018, according to the Straits Times. Linking Hong Kong, Macau, and the mainland’s River Delta cities, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is 34.18 miles long and is allegedly able to withstand magnitude-eight earthquakes, sea typhoons, or being struck by a cargo ship weighing 300,000 tons.
Sipping in the sky
Elevate your cocktail hour at the world’s highest bar. The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong houses OZONE, a hot spot offering DJ sets, Sunday brunch, and an outdoor terrace 118 stories above the cosmopolitan city. If that’s too far to travel to partake in a glass of wine, instead head to the tallest open-air bar in the western hemisphere, Spire 73. It’s on the 73rd floor of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown.
Add sizeable adventure to golf getaways when you try to tackle these unique courses. CNN crowned the 18-hole Ocean Course on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island the world’s toughest. The giant sand dunes, sometimes brutal Atlantic breezes, pot bunkers, and thorny marshes all contribute to the very high par of 72. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as designer Pete Dye’s nickname is “The Marquis de Sod.” It also boasts the most seaside holes in the Northern Hemisphere with ten.
See if altitude affects your game at the Guinness-official highest 18-hole golf course in the world. The Yak Course in Kupup, India, sits at 13,025 feet in the middle of the Himalayas and measures more than 6,000 yards long. According to NationalClubGolfer.com, the ball goes up to 20 percent further than at sea level—although your body and brain might not function at full capacity at that elevation.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the earth’s lowest set of links are found in California’s Death Valley National Park. Framed by palm trees and barren mountains, the par-70, 18-hole Furnace Creek Golf Course is at 214 feet below sea level. Balls naturally travel shorter distances, but another hazard to watch for when playing through—coyotes who want to play a one-sided game of fetch.
Head down under to play the longest course in the world, Nullarbor Links. Enthusiasts tee off in Western Australia—the country’s largest state—and play the last hole in a different state altogether, South Australia. The 18-hole par 72 golf course spans 848 miles with one fairway and hole in each participating town along the Eyre Highway, taking a total of three to four days to complete.
Covering lots of fairground
As everything is bigger in Texas it makes sense that the country’s largest state fair is held in the Lone Star State. Held annually at Dallas’ Fair Park, itself a National Historic Landmark, the event takes place over 24 days in the fall and more than 2.5 million folks come for outlandish fried foods (here are 14 particularly insane items found at state fairs), livestock exhibits, Midway rides and games, and to say hello to Big Tex, the official greeter and world’s tallest cowboy. The statue was first built out of iron pipe drill casing, papier mache, cloth, and seven feet of rope to play Santa Claus in the small town of Kerens, but fair officials purchased St. Nick for $750 in 1951 to play the exposition’s new mascot. He was made taller (52 feet) and given a winking right eye (later removed), slimmer face and torso, a straighter nose, a thumb in the vest, size-70 boots, a 75-gallon hat, and eventually a voice. Big Tex can be seen in the 1962 remake of State Fair with Pat Boone and Bobby Darin.
Wheel in the sky
The Las Vegas Strip is home to the tallest observation wheel in the world. The High Roller, located within the open-air shopping, dining, and entertainment district called The LINQ Promenade, tops out at 550 feet. That’s 107 feet taller than the London Eye. One revolution takes 30 minutes and there are several themed programs including a Happy Half Hour (a bartender rides along), Yoga In The Sky (takes two rotations), and a chocolate tasting with local chocolatier Ethel M.
Ice, ice baby
If the cold never bothered you anyway, lace up and hit the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating park in Ottawa, Canada, as designated by Guinness. Ontario’s Rideau Canal is converted every winter into the Skateway, a 4.8-mile track that allows people to glide down the ice from downtown Ottawa to Hartwells Locks. The Skateway celebrates its 50th season in 2020.
Bested only by the fictional building in last summer’s Skyscraper blockbuster starring The Rock, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the real-life tallest building and the tallest free-standing structure in the world, a title it swiped from the CN Tower in Toronto. It is 2,716.5 feet tall, has 163 floors (which is the highest number of stories in the world), 30,000 residences in 19 tower sections, an artificial lake, and a shopping mall. It also has the tallest service elevator in the world which travels the longest distance of any elevator in the world and the highest outdoor observation deck on Earth. Head outside on floor 148 if you dare. Don’t miss more of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.
On a roll
The world of roller coasters is cutthroat with designers and theme parks rushing to release the next biggest, fastest, most death-defying rides as soon as possible after a new record is set. Which is why it’s so impressive that none of Time Traveler’s titles have been taken away since it opened at Silver Dollar City in Branson in March of 2018. More than a year later, it’s still considered the world’s fastest, steepest, and tallest spinning roller coaster. Its tallest point is 100 feet and its top speed is 50.3 miles per hour. Its steepest moment is a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop and it is the first and only coaster with three inversions and with a vertical loop.
But if all you have is a need for speed when it comes to rides, head to Abu Dhabi where Ferrari World, the biggest indoor theme park in existence, operates the fastest roller coaster according to TripSavvy. The Formula Rossa’s cars zoom around the track, reaching speeds up to 149 miles per hour. After handling the dangerous curves at Ferrari World, check out these other quirky theme parks around the world dedicated to subjects like Santa Claus and crocodiles. See how it compares to the scariest roller coaster in your state.
Zip zip hooray
Thrill-seekers should also check out these record-holding ziplines. The world’s longest zip is atop the Unite Arab Emirates highest mountain Jebel Jais. According to CNN, participants will cruise 1.76 miles, the equivalent of 28 soccer fields, reaching speeds up to 75 to 93 miles per hour while suspended more than a mile above sea level. The fastest line, Velocity 2 at Zip World in North Wales, sends you flying over a former slate quarry at more than 100 miles per hour. Travel + Leisure lists the highest zipline in the world as La Tyrolienne at the Val Thorens ski resort in France (its located at 10,600 feet above sea level) and the steepest as The Flying Dutchman at Rainforest Adventures on St. Martin island. Riders drop 1,050 feet in elevation over the course of 2,800 feet of cable. Check out more of the craziest zip lines around the world.
Those with a fear of heights should just stop reading here. CNN instructs adrenaline junkies to book a ticket to Macau, China, as the Macau Tower has the world’s highest bungee-jumping facility. The drop is just shy of 765 feet. The highest jump site in America, the Perrine Bridge in Idaho, pales in comparison at 497 feet.
If you prefer swinging to bouncing, check out Big Rush Big Swing at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa. According to Guinness, it’s the tallest swing in the world. Brave souls free fall 772 feet into the 85,000-seat arena bowl while attached with only a harness. Now, check out these vacation destinations for adrenaline junkies.