Nothing will shake you out of your daily routine quite like zipping through the air at 85 miles per hour, courtesy of South Africa’s Pronutro Zip 2000, the world’s longest, fastest, and highest zip line.
Adventurous types know that zip lines deliver an adrenaline rush as well as a bird’s-eye perspective on beautiful surroundings. But there’s no thrill quite like a new one, and operators are continuing to push the limits by introducing cool zip lines in unusual places and at unusual times.
After the sun goes down in St. Lucia, for example, zip liners are on their way up to the launch platform. AdrenaLUNA lets participants get a peek at nocturnal creatures and feel the special sensation of racing through a jungle by night. The experience includes a scramble up floating steps, a zip through the rainforest from tree to tree, and a rappel back to the jungle floor under the glow of a full moon—and a headlight.
Another species of nightlife is on parade in Sin City, where you can now clear your head after a night at the casino with a 1 a.m. ride on Flightlinez. Zip liners pass beneath a laser light show set to music (this is Vegas, baby) as they soar through the Fremont Street Experience.
It’s part of a growing trend of urban zip lines—popularized by a temporary zip line at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics—and a far cry from the early zip line days. They began as a practical means to move bulky items across mountain ranges and even made an appearance in H. G. Wells’s 1897 novel, The Invisible Man. Graduate students in Costa Rica began using ziplines in the 1970s to get close to plants and animals along the rainforest canopy.
Tourists love that kind of wildlife exposure, too, and some of the earliest offerings began in Costa Rica and other ecotourism destinations. Yet Costa Rica has upped the ante with the launch of the Miss Sky zip line, described as the world’s longest canopy tour—propelling folks over a jungle forest, across a river and a turtle-nesting habitat, and ultimately dropping them on the fifth floor of what will be a disco bar.
If that doesn’t give you enough of a visual, check out the video clips we’ve paired with each of the world’s coolest zip lines. Then strap on that helmet and harness and take your own leap off the edge.