There’s something about snapping a photo from thousands of feet in the air that draws a belly-aching nostalgia, whether you’re familiar with the subject or not. Maybe it’s the physical disconnection—or the dollhouse scale any metropolitan hub adopts when viewed from the seat of an airplane.

Tiny, model-sized buildings and parks are just so much more digestible than exploring on foot. Dubai is no exception. The 1,500-square-mile area houses more than 2 million people, complete with enough luxury shopping stops to knock any wallet into a knee-buckling remission. But once you set yourself up hundreds of feet from the ground, the noise dissipates.

Dubai is a bucket list destination, ready to wow any traveler with its cloud-reaching skyscrapers—most of which are known around the world as feats of architecture in height or just eye-catching aesthetic. From above, it’s hard to imagine that the space that now holds a wealth of business and enterprise that’s around every corner was once a modest fishing village. The city hub has made leaps and bounds—but take a trip a couple of miles out of town into the Arabian Desert, and you’ll be greeted with an entirely new (and age-old) scene: Earth-toned sand dunes stretched across the horizon and heavy-footed camels trekking toward the Western Hajar Mountains, which signals entry to Oman. Head south of Dubai and you’ll find a topaz paradise, more commonly known as the Persian Gulf. There aren’t many places in the world where you can take in such a range of environments in one camera frame.

The sad realization is that not all of us have seen the United Arab Emirates’ most populous city from above—whether it’s the view from an airplane or from a seat at one of the city’s tallest buildings. While we can’t possibly share all of Dubai’s best angles in one set of photos, this can serve as motivation to get up there and take it in for yourself. Hey, just add it to the bucket list. You won’t regret it.

 

Dubai Emerging from the Fog

 Dubai Emerging from the Fog
Bjoern Lauen

Dubai Emerging from the Fog

 

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

 Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
Getty Images

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

 

Downtown Dubai During Sunrise

 Downtown Dubai During Sunrise
Bjoern Lauen

Downtown Dubai During Sunrise

 

Dubai at Dusk

 Dubai at Dusk
(c) Allan Baxter

Dubai at Dusk

 

Aerial View of Dubai Traffic

 Aerial View of Dubai Traffic
Getty Images

Aerial View of Dubai Traffic

 

Gyrocopters Over Dubai

 Gyrocopters Over Dubai
Getty Images

Gyrocopters Over Dubai

 

Jumeirah Palm Archipelago

Chris Ratcliffe

Jumeirah Palm Archipelago

 

 

Palace Downtown Hotel of Dubai

Palace Downtown Hotel of Dubai

 

 

Aerial View of World Islands, Dubai
Getty Images

Aerial View of World Islands, Dubai

 

 

Burj Dubai

(c) Xu Jian

Burj Dubai

 

 

Aerial View Over Moored Boats in a Marina

Getty Images

Aerial View Over Moored Boats in a Marina

 

 

The World Islands

MARWAN NAAMANI

The World Islands

 

 

Dubai Fountain

(c) Xu Jian

Dubai Fountain

 

 

Dubai Highway Interchange

Getty Images

Dubai Highway Interchange

 

 

Cityscape

Getty Images

Cityscape

 

 

Dubai Marina As Seen From the Princess Tower

Duncan Chard

Dubai Marina As Seen From the Princess Tower

 

 

Palm Jumeirah From Above

Getty Images

Palm Jumeirah From Above

 

 

Burj Khalifa Lake

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Burj Khalifa Lake

 

 

The Palm Islands

Getty Images

The Palm Islands

 

 

Burj Al Arab

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Burj Al Arab