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Scenic views from airplane windows

Soldier68w / via Travel + Leisure

Flying over the Rocky Mountains.

Yes, the 14-hour flight from Boston to Tokyo is brutal. The upside? It offers an exceptional opportunity: a spectacular aerial view of the frozen waters off Canada’s shores.

Slideshow: See the scenic views from airplane windows

Ever-improving camera phones have allowed an increasing number of travelers to preserve these dramatic views with photos, like Travel + Leisure member Jinbocho, who shot an icy expanse during his flight to Japan. It helped that he was on board the new 787-8 Dreamliner; its windows are 30 percent larger than those of other aircraft, so it’s that much easier to appreciate — and photograph — the beautiful views below.

The best shots lend this fresh bird’s-eye perspective to sights that have been photographed countless times from the ground. T+L member Jwillis captured Toronto’s CN Tower poking up out of the fog while the pilot of the plane he was on tried to land. Even though he had to fly back to Montreal after two failed landing attempts (a ceiling of just 100 feet will do that), he says it was worth the inconvenience to snap an incredible photograph.

Sometimes this aerial perspective includes natural phenomena that wouldn’t even be recognizable while Earth-bound. T+L member lilspark’s photo illuminates magnificent patterns in the swirling rivers below that could be seen only from above.

Often, these great views surprise us — we just happen to be in the right seat at the right time of day. But sometimes, familiarity with a certain route allows fliers to be more strategic. Rich Beattie, T+L’s executive digital editor, has learned to book a window seat on the plane’s left side when traveling from West Palm Beach to LaGuardia on Delta. “Flying up New York’s East River, you can practically reach out and touch the Manhattan skyline,” he says. “It’s always an inspiring welcome home.”

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