For the 50+ Traveler

"Like a bridge over troubled water,
I will lay me down."

  • Simon & Garfunkel

We take bridges for granted, but when you stop to think about them, they're amazing feats of engineering. Some are also incredibly beautiful, storied, even dangerous.

Here are the 5 most amazing bridges in the world.

1. Kapellbrücke (Lucerne, Switzerland)

The name literally translates as 'Chapel bridge.' This incredibly beautiful structure was originally built over the Reuss river in 1365 both to protect Lucerne from water-based attacks, and to connect the two halves of the city on opposite banks. Running 672 feet, it is the oldest covered bridge in Europe and the oldest extant truss bridge on earth.

The Wasserturm ('Water tower') stands alongside the bridge in the middle of the river. Through the centuries, it has often been used as a prison or torture chamber, but it is no longer open to the public.

The Kapellbrücke features many paintings under its awning that date from the 17th century, however many of the originals were destroyed when the bridge tragically caught fire in 1993. The bridge has been fully restored, and remains one of the most recognizable attractions in Switzerland.

Kapellbrücke bridge, Lucerne, Switzerland, with flowers hanging on the bridge
The Kapellbrücke. Flickr / kurt.stocker

2. The Capilano Suspension Bridge (Vancouver, Canada)

This suspension bridge in the woods of North Vancouver carries hikers 270 feet above the Capilano River, and it's made of nothing but hemp and cedar planks!

Just kidding. The modern version is made of wire cable, but the original structure was constructed with hemp rope and cedar planks. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is part of Treetop Adventures, a private park consisting of 7 footbridges in all. This aerial walkway gives visitors a spectacular view of the iconic Douglas Firs and the rest of the lush Pacific coastal forest below.

There have been a number of deadly incidents on the Capilano, but most have involved carelessness or intoxication on the part of the victims. Needless to say, you should never walk a 270-foot-high, 470-foot-long suspension bridge while on LSD.

Tourists look into the forest on the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver
The Capilano Suspension Bridge. Wikimedia Commons

3. Langkawi Sky Bridge (Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia)

The remarkable Sky Bridge is really more like a very large viewing platform, strung between the peaks of the Gunung Mat Chinchang mountains on the island of Pulau Langkawi. More than 400 feet in length, the bridge is also more than 2,000 feet above sea level, offering visitors commanding views of the jungle below. The deck of the bridge winds and curves to provide as many different vantage points as possible, and there are two triangular viewing/rest areas, one at each end.

Since this bridge is up in the mountains and thus purely for tourists, you must reach it by first taking a cable car and an inclined lift elevator. Bring your camera: you're going to want to remember this view.

The Langkawi Sky Bridge in the jungle mountains of Malaysia
The Langkawi Sky Bridge. Wikimedia Commons

4. U Bein Bridge (Taungthaman Lake, Myanmar)

Three quarters of a mile in length, U Bein is the longest -- and one hopes only -- teak bridge in the world. It was built by (and named for) a local mayor in 1851, out of left over wood from a local palace. Spanning Taungthaman Lake, it remains an important thoroughfare for locals, and truly a sight to behold. The bridge has become popular enough with tourists that it's also an important part of the regional economy in its own right.

From November to May (the dry season), the lake beneath the bridge virtually disappears, making whole structure seem almost useless, and absurdly tall. But between June and October (monsoon season), the water levels rise precipitously, making it abundantly clear why building a footbridge here was a good idea.

Sunrise and sunset are the best times to see U Bein, when villagers and Buddhist monks scurry back and forth across this narrow wooden rampart, and you can get a sense of the area's comings and goings.

Villagers walk across U Bein Bridge silhouetted by the sun, Myanmar
U Bein Bridge. Flickr / alh1

5. Rakotzbrücke (Kromlau, Germany)

The Rakotzbrücke or Devil's Bridge isn't exactly unique. There are many bridges known by that name, so oddly-shaped and meticulously crafted that superstitious folk speculated they must have been built by Lucifer himself. But the specimen located in Kromlauer Park is possibly the most beautiful.

Although it is fascinating to look at, it was definitely built by mortal hands using locally quarried stone. This unusual landmark isn't even all that ancient, commissioned by a minor aristocrat in 1860. But it's distinctive appearance has made it the subject of countless photos.

Because the top of the bridge is a perfect semi-circle, Rakotzbrücke seems to form a full circuit when reflected in the calm waters of the Rakotzsee river below. Utterly Tolkienesque, more beautiful than useful, visitors are forbidden to walk on the deck any longer for fear of damaging it.

As of June 2018, it was actually under renovation.

We hope this piece has given you something to think about. The next time you cross a bridge, just remember: in ancient times, you would have had to swim to the other side, or die trying. Happy travels!