Short scenic flights in Flight Simulator 2020

In my spare time, I’m an avid fan of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 but I’m using the sim more as a tourist than an actual pilot. MSFS is perfect for short trips to interesting places all over the world. Below is a list of my favorite sight-seeing flights. I stick to small aircraft like the Cessna 152 and always aim to do a full trip, including take-off and landing, even though you can start your flight right on top of landmarks or cities. The links below take you to the starting point of each trip on Google Maps. The timings mentioned assume you fly at around 90 knots.

Monument valley in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

The ten best short flights

Potash ponds, USA

Fancy a 30 minute trip across an outlandish landscape and brightly colored ponds? Time to visit Utah!

Your point of departure is KCNY Canyonlands Fields Airport. Fly 164° to the south and in less than 15 minutes you should end up near the TexasGulf potash ponds next to the Colorado River. After admiring the beautifully colored ponds you can follow the river up north until you reach the city of Moab on the right bank. Turn east and follow Highway 191. Past the edge of the city, there is a little lake to your left with an unmarked airstrip (Sky Ranch Airport) where you can land.

A bit less colorful are the San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds, a few minutes east of SCAO Palo Alto Airport.

Utah potash ponds in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Lofoten islands, Norway

A mixture of sea, mountains and small villages make both this archipelago and Iceland two of my favorite destinations for a quick flight. Take off at LKN Leknes Lufthavn, navigate through the islands heading southwest and simply enjoy the landscape.

Yosemite, USA

My most visited destination is Yosemite, the American national park in Central California. It is a stunningly beautiful valley that I one day hope to visit in real life. For my initial flights I had installed a scenery add-on. Since the USA World Update El Capitan, the granite cliff visible in the screenshot to the right looks better without the need to install additional files.

To fly over Yosemite, take off at KMPI Marinosa-Yosemite and turn northeast. After about 15 minutes you’ll fly over the Merced river and the highway next to it. Turn right and follow the river into the valley. I usually fly back after circling around a bit but following the Merced river upstream is also fun.

Fly to Yosemite national park

Ring road, Iceland

Iceland has one main road that encircles the island. Taking off in its capital, Reykjavik, you can follow this road during several short trips. The two areas that appealed the most to me are the landscapes around Selfossflugvöllur and Skaftafell Airport.

Guatapé, Colombia (30 min)

Piedra del Peñol is a giant granite rock near the city of Guatapé in northwest Colombia. A large staircase takes visitors to the top of the rock. The surroundings are idyllic and a popular tourist attraction. The lake is man-made, created by the Peñol-Guatapé Dam.

You can reach Guatapé by taking off at SKRG José María Córdova International Airport in Medellin and then flying 80° east for roughly twelve minutes. I did not have to fly back as I accidentally crashed into the rock 🙂

Fly to the Piedra del Peñol in Guatapé

Gibraltar (15 min)

This rock in the south of Spain is perfect for a quick flight. Take off at LXGB Gibraltar AB, fly around the rock while admiring the cruise ships in the harbor, and land at the same airport 10 minutes later. I haven’t tried yet to head south, cross the Street of Gibraltar, and take a look at Tanger in Marocco.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi as the Māori call it, is a fiord in New Zealand’s South Island. It is a fantastic location, that can be further enhanced with a free add-on.

Taking off from Milford Sound Airport, you head straight into the fiord. You can fly to its end, turn northwest and follow the coastline until you reach Martins Bay AirStrip, a small airfield near Lake McKerrow. That lake, and the Hollyford river that feeds it, are also worth a visit. Alternatively, try finding your way from Milford Sound to NZQN Queenstown through the valleys.

Milford Sound in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Grand Canyon, USA

For a short flight use the 1G4 Grand Canyon West airport which is right next to the start of the canyon. Just head east for a minute or so and then dive into the canyon going south. To visit the last part of the canyon, start off at Pearce Ferry Airport.

If you have an hour, it is more fun to take off in Las Vegas (KLAS Mc Carran Int), fly over the city, and then head east to the Hoover dam. Follow the lakes that take you to the canyon.

New York, USA

I’ve visited New York a few times and being somewhat familiar with a place makes it so much more fun to visit it in Flight Simulator.

I usually take off at KLGA Laguardia because of its proximity to the city and the fact that the flight to Manhattan takes you over the Astoria Generating Station. For some reason, I find power plants fascinating. The picture shows one of the letdowns in the city: you can clearly see the aircraft on the Intrepid carrier moored on the Hudson River but at the same time the ship is also overgrown with trees. WTF!

Monument valley in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
New York

Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia

My flight to Uluru, the huge sandstone rock in central Australia, was very pretty thanks to the early morning light enhancing the rich red color of the Simpson Desert. The giant rock is visible from Ayers Rock Airport, so navigation is a breeze.

If you like this desert, also check out Sossusvlei near FYMN Sossusvlei Lodge Airport in Namibia. It is also reddish but has magnificent big dunes.

Ayers rock in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Forty other interesting places to fly to

Taj Mahal, India

The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum in the Indian city of Agra. It was built in the 17th century by emperor Shah Jahan to house the tombs of himself and his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

To visit this magnificent temple as well as the city of Agra, take off at Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Airport and head straight north until you reach the Yamuna river. Turn east and follow the river until you see the Taj Mahal on the right bank of the river. Head back east-southeast to the airport where you took off.

Flight over the Taj Mahal with MSFS 2020

Pyramids in Gizeh, Egypt

This famous archaeological site featuring the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx is obviously an interesting landmark, but just as fascinating is how close the Giza pyramid complex is to the edge of Cairo. Cairo is a huge city, worth taking a look at as well, so you can for example take off at Cairo International Airport and fly south-southeast across the city until you cross the Nile and see the Giza complex. There are other airports to land at, such as the Sphinx Airport which is closeby in the northeast direction.

Favorite cities

London is my second favorite city destination, right after New York. I have the Orbx Landmarks London City Pack installed for additional detail. For a quick 20 minute flight, take off at EGLC London City, which takes you straight to the O2 Arena and the high-rise buildings of the Canary Wharf business district. Simply follow the Thames river and at the second bend, you’ll see the Old Royal Naval College to the left. The Greenwich meridian runs through the park in front of it. A minute later you fly over Tower Bridge with Saint Paul’s Cathedral to its right. The London Eye, which apparently rotates the wrong way around, and Big Ben are next. I like doing small detours on the right bank over the city center, to see famous landmarks like Buckingham Palace (which got a nice upgrade with World Update 3) or the Gherkin. Following the Thames, Battersea Power Station on the left bank is another favorite. Keep following the river for a few more minutes until you see a few islands in the stream and the river turns south. Straight ahead to the west is Heathrow Airport.

Sydney in Australia is number three. It is such a beautiful natural harbor and the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge really stand out. For the latter, you do still need to install an add-on. My point of departure is always YSSY Kingsford Smith Intl, after which a few minutes flying north take you straight to the city center.

Microsoft did a great job creating a very detailed version of Tokyo, which really stands out at night. Take off at RJTT Haneda Intl and fly north to the city center. If you have the time, continue to Mount Fuji which is visible in the distance, located around 100 km of 62 miles west-southwest of the city.

The White House, Capitol, and Lincoln Memorial are interesting spots to visit during a flight over Washington DC in the USA. KDCA Ronald Reagan is located conveniently close to the city center. Turn north after take-off, check out the Pentagon and then fly across the Potomac River to the city center.

Parked at Haneda airport, Tokyo

The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, Brazil, frequently gets mentioned as a destination for a short flight. It is a nice flight but not that outstanding. Maybe I need to revisit it and check out the surroundings a bit more.

The Colosseum and Vatican City were on my to-do list during a flight over Rome, the capital of Italy. LIRU Roma Urbe is close to the city and a short flight heading south-southwest takes you to both of them.

Looking around I was a bit surprised that the seven hills that Rome is said to be built on aren’t clearly visible. Apparently centuries of construction have made some of them difficult to identify.

Vatican city from the air

After taking off at FACT Cape Town Intl and flying across Cape Town in South Africa, I thought of putting this flight in the ‘Meh’ category. Then I discovered that there are lakes on top of Table Mountain, and that the geography of the city is pretty interesting. After a full circle flight across Cape Town, I landed back at the same airport – not an amazing flight but still worth repeating some day.

I visited Venice during a trip to Italy in the 90s and had meanwhile completely forgotten that the city consists of a series of islands in a large bay. Flight Simulator is an excellent tool to get this bird’s view perspective of a city.

LIPV Aeroporto Nicelli is a small airport right next to Venice. You can use it as a starting point to first fly over the city, located to the east, and then turn southeast following the narrow strip of land to the city of Chioggia. By following the edge of the water, the trip across the bay of Venice takes you back to the city where you land at Nicelli once again.

Virtual visit to Venice in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

North of ZBBB Xijiao Airport in China’s capital city, Beijing, is the Summer Palace, the imperial gardens and lakes of the Qing dynasty. From that palace fly 138° for a few minutes to visit the Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square to its south. To your left, you’ll see a few large skyscrapers, including the elegant CITIC Tower, in the Beijing business district. They are handy as you fly around because from there heading 210° for about six minutes takes you to your landing spot at Daxing Intl. Another fun location to fly over in China is Shanghai with its iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany (15 min)

This famous romantic palace was built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and in honor of Richard Wagner. For a quick visit and opportunity to see the landscape start at ED60 Peiting UL and fly southwest, keeping the Lech River to your right. At the end of the Forggensee lake, you’ll see the Fluggen airstrip to your right, where you can land after circling the castle, which is straight ahead, slightly to the left.

Bandar Mahshahr, Iran

One of the most surreal coastal areas in Flight Simulator can be found in the Persian Gulf. To fly over a Mandelbrot landscape, take off at OIAM Mahshahr and fly south-east to the green vegetation. Follow this in a full circle around the lake to admire both nature and the petrochemical industry and land back at the same airport.

Surreal as well but this time because of poor aerial data is Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Part of the mountain area looks like a greyish lunar landscape. A flight from HUKS Kasese Airport, going northwest and steadily climbing for a tour around Mount Stanley took me about an hour with the Cessna 152. It’s a lovely mountain range that I’ll certainly return to in the future.

Mo’orea, French Polynesia

It takes less than half an hour to circle this small island in the South Pacific Ocean. Take off at NTTM Temea airport and follow the coastline, while admiring the small fishing villages and mountains. Instead of landing at the same airport, you can stretch the flight by crossing the sea to Tahiti in the east, where you can land at NTAA Fa’aa International Airport.

If you have just 10 minutes, make a trip around Saba, a small island in the Caribbean. Its airport, TNCS Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, is the smallest one in the world with a very short runway. I had to switch to a Cub which is actually perfect for such a small location.

Aircraft Boneyard, USA

Tucson isn’t a visually interesting city but right next to its Davis-Monthan Air Force Base you find an aircraft storage facility known as the ‘Boneyard’. Containing nearly 4000 aircraft, this is the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. It should appeal to any airplane enthusiast.

Take off on KDMA Davis Monthan AFB and you’ll immediately see the rows and rows of aircraft right next to the base. Trying to identify the various types is fun. and afterward you can simply land back at the airforce base.

Aircraft boneyard

Favorite take-off and landing

An airport that gives you a really spectacular take-off is VNLK Lukla Tenzing Hillary in the Himilayas. It is often used by mountaineers who want to climb Mount Everest. If you have an hour, you can use it as a starting point for a flight to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. That city is straight to the west of Lukla but with a Piper, you’ll have to follow the valley southwest before you can turn west. The trip takes you over a beautiful mountainous region. After about 30 to 40 minutes you’ll see the  Kathmandu valley appear in the distance. Tribhuvan International Airport is located in the middle of the valley.

For a spectacular landing experience, use LFRR Chateau de Montmeilleur in France as your point of departure. Looking to the west, you’ll see Mont Aiguille, a limestone mesa, towering above a valley. It takes about ten minutes to reach that mountain. During the flight, you should climb steadily to 7100 feet, which is high enough to land on the flat top. The first pilot to land there was stunt pilot Henri Giraud, in 1957 using a Piper J-3 Cub. Earlier that day a team of men had been dropped off on the top by helicopters to build an 80 meter (260 ft) long runway.

Mosel valley, Germany

Take off near Koblenz at the EDRK Winning airport. Head northeast for a few minutes to see the town of Koblenz and the ‘Deutsches Eck’ where the Mosel river joins the Rhine. Make a U-turn and fly back up the Mosel river. I landed at EDRM Mont-Royal in Traben-Trarbach, about 44 NM from Koblenz, but you can go all the way to Trier or even fly into Luxembourg.

Panama canal, Panama

The Panama Canal, opened in 1914, connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Its creation was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. The trajectory of the canal is not that scenic, but it is interesting to fly across the artificial lakes that were created to limit the amount of excavation needed. Funnily enough, there are hardly any ships visible along the way, even though around 15000 of them travel the canal each year. I also flew over the Suez Canal in Egypt but found it less interesting than the Panama Canal.

Flight over Panama Canal

Taking off at AMPMG Marcos A Gelabert International puts you right to the entry of the canal in Panama City. In less than half an hour you’re at the Atlantic Ocean where you can land on the airstrip of Fuerte Sherman.

Mount Rushmore, USA (15 min)

If you have just fifteen minutes to spare, I recommend a quick visit to the granite sculpture of four US presidents at Mount Rushmore. It is not as big as one would think and even a bit hidden in the landscape. You cannot miss it though if you take off at 3V0 Custer State Park Airport and head 321° northwest for about 6 minutes.

If you have an extra 40 minutes, continue northwest (around 300°, I think) to see the Devils Tower in Wyoming and land at WY14 IPY Ranch. That is a 126 kilometer or 86 mile flight. One word of warning though: in the late 2020 release of Flight Simulator there is a bug that only makes this huge butte appear when you’re practically flying right over it. You cannot necessarily see it from a distance.

Geese, elephants and other animals

Enter ‘fauna’ in the Search window in Flight Simulator 2020 and you get a list of all the animated animals that are hidden in the sim. You can fly between flamingos or land right next to a tower of giraffes. There are also seagulls, grizzly bears, and black bears to be found at various locations.

There is an excellent YouTube video that shows all the animals and how to find them.

See animals in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Glacier National Park, USA

This large mountainous park is located in Montana, close to the border with Canada. I need to explore it a bit more before I can recommend a certain route. The flight from Glacier Park International Airport northeast to Lake McDonald is very nice but only takes you to the edge of the park.

Patagonia, Chile

Villa O’Higgins is a recently established small town in southern Chile. Its airport, SCOH Aerodromo O’higgins, is a good starting point for flights over the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

For a quick 15-minute discovery trip, fly north and follow the greenish Majer River. It takes you between two mountains to a second valley where you can land at SCCH Gen, Bernardo O’Higgins.

For a longer trip, fly 240° southwest toward a large peak rising above the other mountains. With the Cessna 152 you’ll reach that top after about 25 minutes. Continue for a few minutes and you’ll find to your left a glacier with large blocks of ice floating in the river. Follow that river for a few minutes and then turn left to fly back to Villa O’Higgins.

glaciers in Patagonia

For even longer flights across the mountainous area, a small Cessna is not the most suitable airplane. It is too slow, cannot always climb high enough and the lack of a deicing system can also cause issues. Switch to a faster plane to visit the large glaciers of Patagonia. I suggest starting like the previous tip, flying 240° southwest from Villa O’Higgins until you’re in the middle of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Then continue south following the ice field until you can descend to Lago Argentino to your left. Follow the lake eastward to land at SAWC El Calafate.

Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland (15 min)

Do you have 15 minutes to spare? Discover this archipelago off the south coast of Iceland,. It has its own airport, BIVM Vestmannaeyjaflugvöllur, which seems to take up a fifth of Heimaey, the main island. Check out the lonely houses on various parts of the island and the Eldfell volcano which last erupted in 1973, forcing the entire population to be evacuated for months. The lava flow was finally halted by pouring 6.8 billion liters of cold seawater over it.

Corinth Canal, Greece (30 min)

The Corinth Canal connects the Ionian Sea with the Aegean Sea in Greece. The canal is only 6.4 kilometres long and very narrow. A first attempt to build it failed in the 1st century AD.  It was completed in 1893 but never got used as much as expected, making it mainly a tourist attraction.

Take off at LGMG Megara Army and follow the coastline to the west. After about ten minutes you reach the canal. Follow it and turn right where the canal ends in the Gulf of Corinth. Circle the big mountain to your right to fly back to the point of departure, where you can land at Dounis Airfield, close to the airfield you took off from.

Trip over the Corinth Canal

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

When the Azores turned out to be a bit disappointing, I tried my luck at the Canaries, another group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The rugged southern part of Gran Canaria turned out to be the most interesting. You can take off at GCLB El Berriel, discover the mountainous area and then land at the airport in the most northern tip of the island.

Spitzkoppe, Namibia (50 min)

It is the trip to this group of granite peaks in the Namib desert that is interesting because you fly over three distinctly different types of desert. Start at FYWB Walvis Bay after which you need to fly north-northeast (33°) for about 45 minutes. I circled the mountains a few times and then landed in the desert.

For the exact opposite experience, a boring desert but more impressive mountain range, start at FYSM Swakopmund and fly north for about 40 minutes until you reach the Brandberg, the largest mountain of Namibia.

Spitzkoppe mountains

Monument Valley, USA (20 min)

If you grew up watching western films on television, as I did, a visit to Monument Valley should be on your agenda. UT25 Goulding’s Monument Valley is located right next to the sandstone buttes of this Navajo Tribal Park. Highway 163 runs between the monumental hills. If you follow it northeast, you’ll fly over Forrest Gump Hill, the spot where Forrest decides to go home because he’s tired after running for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. Right after that hill, you’ll reach the San Juan River and Goosenecks State Park. Follow the river westward a bit to admire its curvy bends and then land at 03UT AZ Minerals Corporation, the small airstrip to the south.

Bingham Canyon Mine, USA (25 min)

This mine, also known as the Kennecott Copper Mine, is located near Salt Lake City. It is the largest man-made excavation and deepest open-pit mine in the world. The mine is more than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide and 1200 meters (3900 feet) deep.

Fly west after taking off at UT99 West Desert Air Park in Cedar Valley until you’re at the foot of the hills. Continue straight north for about 10 minutes to find the mine to the left. The challenge is to fly into the mine as low as possible while still managing to get back up again. If you make it, fly 35° northeast for another 10 minutes to land at South Valley Regional Airport.

open pit mines in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

If you find open mines interesting, also check out the Muruntau Gold Mine in Uzbekistan. It is located really close to UTTM Muruntau Southeast Airport. Grasberg Mine in Indonesia and the Kalgoorlie Super Pit in Australia are also interesting.

Cape Canaveral, USA

Take off at KXMR Cape Canaveral AFS Skid Strip, fly northwest over the narrow strip of land to the next island and follow that road that takes you to Kennedy Space Center. It has a nice collection of rockets on display and, for me at least, is more fun to visit than Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Oil rigs, Gulf of Mexico

There are hundreds of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. If you take off from KGAO South Lafourche heading 160° to the south, you fly over the interesting coastal bayous and lakes of Louisiana. After about ten minutes small dots appear in the sea in the distance. These are all oil rigs. No need to try, apparently you cannot land on the helicopter pad of the offshore drilling platform.

Niagara Falls, Canada & USA

I started my flight at CYYZ Pearson International in Toronto, crossing Lake Ontario flying south-southeast and then flying up the Niagara River. This is fun, but the Falls unfortunately are static, completely lacking the awesome effect of tons of water pouring down. There are a few small airstrips in the neighborhood to land on.

Matterhorn, Switzerland (45 min)

An addon makes this mountain on the border between Switzerland and Italy even more impressive. Use the default runway at LIMW Aosta Airport, continue west for a minute and you’ll see a small river coming down from the mountains to the north. Follow that river which turns northeast. Looking ahead in that valley, you’ll see the top of the Matterhorn straight ahead. Keep climbing to reach the summit around 25 minutes into the flight. After circling the top, I flew into the valley to the northeast. It takes you over the city of Zermatt, heading north. A few minutes later you can turn into a valley to the left to land at Flugplatz Raron.

I’ve flown to this mountain a few times and on one flight I did not make it because the plane iced up. Set the temperature a bit higher if you’re flying a Cessna 152 or another plane without deicing this high during winter.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia (20 min)

This is the largest temple complex in the world, so there is more to be seen than the 12th-century Hindu-Buddhist temple in its center. The extensive network of canals, straightened rivers, lakes, and other structures are also worth looking at. VDSR Siem Reap International is located close to the temples to their east.

Volcanoes

Volcanoes are interesting places to visit from the safety of a virtual cockpit. One of my favorites is Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java. You can see it to the east as soon as you take off from WARA Abdul Rahman Saleh Airport. It is fun to circle the volcano getting to its peak with a little Cessna. After checking out the surrounding area, you can fly and land at WAPZ Pasuruan Airport.

Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenia is the largest mountain in Africa. It is a free-standing dormant volcano but not terribly exciting to fly over in MSFS.

Dounis airfield in Greece

Not in the top 50 but fun as well

The flights below were fun but they did not capture my imagination like the above ones did. They may, however, be right up your alley.

I love Paris and spent a few holidays in that city but somehow flying over the city was a bit disappointing. Sure, it is fun to locate the Eiffel Tower, La Défense and other famous places but somehow that city works best when visited by foot. World Update 4 added lots of details but didn’t change my opinion.

Dubai, while offering the Burj Khalifa, artificial islands and the beautiful Burj El Arab, also did not appeal to me. It’s a bit too obvious that unlimited oil funds are the only reason this city exists in its current shape.

Carcassonne,  the hilltop town in the south of France, is famous for its well preserved medieval citadel. It must be very impressive when you visit it on foot. From the air you get a good overview of the town’s geography but all the housing around the old town detract a bit from its beauty.

The Richat Structure or ‘Eye of the Sahara‘ is a geologic oddity, a 40-kilometer wide circular structure of rings in the Sahara desert in Mauretania. It is the result of the erosion of a dome that consisted of different types of rock. To reach Guelb er Richât, take off at CGT Chinguetti Airport and fly 62° northeast while steadily climbing. In a Cessna 152, you’ll see the structure after half an hour while needing 45 minutes to reach it. This trip is probably more fun with a faster plane.

Richat Structure

Croatia has an interesting coastline. I had planned a late evening flight from Dubrovnik to Split but landed at Brač International Airport, because the trip just took too long.

The Wikipedia page about the Barringer Crater is more interesting than the hole in the ground itself. If you feel an urgent need to check this, take off at KINS Winslow-Lindberg and fly west for about ten minutes. Instead of landing on the nearby LeChee airstrip, why not put down your plane in the meteor crater itself?

The Nazca Lines in Peru are hardly visible and simply not that impressive.

Barringer crater

The Lake District in the UK is a hiker’s favorite but it did not stand out to me. Navigation from one lake to the other is fun though, as was ending the flight on the Isle of Man.

Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, got upgraded with the UK update early 2021. It looks nice now and is interesting, but not exactly amazing when looked upon from above.

A flight from Salerno along the Amalfi coast in Italy was a bit disappointing but it ended with a tour around Mount Vesuvius and a landing in Naples, which was interesting.

Lake Hillier is a pink-colored saline lake, located on the edge of Middle Island off the south coast of Western Australia. In Google Earth, it is a brightly colored lake but in Flight Simulator only its edges are a bit pinkish. It also takes quite some time to get to the island if you take off at YESP Esperance Airport, head south, and then follow the coast to the east until you see Middle Island off the coast.

Lake Retba in Senegal, another pink lake, is even more disappointing. A flight to Laguna del Diamante in Argentina was interesting but that lake also wasn’t as spectacular as expected.

Lake Hillier in MS Flight Simulator

Island hopping in the Aegean Sea around Greece looks promising but I have yet to find a flight I can recommend. Kos and Santorini were not that interesting, as the flight simulator cannot catch the beauty of the villages with their white houses and brightly colored roofs. The same is true for the Carribean, where I tried a flight around Saint Lucia to check out the Pitons.

I flew from Copenhagen (Denmark) to Malmö, (Sweden) at night. The bridge connecting both countries is pretty, with Copenhagen lighting up in the background.

Taking off at KEYW Key West International for a flight over the Florida Keys to Miami sounded like a great idea but for me the flight takes too long in a Cessna 152. Maybe it is more fun (and appropriate) in a business jet.

Disappointing flights

The automatic algorithms used by Asobo/Blackshark.ai do an amazing job of creating a lifelike world but there are of course circumstances in which these routines fail. These are destinations that should be interesting but they are not (yet).

Hạ Long Bay in Vietnam is very pretty in the pictures I saw but that beauty does not come through in Flight Simulator.

Loktak Lake in North East India is famous for its phumdis, small floating islands made from plants and soil. Unfortunately only a few unrealistic circular phumdis are visible when you fly over the lake.

Mont-Saint-Michel, the tidal island in Normandy, France is not very detailed, lacking vegetation and proper coloring. The island is located 5 miles west of LFRW Le Val St Pere. It will be worth a visit once updated.

Planta Solar 10 is an interesting solar power tower near Seville, Spain. 624 large movable mirrors heat up the water in a receiver built into a tower. The heated water powers a steam turbine to generate electricity.

Even if they get updates, there are still places that I don’t consider worth the time.

  • Easter Island is surprisingly small and plain looking. No wonder the inhabitants made those giant Maoi statues. They were probably bored stiff and fed up living in such an uninspiring place.
  • Other islands that did not appeal to me include Isles of Scilly (England), Shetland Islands (England) and Cape Verde.

On the agenda

The places below are still on my To Do list, either to fly them or describe them. So many great locations, so little time!

  • Angel Falls, Venezuela
  • Calgary, Canada – Take off at Calgary Springbank (CYBW) at sunrise and fly west towards the Rockies. Enter the mountains over Lake Minnewanka and then transition to the VFR route over Banff. From there you’ll pass by Castle Mountain, Lake Louise, and then through the tight valley into Golden airport (CYGE)
  • Donegal airport, Ireland – nice coastal area for a quick discovery flight
  • Chicago, USA
  • Florence, Italy
  • Hawaii – Pearl Harbor memorial site and Mauna Kea Observatory
  • Huashan Mountain, China
  • Landing on an aircraft carrier
  • Loch Ness, Scotland
  • Machu Pichu, Peru
  • Mesa Verde in Colorado, USA
  • Mont Blanc, France
  • Mont Ventoux, France
  • Mount Paektu (Changbai Mountain), China
  • Pripyat (Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant), Ukraine
  • Seattle to Portland with Mount Saint Helens in the background
  • Skagway, Alaska
  • Zion National Park, USA – starting at St. George, Utah. Head Northeast to Zion. Very beautiful lush green and red canyons and sheer cliffs. Head east from there to Bryce Canyon. Continue ESE to Grand Staircase, and Glen Canyon Dam.’

Other sources of information

Google brings up dozens of pages listing the ’10 best flights in Flight Simulator’. I prefer forum threads where people can comment on each other’s suggestions, such as this discussion. The World Discovery section of the official Flight Simulator forums is also very interesting.

There are numerous Flight Simulator videos on YouTube. I like 42 Amazing Landmarks All Over the World in FS 2020 and 17 Stunning Places to Visit in FS 2020.

Other sites for suggestions for flights include https://worldtour.flights and https://flightspots.co.

My setup

I have an older PC (Intel i7 4790K, 32 GB RAM, 2 Tb SSD) with a new RTX 3060 Ti video card. I prefer to fly, however, from the comfort of my Poäng armchair, so Steam Link is used to stream Flight Simulator to my iPad. The tablet is dangling from one of my knees, kept in place by its cover. That way my hands are free to use a Microsoft Xbox joystick as a controller.

Once Flight Simulator is up and running, I launch VFRMap, a small freeware tool that you can download here. This allows me to also have a browser window open on my iPad and check where I am heading. It is similar but bigger and more refined than Flight Simulator’s VFR map.

8 thoughts on “Short scenic flights in Flight Simulator 2020

  1. Thanks so much for putting this together,, must have taken ages. Adding links to additional resources is also valuable. Will be bookmarking this!

  2. There is an airport in North Carolina called mountain air (2NCO) it’s a community with a golf course built around a runway, got to fly in there in real life. Really a cool place to check out I don’t know how it translates in the sim.

    1. Excellent tip. It is apparently a bit disappointing in Flight Simulator but I saw on the AVSIM forums that there is a fix for that. I’ll need to download it from https://flightsim.to/file/3701/2nc0 and give it a try.
      [Update] I install the add-on and flew over the area. It is indeed an interesting location and a beautiful airfield. I flew over a few mines, looked them up, and learned a bit about feldspar and mica as well. This is what makes Flight Simulator so interesting to me!

  3. Great article! Great list! Thanks for sharing. I was searching for “hidden gems in MSFS” and this is the best I’ve found. I also use MSFS a lot for virtual travel, revisiting many places I have visited IRL or often based on interesting scenery or airport addons found on flightsim.to or when I buy an Orbx scenery pack. Singapore is great. I’m a private pilot (mostly C152 and Citabria) but haven’t flown as pilot since 2012. I had visited a few of your places in MSFS but Moab, Utah was really cool yesterday as was Milford Sound, NZ. I often use the VGP Power Solo ultralight addon for really low/slow flying with great visibility. You can land almost anywhere. I took a hot air balloon flight near Stockholm in 2014 and I enjoyed recreating that route in MSFS. It’s really like a magic carpet with the ability to set your location, time, weather, etc. and if you like, pay attention to aviation procedures and navigation too. Plus updates and addons. What’s not to like? I’ve started to use the free Flight Recorder utility to revisit scenic areas and make videos. I also combine hobbies sometimes by adding soundtrack music I’ve composed to a video like this one in London (Orbx, pre-UK Update). https://youtu.be/yODWN4e5T1g

    1. Great video! I also bought the Orbx London Pack and hope it gets updated for compatibility with the UK update.

  4. That was wonderful to share this, I am loving everything that you have created, great work, going to share this is my groups…! Capt. Morpheus 0723

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