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10 Amazing Outdoor Staircases
By Josh Lew,
Mother Nature Network, 23 February 2015.

Going up stairs is something people often try to avoid. Elevators, escalators and ramps have made this kind of climbing less necessary. If you’re trying to lose weight or if you have an elevator phobia, you might tackle a few flights every now and then. For the most part, though, people don’t spend much time ascending staircases.

But if that’s your approach, you’re missing something. Many stairways are a pleasure to walk up - outdoor flights that pass through amazing natural scenery or climb colourful urban landscapes. Even if the ascent makes you break a sweat or get a little short of breath, a trip up is well worth the effort.


1. Schlossberg Stairway, Austria

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Photo: Andrew Bossi/Wikimedia Commons

This staircase in the Austrian town of Graz zigzags up an impossibly steep hill. The steps and guardrails are made of stone embedded into the slope. The stairs are a historic part of the Graz’s infrastructure, leading up to a clock tower that holds the heaviest bell in the town.

While making the trip, climbers get the added treat of some excellent views of Graz. Lampposts along the route make the trip possible at night, when the Graz skyline looks much different than during daylight hours.


2. Batu Caves Stairs, Malaysia

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Photo: Winey/Wikimedia Commons

The Batu Caves are a few miles outside the centre of Kuala Lumpur. A long series of stairs leads from street level up to the caves. If you were to count as you climbed, you’d come up with a total of 272 steps. The ascent is quite a task in the always humid weather of Malaysia’s capital.

The imposing statue next to the stairway weighs more than 250 tons and is covered with more than 80 gallons of gold paint. Batu is an important site for the local Hindu population, but everyone is welcome, including some macaques who sit on the railings accepting (and sometimes stealing) handouts from visitors.


3. Hai’ku Stairs, Hawaii

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Photo: Kelsie DiPerna/Flickr

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the Hai’ku Stairs climb the slopes of the Koolau Mountain Range. Originally used by the U.S. Coast Guard, the steps were first made of wood before being replaced by sturdier metal in certain sections. In some places, however, the original wood remains. Sometimes called the Stairway to Heaven, it has 3,922 steps total.

Today, unfortunately, Hai’ku is officially closed to visitors. However, people often ignore the fence and no trespassing sign and climb anyway. A movement is underway to reopen the site to the public.


4. San Francisco’s Mosaic Steps (16th Avenue Tiled Steps)

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Photo: _e.t/Flickr

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps began as a modest community-funded art project, but today this is one of the West Coast’s most beautiful staircases. Neighbourhood residents either joined in the creation of the 163 panels - one for each step - or sponsored the project.

The steps can be accessed from Moraga Street between 15th and 16th avenues. This is only about 15 minutes from Golden Gate Park. The neighbourhood will celebrate their creation’s 10th birthday in the summer of 2015.


5. Escadaria Selaron, Brazil

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Photo: Rogério Zgiet/Flickr

These colourful steps are named after the man who created them: Chilean-born artist and long-time Rio resident Jorge Selarón. In 1990, he started covering the dirty and disrepaired stairs near his home with colourful tiles. By selling paintings and accepting donations, he was able to cover 250 steps using tiles, ceramics, glass and mirrors.

The first tiles he used were scavenged from construction sites. Soon, though, his project gained attention from locals, tourists and art publications. People from around the world began sending or bringing tiles to Selarón to help with the project. He kept working on the stairs until his death in 2013.


6. Pailon del Diablo, Ecuador

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Image via Travelycia

Translated into English, Pailon del Diablo means “Devil’s Cauldron.” A towering waterfall in Ecuador’s jungle tumbles down a cliff into a pool, with a series of stone steps that can put you right up close to this violent-but-beautiful scene.

The Pailon del Diablo stairway is well-built, but the stone steps are always a little bit slippery from mist the waterfall emits. The top of the stairway is very intimidating because of an optical illusion: The steps are perpetually in the shade, so they often appear to blend together. This makes it seem like you are actually about to go down a rock slide instead of a stairway.


7. Potemkin Steps, Ukraine

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Photo: Dezidor/Wikimedia Commons

These steps were originally built as a formal entrance into the Ukrainian city of Odessa. The stairway was carefully constructed so that it seemed longer than it was. There are only 192 steps, with wider landing areas between each set. Potemkin’s top step is only 41 feet long; the bottom one is 70 feet long. This creates a perspective of great depth. Also, from the top of the stairway, you cannot see the steps at all, only the landings between each flight.


8. Gaztelugatxe Stairs, Spain

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Photo: horrapics/Flickr

Gaztelugatxe is an islet on the coast of Spain’s Basque region. The island, home to a monastery built in the 11th century, is connected to the mainland by 237 steps. The stairway is crowded with tourists during the summertime when the island is open to the public.

Gaztelugatxe has had a colourful past. Legend has it that the Knights Templar occupied the small isle at one point, and the privateer Francis Drake and his crew invaded and robbed the monastery in the 16th century.


9. Liege Stairs (Montagne de Bueren), Belgium

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Photo: Philippe Teuwen/Flickr

Montagne de Bueren sits in one of the oldest sections on the Belgian city of Liege. The stairway that leads from the bottom of Bueren to the top has 374 steps. Old brick buildings lining both sides of the stairway make this a picturesque place. The remains of a fortress can be visited at the top of the hill, though most people make the climb simply to look over the city from on high.


10. Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau

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Photo: Dan/Flickr

Some of the most recognizable steps in East Asia lead to the ruins of Macau’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, once a 16th century Portuguese church. Climbing the stairs is as much a part of the experience as actually seeing the historic structure.

More than a tourist attraction, it is also a place to congregate. Unlike many of the other staircases on our list, Macau’s flight is as popular for sitting as it is for walking. Tourists and locals like to take a seat to enjoy their street food or take a few snapshots.


Top image: Hai’ku Stairs, Hawaii, via Travel And Stories.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some images and links added.]

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