One of the most effective ways to rejuvenate yourself after the mind-numbing, backache-inducing monotony of a long-haul flight is to immerse yourself in nature. It has a remarkable restorative quality about it -- the fresh air, space to move, splashy light, chirping birds, the whole bit.
Fortunately, some airports around the world have caught the nature bug too, providing restful indoor and outdoor spaces to unwind. If you're looking to take a deep Zen-filled breath before hopping on a flight, or if you're making a connection and need to seek out a happy place, these beautiful airport gardens will do the trick.
Various Nature Gardens, Changi Airport, Singapore
Singapore's airport is a trailblazer in terms of providing multiple natural settings for passengers, and it's hard to pick a favorite spot.
Both kids and adults will ooh and ahh over the namesake critters in the tropical butterfly garden in Terminal 3 (in the lounge on level 2); there's a waterfall too. Terminal 1 features a cactus garden with species from the Americas and Africa, as well as a serene water lily garden.
In Terminal 2 you'll spot 700 flowering blooms in the orchid garden, while the sunflower garden turns into a chic-yet-chill display at night, complete with twinkling lights that look like fireflies.
Green Wall and Chester Johnson Park, Vancouver International Airport
The Green Wall forms a boundary for another cool natural space at the airport, Chester Johnson Park. The hidden nook contains shade-covered benches, a footbridge over a pond, totem poles and a waterfall -- and it's seldom crowded. Well-placed trees hide the view of a nearby parking lot.
Sky Garden, Incheon International Airport, Seoul
Forget about the golf course, posh shops and casino -- the Sky Garden at South Korea's main airport is our favorite attraction.
The Sky Garden is located outside the passenger terminal and features walking/biking trails, as well as abundant azaleas and forsythias that bloom each spring. Climb to the observatory deck for a view of the garden and the airport runways.
Once inside the terminal, more than half a dozen other gardens are scattered around the airport, including water gardens, a cactus garden and a pine tree garden with ponds and flowers.
Airport Park, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam
Okay, it's not exactly a real park, but it serves the same purpose. This 20,000-square-foot space in Amsterdam's airport mimics a park setting, with faux trees, log-style benches, "ivy"-fabric upholstered chairs, wooden picnic tables, and a piped-in soundtrack of birds chirping.
You can't exactly take an actual bike ride through the park, but you can hop on a stationary bike to pretend. And a bonus? The bikes generate energy that you can use to power up your mobile phone or tablet.
So while the space might not be green in the nature sense, it's green in other ways. And if you do want some of the real thing, the airport has an outdoor terrace with real plants and trees. Airport Park is in Lounge 1.
Central Garden, Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv
Just outside Ben Gurion's Terminal 3 is an award-winning, architect-designed garden. It's not lush by any means -- picture wheat-colored grasses, meticulously lined citrus groves, concrete pathways and stainless steel "ocean waves" cutting across plains of river pebbles. But it converts what was originally slated to be a parking garage into a modern respite that "takes regional landscape types and expresses them beautifully," according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, which honored the garden's architects in 2005.
Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian Gardens, Honolulu Airport
Honolulu Airport commemorates the cultural influences of Japan, China and native Hawaiians in three tucked-away gardens outside the main terminal. Waterways connect the three spaces, to symbolize the "intermingling" of the three cultures in the island state.
A shingle-roofed pavilion, a pagoda and sculpted weeping willow trees mark the Japanese Garden, which is accessible by a zigzagging walkway and bridge. The Chinese Garden features a pretty yellow-tile-roof pavilion, lily-pad-covered goldfish ponds and an arched bridge. The lush Hawaiian Garden is filled with banana and coconut trees, exotic flowers and fiery luau torches at night.
Aeroponic Urban Garden, Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Nearly four dozen different types of herbs and vegetables grow in a remarkable vertical garden in between Terminals 2 and 3 at O'Hare in Chicago. It's quite a sight to see -- and the first of its kind in any airport around the world.
Eight-foot-long cylinders filled with a water and mineral solution, plus special lights, provide a thriving environment for plants to grow via a process called aeroponics. The water is recycled too, through a high-tech system.
And what happens to all the Swiss chard, lettuce and other goodies grown in this eco-chic garden? Several airport restaurants use them as in their kitchens. Airport eating doesn't get more locally grown than that!
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--written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma