The potential of directional observations in the thermal infrared region for land surface studies is a largely uncharted area of research. The availability of the dual‐view Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) observations led to explore new opportunities in this direction. In the context of studies on heat transfer at heterogeneous land surfaces, multiangular thermal infrared (TIR) observations offer the opportunity of overcoming fundamental difficulties in modeling sparse canopies. Three case studies were performed on the estimation of the component temperatures of foliage and soil. The first one included the use of multi‐temporal field measurements at view angles of 0°, 23° and 52°. The second and third one were done with directional ATSR observations at view angles of 0° and 53° only. The first one was a contribution to the Inner‐Mongolia Grassland Atmosphere Surface Study (IMGRASS) experiment in China, the second to the Hei He International Field Experiment (HEIFE) in China and the third one to the Southern Great Plains 1997 (SGP 1997) experiment in Oklahoma, United States. The IMGRASS experiment provided useful insights on the applicability of a simple linear mixture model to the analysis of observed radiance. The HEIFE case study was focused on the large oasis of Zhang‐Ye and led to useful estimates of soil and vegetation temperatures. The SGP 1997 contributed a better understanding of the impact of spatial heterogeneity on the accuracy of retrieved foliage and soil temperatures. Limitations in the approach due to varying radiative and boundary layer forcing and to the difference in spatial resolution between the forward and the nadir view are evaluated through a combination of modeling studies and analysis of field data.