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11 Incredible places to go hot air ballooning

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When it comes to seeing some of the world’s most spectacular locations, these days, the sky is no longer the limit. Soaring above iconic landmarks and landscapes is nothing new, but there’s never been a better time to take in such scenes from up above. Since the first hot air balloon flight all the way back in 1783, such experiences have provided unique (and often superior) views of everything that the world has to offer.

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About the Author

I have travelled around Tanzania a lot and love the wilderness of the safari areas. The animals roam freely across huge swathes of land.

AFRICA SPECIALIST

Georgie

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These days, the typical hot air balloon experience is the safest it has ever been, and hot air balloon ride tour providers tend to make stringent safety checks every step of the way. In addition, they ensure you’re in complete comfort, offering a range of packages which may include food, drink or on-land tours, as well as options when it comes to who you’ll share the experience with.

Whether you’ve never ridden in a hot air balloon before or you’re somewhat of a connoisseur, there are plenty of destinations to explore from the skies. Narrowing the world down to just 11 incredible destinations is a real struggle, but the following are absolutely unmissable.

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO, USA

If ever there was a place famed for hot air balloons, it’s Albuquerque in the USA. Every year, the city plays host to a whole gathering of them, bringing the skies to life with countless colourful orbs. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta brings fans from all over the world to enjoy the spectacle each October.

Perhaps it’s the perfect weather conditions or simply the calm desert air, but there’s nothing quite like hundreds of them rising into the air just as the sun does. Whether you’re an aficionado or just want to appreciate from the sidelines, the surrealness will take your breath away!

CHÂTEAU-D’OEX, SWITZERLAND

Almost as though lifted from the pages of a storybook, the fairytale villages of Château d’Oex help bring the medieval years gone by back to 21st Century life. There’s nothing more picturesque than the iconic Swiss Alps at the best of times, but from up above, it’s like you’ve entered dreamland. From high up in the clouds, you’ll see the likes of such famous sights as Mont-Blanc and the Matterhorn.

The surrounding area comprises a beautiful balloonscape that’s available year-round, and it’s just as charming in each of the four seasons. To truly appreciate its charm, it’s recommended to visit towards the end of January, when it plays host to Semaine Internationale de Ballons à Air Chaud, otherwise known as International Hot Air Balloon Week.

This is another place for true fans to congregate, and the ten-day festival set to a backdrop of snow-covered terrain will not let you down.

CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY

A balloon ride over Cappadocia in central Turkey may look like you’ve gone back in time 4,000 years – but the reality is you’ll only be a few thousand feet in the air! Many years ago the area was home to traders, but these days it’s the unique landscapes that bring visitors from far and wide. The jagged, somewhat craggy rock formations are reminiscent of prehistoric ages but from above, they’re a sight to behold.

If you want to view the way that elements, erosion and eruptions have had a hand in shaping the incredible landscape, take a balloon from the town of Goreme with its famous “fairy chimneys”. Walking through the area would most likely be an impossible task, but from overhead, you can do anything! While you’re soaring through the skies, don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the way humanity has shaped the area, taking in everything from churches to vineyards.

If you want a top tip, try and take flight in the morning. This is the best time for photography, to savour your memories!

SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, TANZANIA

Tanzania provides incredible safari experiences to its visitors, particularly those who visit the absolutely astounding Serengeti National Park. Every year, the region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is graced by the migration of thousands upon thousands of animals. You can expect the ultimate in sightings; from wildebeests and zebra, to giraffe and elephants. In fact, many people say it is Tanzania’s very best park, and it is easy to see why!

The region itself is beyond enormous, and it would be impossible to see it all. However, you can eliminate this problem by taking a hot air balloon over the area. What better way to cover all that ground? You’ll find a range of different packages to optimise your experience, including breakfast in the bush, sunrise tours and more. Of course, you ought still to do a safari on the ground as well, but flying high gives you the most amazing vantage point and truly allows you to shake things up.

VALLEY OF THE KINGS, EGYPT

Nothing quite prepares you for a trip over the River Nile, immediately casting images far into the depths of your imagination of the centuries gone by. The green valley of the river is in stark contrast to the limestone mountains of the Valley of the Kings and the desert within it, a place of archaeological significance and many, many secrets.

From your hot air balloon, you’ll spot Luxor, which was once the majestic Thebes, the capital of Ancient Egypt and a place of great significance.

For a brief moment, you’ll catch a glittering glimpse of another time, before just as soon as it all appeared, you’ll be back to reality once again.

ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE

A birds-eye view of Chile’s Atacama Desert is a real sight to behold. The vast, diverse landscape is best appreciated from a clear sky, should you be lucky enough to see it from a hot air balloon.

Your pilot, much like an artist, will show you new ways of appreciating colour, transforming the canvas below into a work of art that’s truly alive – and only appreciated by the fortunate few who come along for the ride. Sail through the skies as the sun emerges over the horizon, to admire volcanoes and views that you never imagined possible.

You’ll drift over the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), observing everything from the pink sand, salt-rich mountains and rugged terrain. Don’t let the mountains fool you; their peaks may look like snow, but they’re absolutely not. That’s all part of the magic, and the region isn’t quite like anywhere else.

QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND

When you visit Queenstown, you may as well remove the word “bored” from your vocabulary, because it’s simply not possible to feel so. In both scenery and opportunity, this New Zealand town is dramatic in every sense of the word, combining some of the most breathtaking views and terrifying activities that nature and man have to collaboratively offer. Once you’ve had your fill of bungee jumping, skiing or skydiving (if you dare), you absolutely must book a hot air balloon ride to take it all in.

From the eerie silence of a gorgeous glide over Lake Wakatipu to panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges, this gem of the South Island is one of those places that couldn’t look bad if it tried. Such places are indeed rare. Each and every angle is photogenic, ensuring that your experience will be the envy of your family and friends.

RED CENTRE, AUSTRALIA

Australia’s Red Centre has an absolutely captivating past and it has been largely untouched by nature’s most dangerous predator – man. The Aboriginal people have called the nation home for many thousands of years and have shown the land the utmost respect throughout that time, believing that it has spiritual significance.

The magic of the Red Centre is that unlike many other areas which have seen a lot of urbanisation as a result of colonisation, the sheer scale of the desert still sprawls out for miles without much interruption. Of course, Alice Springs itself is a relatively built up town, but after just a few minutes in the sky, you’ll soon see the “real” Australia in all of its glory, including the magnificent MacDonnell Ranges.

As red dust dances and swirls below you, colours, shapes and skies here are just as nature intended. There’s true peace and quiet from up above, creating moments that will be truly unforgettable.

NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, USA

Most people who experience the delights of Napa do so firmly on the ground (albeit with their head in the clouds after a few too many wines)! Why not do things differently and see California’s famous valley from overhead?

Setting out from Yountville, you’ll be afforded the luxury of catching stunning views of both Mount St. Helena and the Mayacamas Mountains below. Of course, you’ll also catch more than a glimpse of the beautiful vineyards, whose wares you can often sample with various wine-tasting packages offered with your ride.

Better still, if you’re a fan of the great outdoors and cityscapes, you’ll get to steal a glimpse of the San Francisco skyline over the horizon. The Californians know how to look after you well, so expect your aerial adventure to be accompanied by the very best in terms of hospitality!

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA

There’s nothing in the world that’s quite like European charm of centuries gone by. Vilnius not only inherently captures such magic, but it allows you to do so from up above.

Known for baroque architecture, its stunning medieval Old Town and partially cobbled streets, Vilnius has managed to preserve little pieces of its past from many different eras, leaving visitors with snapshots into the past in the form of cathedrals and churches. Be sure to check out the Gate of Dawn, once the entrance to the city and containing a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

From peak perspective, you’ll see just above everything it has to offer and truly appreciate the diversity of its history in the spires of Gothic and Renaissance influence, as well as the two local rivers.

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