Flying high in an endless sea of clouds, one amongst the birds, with a cool breeze brushing past you, the occasional gust of wind playing through your hair, raw and pleasant sun-rays gently settling upon your body, and your eyes wandering off as far as they can see, with nothing to obstruct your view… If this is not what being on top of the world means, then what does? This was only but a brief description of what you feel and experience when you are riding in a hot air balloon. It is almost as if you are weightless, drifting along with the wind in extreme silence, except the occasional fire bursts inside the balloon. The feeling is surreal, one of a kind, nothing short of what would feel like magic.
The whole point of taking a trip to the skies on a hot air balloon is to get a bird’s-eye view of the scenic locales, lush landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and rivers snaking through the valleys. You will appreciate the sunrise/sunset (depending on the time of day when you take the trip) in a totally different light after you have witnessed one during your flight. The world is aplenty with beauty, and there are many places that are just apt for flying in a hot air balloon. Here are some of the most amazing places that guarantee breathtaking views from a hot air balloon. Take your pick and get packing already!
Describing and reading about it, is only feeling a fraction of what it actually feels like. It can only feel as beautiful as one’s imagination is. Actually, being afloat on a hot air balloon is the only thing that wholly justifies its awesomeness and the magic that it creates.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, also known as the ‘Adventure Capital of The World’, is a resort town in Otago, New Zealand. It is cozily settled on the banks of Queenstown Bay, an inlet on Lake Wakatipu. The snow-covered mountain tops, the serenity of Lake Wakatipu, the lush greenery bordering the lake, and the vast blue skies, all form part of a beautiful view, which leaves you speechless and breathless. It gets infinitely better when this view is enjoyed from atop a hot air balloon. No wonder it was an inspiration for Peter Jackson to direct his Lord of the Rings movie series with this dainty and picturesque town as the backdrop.
Apart from hot air balloon rides, the added attractions that Queenstown has to offer are skiing, sky diving, bungee jumping, paragliding, and some other land and river adventures. For those interested in spending quiet, quality time, you can take part in events that involve art, culture, history, wine tasting, nature and sightseeing around town.
The Cappadocian region that comprises steep hills, rugged and profound valleys, conspicuous canyons and magnificent rock formations, is settled in Central Anatolia, Turkey. Hot air balloon rides are the best way to experience one of nature’s self-created, most amazing cities of Cappadocia. It is a popular tourist attraction in Göreme. It is an experience within an experience to noiselessly glide over this imperial stretch of the city, and watch the enormity of the rocks, houses carved within rocks, ancient churches caved within huge monolithic rocks, set against a bold backdrop volcanic landscape. Be fascinated by tiny pigeonholes hewn within the monumental rocks, infinite fairy chimneys strewn across the region, vineyards that form a part of fertile valleys and orchards that add a pop of bright colors to the scene, lighting up your day.
When viewed from above, it looks as if you are flying over the moon, literally! The landscape of the Cappadocian region appears very moon-like. Also, the underground cities formed here are a major attraction.
Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
Bagan is an area in Central Myanmar, famous for being home to the largest number of Buddhist temples, ruins, pagodas and stupas. Nestled on the banks of the river Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), engulfed by a dense cover of lush greenery, this region is a beautiful combination of raw nature, ancient culture, rich heritage, serene spirituality, and a touch of modern architecture. Such a combination lends it a distinct aura and mentally appeals any tourist.
Riding in a hot air balloon over the scenic beauty of Bagan, will only make you realize how the grandness of the heritage, the calmness surrounding you and the magic unfolding in front of your eyes, could make it the adventure of your lifetime.
Few know that Marco Polo described Bagan as ‘one of the finest sights in the world’. As the sun rises over the horizon, the tombs of temples and stupas and the Bagan pagodas form outstanding silhouettes against the reddish-pink hue of the morning sky. Spread over an area of 16 square miles, the entire landscape is dotted by at least 5000 architectural structures, historical ruins, religious temples, pagodas, and stupas. Look as far as you can, and not once will the view disappoint you.
Nestled cozily in the village of Saanenland, Gstaad steals the show with its unspoilt snow-capped Swiss Alps, lush green landscapes, modern art and culture, contrasting ancient historical heritage, exotic dining options, and conventional shopping centers. Gstaad is known for being a traffic-free center, shadowed by tranquility and peace so surreal that it feels like heaven on Earth. As if this wasn’t enough, a hot air balloon ride over the ice-crowned, and heaven-reaching alpines, will leave you awestruck and make you put your life in a perspective or two. The dewy grass-filled highlands, tiny wooden houses dotting the steep mountain slopes, and the snow-covered white mountain tops glistening like jewels on a crown in the morning sun, all form a spectacle that is visually enthralling and just sweeps you off your feet.
Gstaad’s prodigious micro-climate and exceptional flying conditions is the icing on the cake, which makes it an ideal location for hot air ballooning.
Every year, in the last week of January, during the International Balloon Festival in Chateau d’Oex, the Gstaad sky is filled with tons of bright and bold-colored balloons, that loom overhead and create a visual spectacle in itself. Also, the village livens up during the winter when its annual winter sport festival is scheduled. So, ideally, winter would be the best time to visit Gstaad, so that, along with hot air ballooning, you get to experience other characteristic events too.
Istria is the largest peninsular region in the Adriatic Sea. It is a part of three countries: Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. Istria is surrounded by deep blue seas, enigmatic green hills that roll out into eternity, architecture that explains ancient Russian culture and heritage beautifully. All this enveloped in the perfect continental, Mediterranean climate, makes Croatia the best place to unwind yourself and get back to life with a fresh perspective, if you are looking for one. The hot air balloon rides here are a treat for the eyes, your body, your mind, and your soul. You cannot help, but be in awe of Istria’s spellbinding beauty and magnificence. Whether it’s an early morning dawn flight, or a late evening dusk flight, hot air balloon rides over this wonderful piece of Earth will leave you breathless, and asking for more.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Welcome to the largest city in New Mexico, America. A city where hot air ballooning is taken so seriously, that a hot air balloon festival is celebrated with utter enthusiasm and pomp, every year! The ‘Cosmic Carnival’, an annual event that takes place in October at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum, is the largest hot air balloon event in the world. It is a sight that will blow your mind. Hundreds of balloons rise up in the air, gliding effortlessly, illuminating the sky with thousands of colors and the minds of the spectators with pure ecstasy and joy.
The Sandia mountains that border the eastern side of Albuquerque are something that should be enjoyed from a hot air balloon. They appear reddish in color and are hence, believed to be named Sandia, which is Spanish for watermelon. Laid against the sky’s gentle blue backdrop, the Sandia crest is an amazing natural creation, formed due to uplifting. As the balloon glides past the entire dimension of the mountain range, observe that the western face is extremely rocky, whereas it slopes gently on the east.
The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti was first discovered by Stewart Edward White. This national park is spread over a straggling 5700 square miles. Its name comes from the term siringet, which means ‘the place where the land runs forever’. The hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti National Park, gives you a chance to look at forests, landscapes, sunrise and sunset, wildlife, and nature from a completely different and fresh perspective. The balloon rises with the rising sun, and floats where the wind takes it. Regarding wildlife spotting, it would be better to go on a hot balloon safari with an open mind, sans any preconceived notions. After all, it is better to be surprised than be disappointed. On a lucky day, which is most of the days, you can spot one or more kind of wildlife that includes hippos, lions, hyenas, tigers, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, antelopes, giraffes, various exotic birds, and also the varied plant life that includes the gorgeous acacia trees.
A secret tip – The best time to go hot air ballooning in the Serengeti is when The Great Wildebeest Migration happens (October to August). Hundreds of thousands of zebras and wildebeests migrate from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara reserve in Kenya. An awe-inspiring spectacle, the great migration is a sight that is sure to send a shiver down your spine. It should definitely not be missed while hot air ballooning in the Serengeti.
Sedona, also known as the ‘Red Rock Country’, is a dainty little city set in the northern region of the US state of Arizona. Set against a massive, rocky backdrop of reddish brown mountains and monoliths, Sedona is famous for being a place where there is something for everyone. It entertains a tourist’s spiritual, historical, contemporary, and even adventurous interests. There will be no time left for you to get bored here.
Hot air ballooning over the picturesque Sedona presents a view in front of you so beautiful, that it leaves you enchanted by the beauty of Mother Nature. The changing color of the rocks, with the change in the intensity of the sun’s rays, is a spectacle that leaves you awestruck. Just sit back and relax in the cozy balloon basket, as you gently rise off the ground along with the rising sun, feeling as light as a feather, as tranquil as the silence of the night, and as excited as a little child, all at the same time. Enjoy the breathtaking view that presents a sharp contrast of green trees against the red rocks, with the river snaking through, to provide a mildness to the contrast.
As you fly over the Arizonian landscape, make sure you get a good look of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Vortex Schmortex, and the Oak Creek Canyon, amongst other stand-outs. Hot air balloon rides offer a mesmerizing panoramic view of the entire expanse.
Lake Champlain, Vermont
Lake Champlain is a natural freshwater lake in North America within the boundaries of The United States of America. Hot air ballooning over the sparkling shores of Lake Champlain can be dubbed as the experience of a lifetime. The thrill experienced while the balloon drifts leisurely over the cool and glossy waters is unmatched with anything. Plush landscapes, embellished with the greenery of Green Mountains, border the shores of Lake Champlain for as far as your eyes can see. Keep all worries aside for sometime and dedicate this trip to yourself, cleanse your soul, love yourself, feel happy and allow the scenic beauty of Vermont to sink in as you look at vast fields, looming mountains, fully bloomed trees, and the clear waters. On a lucky day, when the skies are clear and cloudless, you will be able to see as far as Canada and Montreal.
It’s the little things that matter the most. Whilst flying over the countryside, and not very high, you can actually get whiffs of smokes from houses that pass by beneath you during the flight. You might get the aroma of cooking! Also, when flying at tree-top level over the forests, you will sometimes be able to spot beautiful wildlife like turkeys and deer.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
The timelessness, endlessness, vastness, magnificence, mystique and silence of Wadi Rum is sure to stun you to the core, leaving you breathless, a tinge of humbleness and insignificance hovering about you. Wadi Rum has been declared the most stunning, gorgeous, and engaging desertscape there ever was. Also known as ‘The Valley of The Moon’, Wadi Rum, located at the south of Jordan, is actually a continued series of valleys which are approximately 2 km wide, and are sprawled for about 130 km N-S. It covers almost 720 km of desert area, with enormous sandstone mountains and huge granite rocks jutting out from the sand shores.
Gliding through the crisp desert air in a hot air balloon over the eternal sands of Wadi Rum, you feel a certain calm reside over you. The shifting positions of the sun create an effect that feels as if the mountain rocks and the sand change colors throughout the day. This effect tends to arise myriad moods within you and make you ponder over the mystery that life is. You cannot come to Jordan and not go to Wadi Rum; it is a must-visit.
The Burdah Rock Bridge, standing 35 m tall above the ground, is considered to be one of the highest natural arches in the world. Naturally-formed huge monolithic rock structures, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Bedouin camping, the sunrise and sunset in the desert, and many other wonderful, captivating sights are some things that will keep you engaged whilst you lose track of time, sense and other worldly cares.
Napa Valley, California
Dubbed as one of the premier wine regions of the world, Napa Valley is an American Viticulture Area in California, United States. Its most famous attractions are the closely knit vineyards spread across acres of land. When viewed from a hot air balloon, the vineyards seem like one huge sprawling stretch of a lush-green grass blanket. Panoramic view that encompass the magnificent rolling hills and valleys, and gorgeous hues and colors of the sky merging during the setting or rising of the sun, are a feast for your eyes. You couldn’t agree more that very few places on Earth take you into a trance and make you wonder, “Is this what Heaven is like?”
There is something for everyone here. Based on your interests, you can go wine tasting, fine dining, spa hopping, hot air ballooning or just sit back, relax and soak in the striking beauty and calmness of the valley.
The Outback, Australia
The Outback is a desiccated, dry and arid desert region on the outskirts of the Australian subcontinent. It is also known as ‘Never-Never’, ‘back of beyond’, or ‘back o’Burke’. Owing to the typical climatic conditions, which are unsuitable for the survival of life, this region is extremely thinly populated. It does, however, boast of a wide variety of wildlife such as dingoes, emus and red kangaroos. Hot air balloon rides in The Australian Outback, allow tourists to observe the wildlife at its best, and appreciate the greatness and immensity of the Outback. You can opt for either the dawn or the dusk flights. Night flights are mesmerizing, as the Outback night sky is the best place to stargaze, and get the best possible and uninterrupted views of endless seas of stars, constellations and even some planets. If you are lucky and your flight takes off at the scheduled time, you even get to experience the Australian Outback sunset – a delicate yet empowering and harmonious melange of soft, beautiful, and unexplained colors over the horizon.
A dawn flight is just as much enjoyable and delightful. It starts with the balloon taking flight just as the sun starts to rise. As the balloon rises higher and higher, you can see silhouettes forming against a backdrop of the brightest and boldest of sunrises, which fills up the morning sky with shades and hues of the colors of the sun.
The Outback is the only place in the world that has the largest fossilized dinosaur stampede. Hundreds of thousands of dinosaur footprints have been immortalized in mud stone near Lark Quarry. These can be clearly observed from your hot air balloon. Also, you might just come across the original and traditional Australian Aborigines, who still continue to live by the ancient ways of life. Many cattle stations (some as big as Belgium itself!) are something that cannot be missed and are a great sight to watch from the balloon.
Riding on a hot air balloon makes it to almost everybody’s bucket list. But, striking the activity that you have wanted to do all your life off the list by doing it at the right place, that is the trick. This isn’t something that you do everyday, this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. The adventure that you are ready to embark on, is going to make a memory that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It is important that you create the best memory possible. A memory which is capable of making you relive the experience, a memory at which you will look back in fondness, happiness, ecstasy, and pure joy.