A hot air balloon flight at first light, when the air is cool, clear and calm, is an incredible experience. Drifting with the breeze across an awakening landscape, you can’t help but feel grateful for this method of sightseeing that was pioneered more than 200 years ago. There are many places around the world where hot air ballooning is a popular way to get a bird’s eye view of a destination, but we think these five are among the most special.
From the ground, the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia are breath-taking. See them from above at dawn, turned to gold by the rising sun, and you’ll think you’ve flown to a different, beautiful planet. Formed over millions of years, your flight will give you a bird’s eye view of the cliffs, pillars and cave houses around Göreme, accompanied by as many as 150 other brightly coloured balloons. Back on the ground, be sure to treat yourself to one of the local specialities: a Turkish delight if you will.
Serengeti National Park is vast region of grassland plains, woodlands and riverine forest in north-western Tanzania that is best known for the annual migration of 1.5 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebras. It’s a wonderful location for hot air ballooning – calm, mild conditions and fabulous views of a wide variety of wildlife. As a bonus, the early morning drive to the launch site provides an added chance to spot the more nocturnal inhabitants of the park.
Monument Valley, whose Navajo name means “valley of the rocks”, straddles the border between Utah and Arizona. Its collection of towering, sandstone rock formations (known as ‘buttes’) have guest-starred in dozens of movies. The desert landscape may therefore seem familiar, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular when seen from above. If you don’t have a head for heights but you want to enjoy the spectacle of dozens of balloons drifting peacefully across this photogenic landscape, head for the nearby settlement of Bluff. Geographically it’s very similar to Monument Valley and it hosts a ballooning festival each year in January.
You don’t need a passport and an international air ticket to find a world-class ballooning destination – Australia has plenty of them. Wine regions and balloons seem to be natural partners, and the Hunter Valley is no exception to this rule. Your flight will have you drifting across the uniform rows of vines, with the stunning Broken Back Range providing an impressive backdrop. Back on the ground, you’re in the ideal location to indulge in the traditional post-flight ritual – toasting the experience with a chilled glass of Champagne.
An ancient city that was once the capital of what is now Myanmar, the UNESCO World Heritage region of Bagan still retains a mind-blowing 3822 of the 4000-plus temples and pagodas that were constructed between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Ballooning season runs from October to April when the weather is most settled, and sunrise is the most popular time of day for a flight. The sight of all those stupas towering out of the surrounding treetops, shrouded in morning mist, is ample reward for your early start.
Whether you’re marking a special occasion or looking to add the cherry on the top of an already-fabulous holiday, a hot air balloon flight is sure to be a highlight of any travel experience. Ask your personal travel manager about adding a balloon flight to your itinerary.