Photos of the Week: 3/14/2019: The most incredible places in the world for hot air balloon rides:

The world from new heights

There’s nothing quite like a jaw-dropping view. We seek them atop skyscrapers in the world’s greatest cities, or from hotel balconies on sublime coastlines. But for those with a head for heights, hot air ballooning is the ideal way to get the best vistas. Gliding smoothly through the air, with no sound but the wind whipping past your ears and the occasional blast of flames from the engine, is a truly serene experience. If that sounds like your kind of adventure, here are the world’s best places to get high in a hot air balloon.

Dubai’s desert, the UAE
Well away from the bright lights and big city of Dubai lies a barren, golden desert. A beautiful retreat from the flashy hotels and expensive malls, here you can stay in a tented Berber-style camp, then see the sunrise from the ultimate vantage point: a hot air balloon. From the skies you’ll see Arabian oryx and gazelles trotting across the sand, and the rising sun will light up the dunes, transforming them into a glittering golden, ocean-like landscape. It’s a far cry from the vistas available from the world-famous Burj Khalifa, and it’s all the better for it. This is a side of Dubai you certainly won’t forget.
Photo by: Gareth Lowndes /Shutterstock

Konopiště Castle, Czech Republic
Get an aerial view of the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand with a hot air balloon flight in the Czech Republic. Konopiště Castle is a truly impressive place – with four wings and three stories, and turrets to rival any fairy-tale castle, it was originally built in the late 13th century and has withstood a number of sieges. Today it’s open to the public, with a small museum showcasing the bullet that killed Franz Ferdinand, but by far the best view is from above. Jump in a hot air balloon and float above the forested landscape, which gives way to eventually reveal this beautiful castle.
Photo by: Michael Pix/ Shutterstock

Yarra Valley, Australia
Let the breeze guide you along the rolling vineyards of the Yarra Valley, one of Australia’s top wine regions. Balloon flights here take off at dawn, when a morning mist still shrouds some of the lowest parts of the valley and the landscape changes color as the sun rises in the sky. It’s a wonderfully peaceful experience, and the perfect start to a day of wine and food tasting in this wonderful gastronomic region.
Photo by: FILED image/ Shutterstock

The Serengeti, Tanzania
Bring a whole new meaning to the concept of flying safaris with a balloon flight over the Serengeti in Tanzania. This huge national park is rife with wildlife, from lions and leopards to elephants and buffalo. Float over the Seronera River and you might spot crocodiles lying in wait for their prey, or see a pride of lions feeding on their kill. This unique vantage point offers an opportunity to see areas the ground vehicles can’t access.
Photo by: Lubomir Chudoba / Shutterstock

Cappadocia, Turkey
Cappadocia is one of the world’s most famous destinations for ballooning. Images, like this one, of multiple balloons hanging in the sky above the mystical landscape are used in many a tourist brochure – and for good reason. It really is a stunning way to see the “fairy chimneys” – a set of unique rock formations shaped by erosion and volcanic activity – and the cavern architecture in its historic town. Come at any time of year to see this otherworldly place, but book onto Intrepid’s Turkey Winter Discovery tour and you’ll find it’s particularly romantic when the rocks are set against a snowy backdrop and the summer crowds are long gone.
Photo by: Intrepid Travel

Jaipur, India
See the sprawl of one of Rajasthan’s most exciting cities from above with a balloon ride over Jaipur. On its Northern India Highlights tour, Intrepid offers the opportunity to gaze down at the spectacular forts and palaces of the Pink City – named for its pink-hued sandstone buildings – from the peaceful vantage point of a hot air balloon. Starting from outside the city, you’ll drift over rural villages and traditional homesteads, before reaching the impressive Amer Fort, a 16th-century structure still standing up to the test of time. Just prepare for the crowds of locals who will greet you upon landing – the excitement of flight isn’t just for those in the basket.
Photo by: Thrithot/ Shutterstock

Photo by: Sonoma County
Sonoma, California, USA
Sip, Cycle and Soar tours in Sonoma County offer an alternative way to experience the beauty of California wine county from both land and air. Once you’ve explored the county’s many vineyards by bike and sampled some of the finest wines on offer, take to the skies and soar above picturesque rows of vines at sunrise for a totally new perspective on the region. After a 45–60-minute flight over vineyards, farms and highways, the experience ends with brunch and a glass of bubbles. There may be no better way to experience Sonoma County.

Bristol, UK
Europe’s largest hot air balloon event sees more than 130 of these inflatables take to the skies over Bristol each year (8–11 August in 2019). Launching at dusk and dawn from Ashton Court Estate’s beautiful grounds, the balloons glide over the city and the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. The free event is an incredible spectacle and attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators each year, but if you want to get up there with the rest of them, you’ll have to pay handsomely. Local operators offer balloon flights from around $266 (£200) per person.
Photo by: Pixels/ memoirs / Shutterstock

The Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy
The Italian Dolomites are a stunning range of precipitous peaks and gorgeous grassy valleys. In winter, they’re covered in snow and make for fantastic skiing territory; in summer, the hiking is spectacular. But come in mid-January and you’ll find there’s more than just skiing available here. Get your thrills in the air, soaring above the peaks in a hot air balloon during the Dolomiti Balloon week, when dozens of them float amid the snowy mountain scenery. For those who prefer to have solid ground beneath their feet, the festival offers an array of activities including live music and delicious, traditional South Tyrolean food and drink.
Photo by: BalloonFestival / Alexander Strobl

Melbourne, Australia
Many hot air balloons take flight over areas of natural beauty, but soaring above a city is just as exciting. In Australia, you can take off from the suburbs of Melbourne and glide straight past the city’s skyscrapers and above its biggest landmarks, from stadiums to the grand Melbourne Museum. See the roads slowly get busier as commuters make their way to work, spot the Grand Prix circuit and the Olympic Park, and wave at residents as you glide past apartment buildings close enough to see what’s for breakfast
Photo by: timallenphoto/Shutterstock

Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Glassy Lake Geneva is a stunning sight from any angle, but from above it is truly spectacular. Straddling the border between France and Switzerland, the Lake Geneva region has some spectacular countryside and glorious peaks. You’ll take off amid the mountain scenery to enjoy the sight of the lake’s royal-blue waters, and the many UNESCO-protected vineyards of the Lavaux, all from the basket of a hot air balloon. This is a spectacular way to explore one of Europe’s prettiest places.
Photo by: Saul Borges Photography / Shutterstock

Kissimmee, Florida
Located on the headwaters of the Everglades in Florida and just a 30-minute drive away from Orlando’s world-famous theme parks, Kissimmee is the ideal location to experience a hot air balloon flight – and it’s a far quieter way to get your adrenalin fix than among all the screaming riders at Walt Disney World. Spot alligators in the Everglades swamps, soar alongside bald eagles and see the thrilling theme parks from the air with Bob’s Balloons.
Photo by: Experience Kissimmee

The North Pole
For extreme adventurers, hot air ballooning in the North Pole has an added challenge: getting there. Whether you decide to take the long, cold, arduous trek, or take the easier route via helicopter, the journey is all part of the fun. Once you find yourself at 90 degrees north, jump in Quark Expeditions‘ hot air balloon to admire the top of the world from above. A white expanse will slope away beneath you as the balloon climbs, and you’ll really get a whole new perspective on the vast, white Arctic.
Photo by: loongstyle/ Shutterstock

Sonoran Desert, Arizona, USA
The vast Sonoran Desert covers much of southwest Arizona and is characterized by a landscape of cacti and rocky hills. On a hot air balloon flight with Rainbow Ryders, you’ll float over these Wild West worthy vistas, gliding above impeccably straight, often empty highways and grassy plains as the sun rises to the east. Look out for native wildlife such as jackrabbits, coyotes and burros scurrying on the ground beneath your feet.
Photo by: Rainbow Ryders

Atacama Desert, Chile
If you’ve ever dreamed of travel to Mars, the Atacama Desert might be the next best thing. This arid landscape of reddish dunes and ochre rock formations is as close to the Red Planet as you can get right now, and seeing it all from the basket of a hot air balloon is a thrilling experience. If the winds are in your favor, you might even fly over the ancient Pukará de Quitor – a stone fortress built in the 12th century by pre-Columbian natives.
Photo by: Jose L. Stephens

Tenerife, Spain
Tenerife is best known for its beautiful beaches and bustling resorts, but the island’s interior has a striking landscape ripe for exploration. The main draw is Mount Teide, a large volcano right in the island’s center, which has spectacular views out to the ocean. But if you don’t fancy climbing Teide, take a balloon flight instead for equally breathtaking views without the physical exertion.
Photo by: Olena Tur / Shutterstock

Teotihuacan, Mexico
It’s somewhat difficult to get your head around the scale and history of ancient Teotihuacan, a pre-Columbian city in the center of Mexico. That’s why a hot air balloon flight is the ideal way to see it. Marvel at all of its ruins from the ultimate vantage point and you’ll really be able to understand just how huge this city was. You’ll see the three-mile-long Avenue of the Dead, connecting the two major pyramids, and the sprawling modern town of San Martín de las Pirámides.
Photo by: Teotihuacan, Mexico

Champagne, France
Plenty of balloon flights offer bubbles on board, but there may be no better experience than in the home of fizz itself. If you fancy taking luxury ballooning to the next level, hop into the basket of one of the many balloons that fly over the Champagne region in northeast France. Admire the sloping rows of vines from above, ideally at sunrise when a golden light makes the region even more beautiful, then set down in an open field and pop open some fizz to toast the day.
Photo by Miki Studio / Shutterstock

Namib Desert, Namibia
Namibia’s topography is astounding. As one of the world’s driest and oldest deserts, with some of the tallest sand dunes and some of the planet’s most exciting wildlife, it’s a land of superlatives, for sure. But it’s hard to comprehend how it all comes together by staying on the ground. Float over the Namib desert in a hot air balloon, though, and you’ll see a spectacular expanse of arid, orange sand that meets the wild, blustery Atlantic. Spot zebra and oryx from above as they trot along the dunes, and if you head towards the coast, see shipwrecks dotted along the beaches.
Photo by: Lucas Bischoff Photography / Shutterstock

Tatra Mountains, Slovakia
Get up to 8,000 feet in the air above Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains for a truly spellbinding view. The deep valleys and tall peaks of the Tatras are stunning from any angle, but from above, caked with snow in winter, they are seriously impressive. Glassy blue-green lakes dot the landscape, and skiers slide down the slopes as you glide above the mountain resorts and forests. Be sure to layer up – it gets even colder in the air, but the view is well worth the chills.
Photo by: Valentina Photo / shutterstock

Ottawa, Canada
Forget the open-top bus rides or walking tours in Ottawa – the most exciting way to see the Canadian capital is by balloon. Following the Rideau Canal, you’ll glide peacefully above the city’s buildings and along to the stunning Parliament Hill complex. These striking, castle-like buildings were originally opened in 1866, but were mostly destroyed by fire in 1916. Rebuilt by the end of the 1920s, the complex is one of Canada’s most impressive architectural feats, and nothing quite compares to admiring it from the air.
Photo by: Russ Heni / Shutterstock

Meteora, Greece
An astonishing landscape of towering rock formations topped with precariously perched monasteries, Meteora is a magical place for a hot air balloon ride. Taking off from an open field, you’ll climb gracefully before gliding over the enormous natural pillars, where monks have lived in monasteries on the cliff edges since the 14th century. Only from this vantage point can you really appreciate the determination and strength it took to create such communities atop Meteora’s enormous plinths all those years ago.
Photo by: PicPanda Photography / Shutterstock

Patagonia, Argentina
If walking on glaciers isn’t your thing, perhaps try flying over them? In Argentine Patagonia, if you’ve got upwards of $2,000 (£1.5k) and a few days to spare to wait for the right conditions, you can soar high above the Perito Moreno Glacier in a hot air balloon. You’ll fly over sparkling lakes and snow-capped mountains, and be able to see the icy ridges of one of the only advancing glaciers in the world. Plus, you might even spot the odd guanaco, a southern cousin of the llama.
Photo by: Maciej Bledowski / Shutterstock

Bagan, Myanmar
Over 2,000 Buddhist structures dot the plains of Bagan, and the sight of hot air balloons rising at dawn to take in the landscape is truly memorable. Join one of those balloons, and you’ll get a stunning overview of the vast area, where crumbling stupas and monasteries, many of them around 1,000 years old, stand tall amid lush green scenery. It’s just as evocative on the ground too, so once you’ve seen it all from above, walk among the ruins to see the Bagan of old up close
Photo by: BigBoom / Shutterstock

Ngapali, Myanmar
A wonderful alternative to the hugely popular Bagan balloon flights, Ngapali is a spectacular location for aerial exploration. This southern coastal area has striking white beaches to rival some of Asia’s finest, but far fewer crowds and certainly none of those brash Full Moon parties. And beyond these beaches lies a thick rainforest, teeming with wildlife but inaccessible on foot, ripe for exploring from above. Take a balloon flight with Inside Asia and you’ll spot exotic birds flitting between the trees and monkeys swinging in the forest canopy.
Photo by; moins/ Shutterstock

Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Every spring, the fields just outside Amsterdam glow with reds, pinks, oranges and yellows. Tulip season in the Netherlands is a must-see, and what better way to admire the country’s most famous flower than from above? See the patchwork of colors in the fields around Keukenhof (around a half-hour drive from Amsterdam), neatly laid out in stripes and geometric patterns. Come in to land, then take to two wheels and explore the tulip trail by bike.
Photo by: Michael Warwick / Shutterstock

Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown has to be one of the most beautifully situated towns in the world. On the shores of the azure Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by New Zealand’s Southern Alps, it’s a magnificent location for a hot air balloon ride. Get high above the peaks at dawn and you’ll enjoy views over the area’s forests, lakes and even the odd golf course. Once you’ve been up in the balloon, try out one of the many thrill-seeking activities on offer, from bungy jumping to whitewater rafting.
Photo by: TomP37 /Shutterstock

Maasai Mara, Kenya
There can be no better way to see the spectacular Maasai Mara than from above, and certainly no more peaceful way than to float across the African plains in a hot air balloon. With this excursion by Serena Hotels, you can spot giraffes, zebra, wildebeest and more from the skies. You might even spot a stalking cheetah, or a leopard in a tall tree. Come between July and October, though, and you’ll be spoiled with an aerial view of the great wildebeest migration, when thousands of the animals trek in huge herds across the plains.
Photo by: Serena Hotels

Chiang Mai, Thailand
The verdant countryside of Chiang Mai is a stunning hot air ballooning location, with undulating wooded hills and shimmering rice terraces. Take flight here at sunrise and you’ll get to watch rural Thailand wake up as you float over small villages, farms and the odd tourist resort. Look out for colorful temple complexes, and finish off the experience with a champagne breakfast at one of the many spectacular resorts in the area.
Photo by: Krunja / Shutterstock


This is blog #939

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