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If you’ve always dreamed of taking a hot air balloon ride, these destinations are some of the best in the world. As a bonus, you’ll find plenty to do in the area after you’re flight too.
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Offering some of the best balloon rides in the world, Cappadocia is dubbed “the land of beautiful horses”. It was named by the Persians for its wild mountain ponies, as well as the incredibly striking landscape of bizarrely-shaped rocks and deep canyons that are even more breathtaking when seen from above on a hot air balloon flight. You’ll be amazed at the ethereal “fairy chimneys,” where the striking limestone spires and pillars are peppered with subterranean churches and dwellings etched into the rock. The ground level views are impressive to be sure, but this natural grandeur is best appreciated from a bird’s eye view, traveling a few thousand feet in the air with Kapadokya Balloons.
The Colorado Rockies are home to some of America’s most breathtaking scenery, featuring rows of jagged, snow-covered peaks, rugged canyons, wild rivers and glistening lakes. And, with over 300 days of sunshine a year, your chances for blue skies are outstanding. Breathe in that crisp, mountain air as you glide above the dramatic peaks with Rocky Mountain Hot Air or Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon flights, both offering early morning rides for a smooth, unforgettable journey as high as 10,000 feet. Be sure to watch out for the many elk that grace the meadows, and even some of the area’s golf courses. While down on the ground, you can enjoy some of the area’s other endless outdoor adventure opportunities from hiking, mountain biking and climbing to fly fishing and whitewater rafting.
Loire Valley, France
The Loire Valley is quintessential France, famous for its picturesque vineyards, historic villages, glorious chateaus and spectacular scenery. Stretching 175 miles along the Loire River about 200 miles southwest of France, it boasts over 800 castles and manor houses too. Soaring over those impressive abodes, like Chateau Villandry and its beautiful ornamental gardens, the storybook Chateau de Chenonceau and the meander rivers that wind through the lush landscape, is something you’ll never forget. For the best experience, plan to visit between April and October, when the weather is often pleasant and castles are open for tours.
California’s Napa Valley is home to hundreds of wine brands, making it one of the most densely concentrated wine regions in the world. With its endless rolling hills, vineyards and mild climate, it’s an ideal destination for a hot air balloon ride practically all year round. You’ll get to see all of those magnificent vineyards and the surrounding mountains from above, and afterward sample many great wines, thanks to the warm days and cool nights that help grapes retain acidity. Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. offers flights that include breakfast and sparkling wine after the flight, as well as special packages that include extravagant wine tours.
Yarra Valley, Australia
Within just a short drive of Australia’s second-largest city, you’ll find five incredibly diverse wine regions with unique climatic and geographical features producing distinctly different wines, including the wine-strung hills and rolling farmland of the Yarra Valley, known as one of the world’s great food and wine regions. This thriving wine country enjoys a relatively cool climate that makes it well-suited for the production of high quality sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And, by flying over it in a hot air balloon, you’ll be able to soak up uninterrupted views of the Yarra River and across undulating hills and vines, while the blue-tinged peaks of the Great Divide beckon in the distance and the occasional kangaroo hops across the landscape. If you can, plan to visit during Australia’s autumn months (March through May), and you’ll get to take part in harvest activities and see those grape leaves in their glorious fall colors.
Timeless beauty and outdoor adventure flourish in the Black Hills, located in South Dakota’s southwest corner. This area has so much to offer, it’s impossible to do it all in one trip, but you can see much of it from above in a hot air balloon, including Mount Rushmore, the iconic sculpting feat that honors four presidents. While it’s an impressive sight from any angle, getting a closeup view of the 500-foot-high sculpture from a hot air balloon is definitely the best way to go. But it’s not just the monument you’ll get to see, this region features amazing rock formations along the legendary Needles Highway, an abundance of beautiful lakes, all sorts of wildlife like bison, bighorn sheep, elk and mountain goats, as well as waterfalls and dense forest.
Flights in the Swiss Alps offer the chance to float over mountain landscapes against a brilliant blue sky, including the fantastic views of the Berne region, with quaint Swiss chalets and villages sitting underneath the imposing jagged peaks of Gstaad. If you visit in January, you’ll enjoy a true winter wonderland and a mountain ballooner’s dream, the annual International Balloon Festival. It is hosted during the last week of January when dozens of brightly-hued balloons from across the globe fill the sky. The area offers lots to do on land too, including outstanding skiing and snowboarding in the winter, hiking and biking in the summer.
Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa
Can you imagine watching wildlife in Africa from above? In the Seronera River Valley, animals like zebras, leopards, lions, giraffes and hippos all thrive, while some two million wildebeests migrate through the valley every year too, between May and early June and again between late October and December. Take in the scene from above and then enjoy toasting to your trip with champagne and an English-style breakfast under an acacia tree. It just doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to the world’s most unforgettable hot air balloon flights.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies descend on the Southern Lakes region of New Zealand for the rugged hiking and biking terrain, offbeat activities like zorbing, ski slopes, outstanding golf, as well as those scenic glistening lakes and fjords. There are even more thrills up in the skies, with Sunrise Balloons taking riders over the landscape often referred to as Middle Earth, with so many scenes from “The Hobbit,” and “The Lord of the Rings” shot here. You’ll take in vistas of Mount Tutoko, Lake Hayes and the Southern Alps before enjoying pastries and champagne to celebrate the experience.
Just about everyone takes a gondola ride through the dreamy canals of Venice. While you can, and probably should, do that too, why not see this majestic city with its hidden bridges, cobbled alleyways, the maze of red rooftops, endless lagoons, and timeless landmarks from above-ground as well? Afterward, visit one of the city’s churches for a classic concert or just wander the streets and explore St. Mark’s Square, particularly stunning at sunset. You’ll get a new perspective when gazing at the sheer scale of the domes of the Basilica San Marco and the ornate Doge’s Place from the ground, places that almost look tiny when soaring high above.