Know where it’s easy to physically distance? The sky! An excellent reason to build an epic vacation out of a hot-air balloon ride. In many of the world’s most beautiful destinations - from Namibia to Turkey - the view from the air is the most enchanting. Then, once you’re back on solid ground, you can continue your vacation in a bucket-list locale. Here’s our list of amazing trips to build around a mind-blowing hot-air balloon ride.
From the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia to the massive migration across the Serengeti in Tanzania, a hot-air balloon ride can give you a whole new world view. These are our favorite spots to get sky-high:
Photo by Timur Garifov on Unsplash
OK, so we’re not the first to discover this - but we’d really like to be the first to help you discover it. One of the world’s most famous hot-air balloon rides glides over the Cappadocia region outside the town of Goreme. Spread out before you are otherworldly, cone-shaped rock formations - adorably called fairy chimneys.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash
Witness the Great Migration - thundering stampedes of wildebeest and zebra - across the African plains below you. Even if it’s not migration season, you’ll be in for a treat as you view lions, elephants, hippos and giraffes, who will causally go about their business undisturbed by your lofty presence. You’ll lift off at dawn for prime viewing, then, upon landing, typically be treated to a lavish English-style breakfast reminiscent of Out of Africa.
No photo - no matter how perfect - can be as striking as the view from a hot-air balloon of the Namib Desert’s red and orange sands. Constantly shifting and set off by a brilliant blue sky, these remarkable sands include the tallest and oldest dune on Earth. Sunrise flights are particularly popular due to the fantastic lighting.
Valley of the Kings, Egypt
See the temples of Egypt from a whole different perspective. Up there, in the air, you’ll float over the ancient tombs and temples of the Valley of the Kings and the lush Nile River valley. Set off at sunrise and watch as the daylight creeps in, casting pink and orange hues over the landscape. A hot-air balloon ride in Luxor makes an already mystical destination even more magical.
Like Cappadocia in Turkey, Bagan’s soul-stirring skyline is best viewed from above. This way, you can wrap your head around the vast size of this ancient civilization in Myanmar, comprising thousands of ancient temples, monasteries and pagodas. Imagine life in the 11th to 13th century as you noiselessly float above the renowned ruins.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Move over bungee-jumping and hang-gliding. Check out New Zealand’s adventure capital from your hot-air balloon’s basket - allowing you to soak up the pristine scenery. As with most top hot-air balloon experiences, sunrise liftoff is the most dramatic. From as high as 6,000 feet, you can visit The Hobbit filming locations, the Southern Alps, Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range. Check out those fantastic golf courses, too - then set up a tee time when you’re back on solid ground.
Tuscany, Italy, and Loire Valley, France
Drink in the rolling green and gold hillsides - and maybe a castle or two - of Tuscany from above, then return to land for a lavish breakfast of homemade bread and fresh produce. (After all, so much of the Tuscan experience revolves around the region’s heavenly food and wine.)
Sunrise … sunset … either is an excellent choice for a hot-air balloon ride over the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Loire Valley. During the spring and summer, the fields below will be a riot of color and there are chateaux and medieval villages as far as the eye can see. If you’re looking to infuse a little extra romance into your European vacation, this is certainly the way to do it.
Forego the coastal beaches and head into the heart and soul of Mexico. The Teotihuacan region, also known as the City of the Gods, is about 30 miles outside Mexico City. Set off at sunrise and you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views of this pre-Columbian city’s giant pyramids, which date back to 300 BC.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Just like Bagan, Angkor Wat is enormous, meaning the very best panorama is from the air. This is the world’s largest religious monument, at more than 500 acres, and you’ll get to glimpse it all. Choose sunrise or sunset for your remarkable hot-air balloon ride over this Khmer Empire capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
With a similar landscape to Cappadocia, with its sandstone and rock formations, and a dramatic desert, a hot-air balloon ride over Wadi Rum will leave you breathless. Snap photos of the copper-colored sand, where Bedouin people still live their nomadic lifestyle.
Ready to take flight? Let’s explore these epic hot-air balloon destinations and what else you can do there.