Since 1783, when a fearless Frenchman tested the very first hot air balloon, we’ve been fascinated by this inspiring way to travel. Floating gently above the earth and feeling light as air, it’s the only means of transport where you really do go where the wind takes you.
So if you’re looking for a more serene way to sightsee, check out our 15 top spots for hot air balloon rides…
Golden sand dunes, vividly green oases, and the occasional wandering camel… the desert paradise of Dubai offers a breathtaking setting for a balloon ride. Floating silently above the peaks of sand is a calm contrast to the glamorous buzz of the city and will give your Dubai break an exhilarating edge.
If all this is capturing your imagination, then book a ride with Balloon Adventures Emirates. Their sunrise flights over the dunes with the Hajjar mountains in the distance are truly memorable. They might even introduce you to some locals when you land.
The city of Albuquerque (rhymes with turkey) is like an island, marooned in the surrounding expanse of New Mexico desert. It’s a wonderful showcase of American history; the Old Town celebrates the city’s days as a Spanish colony, while downtown is very much modern-day USA. With ruggedly beautiful terrain at every angle, the vastness of the landscape is most striking than when viewed from the air.
Rainbow Ryders have 30 years’ experience providing safe balloon rides for all occasions, from family flights to wedding ceremonies. Such is their customer satisfaction that they’ve been awarded TripAdvisor’s coveted Hall of Fame award. Try them out for your Albuquerque trip!
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple is without doubt one of Southeast Asia’s most visited locations. It’s the largest religious monument in the world and, architecturally, one of the most striking. The site covers 1,650 km2 (making it the same size as Surrey!) and only a bird’s eye can give you a true impression of its scale. The country’s troubles in recent years make the gentle silence of a balloon ride a very moving experience, too.
If viewing this magnificent landscape from a unique perspective sounds like a contender for your bucket list, try Angkor Ballooning for your flight. They even include a free hotel pick-up and drop-off service.
This special area of Myanmar really does take one’s breath away: decorative temple pinnacles pierce the sky, traditional horse-drawn carts trundle along dirt tracks, dawn mist trails between the trees, the Ayeyarwady River flows gently and the magnificent Schwezigon Paya temple glints gold at sunset…. With all that beauty to behold, it’s not surprising that the best way to view it is from the air.
Take a trip with Balloons over Bagan and you’ll see the peaceful contours of Bagan’s landscape for yourself.
Looking to add a bit of luxury? The crew at Oriental Ballooning treat you to a glass of chilled sparkling wine as part of your flight.
The rust-coloured rocky landscape of Cappadocia in Turkey is like something from a science fiction film, dreamed up in the imagination. Often billed as the best balloon ride in the world, you’ll drift over fascinating cave dwellings, undulating ridges and colourful hills. Visit during the balloon festival when hundreds of balloons take to the sky: it’s quite a sight!
Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia provides a choice of standard, deluxe or private rides. You can book online through their website for the ultimate easy and exhilarating experience.
Snowy peaks, pine trees and lush green valleys… even the Sound of Music doesn’t prepare you for the picturesque scenery of Gstaad. A popular haunt of celebrities and European royals, there are ample designer boutiques to observe. But the real magic of this region is the crisp, clean mountain air, whether you’re up in the clouds or touching the tops of the trees.
Admire the Alps like never before by choosing from the flights offered by Ballons du Leman. They’ve been taking people of all ages on thrilling rides for over 20 years.
Lake Champlain lies on Vermont’s border with Canada. It’s a charming destination where you can admire the sun as it dips behind the peaks and casts its fiery glow over the water. Visit in the autumn and you’ll be treated to an aerial view of New England’s famous rust-hued fall trees; surely one of the most magnificent sights in North America.
Above Reality Hot Air Balloon Rides are passionate about the “life experience” they provide.. Early birds will love the sunrise rides while the sunset flights are perfect for night owls.
It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate way to explore the Lake District than by hot air balloon; it’s a perfect match for the region’s peaceful atmosphere. From on high, you’ll spot trickling waterfalls, calm lakes and drystone walls dividing up the green, sheep-dotted fields. It’s no wonder this is an eternal getaway destination.
Virgin Balloon Flights launch their iconic red balloon from a quiet country pub and you’ll be taken wherever the wind blows! Be it over Lake Windermere and the charming village of Ambleside, or over the fells and far away.
Located on the border between Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley is one of the most recognisable landscapes in the whole of North America. Dusty red stone towers eroded by wind and water over millions of years stand like monuments, hence its grand name. It conjures up images of cowboys, wild horses and the Old West. While it’s magnificent enough from the ground, the best way to take in all its glory is from the air.
The Monument Valley Balloon Company organises “the ultimate Monument Valley tour adventure”, transporting you through this iconic environment.
The word Serengeti comes from the native tongue of the Massai people and means “the place where the land moves on forever”. It’s a perfect description of this vast stretch of Africa, home to some of the world’s most fascinating creatures, including elephants, lions, rhinos and cheetah.
Book a ride with Balloon Safaris and you’ll float silently above the plains of the Serengeti with an incredible 360-degree view: it’s like stepping inside a wildlife documentary and will undoubtedly be one of your most memorable experiences.
Famed for its wine-growing culture, California’s Napa Valley is a picturesque patchwork of vineyards and forested hills. Dotted with exclusive resorts, wine-tasting spots and spas, it’s become a destination of choice for travellers exploring the varied and vast state of California.
One TripAdvisor reviewer described Napa Valley Balloons as “professional, personable and top-notch”. Post-flight they take their guests to Domaine Chandon Winery for breakfast and Mimosas, making them the only balloon ride package in the Napa Valley that includes breakfast at a winery. They’ve been flying over Napa for over 35 years!
Try Napa Valley Aloft Balloon Rides and you can even have a post-flight brunch to add an extra-special touch to your experience.
The peak of the (active) Arenal volcano dominates the skyline of San Carlos. You might see it puffing during the day, or spitting natural fireworks in the evening as lava sprays from the summit. Explore the lush forest and you’ll discover toucans and maybe even tiny yet deadly poison dart frogs; it’s the perfect pick for travellers looking for a trip full of adventures.
Serendipity Adventures is Costa Rica’s only balloon operator and has been providing inspiring views of the country’s unique landscape for 25 years. Weather-permitting, they’ll take you above the clouds for the best view of the volcano (while always maintaining a safe distance!).
This area, on New Zealand’s North Island, stretches from the lush and verdant farmland at the island’s centre to the waves of the west coast. Underground, there are cool caves to explore and above ground, the Waikato River; it snakes its way through the fields towards the coast, providing a magnificent sight to see when you’re high up in the clouds.
The Kiwi Balloon Company is the North Island’s go-to balloon operator. With a little help from the wind, you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of the Waikato River. As they say, “the scenery and stillness will take your breath away”.
The Yarra Valley is one of Australia’s principal wine-growing regions. Mile after mile of rolling hills and valleys are dotted with wineries, top-class restaurants and exciting trails to explore. This scenery looks particularly beautiful in the cool, crisp morning air, so it’s no surprise that sunrise is the ideal time to take a balloon ride.
Take a trip with Global Ballooning and you’ll enjoy an hour sailing across the countryside. Previous travellers have even spotted a few kangaroos having breakfast…
As the name suggests, fly with Picture This Ballooning and you’ll want to capture the sights you see from your flight (and from the Champagne Breakfast afterwards).
The valley of the River Loire is a tapestry of idyllic countryside, scattered with some of the grandest chateaux in the whole of France. Many are topped off with turrets and surrounded by formal gardens. Imagine seeing this from above, spotting the colourful reflection of your hot air balloon as you drift over the mirror surface of the river. It really is magical.
France Balloons take off from various chateaux and provide a three-hour experience which includes inflating the balloon, the flight itself, and the toast upon landing.