Hot air balloon trips around the world elevate the thrill of discovery.
Avoiding the crowds when exploring famous sites has reached new heights, thanks to a number of outfitters around the world offering hot air balloon trips. What you can see is a mixed bag, from ancient temples to sprawling vineyards, but the common thread is a fresh perspective that makes these trips memorable. Some top picks include:
LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE
Expect to see plenty of castles and rows of grapes in the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with those stunning chateaux, a flight reveals quaint villages, glimpses of the winding Loire River and twisting rural roads. For great photo ops, book a flight at dusk when the land is bathed in a rainbow of light in pink, purple and gold. Fun fact: The first manned hot air balloon flight happened in Paris – about a two-hour drive away – in 1783.
QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
The other country Down Under is known for its dramatic landscapes and unbridled love of adventure. You can experience both with a ride here, highlighting the Southern Alps, Lake Wakatipu, mountains, a slew of golf courses and terrain that fans of the movie, The Hobbit, may recognize. Even for those who have been there and done that, it’s a different experience depending on the time of year.
Many visitors come to this central region specifically for the hot air balloon experience. The rugged landscape is the draw, sculpted by volcanic activity and erosion. It has left behind stone pillars and hoodoos (also called fairy chimneys). Flights typically range from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours and launch at sunrise when winds are most predictable. Trips are available year long, even in winter when you may see snow dusting the rocky valleys.
There’s a stark beauty to Sossusvlei in the southern part of the Namib desert that makes it so alluring. Part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, it features some of the world’s tallest sand dunes. They surround a salt and clay pan that stays dry until the rainy season in March when water fills it and creates a still, glass-like lake. The deep red glow of the dunes makes them favourite subjects among photographers.
NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
The popular wine-producing area deserves thorough exploration by land and air with visits to wineries to sip the latest vintages and a hot air balloon to take in its sheer beauty. Trips leave out of Yountville and offer stellar views, depending on the clearness of the skies. On a clear day, you may spot Mount St. Helena, part of the Mayacamas range, or the skyline of San Francisco in the distance – sites worthy of a Champagne toast.
A trip at dawn is downright magical as you float over the ancient city in the heart of Mandalay. While it was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom from the 9th to 13th centuries, more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, monasteries and pagodas were scattered across the region’s plains. Today, around 2,000 of the structures remain. The ideal way to see them is from the air, accompanied by Champagne and croissants once you’re back on terra firma.
Ready to include one of these incredible hot air balloon trips on your next vacation? Get in touch with us for more information!
By Michele Sponagle