Soaring through the air over a breathtaking landscape in a gigantic, brightly colored balloon, powered only by heat and wind, is on many a bucket list. For some people, it is the ultimate way to fly. And taking this epic ride is a great start to your morning, as you watch the sun rise from several hundred feet above ground. Here are the best destinations for hot air balloon rides.
The North Pole
Not only do you get to experience what few people do by even going to the North Pole, but you can join and even smaller club of those fortunate enough to experience it by hot air balloon. Imagine getting a birds eye view of the ice sheets far below, tethered to an expedition ship. Keep your eyes open for ringed seals, polar bears, artic foxes and Orca whales. It is pretty rare to have this opportunity, as only a couple of tour companies offer it, and only in certain optimal weather conditions.
Loire Valley, France
Get a 360-view of the gentle rolling hills of rural France. Castles, fortresses, chateaus and palaces are all there, ripe for the discovering. The Loire Valley is 200 miles southwest of Paris and a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you sail through the air in your balloon, drift by bucolic vineyards, stone villages, dense forests, and incredible sunflower fields. The best time of year to experience France in this way is in the springtime, when winter’s chill has left the air.
Maasai Mara, Kenya
Many an animal lover choose to worship their favorites beasts from above. A hot air balloon ride over Maasai Mara National Reserve means you will not need to fumble around in a lowly vehicle to sight big game. Not only do you have the chance to sail over cheetahs, antelope, lions, hippos and buffalo on this journey, but the landscape itself is breathtaking. Your balloon with dance over treetops and dip into valleys. For the most dramatic views, schedule a ride over the Mara River between July and October for the gazelle, wildebeest and zebra migration.
Atacama Desert, Chile
At 41,000 square miles, a ride over this desert is like taking a soaring trip over the Martian landscape, with its craggy cliffs and pink dunes. There are actually some parts of the Atacama that have not seen rainfall in about 400 years. Despite this, the landscape is rife with life. You will see a few of the 500 plant varieties that thrive here, and may even spot some Chilean flamingos flying in a V formation, sharing the sky with you. Then look down and witness salt flats, white-capped volcanoes, active geysers and blue lagoons. Who said taking a trip in the desert was boring?
Probably the best-known country, synonymous with hot air balloons thanks to Instagram, any photo you see on social media does not begin to compare to actually experiencing it. Turkey’s Anatolian region is impressive from the air, with its surreal rock formations and lush landscape. And you will have plenty of company up in the air, with dozens of fellow hot air balloon enthusiasts sharing the sky with you.