As the precursor to the age of flight, there’s something inherently romantic about hot air ballooning. Float serenely through some of nature’s greatest masterpieces with these 5 extraordinary landscapes to balloon over.
1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The grassy plains of the Serengeti stretch until they meet the swirling hues of the African sunset. Breathtaking scenery aside, it’s perhaps the opportunity to witness one of life’s most ancient, natural rituals that makes Tanzania such an extraordinary experience. From October through November, over two million wildebeest and zebras will cross the planet’s oldest ecosystem, migrating towards seasonal waterholes and greener pastures. Floating from above, experience this infinite cycle of life and death, growth and migration, as old as the plains themselves.
Serengeti Balloon Safaris is currently the sole provider of balloon services. Flights rise with the sun at 5am and typically last between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on weather conditions. On landing, passengers are treated to a traditional African bush breakfast and champagne. The price is around $AUD700 per person, which includes a contribution to the conservation of the park.
2. Loire Valley, France
Picturesque might be the best way to describe the idyllic landscape of the Loire Valley, in the heart of the French countryside. Gaze down over the 800 manors and castles that are surrounded by stone-walled villages, winding rivers and plush vineyards.
France Montgolfières offer a true storybook experience, tailor-made to fit your dreams. Tables and picnic hampers inside the basket will let you enjoy the romantic French sunrise with freshly baked croissants, pain au chocolat, and baguettes with local fruit preserves. Wines and champagnes of the region are also provided, and private baskets can be booked in advance.
3. Bagan Plains, Myanmar
Bagan, located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, is home to the densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world. Many of them date back as far as the 11th Century. The temples pepper the sweeping Bagan plains against a backdrop of glowing red, their spirals and pagodas perforating the clouds above. Expect an enticing mix of wild landscapes combined with the humble rural and spiritual culture of Myanmar. Balloons fly between October and March.
Balloons Over Bagan is the oldest and best balloon service in operation, and has a premium flight featuring compartmentalised balloons, champagne breakfasts and a USB containing photography of your trip.
4. Gstaad, Switzerland
For an unforgettable flight set off at sunrise from this quaint village located in the Swiss Alps. As the crisp wind carries the balloon through pure, cerulean skies, marvel at the imposing white peaks of the Bernese mountains. Each balloon trip is unique as it’s the wind that determines your course.
Visit in January to take part in the annual Balloon Festival which sees 80 balloons from 20 countries take to the skies. The Buddy Bombard Balloon Festival trip includes 4 days of participation in the festival, as well as 3 days of private balloon flights exploring the Alpine landscape. Evenings are generally spent sampling the area’s gourmet cuisine. Prices start at around $AUD40,000.
5. Cappadocia, Turkey
Over three million years ago, the now-dormant volcanoes of Cappadocia erupted, sculpting the unique rock formations, chimneys and caves that define this ethereal landscape. Its peculiar, jutting ridges and surrealist terrains have led to Cappadocia being compared to the surface of the moon.
Beat the crowds and take advantage of the perfect weather conditions by visiting in mid-spring or fall. Cappadocia Voyager Balloons offers to cater to your every wish with their exclusive private basket experiences. They include everything from personal pick-up to in-flight champagne and a gourmet picnic hamper.