I might be a little bit biased, but I think hot air ballooning over the world’s must stunning landscapes is one of the most romantic experiences you can have. After all, Tim and I were married in a hot air balloon…sort of.
Being married in a hot air balloon wasn’t always the plan. Actually, it was a OMG-our-wedding-is-being-cancelled-what-do-we-do-now decision to wake up at the ungodly hour of 4am and drag our immediate family out in to the freezing desert for a sunrise wedding. And even that didn’t go as planned. The day turned out to be so windy that we couldn’t even inflate the balloon for our wedding photos, yet alone take off over Las Vegas and Red Rock Canyon as the pilot pronounced us man and wife.
Despite having to creatively crop our wedding photos so we don’t look like two loons in a basket, we’ve never given up on ballooning. We’re basically one for about a million times booking hot air balloon flights, but those few times we finally did make it up, up and away were so spectacular that we want to balloon everywhere. Our list of dreamy landscapes to fly over is long but if we had to choose our top places, we’d pick these 10 best hot air balloon rides:
1. Las Vegas, Nevada
I know Sin City isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it is the city we met, fell in love in and called home for the first couple of years of our relationship. It was when we moved from our tiny one-bedroom a block off The Strip and up to Summerlin that we’d see the balloons rising with the sun practically every morning. (Every morning but our wedding day, that is.) We got the idea to get married in one and take in all our favorite monuments lining The Strip from above. One day we will soar over Las Vegas in a balloon.
When to balloon: Las Vegas hot air balloon flights from $199 per person.
2. Loire Valley, France
I’ve been a budding Francophile for a few years now, loving France more and more with each trip we take there. So it should be no surprise to find the Loire Valley, with its’ over 800 castles and vineyards, on this list. From photos, it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale and I imagine ballooning over the Loire Valley will be like that scene from The Princess Diaries when Princess Mia’s massive storybook castle comes in to view from above.
When to balloon: Loire Valley hot air balloon flights are best from April through October when the landscape is green.
3. Bagan, Myanmar
Ballooning over Bagan is the one place we’ve actually been able to check off our hot air balloon bucket list together. The balloon flight takes you up, up and away for a birds-eye view over Bagan’s 4446 ancient pagodas. Having e-biked the ancient site from end-to-end and short of spending at least a month exploring all the temples, there’s no better way to really take it all in than from a basket in the sky at sunrise.
When to balloon: Bagan hot air balloon flights are offered from October through March when temperatures are slightly cooler.
4. Cappadocia, Turkey
Cappadocia’s landscape is most often described as being dotted with fairy chimneys. The limestone has been chiseled out into cave dwellings and formations rise up all across the landscape like chimneys rising from the Smurfs’ houses come to life. Cappadocia is a popular place to balloon and most mornings make it even more fairy tale-esque as dozens of colorful balloons float across the sky.
When to balloon: Cappadocia balloon flights and champagne breakfast are available February through November, but you can avoid the summer crowds by traveling in should season from April to May and September to October.
5. Napa Valley, California
I’ve been lucky enough to take to the skies above Napa Valley, with the vineyards below appearing like a patchwork quilt. Knowledgeable guides can point out many of California’s most famous vineyards and on a clear day, like the morning I ballooned over Napa, you can see all the way to the Bay. Aside from the stunning views over California wine country, balloon flights end with a fabulous California sparkling wine brunch.
When to balloon: Napa Valley hot air balloon flights with sparkling wine brunch are available year round, but springtime from March through May is when the famous San Francisco fog is less likely, the vineyards are green and mustard or poppies are in bloom.
6. Moab, Utah
The fragile sandstone towers and arches of Arches National Park were created when dinosaurs roamed the earth. As if that thought alone doesn’t make Moab a must-visit destination, the scenery is some of the most spectacular in the United States. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the wildlife like mountain lions or desert big horn sheep as you glide silently above.
When to balloon: Flights are available from late March through early November.
7. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World, has ideal weather conditions for year round ballooning. Taking to the skies over Albuquerque, balloons drift over the Rio Grande as dawn breaks over the Sandia Mountains. Go in October during the International Balloon Fiesta and more than 500 balloons lift off during the mass ascensions.
When to balloon: Albuquerque sunrise hot air balloons flights are available year round, but it’s an even more spectacular sight to balloon during the International Balloon Fiesta held each October.
8. La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
I’ve actually been to Costa Rica, but hot air ballooning over the rain forest with a view of the often puffing Arenal Volcano wasn’t on my agenda when I went there with my school in 1997. I’m pretty sure that Costa Rica’s only hot air balloon company, Serendipity Adventures, wasn’t around back then or at least didn’t offer hot air ballooning. Because if they did, I’d have tried to convince my science teacher that hot air ballooning would be a great real life example of physics. Or maybe a math equation about how much cubic feet of hot air you need for the balloon to lift off and float through the cooler air? Either way, if I ever make it back to Costa Rica I’d like to drift past a volcano.
When to balloon: Flights are available year round, but May through August offers the most optimal winds and clear skies for a view of Arenal just 20 miles away.
9. Luxor, Egypt
Egypt has been on our bucket list for what feels like forever. We’ve even planned and paid for two trips there including a hot air balloon ride over Luxor, but apparently we just weren’t meant to go. When we do make it Egypt, we’d love to take to the skies over the ancient monuments of Luxor, the Nile River and the West Bank. Like Bagan, we imagine the world’ greatest open air museum is a place that can only fully be appreciated from a birds-eye view.
When to balloon: Luxor hot air balloon flights are available year round, though you might want to avoid visiting in the super hot months from June through August and during Ramadan.
10. Marrakech, Morocco
There’s just something about sunrise in the desert and floating over the outskirts of Marrakech as the sun peeks over the Atlas Mountains sounds like a perfect way to get a different perspective of Morocco. And though we never, ever want to ride camels again after a painful (literally) experience in Jordan, we still love seeing camels. I’d squeal with delight if we saw some camels roaming across the desert from the balloon.
When to balloon: Marrakech hot air balloon flights are available year round, though you might want to avoid visiting in the super hot months from June through August and during Ramadan.
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