One of the most unforgettable holiday experiences is definitely a ride in a hot air balloon. In our top 10, we show you the most beautiful places in the world for a balloon ride. Here you can board, take off and be amazed!
Children’s eyes widen and even adults in every phase of life start to smile when they sit in the baskets under the balloon envelope and the landscape passes by below them. Valleys and gorges, rivers and cities – the world looks beautiful from a bird’s eye view. Animals and people seem like little dots and the clouds are so wonderfully close. Admittedly, you should not be afraid of heights for a balloon ride or be able to throw them overboard for the unique experience.
Getting a little closer to heaven has always been a dream of mankind. The first stories of ballooning in ancient China date back to the 2nd century AD. However, these trips were still unmanned and the balloons only served as signal signs. Leonardo da Vinci also dreamed of a ride in a balloon and developed various models in the 16th century. However, these models were not yet intended for transporting a person.
The first manned balloon flight took place in Paris in the 18th century and was carried out by the Montgolfier brothers. The two Frenchmen made history on June 4, 1783 when they took the first manned balloon flight, laying the foundation for the hot air balloon flight that is so coveted to this day. In many countries around the world you have the opportunity to do the same as the Montgolfier brothers. We’ve put together our own top 10, but of course there are plenty of other exciting places to see the world from above on a balloon tour.
1. Cappadocia (Turkey)
Ballooning in Cappadocia is one of the most beautiful holiday experiences in Turkey. The world-famous and unique rocky landscape is even more impressive from the air and perfect for your holiday photography. You will be able to see the cave churches and entrances to underground cities, the national park and hiking trails through the gorges from the air. This will certainly make you want to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site from the ground after the balloon ride.
Most balloon rides last about an hour and are often offered in several languages. We recommend early risers and morning grouches alike to book a balloon flight in the morning. In the first hours of the day, the sun’s rays bathe the rocks in a particularly beautiful light and stimulate the imagination. It looks like a fairy tale landscape, and not just for children’s eyes.
2. Sossusvlei (Namibia)
The Sossusvlei (also Sossus Vlei) belongs to the Namib and is one of the most popular places for ballooning in the world. A vlei is the end pan of a river and in this case consists of a salt and clay mixture at the end of the Tsauchab river. A typical red coloring of the sand develops and the dunes can be up to 400 meters high. The Sossusvlei in the middle of the Namib-Naukluft National Park is therefore extremely popular as a photo motif.
In Namibia, the wind carries your hot air balloon through the air and you can see the many nuances of color in the desert. In good weather conditions, the Etosha National Park can be seen on the horizon and directly below you it is not uncommon for antelopes to run through the expanse. With or without animals, this landscape appears as if captured on a canvas by a creative mind, yet it is different every day, almost every moment, as the desert is not a rigid entity but a living landscape.
3. Vilnius (Lithuania)
Lithuania is a popular travel destination when holidaying in north-eastern Europe and a visit to the capital Vilnius (German “Wilna”) is definitely at the top of your to-do list. If you want to see the place from above, you will find one of the most beautiful hotspots for balloon rides.
As soon as you are at a height of 300 meters, the baroque old town with its churches unfolds below you when you look out of the balloon basket and you look into medieval alleys and cozy courtyards, the sight of which is otherwise closed to you on a walk. If you are less concerned with details and more with the ambience, it is best to book a balloon ride in the evening hours. The sunset on the tiled roofs, the shadows cast by the church towers and the illuminated houses will definitely enchant you.
4. Luxor (Egypt)
You’ve already seen the Pyramids of Giza and now you want to see the beauty and the mystical effect of Egyptian landscapes from above? In that case, we recommend a balloon ride over Luxor, which will take you high above the Nile.
Most providers start their balloon ride in the early morning hours, so that many hot air balloons rise in the sky together with the sun. This picture alone is unforgettable. As soon as you are over Luxor, the journey leads over the pillars of the Karnak Temple, the largest temple complex in Egypt. At dawn, the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon appear and in good weather the view extends to the Valley of the Queens. If the wind conditions are favourable, the balloon ride also leads over the Ramesseum in Theben-West and thus over the funerary temple of Pharaoh Ramses II.
5. Queenstown (New Zealand)
If you can’t get up early in the morning, you should grit your teeth once more and put up with the early alarm clock ringing for an unforgettable balloon ride from Queenstown. The city on the South Island of New Zealand is an ideal starting point for viewing the breathtaking landscape in its entirety. The picture is shaped by the snow-capped Southern Alps and the large Lake Wakatipu. Friends of fantasy worlds think of the film adaptations of “Lord of the Rings” or memories of “The Chronicles of Narnia” wake up in you. No coincidence: the films were shot here, in the midst of these otherworldly landscapes.
If your stomach growls after the balloon ride, you can rest easy: Most balloon rides near Queenstown end with a nice champagne breakfast after landing. So you can talk about the wonderful impressions while eating and maybe already plan the next adventure.
6. Tuscany (Italy)
As beautiful as Tuscany is from the ground, nothing beats a panoramic view from a hot air balloon. Therefore, it is one of the hotspots for balloon rides worldwide. The view of the Chianti wine-growing region, for example, whets the appetite for fine wines.
Also beautiful from a bird’s eye view: the cities of Siena and Florence. You’ve never seen the cradle of the Renaissance from this angle before! The hot air balloon can also take you over the Val d’Elsa, the Elsa Valley. Here, for example, is the small medieval town of San Gimignano, known for its 13 towers. The city, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, is therefore also nicknamed “Manhattan of the Middle Ages”. From the balloon, these towers are below you, allowing for a unique vantage point.
7. Loire Valley (France)
The Loire flows past beautiful landscapes on its 1,006 km journey through France and touches, among other things, Orléans. The Loire Valley has a mild climate that is perfect for growing grapes. World-renowned wine-growing regions such as Sancerre and Saumurois therefore stretch out before your eyes when you book a balloon flight over the Loire Valley. You will immediately see why the valley is nicknamed the “Garden of France”.
But it is not only nature that is to be admired, but also the approximately 400 palace complexes that can be seen from a hot-air balloon. They all lie along the Loire and its tributaries and draw a very special landscape. Saumur Castle, for example, which was built on a rocky plateau and can be visited, belongs to the Saumurois wine-growing region. It houses both the Municipal Museum and a horse museum. During a balloon flight over Orléans you will also see the impressive Sainte-Croix d’Orléans Cathedral, the Place du Martroi and the statue of the famous Joan of Arc.
8. Wadi Rum (Jordan)
A wadi describes a channel in nature, usually a stream bed or river bed, which carries water in the rainy season but is otherwise dry. The Wadi Rum is the largest of its kind in Jordan and a popular place not only for balloon rides. From the heights you will discover the enormous expanse and the true beauty of the region. Hovering over such a place also gives people a certain humility and at the same time admiration of the greatness of nature.
In order to capture the whole expanse of Wadi Rum while ballooning, the tours often start in the early hours of the morning. The guests are taken to the starting point by car before sunrise and then climb up into the balloon baskets with the light of the first rays of sunshine. A balloon ride takes between one hour and around two hours, with a mostly English-speaking tour guide who can tell you interesting things about the area.
9. Dubai (UAE)
One of the hotspots for ballooning is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Here you can experience a sunrise directly over the desert and the balloonists can bring their hot air balloons up to 1,200 meters in good weather conditions. The actual tour lasts about an hour and can be done either in groups or for individual families and couples. Always included in most cases: a gourmet breakfast after landing.
By the way, the journey to the starting point is already a real adventure, because you take off in the middle of the desert. To get there, pick-up is in 4×4 vehicles. The providers drive through the desert at an adventurous speed. Anyone who feels like an extended desert drive in the car or a camel ride can often book these excursions very practically directly after the balloon ride.
10. Bernese Oberland (Switzerland)
Would you like to see the Swiss Alps from a bird’s eye view? This works wonderfully in a hot air balloon that carries you over the Bernese Oberland. The region’s hotspots include the starting points in Frutigen, Zweisimmen and Reichenbach im Kandertal as well as St. Stephan, Gruyéres and Saanen. In all cases, the balloon ride heads west and thus over the main Alpine ridge. You can see the peaks and mountain villages painted by a brush in the midst of imposing nature.
Very often, the balloon rides are offered in rather small groups, so that you are traveling with a maximum of eight people. This makes the excursions more comfortable and gives more space for exciting conversations with the pilot. We recommend you either start with the sunrise or an evening trip with the stars and the sea of lights of the villages below you.
FAQ about ballooning
Can’t wait to visit one of the beautiful hot air ballooning spots? But do you still have questions about the topic? We answer the most frequently asked questions.
What types of balloons are there?
Even if ballooning is generally spoken of in general, in practice a distinction is made between two types of balloons: gas balloons and hot-air balloons. The hot-air balloon is “the classic” as developed by the Montgolfier brothers. As warm air rises, a gas burner at the bottom of the balloon’s envelope provides hot air and thus buoyancy.
Conversely, Jacques Alexandre César Charles developed the gas balloon. The physicist used his knowledge of the different densities of gases. His first prototype rose thanks to hydrogen, since this gas is lighter than air. For safety reasons, helium is now preferred in gas balloons because hydrogen is highly combustible.
What are captive balloons?
The balloons are anchored to the ground so that while they rise, they don’t fly over a landscape. Captive balloons are used as an advertising medium and are almost always gas balloons. The gas remains in the balloon so that it does not return to the ground on its own, but has to be retrieved using winches.
Ballooning: why is it called driving?
You get on the plane and go on vacation. Why isn’t it also called balloon flying instead of ballooning? The naming has to do with the history of ballooning: When the first hot-air balloons with people rose in the 18th century, until then there had only been trips on land and seafaring. People saw the sky as a body of water and spoke of sailing through the sea of air. The expression has survived to this day.
How far can a balloon ride go?
The modern balloons initially rise at least 200 and up to 1,200 meters in the air and then the path often takes them 30 kilometers and more through the air. In the case of a balloon ride as an attraction, the booked tour determines the exact distance and duration of the excursion. The current wind speed also plays a role. On average, balloon rides last 60 to 90 minutes.