Up up and away: 6 Epic Hot Air Balloon Rides around the world.

The experience of launching into the atmosphere, riding in a hot air balloon while enjoying the birds-eye view of the world below is an experience like no other.  It requires no skills other than the ability to wake up early in the morning since most of the rides as at dawn when the weather conditions are perfect for a balloon flight.

After a maiden flight with my friends in the Sonoran desert, I have been wanting to take the family along on a balloon flight.  The ride was comfortable and peaceful with no sounds of whirling engines, just the occasional roar of flames from the burners, as you enjoy the unique perspective of the terrain below from the safety of your basket.  

Hot air balloon flights are getting popular and operators are highly experienced, often guiding the baskets closer to view landscapes and animals for a close-up. Here a 6 epic balloon rides around the world and the travelers who share their experience with us, whether on your honeymoon, family trip or solo trip what a fun way to see our world.

Ballooning over Bagan, Myanmar by Scott MacLeod

We had a full range of experiences in Bagan.  Our guide was instructive and enlightening.  Our dawn balloon trip over the fields of stupas was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The endless forest of gilded spires, set against an azure sky is awe-inspiring.  Ballooning at dawn means an early wake-up.  In our case, 4:45 AM, for a 5:30 pickup at our hotel in a lovingly restored World War II Canadian built bus brought to Burma to transport troops, then left behind at the war’s conclusion.

We arrived in the launching field in the dark, lit by the headlights of the other buses and shepherded to the coffee, tea, and tea breads while our pilot, Steve, introduced himself.  Scores of workers from Balloons Over Bagan had already spread dozens of balloons out, ready to be inflated.  Generator driven electric fans initially blew the hot air generated by the propane burners into the balloons, which once filled, began to rise from the ground and continue filling.

OutsideSuburbia Epic Hot air balloon rides - Bagan

Once the balloon filled, Steve gave the order to be seated, the propane tank roared, and off we went into the air.  After being given the all clear, we quickly came back to the standing position.  What greeted us, was an amazing sight of some airborne balloons, others still on the ground, birds flying level with us, and an almost endless assortment of temples on the ground before us.  

It was hard to focus on one thing:  the other balloons dancing through the dawn haze, the temples revealing themselves as the sun came up or the birds flying amongst us. As we glided across the earth, there was no ignoring how serene this entire experience is.  

OutsideSuburbia Epic Hot air balloon rides - Bagan

The feeling of being one with the air mass, suspended in it, created part of the sensation.   The calls of the birds, occasionally drowned out by the intermittent roar of the propane burners, contributed another.   But the main contributor was the temples below.  They varied in scale and grandeur – some ornate, gold encrusted and well maintained. 

While others approached piles of rubble, victims of the inexorable march of time.  But all were seeing yet another of the almost 400,000 dawns most of them had seen.  With that realization was an understanding that this entire experience might be significant to the participants.  However, in the grand scheme of things and the continuum of time, it approached almost insignificance.

OutsideSuburbia Epic Hot air balloon rides - Bagan

So, having put myself in the proper metaphysical space, unfortunately the time to land arrived.  Steve navigated almost this entire trip on an iPad app, which enabled him to forecast our landing spot with accuracy, just east of the town of New Bagan.  We glided into an easy landing in the open field.   The ground crews secured our baskets, and we climbed out.  The traditional champagne toasts awaited, a fitting end to a memorable experience.

OutsideSuburbia Epic Hot air balloon rides - Bagan

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Flying over the Mara, Kenya by Myriam Jimenez

My husband and I decided to go on a trip for our second wedding anniversary. I never imagined it was going to be let the best vacations, the best days of my life. Let me start off saying that if you hadn’t been to Africa, don’t think it twice and make it your next trip. 

We visited several National Parks in East Africa on Safaris, including the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Its adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in the Mara region of Tanzania. The Masai Mara is named after the Masai people, the ancestral habitants of the area, tribes which by the way you can still visit today and it’s a very enriching experience.

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Mara

I could write a book about my Safari in Africa but today it’s about my first experience on a hot air balloon, and what a place to do it! First of all, to be honest we were on our wedding anniversary and we wanted to relax so when we were told we had to be up at 4:30 am for the balloon flight we weren’t very happy, in fact my husband was mad at me for booking such a thing. They picked us up in the hotel at 5 am and we drove 30 minutes to the field where they were preparing everything for the flight. We flew with two other couples, when we arrived, we had some coffee and got to know them.

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Mara

Out pilot, was extremely funny, explained to us all the procedures and positions we had to follow and told us it was a very calm day with very little wind. We got in the basket and the pilot started turning the burners on so immediately the cold was gone.

We started slowly floating up, as you slowly ascend, you start having a peace feeling. I cannot explain with words the serene and tranquil feeling you get when you start floating over the stunning acacia trees of Africa. The day was quite foggy but that had its magic itself. Even though we couldn’t se the sunrise clearly, it was magic. The immensity of the plains of the Mara below us was breathtaking.

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Mara

We saw lots of animals, giraffes, elephants, beautiful birds, zebras, but not as many as the other ladies expected, however the sole flight and views were so stunning that we all were very happy. We landed and we didn’t have to make the position because it was extremely calm. We had a sumptuous breakfast with a kitchen improvised there in the middle of the bush, with everything you can imagine to eat for breakfast.

We of course had champagne, I guess you’ve heard the origins of that tradition. The only difference is that this time the offer to goodwill had to be done to the lions for landing in their territory. The balloon company we booked our tour with was Sky Ship company

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Mara

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Ballooning over Fairy Chimneys, Turkey by Patricia

Flying in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia was a must-do for us during our trip to Turkey. We watched the Pink Valley’s fairy chimneys come to life as the sun rose and changed the colors of the unique rock formations through deep red, yellow, orange and pink hues. Our pilot was a master of precision and navigated high and low in the canyons. We could almost touch the rocks as we floated close to the chimneys, an impressive view of the scenic landscape.

The lack of engine noise strengthened the sense of peace and made us more appreciative of our sunrise experience. We were served with cold Champagne upon landing, a great way to celebrate and toast a fantastic sunrise hot air balloon morning! As the Director of Content Marketing for Viator at that time, I booked the tour with one of our suppliers via www.viator.com. The company was top rated for its service, professionalism and quality, and exceeded our expectations.

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Turkey
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Turkey
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Turkey
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Turkey

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Ballooning in Ronda, Spain by Tamara Gruber

The most distinctive feature about Ronda, one of the larger towns in Andalucia in Southern Spain, is the deep canyon that splits the town in two. The two sections are connected by the Puente Nueve bridge, which while it may be “new” it was still built in the 18th century. We had a great view of the gorge from our hotel, which was perched on its rim.

But we were looking for a different perspective — from the air. As we rose above the town, silently scraping through the air just above the houses, we startled a few townspeople sipping their coffee on their verandas as the whoosh of the flame caused them to jerk their gaze up from their morning paper. Most were happy to wave and greet us with a buenos dias. While we drifted towards the gorge, we had sweeping views of the entire valley and the cluster of white-washed houses gathered in the center.

Unfortunately, the air and wind didn’t allow us to get too high or too far over the canyon, and soon we were settling back onto the local farmer’s field. Our appetite for adventure sated, it was then time for an authentic Andalusian breakfast and stilted conversation with our guides as we all attempted to overcome our language barrier. It was a perfect way to cap off our 24 hours in Ronda. Balloon Company we used to book our tour was Gloventosur Tours

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Ronda
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Ronda
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Ronda

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Ballooning at International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque by Jessica

Albuquerque may have gained worldwide recognition in recent years thanks to the hit TV show Breaking Bad, but it’s actually the city’s love affair with hot air ballooning that helped put it on the map long before. Every year in October, the southwest city plays host to the Albuquerque International Balloon

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Albuquerque

Fiesta, the largest ballooning event in the world with more than 500 colorful hot air balloons and nearly 1 million spectators. I’ve attended the Balloon Fiesta many times, but last year had the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon. The view was stunning to say the least.

As the sun began to peek over the mountain tops and illuminate the dawn sky, we peacefully floated high above the lush green river valley below with fellow balloons drifting around us in every direction. Even though it’s the most photographed event in the world, pictures don’t compare to witnessing the Balloon Fiesta in person. See here for more pictures and a blog post.

There are both early morning and evening events throughout the 9-day festival (including some dedicated to special shape balloons ranging from Darth Vader to a trio of bees), and you don’t have to ride in a balloon to be part of the magic. What makes the Balloon Fiesta a particularly exciting experience is that attendees can walk the field for an up-close look at the balloons as they inflate and liftoff in waves, creating a kaleidoscope of color in the sky.

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Albuquerque
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Albuquerque
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Albuquerque

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Ballooning over the Thai countryside in Chiang Mai by Eric Stoten

When I booked Chiang Mai for New Years Eve with my 8-year-old, the Four Seasons sent me a list of local activities, including hot air ballooning. We signed up immediately! How much fun would it be to end the year in a balloon over northern Thailand?

Outside Suburbia - Hot air Balloon rides - Chiang Mai

We were picked up at the hotel in the dark at 6am and driven roughly an hour away to the launch site. I’ve attempted to go hot air ballooning at least half a dozen times around the world over the years, but every time the weather foiled my plans. So even as we were watching the balloons fill with air, I remained skeptical that we would lift off. But the weather remained perfect, and off we went.

I had no idea if I would find it scary, or especially if my son would find it scary, but the experience was so peaceful that we never thought about the height. We simply enjoyed watching the sunrise from a unique perspective and watching the Thai countryside slowly pass by, before landing very gently an hour later. As a family travel writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend ballooning to other families. Balloon company that organized the tour was Balloon Adventure Thailand . We’re hoping to do it again in Africa later this month.

OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Chiang Mai
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Chiang Mai
OutsideSuburbia Hot air balloon rides - Chiang Mai

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Bubbles and Balloons

There is a long standing tradition in ballooning that after the flight the passengers and crew have a reception and enjoy some Champagne. If you ever wondered why Champagne, here is why – There is actually a reason behind this that dates back to the 1780s, when the first balloon flights were staged. 

On one of the first successfully manned balloon flights, the pilots carried along a bottle of champagne to enjoy on the flight but instead of actually drinking it, they had to use it as an offer to goodwill to the farmers whose field their balloon had landed in.

The champagne convinced the farmers that they were not in fact demons and acted as an apology for disturbing the land and animals grazing in the field.  The tradition still stands to this day, where the crew and passengers will toast champagne after the flight is over! 

How fun to toast champagne at these unique destinations – Is hot air balloon ride on your bucketlist… if so where?  If you have been on a balloon ride do share your experience with us. 



13 thoughts on “Up up and away: 6 Epic Hot Air Balloon Rides around the world.”

  1. They are all certainly epic!!! You know, even though very afraid of heights, I have always been fascinated about balloons, maybe one day I will have the courage to do one of these, at least once in this life 😀
    Great idea for a post!

    Thank you for linking up with #MondayEscapes 😀

  2. Wanna do it, but a bit skeptic… Not afraid of heights, but that basket (or whatever they call it 🙂 ) looks so small… Thinking about doing it on my next safari experience.

  3. Before even opening this I knew Cappadocia was going to be mentioned. Although I never was able to take an actual ride (very expensive) I woke up early to see the spectacle. Was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!

  4. Lovely post. I’m headed to the Loire Valley in France & I’m looking forward to taking a ballon ride there 🙂

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