10 places for an unforgettable hot air balloon ride
Escape the crowds and experience the thrill of seeing the world from above by taking to the skies in a hot air balloon... Here are our favourites
1. Jaipur, India
The forts and palaces of the Pink City are impressive enough, but getting an aerial view from a lofty balloon trumps a walking tour every time. Peer over Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), Amber Fort and City Palace (to name but three of the city's architectural treasures), before floating over rural villages and remote stone temples. Book a flight for sunrise, and you'll see Jaipur come to life...
The Canterbury Plains stretch out like a green patchwork quilt, unrolling from South Island's Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean. The river-rich area is an agricultural hotspot; indeed, its fields of herbs, grazing grass and sunflowers make up roughly 80% of New Zealand's grains and crops. To appreciate the scale and beauty of the area, it's best to take to the skies. Floating above the turf reveals the myriad hues of the landscape, and offers a tantalising view of the snow-capped Southern Alps beyond...
Hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, Turkey (RF: iStock)
3. Cappadocia, Turkey
Surreal rock formations and velvety green vineyards make Cappadocia a magical spot for hot air ballooning. Marvel at the colourful landscape as you bob above the rugged limestone peaks of the iconic 'fairy chimneys' – even more dramatic when you fly at sunrise or sunset. Each season offers its own treasures, so you'll be in for a treat any time of the year, whether it's blankets of snow in the winter, poppies in the springtime, flowers in the summer, or the golden hue of autumn.
An aerial cruise through the heart of the Namib Desert reveals the scale and drama of this largely empty land. Begin your adventure just before sunrise and watch the colours of the desert transform before your eyes. Drift silently over the stunning orange and pink sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the peaks whipped into razor sharp edges, and marvel at the unique rock formations of the Naukluft Mountain massif.
Every year, one of the most impressive hot air balloon gatherings can be spotted above New Mexico, as hundreds of brightly-coloured orbs take to the air. Welcome to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which attracts hundreds of ballooning fans from all over the world to enjoy the perfect weather conditions and calm air of southern America. As the sun rises over Albuquerque, so do the balloons – a surreal yet magical sight, whether you're in the air or on solid ground.
The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is renowned for playing a central role in the annual Great Migration. Just over a million zebras, gazelle and wildebeest travel through the park in search of food and hot air balloonists get an unparalleled bird-eye-view of this phenomenal wildlife spectacle. It may be one of the more expensive aerial experiences but for wildlife-watching it's one of the best!
Vilnius is one of the few European cities that allows hot air balloons to fly right over the top – allowing you to spy the Old Town's Gothic and Renaissance spires from above, marvel at the scale of Vilnius's two rivers, and feel smug that you're escaping rush hour below. A treat for city breaks – especially when combined with a bubbly breakfast...
Drift over thousands of pagodas in the ancient city of Bagan for a truly unique hot air ballooning experience. Mostly constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, the pagodas sit in silent contemplation on a plain next to the Irrawaddy River – a unique sight in this mysterious country. For an unrivalled view of Bagan take flight in the soft light of dawn or dusk.
Hot air ballooning over Northern Territory, Australia (Supplied: NT TB)
9. Red Centre, Australia
Hot air ballooning is an exhilarating way to see Australia's Red Centre. Viewing the landscape from above will help you appreciate the phenomenal scale of this striking red desert, punctured only by millennia-old rock formations and the odd dust cloud-trailing 4x4. Watch kangaroos bounce below or eagles swirl above, and marvel at the grandeur of Uluru and the nearby Kata Tjuta.
Escape the swarming crowds, and enjoy a peaceful flight above the Nile with unbeatable views of some of Egypt’s most prominent and ancient monuments, juxtaposed with rural landscapes. Rise in the dawn to witness the tranquil majesty of the pyramids and Luxor's famous temples, as the sun breaks the horizon. Experience a different, little-seen side to Egypt as you pass over children playing in the river, and women working in the slowly-swaying fields.
Main image: Hot air ballooning over Jaipur, India (On the Go)