The world's most breathtaking hot air balloon rides

The world from new heights



There's nothing quite like a jaw-dropping view from a hot air balloon. For those with a head for heights, hot air ballooning is the ideal way to get the best vistas. Gliding smoothly through the air, with no sound but the wind whipping past your ears, is a truly serene experience.

Discover the best places in the world to get high in a hot air balloon...

Dubai's desert, UAE

<p>Gareth Lowndes/Shutterstock</p>

Gareth Lowndes/Shutterstock

Well away from the bright lights of Dubai lies a barren, golden desert. A beautiful retreat from the flashy hotels and expensive malls, here you can stay in a tented Berber-style camp, then see the sunrise from the ultimate vantage point: a hot air balloon. From the skies you'll see Arabian oryx and gazelles trotting across the sand and the rising sun will light up the dunes, transforming them into a glittering golden, ocean-like landscape. It's a far cry from the vistas available from the world-famous Burj Khalifa and it's all the better for it.

Konopiště Castle, Czechia



Konopiště Castle is a truly impressive place – with four wings, three storeys and turrets to rival any fairy-tale castle, it was originally built in the late 13th century and has withstood a number of sieges. Today, it's open to the public, with a small museum showcasing the bullet that killed Franz Ferdinand, who resided here, but by far the best view is from above. Jump in a hot air balloon and float above the forested landscape, which gives way to eventually reveal this beautiful castle.

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia



Let the breeze guide you along the rolling vineyards of the Yarra Valley, one of Australia's top wine regions. Balloon flights here take off at dawn, when a morning mist still shrouds some of the lowest parts of the valley and the landscape changes colour as the sun rises in the sky. It's a wonderfully peaceful experience and the perfect start to a day of wine and food tasting in this wonderful gastronomic region.

The Serengeti, Tanzania

<p>Lubomir Chudoba/Shutterstock</p>

Lubomir Chudoba/Shutterstock

Bring a whole new meaning to the concept of flying safaris with a balloon flight over the Serengeti in Tanzania. This huge national park is rife with wildlife, from lions and leopards to elephants and buffalo. Float over the Seronera River and you might spot crocodiles lying in wait for their prey or see a pride of lions feeding on their kill. This unique vantage point offers an opportunity to see areas the ground vehicles can't access.


Jaipur, India



See the sprawl of one of Rajasthan's most exciting cities from above with a balloon ride over Jaipur. You'll gaze down at the spectacular forts and palaces of the Pink City – named for its pink-hued sandstone buildings – from the peaceful vantage point of a hot air balloon. Starting from outside the city, you'll drift over rural villages and traditional homesteads, before reaching the impressive Amer Fort, a 16th-century structure still standing the test of time.

Sonoma, California, USA

<p>Sonoma County</p>

Sonoma County

Ballooning, Bikes and Brews tours in Sonoma County offer an alternative way to experience the beauty of California wine country from both land and air. Once you've taken to the skies and soared above picturesque rows of vines at sunrise for a totally new perspective on the region, explore the county's many vineyards and breweries by bike and sample some of the finest wines and freshest beers on offer. There may be no better way to experience Sonoma County.

The Dolomites, Italy

<p>Balloonfestival/Alexander Strobl</p>

Balloonfestival/Alexander Strobl

The Italian Dolomites are a stunning range of precipitous peaks and gorgeous grassy valleys. In winter, they're covered in snow and make for fantastic skiing territory. In summer, the hiking is spectacular, but come in mid-January and you'll find there's more than just skiing available here. Get your thrills in the air, soaring above the peaks in a hot air balloon during the Dolomiti Balloon week, when dozens of them float amid the snowy mountain scenery.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia



Many hot air balloons take flight over areas of natural beauty, but soaring above a city is just as exciting. In Australia, you can take off from the suburbs of Melbourne and glide straight past the city's skyscrapers and above its biggest landmarks, from stadiums to the grand Melbourne Museum. See the roads slowly get busier as commuters make their way to work, spot the Grand Prix circuit and the Olympic Park, and wave at residents as you glide past apartment buildings close enough to see what's for breakfast.

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

<p>Martin Good/Shutterstock</p>

Martin Good/Shutterstock

Glassy Lake Geneva is a stunning sight from any angle, but from above it is truly spectacular. Straddling the border between France and Switzerland, the Lake Geneva region has some spectacular countryside and glorious peaks. You'll take off amid the mountain scenery to enjoy the sight of the lake's royal-blue waters, and the many UNESCO-protected vineyards of the Lavaux.

Kissimmee, Florida, USA

<p>Experience Kissimmee</p>

Experience Kissimmee

Located on the headwaters of the Everglades in Florida and just a 30-minute drive away from Orlando’s world-famous theme parks, Kissimmee is the ideal location to experience a hot air balloon flight – and it's a far quieter way to get your adrenaline fix than among all the screaming riders at Walt Disney World. Spot alligators in the Everglades swamps, soar alongside bald eagles and see the thrilling theme parks from the air with Bob's Balloons.

The North Pole



For extreme adventurers, hot air ballooning in the North Pole has an added challenge: getting there. Whether you decide to take the long, cold, arduous trek or take the easier route via helicopter, the journey is all part of the fun. Once you find yourself at 90-degrees north, jump in Quark Expeditions' hot air balloon to admire the top of the world from above. A white expanse will slope away beneath you as the balloon climbs and you'll really get a whole new perspective on the vast, white Arctic.

Sonoran Desert, Arizona, USA

<p>Rainbow Ryders</p>

Rainbow Ryders

The vast Sonoran Desert covers much of southwest Arizona and is characterised by a landscape of cacti and rocky hills. On a hot air balloon flight with Rainbow Ryders, you'll float over these Wild West worthy vistas, gliding above impeccably straight, often empty highways and grassy plains as the sun rises to the east. Look out for native wildlife such as jackrabbits, coyotes and burros scurrying on the ground beneath your feet.

Atacama Desert, Chile

<p>Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock</p>

Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock

If you've ever dreamed of travel to Mars, the Atacama Desert might be the next best thing. This arid landscape of reddish dunes and ochre rock formations is as close to the Red Planet as you can get right now, and seeing it all from the basket of a hot air balloon is a thrilling experience. If the winds are in your favour, you might even fly over the ancient Pukará de Quitor – a stone fortress built in the 12th century by pre-Columbian natives.

Tenerife, Spain

<p>Olena Tur/Shutterstock</p>

Olena Tur/Shutterstock

Tenerife is best known for its beautiful beaches and bustling resorts, but the island's interior has a striking landscape ripe for exploration. The main draw is Mount Teide, a large volcano right in the island's centre, which has spectacular views out to the ocean. But if you don't fancy climbing Teide, take a balloon flight instead for equally breathtaking views without the physical exertion.

Teotihuacan, Mexico

<p>Rosario Ortega Amador/Shutterstock</p>

Rosario Ortega Amador/Shutterstock

It's somewhat difficult to get your head around the scale and history of ancient Teotihuacan, a pre-Columbian city in the centre of Mexico. That's why a hot air balloon flight is the ideal way to see it. Marvel at all of its ruins from the ultimate vantage point and you'll really be able to understand just how huge this city was. You'll see the three-mile-long (4.8km) Avenue of the Dead, connecting the two major pyramids and the sprawling modern town of San Martín de las Pirámides.

Champagne, France

<p>Miki Studio/Shutterstock</p>

Miki Studio/Shutterstock

Plenty of balloon flights offer bubbles on board, but there may be no better experience than in the home of fizz itself. If you fancy taking luxury ballooning to the next level, hop into the basket of one of the many balloons that fly over the Champagne region in northeast France. Admire the sloping rows of vines from above, ideally at sunrise when a golden light makes the region even more beautiful, then set down in an open field and pop open some fizz to toast the day.

Namib Desert, Namibia

<p>Lukas Bischoff Photograph/Shutterstock</p>

Lukas Bischoff Photograph/Shutterstock

Namibia's topography is astounding. And the Namib Desert is one of the world's driest and oldest deserts with some of the tallest sand dunes and some of the planet's most exciting wildlife. But it's hard to comprehend how it all comes together by staying on the ground. Float over the landscape in a hot air balloon, though, and you'll see a spectacular expanse of arid, orange sand that meets the wild, blustery Atlantic. Spot zebras and oryx from above as they trot along the dunes and if you head towards the coast, see shipwrecks dotted along the beaches.

Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

<p>Valentina Photo/Shutterstock</p>

Valentina Photo/Shutterstock

Get up to 8,000 feet (2,438m) in the air above Slovakia's Tatra mountains for a truly spellbinding view. The deep valleys and tall peaks of the Tatras are stunning from any angle, but from above, caked with snow in winter, they are seriously impressive. Glassy blue-green lakes dot the landscape, and skiers slide down the slopes as you glide above the mountain resorts and forests. Be sure to layer up – it gets even colder in the air, but the view is well worth the chills.

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

<p>Russ Heni/Shutterstock</p>

Russ Heni/Shutterstock

Forget the open-top bus rides or walking tours in Ottawa – the most exciting way to see the Canadian capital is by balloon. Following the Rideau Canal, you'll glide peacefully above the city's buildings and along to the stunning Parliament Hill complex. These striking, castle-like buildings were originally opened in 1866, but were mostly destroyed by fire in 1916. Rebuilt by the end of the 1920s, the complex is one of Canada's most impressive architectural feats and nothing quite compares to admiring it from the air.

Meteora, Greece

<p>PicPanda Photography/Shutterstock</p>

PicPanda Photography/Shutterstock

An astonishing landscape of towering rock formations topped with precariously perched monasteries, Meteora is a magical place for a hot air balloon ride. Taking off from an open field, you'll climb gracefully before gliding over the enormous natural pillars, where monks have lived in monasteries on the cliff edges since the 14th century. Only from this vantage point can you really appreciate the determination and strength it took to create such communities atop Meteora's enormous plinths all those years ago.

Patagonia, Argentina

<p>Maciej Bledowski/Shutterstock</p>

Maciej Bledowski/Shutterstock

If walking on glaciers isn't your thing, perhaps try flying over them? In Argentine Patagonia you can soar high above the Perito Moreno Glacier in a hot air balloon (though it doesn't come cheap). You'll fly over sparkling lakes and snow-capped mountains and be able to see the icy ridges of one of the only advancing glaciers in the world. Plus, you might even spot the odd guanaco, a southern cousin of the llama.

Bagan, Myanmar



Over 2,000 Buddhist structures dot the plains of Bagan and the sight of hot air balloons rising at dawn to take in the landscape is truly memorable. Join one of those balloons and you'll get a stunning overview of the vast area, where crumbling stupas and monasteries, many of them around a thousand years old, stand tall amid lush green scenery. It's just as evocative on the ground too, so once you've seen it all from above, walk among the ruins to see the Bagan of old up close.

Ngapali, Myanmar



A wonderful alternative to the hugely popular Bagan balloon flights, Ngapali is a spectacular location for aerial exploration. This southern coastal area has striking white beaches to rival some of Asia's finest, but far fewer crowds and certainly none of those brash Full Moon parties. And beyond these beaches lies a thick rainforest, teeming with wildlife but inaccessible on foot, ripe for exploring from above.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

<p>Michael Warwick/Shutterstock</p>

Michael Warwick/Shutterstock

Every spring, the fields just outside Amsterdam glow with reds, pinks, oranges and yellows. Tulip season in the Netherlands is a must-see and what better way to admire the country's most famous flower than from above? See the patchwork of colours in the fields around Keukenhof (around half-hour drive from Amsterdam), neatly laid out in stripes and geometric patterns. Come in to land, then take to two wheels and explore the tulip trail by bike.

Queenstown, New Zealand



Queenstown has to be one of the most beautifully situated towns in the world. On the shores of the azure Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by New Zealand's Southern Alps, it's a magnificent location for a hot air balloon ride. Get high above the peaks at dawn and you'll enjoy views over the area's forests, lakes and even the odd golf course. Once you've been up in the balloon, try out one of the many thrill-seeking activities on offer, from bungy jumping to whitewater rafting.

Maasai Mara, Kenya

<p>Serena Hotels</p>

Serena Hotels

There can be no better way to see the spectacular Maasai Mara than from above and certainly no more peaceful way than to float across the African plains in a hot air balloon. With this excursion by Serena Hotels, you can spot giraffes, zebra, wildebeest and more from the skies. You might even spot a stalking cheetah or a leopard in a tall tree. Come between July and October, though, and you'll be spoiled with an aerial view of the great wildebeest migration, when thousands of the animals trek in huge herds across the plains.

Chiang Mai, Thailand



The verdant countryside of Chiang Mai is a stunning hot air ballooning location, with undulating wooded hills and shimmering rice terraces. Take flight here at sunrise and you'll get to watch rural Thailand wake up as you float over small villages, farms and the odd tourist resort. Look out for colourful temple complexes and finish off the experience with a Champagne breakfast at one of the many spectacular resorts in the area.

Cappadocia, Turkey

<p>Intrepid Travel</p>

Intrepid Travel

Cappadocia is one of the world's most famous destinations for ballooning. Images, like this one, of multiple balloons hanging in the sky above the mystical landscape, are used in many tourist brochures – and for good reason. It really is a stunning way to see the 'fairy chimneys' – a set of unique rock formations shaped by erosion and volcanic activity – and the cavern architecture in its historic town.

Bristol, England, UK

<p>Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images</p>

Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Europe's largest hot air balloon event sees more than 130 of these inflatables take to the skies over Bristol – pictured here is 2023's ascent, celebrating 45 years of the festival. Launching at dusk and dawn from Ashton Court Estate's beautiful grounds, the balloons glide over the city and the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. The free event is an incredible spectacle and attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators each year, but if you want to take to the skies in a balloon, you'll have to pay handsomely.

Now discover 54 of the world's most incredible photos taken from above