5 Great Balloon Rides Around The World
What better way to see the landscape than to drift with the wind in a hot air balloon? Apart from the occasional roar of the burner, you silently float a few hundred feet above the ground. Close enough but not so close, somehow it doesn’t seem quite real as you move gently, looking down on the countryside below.
Nowadays most of the scenic places in the world offer the chance to ride in a balloon. The list is long, but here are five of the places that have dramatic scenery especially lovely to see from the air.
1) Grand Canyon
What more dramatic scenery in the world is there to see? Without a doubt, for me this would be number one on my list. The Grand Canyon in Arizona is an immense gorge hewn from the rock. Between 6 and 29 kilometres (4-18 miles) wide, it is 446 kilometres (277 miles) long and 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) deep.
Touring over the Grand Canyon by hot air balloon you can see the fabulous striations that were formed in the rock going back to the Palaeozoic times (322-570 million years ago). Layers of a wide range of ancient rocks are exposed by nearly 2 billion years of the Colorado River and its tributaries carving the gorge through the rock. Though not the deepest (Kali Ghandaki in Nepal) nor the widest or longest (Capertee in Australia), visually it is the most overwhelming in its vastness and colours.
2) Mont Blanc and the Alps
Snowcapped mountains as far as the eye can see, the Alps and Mont Blanc are a popular venue to fly. Having once paraglided near Mont Blanc, this for me was one of the most beautiful areas in the Alps to fly. Nothing can beat the tranquillity of an early morning flight drifting along with the wind through Alpine valleys, with a bird’s eye view of the magnificent Mont Blanc and its surrounding area to admire the stunning Avaris range. In the summer, the meadows and valleys make a beautiful patchwork, contrasting with the picturesque snow capped mountains that are covered with snow all through the year.
3) Maasai Mara, Kenya
A balloon safari gives you the opportunity to look down at the unsuspecting wildlife as you drift quietly across the vast Serengeti and Maasai Mara National Park. Here you can see lions, cheetahs, giraffes, wild elephants, zebras and much more as they start their day, looking down from the safety of the skies. The endless grassland plains in the simmering sunlight of the early morning are in themselves spectacular, a wonderful vista that you’ll never forget.
4) Cappadocia, Turkey
Turkey’s Cappadocia is another amazing place to take a flight in a hot air balloon. In central Turkey, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. First settled in Roman early Christian period between the 4th and 13th century AD, people dug tunnels into the exposed rock face to build their homes, stores and churches. Famous for its fairy chimney rock formations, some of these reach up to 40 metres in height. Over thousands of years the weather has eroded the consolidated volcanic ash to form this most curious landscape.
The skies above the towns of Göreme and Uchisa are often filled with coloured balloons. Drifting above the Cappadocia moonscape that’s dotted with villages, vineyards and fruit orchards, you pass over a fairy-tale landscape of tall chimneys and stone dwellings.
5. Lapland Region, Finland
The last wilderness in Europe, northern Finland or Lapland has a stunning Arctic landscape where you can see unsuspecting wildlife like reindeer, bears and wolves as you pass silently overhead. Appealing for its desolate yet majestic nature, you will see vast forests, swamps, gently rolling hills and barren mountains. A particularly good time to come is in the late summer. Autumn starts early here, so you will see the fiery red and orange of the leaves as they change colour. Though it will be cold, you see the most amazing and beautiful ice and snow scenery.. If you’re there in February, don’t miss the annual ballooning festival at Levi.
Flying in a hot air balloon is a fantastic thrill wherever you are. Combine this with floating gently above some of the most stunning landscapes, nothing can beat it. Also buy some discount car hire to tour other attractions local to your balloon ride. Most destinations renowned for their natural beauty offer the opportunity to take a ride in a balloon and this is definitely an experience not to miss.