In 1783 the Montgolfier brothers launched the first manned hot-air balloon flight in France and ever since, balloonists all over the world have capitalized our fascination with open-air rides by rekindling the magic of flying within a small space where every seat has a view. And while you won’t be able to go hot-air ballooning anywhere or anytime because of various reasons, in many places of the world you will however, be able to afford this luxury, because let’s face it, a hot-air balloon ride can be quite the adventure.
Loire Valley, France is located about 200 miles southwest of Paris and it stretches nearly 170 miles, and is encrusted with more than 800 castles and manor houses, worthy of a Cinderella-like fairy tale. It’s best to lift off on a hot-air balloon between April and October when spring begins and things turn green and there is less chill in the air.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania is where African safari meets hot-air balloon adventure, the national park being home to the largest mammal immigration in the world. The climate makes it possible to take a ride in a hot-air balloon all year long, but if you want to see the migration you should go from March to May, or October to December.
Napa Valley, California is like a swaths of vineyards stitched together like a quilt. During fall the valley pours on the color with ripe purple and fruit ready for harvest by the nearly 600 wineries splattered all across Napa Valley. If you plan on taking a hot-air balloon ride, you should aim for spring, late March to mid May, or fall, early September to late October, because that is when the San Francisco area fog dissipates and warm weather is more predictable.
Cappadocia is with no doubt one of the most impressive and unique terrain in the world, situated in the central Anatolian region of the Turkey. Limestone chimneys, subterranean churches and chiseled out dwellings, all come together in a moonscape-like topography with vineyards plots green interspersed between rock formations, striped in shades of red, orange, green and black. You will want to avoid the summer heat and crowds so aim to visit from April to May or from September to October.
Gstaad, Switzerland features impressive landscapes with typical Swiss chalets and villages dwarfed beneath the imposing jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains. There is even a hot-air balloon festival held in the last week of January, during which dozens of brightly colored balloons from around the world fill the alpine sky.
Yarra Valle is about an hour drive away from Melbourne and is considered Australia’s pioneering wine region that kick-started Victoria’s viticulture industry. Balloons fly all year-round, but autumn months are more desirable because that is when the grape leaves are dipped in fall colors. Soak in uninterrupted undulating hills and vines and watch the blue-tinged peaks of the Great Divide in the distance. You might get lucky and spot a kangaroo here and there.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is a ballooner’s paradise thanks to almost a full year of no-coat-required type of weather. The hot-air balloon festival happens each October and frankly, there’s no view like the scene of hundreds of bright colored globes lifting skyward. Albuquerque is h ome to the largest gathering of hot-air balloons in the world and many people attend the event to simply watch the display of balloon from the ground.