There are lots of ways to explore a new area. You could walk, for example, or take a taxi, a tuk tuk, a bicycle, or a boat. Us? We’re partial to the hot-air balloon. Balloon rides offer a double adventure — take in breathtaking sights and experience one of humanity’s earliest achievements of long-distance travel. They can be a solo adventure, a romantic trip, or a family affair. Some of them are located in the top destinations to visit this year (like New Zealand), while others might take you to regions you hadn’t considered before (we’re looking at you, Myanmar) or to your own backyard (hey there, New York!). Whether you’re already planning a trip abroad or you’re keeping your trips local, here are some stunning balloon rides to consider.
1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: Take an air safari with hot-air balloon rides in Serengeti National Park. You’ll have the benefit of witnessing relatively untouched areas of the park where vehicles aren’t permitted, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles during the great migration.
2. Napa County, CA: Even after the recent fires in the area, Napa Valley is a stunning place to view from the sky. Take in epic views of Mt. St. Helens, the Mayacamas Mt. Range and, if the morning weather is fair, the distant San Francisco skyline and Sierra Mountain range.
3. Sedona, AZ: Skip the crowded trailheads and get up close and personal with the stunning red rocks of Sedona on a three- to four-hour balloon ride.
4. Queenstown, New Zealand: Take in the wonder of Mount Aspiring in the Southern Alps and Mount Tutoko in Fiordland National Park, as well as several gorgeous waterways, including Lake Wakatipu and the Kawarau river. And yes, you’ll also get to see some of the spots where Lord of the Rings was filmed, such as The Gates of Argonath. (Photo via
5. Château-d’Oex, Switzerland: Always wanted to see the Alps, but not much of a climber? A hot-air balloon is the way to go. On a clear day, you might get a panoramic view of the of the Alps, including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
6. Castile, NY: Fly through Letchworth State Park’s gorgeous gorge, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” The highlight of this trip is The Middle Falls, standing at 107 feet high.
7. Winter Park, CO: Few have ever taken the opportunity to see the Colorado Rockies like this. At higher altitudes, you can see as far as Boulder county, and when descending, you get close enough to pick pinecones right off the treetops.
8. Cappadocia, Turkey: After floating to an altitude of 6,000 feet, spend an hour taking in the stunning views of Red Valley, Goreme, and these incredible rock formations, known locally as “fairy chimneys.”
9. Monument Valley, UT: One of the most recognizable desert landscapes in the world, Monument Valley is surprisingly remote, which makes a balloon tour even more stunning. As a bonus on the tour, you can learn local Navajo stories from your guide.
10. Bagan, Myanmar: What sets this flight apart are the views of the intricate Buddhist temples of Bagan, many of which were built between the 11th and 13th centuries. You’ll also fly over villages where you can see locals going about their morning routines, like walking to the market or feeding their animals.
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(Photos via Getty)