5 of the world’s most breathtaking hot air balloon flights

Driving or hiking through incredible scenery is something most of us love to do on holiday. But imagine, instead, serenely floating above spectacular landscapes for a true birds-eye view of the beauty of nature.  Taking a hot air balloon flight over some of the most memorable locations on earth is something you are likely to remember fondly for a long time. Here are five stunning balloon trips around the world, each with its own distinctive appeal.

1. Dubai

For a truly unique balloon flight, why not share your experience with a magnificent peregrine falcon?  The falcon is closely interwoven into the history of the UAE and is the national symbol. Falconry is still very popular in the Gulf region and nowhere else in the world will you witness the sight of one of these specially trained birds of prey taking off from the basket of a hot air balloon and making his high speed swoops and dives in the sky around you before flying back to join you in the basket. You’ll fly above unspoiled desert, passing over small Bedouin villages, while camels meander far below and rare Arabian oryx and gazelles dart among the dunes. Only a short way out of the city of Dubai but a world away in time and space.

Dubai falcon

Platinum Heritage are the local company renowned for their highly rated, luxury desert safaris and collection of museum-quality vintage 1950s Landrovers so, after the thrill of the flight, you’ll be whisked off to their comfortable private camp in the same vehicles that first crossed these sands over 60 years ago. Sitting in the traditional style of the desert tribes, on low cushions, you’ll be treated to a leisurely gourmet breakfast including smoked salmon and caviar.

The dry desert air whisks past your face in the back of a Landrover as you drive through the land around the camp. The area is private land, owned by a sheikh who is a member of the royal family, and you’ll get the chance to see gazelle and oryx up close before transferring to air-conditioned vehicles for the drive back to the glitz and glamour of the city.

2. Luxor

In Luxor, even the journey to the balloon launch site is an adventure.   The excursion begins with a boat crossing of the gentle waters of the River Nile as the first fragments of light begin to split the night sky on the east bank of this life-giving river.

The arid, rocky mountains on this bank hide thousands of years of secrets in their midst, and, at the base of one hill, several giant balloons are being inflated. It’s now just about light enough to see their colourful pockets contrasting with the barren mountainside and you’ll soon be invited to clamber aboard and into the care of an experienced pilot.

Luxor-Jon

The balloon rises to 1000 feet just as the sun appears over the horizon and the treasures of Luxor are laid out below. The spectacular Hatshepsut’s Temple is one of the highlights of the flight and you’ll also pass over the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens with views of the Nile, Luxor and the surrounding valleys for many miles in all directions. As well as the historic sites, you’ll see everyday village life as farmers make use of the early morning cool to work their fields below, often in the company of a hardworking donkey and several children.

3. Cappadocia

Only in Cappadocia can you enjoy the luxury of a special ‘vista’ balloon basket with outward facing airline style seating, enabling you to nibble a Turkish breakfast and sip chilled champagne as you float above the magical scenery. Voyager Balloons run these exclusive flights over the Cappadocia high plateau, is a geological wonderland of pillars and minaret-like rock forms fashioned by the elements over millions of years.

Cappadocia

The small town of Göreme, built amidst the strange formations and famed for its rock hewn houses, is the centre for ballooning in the region. Available year round in the hot summer and snowy winters, if you are lucky you will take to the sky at dawn with the magical sight of dozens of other balloons gliding above this never-to-be-forgotten landscape.

4. Hunter Valley, Australia

Only two hours from Sydney is Australia’s premier wine country and the ideal setting for a picturesque balloon flight.   You can meet the pilot and ground crew over tea before the flight and they will be happy to answer any questions you might have about ballooning or surrounding areas.

Hunter Valley

After watching the balloon slowing being inflated and receiving a safety briefing, it’s all abroad for a flight above the beautiful vineyards of Pokolbin, Lovedale, Rothbury or Broke. You’ll find yourself floating just above the treetops at part of the flight and soaring 2000 feet above the ground at others.

As befitting a flight over such a prominent wine region, the delicious post flight breakfast champagne celebration is hosted by at the famous Peterson House winery and restaurant.

5. Namib Desert

Ballooning is in the blood of the Heseman family who run Namib Sky balloon flights over the oldest, and one of the most stunning, deserts on earth.   The Namib desert and it’s notorious Skeleton Coast are located on the western shores of Namibia, the only coastal desert in the world.

Namib

The enthusiastic family team will pick you up from lodges in the area and transport you to the launch site in time for a dawn take off. Soaring above the endless arid landscape, you’ll make out dried up river beds and the occasional animal track as the knowledgeable pilot tells you about the geology and history of the area.   The destination is the red dunes of Sossusvlei and all too soon you’ll be landing close to huge dunes that make this one of the most photographed landscapes in Africa.

In the quiet of the desert you’ll be greeted by the incongruous sight of tables bedecked with bright white starched linen, groaning under the weight of an enormous feast, and a plentiful supply of bubbly to cap off a spectacular start to the day.

Candice Bain is Founder at Desert to Jungle.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Pedro says:

    Great tips! I’ve done the Cappadocia and the Luxor flights and those were amazing experiences. Highly recommended. :-)

  2. Candice Bain says:

    Pedro, my friend did the Luxor flight last week and loved it too.

  3. Bridget Carson says:

    We’re going to Dubai for the first time in October and wondered what desert trip to do. This balloon ride looks amazing! I’d love to see a falcon flying like that and really like the idea of going to the desert camp for a slap up breakfast afterwards.

  4. Steve Mason says:

    I’ve been on the Platinum Heritage balloon ride in Dubai it’s great and an amazing way to see the desert. I’d love to do the Namibia flight too. What the writer didn’t mention was the thrill of getting the balloon inflating and taking off and the fun of the landing.

  5. Candice Bain says:

    Bridget, I can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s a really special experience seeing the falcon flying around the balloon.

  6. Candice Bain says:

    Steve, thanks for commenting. You’re right, watching the balloon inflating in the first shards of light in the morning is fun. And yes, landing can be a thrill too!

  7. Josephine says:

    I loved the Dubai Platinum Heritage balloon ride. What an amazing way to see the Dubai desert and wild life. I can’t recommend this enough. It was a serene yet thrilling experience and worth the early start. Fully agree with the previous comments, watching the balloon inflate was spectacular and the landing was super fun. My husband and I have also been on their private falconary experience which was great too. Both trips were well planned and the staff were friendly and knowledgable. Great Dubai memories.

  8. Candice Bain says:

    Josephine, great to hear you enjoyed it as much as I did! I also did the private falcon experience with Platinum Heritage a few years ago and absolutely loved it, one of the highlights of my years in Dubai. I aksio love riding in the vintage Landrovers, feeling like a desert explorer.

  9. Mike says:

    A balloon ride is on my bucket list, and having heard such horror stories about companies in the UK, I have been looking for somewhere in the world where I can fully enjoy the ballon experience. Having read this article, I finally know where I am going to do it. Many thanks for the fantastic review, next time I am in Dubai I will definitely be booking and adding it to my bungee jump over Victoria falls and White Water rafting down the Urubamba.

  10. Candice Bain says:

    Hi Mike, you won’t regret doing that balloon flight. Though I have to say it’s far more sedate than white water rafting or bungee jumping – thankfully!

  11. Mohamed Motlak says:

    I really liked the picture about dubai baloon experience, cant wait to see the falcon show :), im planning to try it next week.

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