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9 worldwide balloon rides to get you high

The silence of hot air balloon flight is almost indescribable. As you float at the whims of the breeze you meet with no resistance. The only occasional sounds which may wend their way on high is the barking of distant dogs – perhaps from some inbuilt and ancient defense mechanism. The earth takes on a different perspective from the basket of a balloon, something rarely experienced from within the confines of an aircraft. With balloon flight, you become part of the environment, there are no constraints and the earth below is a gallery of ever-changing light, landscape, and color. We’ve scoured the planet to find some of the most incredible luxury ballooning experiences, from the remoteness of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert to sunrise over Egypt’s Luxor valley. Join us on our journey. Arizona’s Sonoran Desert The Sonoran Desert is unique. Dotted with the human-like figures of the emblematic saguaro cactus and the scene of dramatic sunrise and sunset. On a balloon flight of the Sonoran Desert, you will drift with the desert clouds approximately 400ft above the barren desert landscape. If you’re lucky – usually best at sunrise – you might spot the local wildlife; jackrabbits, roadrunners, quail, deer, javelina (wild pigs), and coyotes.  There is no more unique perspective you can have of the desert than from high, here you will really get to appreciate the true beauty and nature of this wild place. Once back on Terra Firma you will be presented with your Certificate d’Ascension en Machine Aerostatique accompanied by a champagne breakfast. Prague – the city of 100 spires from the air Prague is a city of majesty at the best of times. Whether in Spring downpours of rain, under the sublime blueness of summer skies, swaddled in a mantle of autumnal gold, or sleeping beneath a winter blanket of the purest snow, it seems as if this noble city is always dressed in its most elegant finery. But to experience the city of spires on the Danube from the basket of a hot air balloon is an experience never to be forgotten. The capital of The Czech Republic is one of Europe’s treasures, where gems of history, culture, religion, the arts, along with the homes of royalty mingle on every street corner. To experience a balloon flight over` this beautiful city at sunrise or sunset is to embed a fairytale in your mind forever. Prague is a city of romance and fancy, and there is no more romantic way to enjoy her bounty than from the air. Barcelona at sunrise Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, Gaudi’s unfinished architectural symphony, the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, and the Casa Mila, the city’s Mediterranean beaches, the medieval Boqueria market, and the footballing fortress of the famed Camp Nou – the city has something for everyone. Seen from the ground the Catalonian capital is a jewel box of discovery. However, seen from the air, in the basket of a hot air balloon at sunrise the metropolis shines in a whole new light. Begin your love affair at dawn and rise gently above the waking city. Your pilot will act as an expert guide and point out the sights one by one, sights that on foot would take days to discover. With spectacular views of the city, the Meditteranean, and the mountain peaks of Montserrat an entire world will unfold beneath you. Once wowed by your experiment with noiseless flight has ended, take time to recount your experience over a champagne toast and morning brunch. Many millions have enjoyed this unforgettable city, but as part of an elite group, your air-borne adventure is truly a memory to be stored for all time. Tuscany – let the breeze be your guide The world-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli once said, “I am the product of my native land, Tuscany, Italy”. If the beloved voice of Bocelli was part of the product, what a spectacular land Tuscany must be. And it is, a land of rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards, villages with histories dating back deep into the middle ages and beyond, hilltop castles, and more stories than would fill a small library. With only the breeze for a guide a hot air balloon experience over Tuscany is like a lucky dip into a treasure chest, what gemstones you will grasp will be left entirely to the whims of nature. Add the golden beauty of dawn to the equation and watch in silence as nature reveals itself in one of Italy’s most beguiling landscapes. Land on the grounds of a lavish Tuscan Villa or castle, spread a cloth on the fertile earth, and enjoy a breakfast of champagne and the mouth-watering delights of local Tuscan produce. Australia’s Red Centre Halfway between Darwin and Adelaide, the remote Australian town of Alice Springs evokes many images but is most notably regarded as the gateway to Australia’s red center This is the outback of fable, the home of Aboriginal art, the oldest continuous artform in the world, one of the major hubs of Australia’s overland telegraph, and the base for many expeditions that set out, successfully and unsuccessfully, to explore the continents hidden heart. Before the sun rises you arrive at a remote location, watch as the balloon’s burner turns the air to fire, inflating the giant canopy, before you rise gently from the earth into a magical sky of fading stars. A morning flight allows you to avoid the full heat of the day and to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife – mainly kangaroo – before they are forced to find the cooling comfort of shade. This really is one of the most stunning balloon experiences in the world and one that lets you recognize the immensity, and remoteness of the outback. Back on the ground, the morning tranquility lets you mediate over a breakfast of sparkling wine, muffins, fresh fruit, and cheeses, and gives you time to contemplate an unforgettable lifetime experience. France’s châteaux-laden Loire Valley Sense of wonder – check. Comfortable clothing – check. Camera – check. Whatever you may forget to take with you on this amazing experience, be sure it’s not your camera. Floating serenely over one of France’s most spectacular and fertile landscapes, the Loire Valley will reward you with images of astounding natural beauty and glimpses of iconic french architecture. Known as the ‘Garden of France’ the Loire Valley is famed for its rolling hills, fertile fields,  and its multitude of vineyards, and orchards. The region has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is populated with well over 300 châteaux. The reason for the abundance of these well-preserved historic buildings is due to the French nobility’s desire to stay close to the Royalty who had already built their lavish homes in the region. The whole of the Loire Valley as seen (and photographed) from the air will give you a lasting and iconic impression of the France of movies and literature. Once again, like most of these amazing balloon discoveries, the whole experience is capped by a Champagne breakfast and a dignified certificate ceremony. The red-tiled roof tour of Vilnius One of Europe’s great (and romantic) secrets, the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius comes as a beautiful surprise to most visitors. The city’s old heart boasts one of Northern Europe’s largest and best-preserved medieval centers, a labyrinth of winding alleys and cobblestoned streets. Small enough never to get lost physically, but large enough to get in both time and inspiration. To really appreciate the beauty of Vilnius an early morning or pre-sunset balloon flight is a must. One of the only capital cities in Europe where balloon flight is permitted, the red-tiled roofs of Vilnius lends itself easily to an enchanting airborne experience. The city is a tantalizing mix of Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance and neoclassical architecture. With 28 churches, a university from the middle-ages, a city center presidential palace, the compact streets of the old Jewish ghetto, and the beauty of being surrounded by endless green forests Vilnius comes to life from the air. Despite the number of visitors the city receives every year, a balloon flight is still the preserve of an elite group who wish to give a new perspective to the timeless and enchanting capital. Vilnius comes as a surprise to first-time visitors, it comes as a love affair to those who experience her charm from the air. Take to the skies in Morocco Moroccan hospitality is famed throughout the continent of Africa. Couple that hospitality with a hot air balloon ride over the immeasurable beauty of the Moroccan landscape, the result is priceless. Sipping mint tea as your balloon inflates in the darkness of pre-dawn, is an amazing experience in itself, however, to lift into the skies in tandem with the rising Sun is an unforgettable memory offering stories to be told and retold again and again. Leaving the souks of Marrakech behind, your balloon flight will offer you a new view of a very ancient land. As the first light of day strikes the summits of the Atlas Mountains prepare to be mesmerized by panoramas from the dawn of time. Words will never do this once-in-a-lifetime experience justice, it has to be experienced to be believed. Once your flight has concluded the experience is far from over. That famed Moroccan hospitality comes into play as you are transported to a typically quaint Moroccan village where you will be treated to breakfast with a local Berber family. You will learn about their lifestyle, their customs and their foods, a time guaranteed to bring a smile to every face. What better way to cap off the entire experience than with a desert camel ride. Cappadocia, the ultimate high Located almost slap bang in the center of Turkey, Cappadocia is the Rolls Royce destination for hot air ballooning. The unique landscape is famous for its sweeping valleys and fantastic volcanic rock formations, known as ‘fairy chimneys’ – rock formations carved by millennia of wind and water erosion giving the place an other-worldly appearance. Once you’ve gotten over the uniqueness of the landscape – including houses, hotels, and other buildings carved into the natural rock – taking to the skies will offer you another new, an unprecedented view of a geological wonderland. From the luxury basked of your balloon, the landscape will unfold before you offering you a full appreciation of just why people come from all over the world to experience balloon flight in this outstanding location. Most people assume that an experience taken in some remote and isolated place is the essence of that adventure, but here in Cappadocia a sky full of balloons only adds to the overall visual impression. This is an ideal experience for honeymooners or couples, a flight in this remarkable place is sure to cement memories that will last forever.  Linas Ceikus is CEO and Founder of Tinggly. Tinggly is an experiential gift company offering you the chance to give unique experience gifts in lieu of material possessions, ideal for all discerning travel-lovers. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. That is such an iconic picture of the hot air ballooning over Central Turkey, I’ve seen similar photos a few times now. I can see why you describe Cappadocia as the Rolls Royce destination of hot air-ballooning. Or should it be the Mecca of hot-air ballooning?

    1. Probably not enough superlatives to properly describe ballooning over Cappadocia. It’s like something from ‘Lord of the Rings’, with the added bonus of seeing it from the air.

  2. Not been on one myself but I don’t have a huge fear of heights so maybe one day I could manage a hot air balloon ride, maybe! You certainly couldn’t rival the views and experience.

  3. Somewhere like Barce in a balloon would be so romantic, especially if your partner does it as a surprise. I’ll have to make a not so subtle hint and see what happens. My friend had a hot air balloon ride in Italy once a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I didn’t think she would actually do it to be honest as she’s not the most adventurous and she doesn’t particularly like heights. I think it must help if you have trust in the equipment and the company that’s doing it and taking you up there. Tuscany would be gorgeous from above. I think I’d like to pick somewhere with different landscapes so there’s some variety of what you get to see. And I’d definitely take a camera strap because I’m very accident prone!

    1. I remember my first balloon ride, like your friend I was also a little scared, but once in the air, it was so amazing. Since then I’ve been back ballooning many times, in Europe, Africa, and the US, but I think the highlight for me was taking to the sky over Kenya’s Masai Mara – incredible.
      And you’re right, trust in the company and equipment is a must if you really want to enjoy your flight without any anxiety (camera strap is a must also).
      Thanks for your comment

  4. It would be hard to put these in order of desirability. I want to do them al!!! Anybody got any ideas for a 10th balloon trip to round things off?

    1. Once upon a time I would probably have suggested a balloon ride over Agra in India to see the Taj Mahal and to follow the river along to Agra’s spectacular palace. I remember looking across the river, down from the Taj, past the wallowing water buffalo and women in bright red saris doing their washing in the river. Though after my last visit to India I fear that air quality and visibility are so poor that you would hardly see anything.

    2. Have you tried a balloon ride in Goa? It’s been on my wish list for so long.
      But I understand what you say about air quality being so important, I think that wouldn’t be a problem in Goa, but I don’t know.

    3. Visibility should be good in Goa. Firstly, you are along the coastline with cleansing onshore winds. Secondly, it’s less industrialised than much of India producing less pollution. Finally, if you can arrive after the monsoon you will find that the rains have filtered out much of the pollution from the air. Enjoy your flight!

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