Best Hot Air Balloon Rides – Travel+Leisure

By Kimberley Lovato, Travel + Leisure (CNN) – Delayed flights, long lines, TSA pat downs—flying isn’t what it used to be.

But stepping aboard one of these hot air balloons is a guaranteed way to rekindle a love of air travel. It’s an opportunity to revel in the world’s most beautiful landscapes, high above the fray. And it’s the kind of worthwhile splurge that you’ll be talking about long after you’re back on solid ground.

There’s nothing quite like floating over the yellow grasses of the Serengeti while lions and zebras frolic just a hundred feet below. Or watching the first rays of sun paint Myanmar’s ancient pagodas and temples in hues of gold. On average, baskets carry four to eight people, so the ride can be as intimate and romantic as it sounds.

Festivals also celebrate ballooning as a lofty spectator sport. Fans turn out in droves each October to watch as hundreds of jaunty balloons ascend en masse into the cerulean skies above Albuquerque, New Mexico, making it the world’s most photographed event.

Whether you choose the birds’-eye view over a French château à la the Montgolfiers’ original flight or prefer to skim the treetops of the Costa Rican rainforest, your spirits are destined to soar.


Melbourne, Australia

Greet the day, and Australia’s second largest city, from high above the glistening skyline with a one-hour Balloon Over Melbourne flight. You’ll take in views of the city’s central business district, its parks and gardens, and no
table landmarks like Melbourne Park and Rod Laver Arena, site of the Australian Open. Back on terra firma, toast your adventure with an optional champagne breakfast. From $320 per person; balloonovermelbourne.com.au

Napa Valley, CA

The Kimball Family and Napa Valley Aloft were floating people above the Napa Valley long before it became a world-famous food and wine destination. Weather is best between April and October in Yountville, the launch site and picturesque town that’s home to the French Laundry restaurant. Soar over green rolling hills and small and large family vineyards—with views to the Sierras and San Francisco on clear days. Individual flights from $200 per person; group flights and private tours available; nvaloft.com

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