Have you ever visited a place with great natural beauty and wondered what it would look like from above? Getting a 360 degree view from the top of a tower or a ride in a helicopter is great, but nothing compares to the wonderful feeling you get from a ride in a hot air balloon. Beautiful places are always popular with tourists, but there are a few that are so stunning from above, that those who have been fortunate enough to take a balloon ride over them say that it was a ride of a lifetime. If you ever find yourself in one of the following places, you won’t want to miss out on a chance to go ballooning. There’s something about the romance and adventure of these locations that ties in perfectly with the experience of a balloon ride.
Cappadocia, Turkey – Fairy Chimneys and Cave Dwellings
Greeks, Assyrians, Persians and Hittites of pre-Hellenistic times first populated the region, but it was Christians who came here to hide before Christianity was accepted as a religion. They carved homes, store rooms, churches and even complete cities into the natural rock formations.
Goreme, a town in this region is the best place for Cappadocia balloon tours. The balloon will soar over vineyards and orchards, and gently but precisely thread through the fields of fairy chimneys before touching down to let you explore the region on foot.
Loire Valley, France – Chateaux of the Renaissance
The romance of the past can be felt while floating above the gorgeous chateaux and gardens of the Loire valley in a hot air balloon. Along with the stunning architecture, you can take in the lush farms, orchards and vineyards fed by the Loire River. This region of Central France oozes romance, sophistication and elegance and is not a stranger to hot air balloon weddings! After a balloon flight, visitors can toast a special occasion with bubbly produced in a local vineyard.
Maasai Mara, Kenya – Follow the Migration
While land safaris are well known, can you imagine what it must look like from a balloon safari, when a herd of animals stampedes across the flat plains? There are many safari lodges that offer their guests a chance to go ballooning once during their vacation. Since all vegetation here is sparse and low, balloons can fly quite low, so you can quite an intimate view of the animals.
Bagan, Myanmar – Stupas, Temples and Monasteries
Taking a balloon ride over this magical ancient kingdom is an experience unlike any other, with the river Irrawady weaving through the arid plain filled with religious monuments. Even Marco Polo once said that Bagan was ‘"one of the finest sights in the world".
Wadi Rum, Jordan – Valley of the Moon
The towering hills (jebels) of Wadi Rum cast shadows on the desert floor with the changing angles of the sun, making the hours just after sunrise a perfect time to go ballooning over the enthralling landscape. The fragile ecosystem showcases gently rolling dunes and staggering rock formations painted on the pink desert below and capped by a brilliantly blue sky above.
Luxor, Egypt – World’s Greatest Open Air Museum
The views over Luxor from a hot air balloon are unbeatable, with the sheer scale and grandiosity of the monuments able to impress even the most jaded traveller. Most flight locations are from the West Bank and take place early in the morning, enabling you to take in the views without the crowds and desert heat.
Napa Valley, U.S.A. – A Lot of Wine
The Napa Valley is only second behind Cappadocia in terms of hot air balloon traffic, but when it comes to providing more than just ballooning for regular tourists, this destination is top of the list. It is a magnet for competitive balloonists, as hot air balloon festivals are held at various points in the valley. Catching a glimpse of the picturesque region at the stroke of dawn is a great way to start the day, while a gourmet breakfast topped off with local champagne at the end of the ride gives you a hint of the indulgences waiting for you.
When you're up in the air, don't miss a chance to take great photos. It is an ideal opportunity for taking panorama shots. For the best setup, try a D-SLR and a prime lens. However, a good point-and-click for travel photography is fine too.
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Once you've taken some stunning landscape photos from your hot air balloon, try using the tilt-shift photography technique on some of them using Photoshop or a free online software. The results will be pretty spectacular!
Read more about Cappadocia's history from prehistoric times to Byzantine rule, and from its Seljuk and Ottoman rule to its early and modern tourism.
Read more about Cappadocia's attractions...