The World's Most Amazing Balloon Rides

Want to ride a balloon over thousands of ancient temples? Now's your chance.

Ah, the balloon—is there a more classic symbol of travel and adventure? Whether we're talking about mass transit balloons that preceded the airplane (think Hindenburg, but less tragic) or literal hot air balloons, such as the one in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Daysfew objects in the world represent a spirit of adventure or whimsy as effectively as a balloon.

Hot air balloons in particular speak to travelers' whimsical sides, regardless—I suppose—of where you fly one. Then again, some pretty out-of-this-world balloon flight locations do exist right on our little blue planet. Let's take a look at some of the most magnificent.

  • 01 of 05

    Bagan, Myanmar

    Bagan
    ••• What's better than seeing Bagan? Seeing Bagan from a hot air balloon. Robert Schrader

    Southeast Asia's current "it" country, Myanmar is an incredible place to visit, even if you never set foot in a hot air balloon. Thankfully, a little place called Bagan is not only from where Myanmar draws much of its char, but also happens to be an outstanding place to take a hot air balloon flight. 

    So outstanding, in fact, that I recommend you book with Balloons Over Bagan weeks or even months before your planned trip, particularly if you're visiting during the busiest months, i.e. the North American and European winter season, when temperatures are cool and rainfall is minimal.

  • 02 of 05

    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    USA, New Mexico, Albuquerque at sunrise
    ••• Hiroyuki Matsumoto/Getty Images

    Albuquerque is most famous (when it comes to hot air balloons, anyway) for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which occurs each October, and see hundreds of brightly colored balloons paint the desert like light from a kaleidoscope. Although this is probably the most popular reason to come to Albuquerque and fly in a hot air balloon, you can come most any time of the year.

    TIP: Although the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is among the best times to see hot air balloons in Albuquerque, it's not a particularly good time to ride in one if you're not a professional. For that, visit during any other time of the year, and get in contact with agencies such as World Balloon and Rainbow Ryders in advance of your trip.

  • 03 of 05

    Serengeti Plain, Tanzania

    Four Seasons Serengeti
    ••• Imagine seeing this scene from a hot air balloon. Robert Schrader

    Tanzania's Serengeti Plain is, bar none, among the best places in the world for seeing animals in their natural habitats, no matter which vehicle you're in. Doing so via hot air balloon, however, offers a special adventure, because many of the animals who live on the plain will be totally oblivious to your presence. Plus, there's nothing quite like aerial animal photography!

    Many options for balloon flights over the Serengeti exist, whether you arrange yours through the concierge at the Four Seasons Serengeti, or contact a company like Serengeti Balloon Safaris.

  • 04 of 05

    Loire Valley, France

    Loire river and the historic centre of Saumur with the castle and the Church of Saint-Pierre, Town Hall, right, Saumur, Département Maine-et-Loire, France, Europe
    ••• Kurt Amthor/Getty Images

    The only thing better than traipsing through fairytale castles and feeling like you live in them? Flying over them in a hot air balloon, as if you're the king or queen who owns them! To be sure, France's Loire Valley is a magical place to visit no matter your altitude.

    Get in touch with France Balloons in order to book your Loire Valley balloon adventure. Balloons depart many months our of the year (due to the warmth of the balloon flame, cold isn't necessarily an issue), but make sure to contact whichever company you choose well in advance to determine when the best time is for you to visit.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Cappadocia, Turkey

    Balloon Air at Cappadocia in Turkey.
    ••• Tanatat Pongphibool/Getty Images

    Although Cappadocia, Turkey is one of the world's most famous places to take a hot air balloon flight, I can't speak to this experience personally: I got rained out when I attempted to take my flight. Indeed, if you plan to fly a hot air balloon in Turkey, it's recommended that you set aside several days, just in case some external factor results in your flight being canceled.

    As for who to contact in order to take a balloon flight over Cappadocia? Well, since many tour companies in the area specialize in adventures such as these, the sky is really the limit.