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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.