It’s one thing exploring a place on foot, getting up close and personal with nature, but it’s another experience entirely when you can enjoy sprawling landscapes from up in the sky, playing dot-to-dot with the houses and soaking up the toy-town feel. I’m not talking about from a plane, either, with the safety of windows and walls. No, I’m talking about dangling from a wicker basket with the wind whistling through your hair. Taking a hot balloon ride anywhere is incredible, but these places in particular offer something a little bit special for those who are brave enough to take to the skies.
African landscapes are arguably some of the best in the world, with lush bush, soaring plateaus, and an eclectic ensemble of wildlife keeping you busy amongst many other scenes. Climb into the basket over the Maasai Mara, though, and you might be in for a real treat, especially if you are there between July and October. You see, this is when the Great Migration takes place, seeing thousands of zebras, gazelles, and wildebeest arrive from the Serengeti. Watching long lines of these graceful animals snake their way across the grounds below is a phenomenal site that can only be experienced from overhead.
This list would be incomplete without a mention of Cappadocia, which is perhaps the most popular place for hot air ballooning in the world. Here, you can soar above a unique landscape dotted with jutting rock formations, churches nestled in caves, sweeping, dusty valleys, and a smattering of contrasting olive groves. The weird and wonderful backdrop is sci-fi-like in its structure, offering visitors from the sky the chance to imagine they are arriving for the first time on another planet. Many tourists in Cappadocia choose to take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise, when they can watch the glorious Turkish sun peep over the horizon, bathing the quirky mountains in a magical light.
Wadi Rum is, without a doubt, one of the most popular places in Jordan, and for good reason; the twisting valley is carved from a mixture of sandstone and granite rock which means it offers a spectacular birds-eye view of swooping gorges and hilly peaks. Its unique landscape has provided it with the nickname, the Valley of the Moon, as it easily could have stepped out of a science-fiction film set on Mars, much like the rugged tips of Cappadocia. When up in the sky, you can experience all of this plus fluctuating sand dunes and a selection of natural springs. It’s near the Israeli border, too, which means you can catch a glimpse of the stunning Red Sea flowing across into the equally as compelling landscape of Israel.
In relation to the other places on this list, Myanmar (or Burma) is pretty much unknown, and remains well off the tourist trail. However, a number of visitors have sussed out its potential but tend to stick to the most popular area, Bagan, which is a gloriously rustic ancient city. At one point in time, Bagan was the head of the First Burmese Empire, but today it is home to a series of beautiful ruins that were built between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. This means that when you climb in your hot air balloon and hit the skies, you will be greeted with thousands of miniature pagodas which, if you visit at sunrise, are a truly magical sight.
You might be surprised to see this addition, but can you really blame me? It’s one of the least visited places in the world yet you can clamber into a tiny wicker basket and enjoy miles of snow-covered vistas, glaciers, and frozen seas. However, it is a very limited opportunity, with only one tour company offering travellers this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus, the balloon needs to be tethered to the ground so that it doesn’t float off into the icy ether. Still, this would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone who had the chance.
It might not be the North Pole, but the Pyrenees – a mountain range that divides France and Spain – boast spectacular scenery without the freezing temperatures. Exploring this region on foot is an experience in itself, so you can imagine what an enjoyable sight it would be from the sky, with traditional Catalonian buildings fading into the rich greenery that is typical of this area. As you head further into the rural arms of Spain you can witness Santa Margarita, a huge volcano crater which looks otherworldly when viewed from above and, in winter, the snow-capped peaks provide a Narnia-like feel to the experience.
Author bio: Lizzie writes about World Art and Travel over on her blog in between discovering new ways to explore destinations. She is a huge adventure seeker and a big fan of tea at the same time.