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Be On Top Of The World At These 12 Hot Air Balloon Spots

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Shahida  •  Oct 17, 2016

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What’s a more stylish way to travel than admiring the entire town from a bird’s eye view? No, we’re not talking about airplanes which only tire you with long waiting hours and narrow seats. Hot air balloon rides are the current trend, where every seat has a stunning view (that would definitely make impressive Instagram posts)! Some places have a lot of ground to cover, and sometimes the best way to do that is to view it from above.
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1. Loire Valley, France
Relive your fairytale fantasies in Loire Valley, home to over 800 castles and manor houses. Stretching over 170 miles, Loire Valley is located approximately 200 miles away from Paris and offers stunning views of stone villages, rivers, sunflower fields, vineyards, and of course, chateaus that would seem to come straight out of a story book.
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FIT & VIPS  Balloon rides are scheduled every day from April to October, when there’s less chill in the air and more greens on the ground, including national holidays. The excursion typically takes three hours in total, with one hour flight time and other preparations like balloon inflation and the traditional “toast des Aéronautes”, or a celebratory drink which Muslim passengers can choose to skip. 
2. The Outback, Australia
Right in the heart of Australia lies Alice Springs, the gateway for exploring Red Centre, home to the greatest Australian flora and fauna, including the red kangaroos. There is nothing quite like a hot air balloon ride over the central Australian desert. Since the ride begins before dawn, what awaits you is a sky filled with stars. This is also the best seat to catch the sunrise!
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Paul Benjamin  You will have  spectacular views of the West McDonnell Ranges and the desert oaks once you’ve reached the right altitude, where you might catch a sight of wallabies and red kangaroos. Depending on the companies, you have an option to land somewhere briefly just to take a walk around and snap some pictures before you float back into the sky. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity since the place you land might not actually be accessible via conventional vehicles!
3. Gstaad, Switzerland
 Have you ever wondered how the Alps look like from above? Imagine floating past the breathtaking snow covered Swiss mountains and valleys. Going on a hot air balloon ride in the winter may sound like a crazy idea, but you will definitely forget about the cold the moment you catch the sight of these majestic mountain landscapes against a cerulean sky.   
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Pays-d’Enhaut  The International Balloon Festival in Chateau d’Oex takes place annually in the last week of January. During this time, dozens of balloons from all over the world will fill the Swiss sky with their bright colours. For those who can’t stand the cold, however, some companies offer both winter and summer balloon rides.
4. Napa Valley, California, USA
Experience this award-winning flight over vast swaths of vineyards that appear like a quilt from a bird’s eye view. There are daily scheduled morning rides that carry you over rows of grape vines and between the mountains of one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. San Francisco, or The City according to the locals, can be sighted as well.
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Matt Long (http://landlopers.com/2012/07/22/napa-hot-air-balloon) Spring and autumn are said to be the best seasons to go, as the weather is warmer and more predictable, and the fog over the San Francisco area dissipates. Since the rides begin very early in the morning, you can expect to watch sunrise from your balloon. Breakfast is prepared by most companies. Certificates are also available upon request.
5. Queenstown, New Zealand
 Fans of Lord Of The Rings wouldn’t want to miss going hot air ballooning here! From rivers to mountains, Queenstown offers a variety of views, including several filming locations of iconic film trilogy. These include Dimrill Dale, The Ford Of Bruinen, The Pillars Of The Kings, The Gates Of Argonath, as well as Mount Earnslaw, one of the great mountains seen in Isengard, the fictional universe of Middle-Earth created by J. R. R. Tolkien. Not a fan of the series? Worry not, as Queenstown still offers other magnificent views such Mount Tutoko in Fiord National Park, Coronet Peak and The Remarkable ski areas, Lake Wakatipu and Kawarau rivers to name a few. 
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Sunrise Balloon Adventures The hot air balloons rides takes an hour, and additional 2 to 3 hours more for preps. The flight starts as early as 5 am in summer and 8.30 am in winter, and is available daily if the weather permits. Refreshments and light meals are prepared post-flight by most companies. In-flight photos and videos are also available for purchase on USB if you left your camera behind.
6. Istria, Croatia
 Istria is said to be the best place in Europe to go on a hot air balloon ride. This doesn’t seem to be untrue, since Istria is also dubbed as “The Croatian Tuscany”. What await you are the amazing sights of oak forests, rolling hills, wheatfields and lush vineyards, as well as hilltop towns like Motuvun, and its 13th century Romanesque-Gothic bell tower. 
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Carnet de Voyage  Flights are available all day from May to October, but the best time to go is from September to October, when the temperature dips and and the crowd is less. Flight duration is approximately 3 hours including preparations. Handwritten and personalized certificate of ascension is given to passengers after the ride (this, however, may depend on the company you choose).
7. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
 Imagine watching the majestic lions, magnificent giraffes and beautiful flamingos feeling like one of the birds in sky. Now, you can float over the wildlife of Africa with the help of hot air balloons. The balloons take off from three different sites: Central Serengeti where there is permanent water at the Seronera River Valley which attracts all kinds of animals all year round; Western Serengeti where the Grumeti River is, the scene of the Great Migration of thousands of gnu throughout June and July; and Southern Serengeti, home to wildebeests from December onwards. So, make sure you know when is the best time to visit before you choose your takeoff location. 
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Credit: Lake Zone Wonders  Since the conditions are better in the morning, hot air balloons start flying as early as 5 am. Pre-bookings and reservations are advised since there are limited seats. If you’re taking your kids with you, do note that only children over seven-years-old are allowed on the balloon. Commemorative certificates are given after the flight. What also awaits you is a hearty English breakfast cooked on burners.
8. Bagan, Myanmar
If you think hot air balloon flights are non-existent in South East Asia, think again. For many years, Balloons Over Bagan have established themselves as the pioneer company that offers hot air balloon rides in the country, but a new competitor who joined the scene in 2013 has also started to make a name for themselves.
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Alexander Schimmeck Ballooning season is short and typically runs from mid-October to mid-March since the weather is better during that period with calmer winds and cooler air. However, there are still chances of your flights being cancelled depending on the weather, so making a reservation doesn’t always guarantee a ride. Flights begin at sunrise, and up to 20 balloons take off every morning.
9. Cappadocia, Turkey
 What’s a list of places to go hot air ballooning around the world without even a mention of Cappadocia? Arguably the most popular place for hot air balloon rides, Cappadocia offers spectacular landscapes as the balloon drifts over valleys with grand rock formations, orchards and vineyards, and beautifully rippled ravines. The balloons typically travel from 4 to 20 km, depending on the weather conditions. 
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Patrick Down  Cappadocia is one of the few places where hot air balloons rides are available all year long. Bear in mind, however, that flights get cancelled more often than not in between October and March due to weather conditions. The takeoff is at dawn, when the wind is not as fast and the air is cooler, usually with the sunrise unless the weather causes a delay. The typical flight duration is one hour, but some companies offer longer trips (of course, with more money) and even souvenirs along with personalized flight certificates.
10. North Pole
 Apparently, seeing the Arctic from above is not impossible anymore! For over two decades, Quark Expedition has become the world leader in polar adventures, and now the company makes the opportunity to fly across the North Pole possible and claims to be the only company that offers this unique hot air balloon ride chance. 
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Christopher Michel  Unfortunately, the balloon expedition is only offered to the passengers of the company’s icebreaker voyage, so to ride the hot air balloon, you actually have to pay for both trips. In addition to the massive price, the flights are also rare since they are highly dependent on weather. Besides, the balloon cannot cover the entire ground due the harsh and icy wind, but just south of the North Pole. Although this trip may be a once in a lifetime chance, there are a whole lot of things to consider before you make the decision.
11. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Calm winds and mild temperatures in Albuquerque allow year-round hot air ballooning in the state. It’s the perfect place to go on a balloon ride and experience Albuquerque from a whole new perspective (and altitude!). There’s even a saying that missing a balloon flight in Albuquerque is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Since hot air balloon is such a common activity here, there are more than 300 companies here that operate balloon rides, from standard to private flights.
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a4gpa  Every October, Albuquerque hosts the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest balloon festival, where over hundreds uniquely shaped hot air balloons of all colours soar into the sky. This event attracts thousands of international balloon enthusiasts and spectators, and is also said to be the most photographed event in the world! The ultimate treat is that some balloon operators do take some passengers. Who knows if you’re among the lucky ones? 
12. Luxor, Egypt
What could be better than admiring the land of Pharaohs? The answer is, doing just that from the heavens (or more accurately, from a hot air balloon, the closest we can get to that). Hot air balloon rides are incredibly popular in Luxor, especially since they offer a spectacular view of the Valley of the Kings, including the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut beneath the cliffs of Deir el Bahari, as well as the iconic Nile River. Here’s the chance to watch the sun rise over Egypt’s famous ancient monuments, giving a golden look upon the ruins. Flight duration is about 45 minutes to one hour daily. Some flights do get cancelled though depending on the weather conditions. [caption id="attachment_13129" align="alignnone" width="950"]
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Credit: Sharon Pakir  [/caption] Wherever the place is, hot air balloon flights are definitely magical and something that you should have in your bucket list! The ride may be hard on money especially if you’re running on a tight budget, but the memory lasts for a lifetime. Take your loved ones with you and go up, up and away!