You’ve traveled by foot, bike, car and plane, but have you ever been at the whim of the winds in a flying wicker basket? We’ve done our research, and we’re certain we know all the panoramic views you’ll be posting (and #tbt-ing) on Instagram for days (make that years) to come.
Softly cruising over mountain ranges/bustling brooks/quiet farmlands is something we can certainly get behind, but what if we threw following-a-herd-of-migrating-zebra-across-the-Serengeti into the mix? Talented photographer or not, balloon safaris in Tanzania can make just about anyone a National Geographic-level documentarian. A couple of mid-flight pinches will likely be in order to reassure yourself that the Serengeti's infinite plains are indeed real and not a figment of your imagination.
It’s not every day that you meet someone who has been to the North Pole, and certainly not someone who’s hot air ballooned it. Quark Expeditions offers 14-day North Pole trips complete with balloon excursions, kayaking, snowshoeing, hiking and a helicopter ride, all—quite literally—on top of the world. Make sure to capture the glacial snowscape on film; you'll need hard evidence to back up the bragging.
Let’s be real—no one would take this list seriously if we didn’t mention Cappadocia, the mirror to which all hot air balloon rides are held. Search through the hot air balloon hashtags on your IG feed and you’ll be blown away by images of Turkish fairy chimneys (the region's pointy volcanic peaks and rock formations created by lava). But Cappadocia is more than just medieval rocks—rides will also take you over lush vineyards, valleys and fruit orchards.
Alice Springs, Australian Outback
The sheer remoteness of the Australian Outback is like nothing you’ll ever see. Save for the occasional bush or red kangaroo, the desert frontier is a largely barren rock scape. But these aren’t your typical rocks. The rugged Red Centre near Alice Springs is awash in a reddish glow thanks to oxidized iron soil. Just keep that in mind when dressing for your ride; skip the white sun dress and be ready for a healthy dusting of desert sand.
Balloon rides over Quechee Gorge are best in fall—leaf peepers will tell you that much. That's when vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges highlight the village's tumbling hills and valleys. But come June, the 37th annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft & Music Festival is quite possibly the most New England thing to ever exist. As balloons take flight across Vermont and New Hampshire, grounded festival-goers can enjoy Revolutionary War re-enactments, dog Frisbee competitions, and local bites.
Gstaad, Swiss Alps
Hot air balloon rides through the Swiss Alps are naturally of the snowcapped mountain variety. Take flight at sunrise and gently bob over powdery trails, lakes (there are more than 800) and mountain peaks of the Bernese Oberland region—the bona fide birthplace of skiing. You can look forward to a boozy post-flight celebration during the "toast des aeronauts" in the Swiss countryside.
Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia
Ljubljana is a town best viewed aerially (in our humble opinion). The gothic Ljubljana Castle, Baroque and Venetian buildings of downtown and Art Deco/Neoclassical skyscrapers, all add up to a majestic landscape. Neighboring Bled is also a postcard perfect slice of Slovenia—just in an entirely different way. Enjoy views of the green-hued Lake Bled, the Church of the Assumption on its own tiny islet and the adorable alpine villages hidden in the Julian Alps.
Queenstown, New Zealand
If you’re having inexplicable déjà vu floating 6,000 feet over Queenstown, it's quite possibly because you've seen the place before—in the movie The Hobbit. Balloon rides here are all about the rolling, green valley slopes, the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps and the ice-blue facade of glacial Lake Wakatipu. Rides change drastically month to month given New Zealand's four distinct seasons, so plan accordingly and don't forget that their summer starts in December.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
A sunrise or sunset balloon ride adrift over the Rio Grande is the stuff of fairytales. Watch the sun appear or disappear over the cacti-covered foothills of the Sandia Mountain Range, while drinking a glass of bubbly. Come October, there's the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta where launch directors coordinate mass balloon flights (we're talking hundreds of them), turning the area into a desert kaleidoscope.
Shieldhill Castle, Scotland
The 10th-century Shieldhill Castle is hidden in the lush Clyde Valley between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Balloon rides setting out from the historic fortress float across the romantic pastures of South Lanarkshire, and depending on the winds—the Dawyck Botanic Gardens and Biggar Park Garden. It's an Outlander dream come true.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Cloud reflections on crystal clear lakes. Snow-covered mountains. Blooming wildflowers on the Rocky Mountain tundra. We don’t need to convince you of this life-changing journey. It starts over Chatfield State Park, just south of Denver, and from there you can choose a route that suits you. And if you happen to be thinking of tying the knot in the air, Rocky Mountain Air has a Reverend on staff.