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Using the simple principle that hot air rises, the hot air balloon was the first successful human flight technology. During the Three Kingdoms era (220-280AD) in China, Kongming lanterns propelled airborne by flame were used for military signalling. In 1783, the first manned hot air balloon flight was achieved in France and since then, the balloon has been enjoyed as a way of seeing the world from a unique perspective. Riding a hot air balloon is always somewhat of a variable nature; being subject to only the wind for navigating, no one balloon ride is ever the same. So leave your journey to nature, and enjoy the view of the most spectacular places that can be seen by balloon.
1. Cappadocia, Turkey
Going to the ancient area of Cappadocia in central Turkey and not venturing out on a hot air balloon is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. If there is a place that is the poster child for ballooning, this is it. A geography formed by ancient and extended periods of volcanic material piling up, then letting wind, water and climate erode the craggy landscape, reshaping it into an unusual scene of strange rock formations – tubular fairy chimneys, jagged blades, surreal ribbons. From the ground, you never quite get the sense of scale and perspective of this bizarre Anatolian plain; from the air, drifting in the breeze, the peculiar vista unfolds, revealing horizon after horizon of natural wonder. Hot air balloon operators are plentiful, but we do like Balloondocia, if only for its luxury private rides and the champagne toast after.
2. Maasai Mara, Kenya
Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains. It might look like spectacular panning shot from a David Attenborough wildlife documentary but it doesn’t have to be; not if you are a hundred metres above the Maasai Mara, the sun rising behind illuminating plains where zebra and gnus roam lazily. Pass a tree copse surrounded a river, and there might be a wandering hippo. Go over a rocky outcrop, and there might be a sleepy pride of lions. The hot air balloon safaris offered by the Governors Camp Collection are an avenue to this, suspended in a basket for a wildlife viewing adventure from an entirely different perspective. And when the balloon touches down, there will be a fresh champagne breakfast waiting, in the middle of this vast national park, where truffle omelettes and juicy sausages will be cooked fresh in the company of antelope and giraffes.
Governors Camp Hot Air Ballooning
3. Bagan, Myanmar
There is something special about the sunrise in Bagan, the ancient city in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. The light is soft, pink-ish, gently shining on the more than two thousand temples, pagodas and monasteries that form the vast Bagan Archaeological Zone. The stupas and temples pierce through the hazy morning mist, a dazzling sight that can only be enjoyed by hot air balloon. With the country having so long been closed to the world, there are few choices for ballooning, with the offerings skewing luxury. Balloons Over Bagan, founded by Australian Brett Melzer and Yangon-born, UK-raised Khim Omar Win in 1999 as the first commercial operation in Bagan, is the best place to lift up in this magical part of the world.
Balloons Over Bagan
4. Luxor, Egypt
Up the river Nile, from Cairo, from Memphis, is Luxor. The site of the ancient city of Thebes, home to the ruins of the temples of Karnak and Luxor, as well as the monumental Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, this stretch of immense historical importance has been called ‘the world’s greatest open-air museum’. Exploring Luxor by hot air balloon reveals a perspective of geometry and symmetry unseen by foot; rows of columns terminating in vast statues of Egyptian gods, precise avenues of Sphinxes and obelisks standing tall. Magic Horizon Hot Air Balloons is the choice of most who value history and comfort; with a fleet of over 12 balloons, the company accommodates parties of all size, including private rides.
Magic Horizon Hot Air Balloons
5. Teotihuacan, Mexico
The company that operates hot air balloons in Teotihuacan, the ancient Mesoamerican city in Mexico that was once the largest city in pre-Columbian Americas, has an amusing name. Flying Pictures de México specialises in showing off the country by air: helicopters, planes and in Teotihuacan, balloons. Being the site of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids in Latin America, gliding over the Pyramid of the Sun, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) with its vibrant murals dating back to 100 BC is an unforgettable treat.
Flying Pictures de México