Up up and away. Experiencing the romance and wonder of floating through the sky on a hot air balloon is an ultimate bucket list travel experience. That slow glide, the whoosh of hot air and flames and the sun rising – or setting – over breathtaking backdrops. From the African savanna to the high alps – take flight with these ultimate global hot air balloon experiences.
Masai Mara, Kenya, Africa
Hot Air Balloon Experience: A hot air balloon experience in southern Kenya will give you a birds-eye view of The Serengeti National Park as you drift high above the Masai Mara, savoring unobstructed views of lions, elephants, zebras, and giraffes in their natural habitat. Head here June through September to witness millions of thundering herds of wildebeest make their annual migration into Kenya. You can book your ride, which typically lasts an hour, and is followed by an on-the-ground bush breakfast and game safari at your hotel (or rather luxury tented camp).
Best Hotel in Masai Mara: Part of the legendary Safari Collection (which includes Giraffe Manor, Sasaab, and Solio Lodge), Sala’s Camp is an intimate, seven-tent luxury camp, set in the far south of the Masai Mari. The owners discovered the site, located in the southern corner of the Masai Mari Safari game reserve close to the Sand and Keekorok Rivers, in 2004 when it was a rustic bare-bones camp with bucket showers. Falling in love with the location – where the rivers are void of crocodiles and hippos but big on lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo sightings – transformed the camp into a luxurious glamping experience complete with glass-fronted rooms, deep-soaking tubs, private plunge pools, and exquisite fine-dining under the stars.
Hot Air Balloon Experience: Floating over Turkey’s ancient city of Cappadocia, famous for its dramatic arid landscape and fairy chimneys – large cone-like formations created over centuries from eroding volcanic ash – is as magical and as unforgettable as it looks. These natural wonders are even more spellbinding at sunset and sunrise when they change colors and the sky becomes a hot zone filled with hundreds of colorful hot air balloons (which is just as incredible a scene for those on the ground). Book your balloon experience through Get Your Guide, rides typically last between 45 minute and 2 hours and your float directly above the fairy chimney rock formations.
Best Hotel in Cappadocia: The Museum Hotel is literally a living museum concept. The property was meticulously built from the ancient caves, ruins, and the porous stone of the fairy chimneys and houses in the area, while the rooms are decorated with artifacts from the Hittite, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Seljuk, and Ottoman Empire. There’s also an infinity pool offering panoramic valley views, and an upscale Anatolian restaurant.
Hot Air Balloon Experience: Famous for its red rocks and energy vortexes, Sedona is a wellness mecca marked by fabulous spas, Native American healing rituals, hiking treks, and deep natural beauty. One of the most serene ways to absorb the scenic Arizona landscape and healing vibe of this sacred place is by hot air balloon, especially at sunset when the red rocks and rushing waters of Oak Creek are aglow. Thrill-seekers might also want to experience a backcountry adventure hurtling through the red rocks and canyons with a pink jeep tour.
Best Hotel in Sedona: Miiamo is a destination spa set in Sedona’s red rock canyons that you simply have to see to believe. Designed to connect you with nature and yourself, Miiamo – which means “journey” in a Native American language, focuses on one’s personal journey to health and wellness. Guests choose among five journeys: healthy lifestyle, rejuvenation, destress, spiritual exploration and ayurvedic balance. Some of the signature spa treatments include cupping, table Thai, lymphatic facial, and one of our personal faves: an aura-soma consultation. This hard-to-find-in-the-US treatment uses vibrant, alive plant colors and crystal energies to reveal talents, gifts, and life lessons.
Hot Air Balloon Experience: Dotted with castles, small villages, and seemingly endless farmyards, gardens, and forests, hot air ballooning over France’s Dordogne region is straight out of a Grimm’s fairytale. Dip along the winding river, then skim just inches above the surface before ascending higher over the rooftops of grand luxury chateaus. Book your adventure through Montgolfiere du Perigord in La Roque-Gageac, which offers sunrise and sunset rides for two or more.
Best Hotel in Dordogne: Chateau de laTreyne, located on the Dordogne River surrounded by 300 acres of private forest, gardens, and trails is a 14th-century castle complete with ancient stone stairwells, grandiose chandeliers, ornate fireplaces, and a glorious outdoor dining terrace. Enjoy stunning views of the Dordogne from your four-poster bed and candlelit dinners in the Louis XIII dining room.
Hot Air Balloon Experience: Hiking or skiing the Swiss Alps is magnificent in winter, but in summer taking in the view of the jagged mountain peaks and colorful wildflowers from the basket of a hot air balloon is glorious. Float above postcard-perfect Swiss chalets, meadows dotted with cows (cowbells clanking gently), and spot local cheesemakers in their huts high atop the mountain. Note: In January Gstaad hosts the International Balloon Festival, as the region’s exceptional microclimate (yep sunny with clear skies in winter) makes it superb conditions for a hot air balloon ride. Take-Off Balloon in Gstaad offers short wait times and longer than average (1.5 hours) sunrise and sunset balloon adventures.
Best Hotel in Gstaad: The five-star Gstaad Palace, a favorite of royalty, celebrities, and discerning travelers, is palatial and big on alpine chic, all of its spacious suites and guest rooms have stunning alp views. For a true alpine immersion, book lunch or dinner – or better yet, an overnight – in the hotel’s Walig Hut, an authentic wooden house offering views of Gstaad and the Saanenland region that evokes memories of Heidi, that beloved childhood classic by Swiss author, Johanna Spyri.