Riding a hot-air balloon is an unforgettable experience that often holds the top spot on the bucket lists of many travelers. So, what are the best places in the world to go on a hot-air balloon ride?
These days, hot-air ballooning is becoming very popular and people are flocking to places like Bagan, Myanmar, to enjoy the ride. But riding a hot-air balloon in places famous for this sport can also cause a problem: congestion.
In touristy places, when you fly on a hot-air balloon, all you can see is many other hot-air balloons floating around you. You cannot really enjoy the ride, witness glorious sunrises or get a bird’s-eye view of the land from above.
When you can enjoy a hot-air balloon ride in a gorgeous location without any crowds disrupting the experience, it would be a dream come true.
So, I have rounded up the best places for hot-air ballooning without the crowds in this post. These tips are from the top travel pros who personally experienced these lovely rides in places all around the world. Enjoy!
Nienke’s experience in Goa, India
The government of Goa in South India has collaborated with Tiger Balloon Safaris to provide tourists with a great ballooning experience, away from all the crowds.
You will fly over palm trees and rivers and see people running out of their houses to wave at you! Our Pilot Rita Yadav turned out to be, together with her sister, the only female balloon pilot in all of India and has been doing this job for over 16 years.
We were lucky enough to witness a glorious sunrise during our flight, for which you will have to get up early and arrive in Asolda, Chandor between 4 to 5 AM. Another option is to go for a sunset tour at 5 PM.
The balloon takes about 15-30 minutes to inflate (dress warmly to wait for this in the morning, but take it off inside the basket, as the burners will make you nice and warm) and then you get about an hour in the air.
While in most countries you will get a glass of bubbles after your flight, this is not done in Goa, as drinking is not a custom in India. Instead, go for a cup of warm Chai!
Patrick’s experience in Luxor, Egypt
I had my first hot-air balloon flight in Luxor, Egypt – an unforgettable experience! Luxor is certainly one of the tourist hotspots in Egypt, but since the country had some political trouble and instability, many tourists stay away. Therefore, you’ll be rewarded by cheap prices and less people if you make it there soon.
I was picked up early in the morning and transported to the West Bank of the Nile, from where the balloons went up right in time for sunrise. It was an incredible experience, flying over the Valley of the Kings and Queens and seeing the famous Hatshepsut temple from above.
We had beautiful views of the city of Luxor itself along the Nile and of the surroundings. It was great to see the sharp contrast between the green and lush landscape along the Nile and the dry and sandy desert right next to it.
We were in the air for one hour enjoying the scenery and then we descended and touched ground safely in the desert. I chose Magic Horizon, which is one of the safest and most reliable companies in Luxor and I can absolutely recommend them.
Inma’s experience in Dubai’s Desert
Who doesn’t love to try new and exciting flying experiences all over the world? I know I do! And from trying my luck under a storm on a Cessna over Tuscany to taking off on a Sri Lankan lake, if I needed to pick one of my favorites that would be witnessing a glorious sunrise on a hot air balloon over Dubai’s desert.
It was truly unforgettable and an adventure I cannot stop recommending everyone headed to the United Arab Emirates ever since.
Very worth the early wake-up and the hour-long ride to get out of the city and reach the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve dunes from where they usually take off, you will be able to witness how the sun rises over the horizon.
You might even spot one or two indigenous species such as oryx or gazelles, from above, as well as green oasis in the middle of the endless sea of dunes while smoothly floating over them. And that is something that, if you are like me, you’ll cherish forever.
Kavita’s experience in Maasai Mara, Kenya
A visit to Kenya’s Maasai Mara is at the top of the list for anyone who loves to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Wide open savanna grasslands punctuated with acacia shrub, this eco-system is rich in animal and bird life, with a reputation as a great place to spot the big cats.
Along with lions, leopards and cheetahs, you will find a healthy population of elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hippos, gazelles and many smaller animals, plus the vast herds of wildebeest and zebra that migrate to and from the Serengeti every year.
Most visitors enjoy safaris from the comfort of a vehicle, and occasional walks with qualified guides. But taking a hot-air balloon is an incredible way to see the Mara; looking down on groups of animals from above gives a very different perspective – pods of hippos in the river, family groups of elephants plodding the plains, giraffes loping across the landscape, and of course the vast herds of wildebeest and zebra, like tiny ants when you rise high enough.
There are a few operators offering balloon safaris in the Mara. I used Governor’s Balloon Safaris which run from Governor’s Camp (but are open to guests staying at other camps too).
Elisa’s experience in Paris
This is not a free flight, it’s a vertical flight always anchored to the ground. But the view and the sense of peace from above are so great that we could not help mentioning Le Ballon de Paris to you.
Le Ballon de Paris is a hot air balloon exploited by Generali France to control the air quality of Paris. In addition to these tests, the balloon takes 10-12 passengers a ride and it is a great way to see Paris from a different point of view. Usually they fly up to 150m but early in the morning, if the weather is really good, they can reach 300m.
Le Ballon de Paris is located inside Parc André Citroën, in Paris 15. This location is relaxed and far from the crowds, enhancing the aerial experience. The hot air balloon operates from 9 am to 30 min before the park closure. They only do the flights when the weather conditions are perfect, with no wind, so we recommend calling the same day, checking with them if they fly and buy the tickets there on site.
Cindy’s experience in Inle Lake, Myanmar
We were really disappointed when our hot air balloon ride in Bagan was cancelled. Due to its popularity, rescheduling the ride for the following day was not an option. Just when we thought all hope was lost, we were offered a surprising alternative flight in Inle Lake.
We hadn’t known that they even ran flights in Inle Lake, let alone what they would be like. But having no other options, we took a chance and rebooked our flight. And we are so glad that we did.
The whole experience was surreal. Our early morning moonlit boat ride across the lake to the launch site, the amazing flight over traditional stilt villages and floating gardens, and the breathtaking sight of the sun rising over the lake were all fantastic. All six of us in the balloon were left speechless by this magical experience.
As we landed in a field, a dozen young kids from a nearby village came racing towards us, excited to check out the huge balloon. Because ballooning is so new in Inle Lake, and because the balloons land in different spots each time, this was a new experience for them. It was amusing to see them so enthralled by the balloon, but they quickly ran away when the pilot briefly fired up the burners again.
Our balloon ride over Inle Lake ended up being the highlight of our trip to Myanmar.
Clemens’s experience in Gauteng, South Africa
One of the best places to go on a hot air balloon ride in Africa might be Pilanesberg National Park in Gauteng, one of the nine provinces in the country. This beautiful and very green area lies only 45 km north of Johannesburg’s suburbs.
In South Africa, hot air balloons were originally used by the military for reconnaissance purposes. But today it’s a fun activity that is not too crazy expensive and totally worth the experience. And the best thing: this region is not crowded at all.
Chances are good that your hot air balloon is the only one going up around here, so you can really enjoy the views. Let your view gaze over the Magaliesberg range or the Magalies River Valley in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site.
Even better, enjoy the absolute silence during a sunrise ride when you can hear the faint morning call of birds and other animals while hovering gently above the treetops.