Best for rockstars
Get a VIP view of the ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations and cave churches of Cappadocia’s volcanic landscape. But choose your operator with care. Skies here get crowded, with over 100 balloons in flight at once, and the region’s safety records aren’t great. This isn’t the time to go no-frills flying.
Best for seeing red
The wild preserve of luxury safari travellers, a balloon trip above the Kulala Wilderness Reserve in the Namib Desert usually comes with a Champagne breakfast and the silent, soul-soaring sight of thousands of red dunes rolling
out below you, across the country’s vast Sand Sea.
Best for stupendous stupas
Sail over the Buddhist temples and stupas lining the Bagan banks of the Irrawaddy River. The golden pagoda of Shwezigon was built by royal order back in 1057, starting a tradition of temple building that continued for over 200 years. Bagan’s plains are littered with them, spectacularly encountered by air.
Best for Big Five
Take to the skies above big game country in the Maasai Mara during the annual Great Migration to get panoramic views of stampeding wildebeest surging in their millions across the savannah, predators in hot pursuit. Pack that long lens camera and steady yourself for the show.
Best for bonkers balloons
Pegged as a ‘desert kaleidoscope’, the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque brings technicolour action to the burnt browns of New Mexico’s desert. Pilots compete in races and ‘drops’, while such events as the ‘mass ascension’ and ‘special shapes’ (pictured) provide the biggest spectacles. (1-9 October 2016)
Published in the Jul/Aug 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)