Whether or not they're daring enough to ride along in one, just about every tourist loves a hot air balloon. The way they soar slowly over city skylines and treetops and reflect on the rippling waters of the countryside is just so inexplicably majestic. Maybe it's because they typically ascend during sunrise and sunset that we also often imagine these gentle beasts with their fires flickering overhead against the soft colors of the magic hour. While their presence might be quite calming for us, however, many hot air balloon pilots take their trade very seriously.

Some balloonists take their aircraft across countries, continents, and sometimes across the world to compete in "races," which aren't actually speed competitions (because, as we know, the winds dictate the speed and direction of the balloon) but rather a challenge of who can drop their balloons closest to a predetermined ground target, sort of like an extreme version of bocce ball. The sport even has world championships.

Cities and non-cities all over the world hold annual hot air balloon events so that pilots can vie for these championships, but also because hot air balloons are a surefire way to attract tourists. And what can we say? We're suckers for a hot air balloon festival, admittedly. Here are 20 not-to-be-missed balloon events from around the world.

19 Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic

What's more charming than the vineyard-cloaked hills of northern California's wine country? Perhaps watching colorful hot air balloons rise above the vast fields of grapevines and disappear into a burning sunrise. That's exactly what early risers will witness at this two-day, annual event. The Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic takes place during the second weekend of June and hosts about 30 balloons each year. The main spectacle of this Wine Country classic happens at 6:30 a.m., but serious festival goers can show up for the 5 a.m. flight dubbed "Dawn Patrol," where pilots heat their balloons in the early morning alpenglow.

18 Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off

American pilots have a reputation for taking their balloons all over the country to various festivals throughout the year, and one that no traveling ballooner wants to miss is the Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off. During this holiday weekend each year, roughly 70 balloons rise in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains' majestic peaks at 7 a.m. A lucky few are able to see the scene from great heights as the Rainbow Ryders straps them in for a guest flight. At night, as the sun sets over this mountain town, the massive balloons inflate and illuminate, lighting up Memorial Park in a sea of rainbow-hued nylon.

17 Velikie Luki International Balloon Meet

In the Pskov Oblast Region of western Russia, pilots have been flying their hot air balloons on this special week each June for 12 years. One website claims that this town is the birthplace of Russian contemporary ballooning, and the ballooners here take their hobby seriously. In fact, the Velikie Luki International Balloon Meet is bonafide competition for which pilot can drop down on a predetermined target. Several awards are given during the annual event, including the Cup of Russia, the Cup of Velikie Lukie, and more. The event typically hosts between 30 and 40 balloons.

16 International Hot Air Balloon Festival of Château-d'Oex

Unlike many hot air balloon festivals around the world that are held during the peak of summer, Switzerland's international festival lifts off in the snow. Watching these gentle giants float amongst the backdrop of snowy Swiss Alps is a stunning site for viewers, and being a passenger in one is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience (that's worth more than $400 USD, to add). This international balloon gathering has been a tradition of Château-d'Oex for 41 years, the official website says, and every January, about 70 pilots congregate here for nine full days of chilly winter balloon rides.

15 The Great Reno Balloon Race

This free event in Nevada features about 80 balloons each September. Lifting off just two miles from Downtown, spectators will see dozens of colorful inflatables decorate the Reno skyline before taking a stroll down Balloon Boulevard, a hub for festive food, arts, and crafts. And while this two-day celebration is technically called a "race," participating pilots are focused more on precision than speed. This technical kind of balloon flying is no joke, either, seeing as the festival gives out $11,000 to its champion pilots each year. Special balloons that will be featured at this year's event include Smokey Bear, Rocket the Flying Squirrel, Hopper T Frog, and a giant fish called Sushi.

14 Montgolfiades de Dole

Dole is an old city in eastern France that overlooks the River Doubs. It is home to the country's second largest forest, a few old buildings and museums, and the annual Montgolfiades de Dole. This balloon festival, held over a weekend in July each year, is unusual because the balloons take flight during nighttime. Onlookers watch as pilots light their fires in the night, then rise up to meet the starry sky. To top it off, the unique evening ascent ends with a grand fireworks display. Here, you can watch hot air balloons while simultaneously supporting a good cause because proceeds from Montgolfiades de Dole are used to help children with serious illnesses.

13 Saga International Balloon Fiesta

Hot air ballooning is a popular pastime all over the world — even in Asia! Japan's Saga International Balloon Fiesta takes place just outside of Saga City, along the Kase River. More than 100 balloons soar gently over the reflective water of the Kase River each fall. The event, which typically takes place in late October to early November, is considered to be one of the "largest sky sports events in Asia," the official website says, attracting more than 800,000 visitors each year. Participating pilots can compete here for the Japan National Championship, whose winner then qualifies for the World Hot Air Balloon Championship. We weren't kidding when we said this hot air ballooning business is no laughing matter.

12 European Balloon Festival

The annual European Balloon Festival is the largest in Spain and one of the largest in Europe. The four-day event takes place in early July just 60 kilometers from the bustling city of Barcelona in Igualada, Catalonia. Each year, about 25,000 people come to gawk at the more than 50 hot air balloons of every shape and color taking flight in the mornings and late afternoons. Pilots from all over Spain and beyond have been coming to compete in the European Balloon Festival since the inaugural liftoff back in 1997.

11 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico's Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the mother of all hot air balloon gatherings. According to Visit Albuquerque, it's the largest hot air ballooning event in the world. More than 750,000 people flock to this southwestern state each October to witness a whopping 500 hot air balloons rise over the nearby Sandia Mountains. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is nine days long, featuring "mass ascensions" of hundreds of balloons on weekend mornings and a "Balloon Glowdeo" at night, where the colorful inflatables "seem to flicker like giant psychedelic light bulbs," the website says.

10 Taiwan International Balloon Festival

In 2018, the Taiwan International Balloon Festival was attended by several familiar faces — Minions, Tony the Tiger, characters from UP and the German Orient Express, among others — all in inflatable form, of course. The festival featured more special shaped balloons (39 in total) this past year than any of its previous years, according to the event website. The Taiwan International Balloon Festival is held each summer in Luye Highland, Taitung, and runs longer than most. For 45 days, June to August, the festival keeps visitors busy with concerts, night glows and tethered balloon rides.

9 International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

When it comes to hot air ballooning, Canada should not be overlooked. Quebec hosts an International Balloon Festival of its own each August, with more than 100 balloons from all over the world on display. This past year, the family-focused event featured 150 performances from both local and international artists as well, making it an all-around cultural celebration, Tourisme Montérégie says. Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu sits on the west bank of the Richelieu River, making for a pristine backdrop for hot air ballooning. This vibrant week-long fiesta is undoubtedly one of the historic city's most popular attractions every year.

8 Adirondack Balloon Festival

The Adirondack Balloon Festival was launched during the '70s by local tourism bureaus as a way to attract visitors to the area after Labor Day. Now, the event is celebrating its 46th year and bringing in more people than ever. In recent years, about 150,000 people gathered at the Warren County Airport to see these brilliant balloons. The best thing about the Adirondack Balloon Festival is perhaps that it's free. The festival, held in September, is a not-for-profit event that is run fully by volunteers. Any money raised, however, goes toward a foundation to promote education in the sciences of aviation and aerospace, the website says, in memory of the festival's late founder.

7 Saxony International Balloon Fiesta

Known by locals as the SaxoniaInternational Balloon Fiesta, this summertime celebration takes place in Germany's picturesque city of Leipzig. Attracting more than 100,000 spectators and 70 balloons each year, this is Europe's third-largest ballooning event. And while the vibrant nylon bubbles are certainly the main exhibition here, there is plenty of other goings-on to occupy visitors during the event, including carnival rides and a parade. In the Saxony International Balloon Fiesta, pilots can compete in a variety of contests, including "fox hunting," "key grabbing," and who can fly the furthest out.

6 Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally

This rhyme fête is just a half-hour's drive from the stunning red pinnacles of Bryce Canyon National Park. Every year, the small, historic Utah town comes to life in June as colorful balloons and their pilots pour into the valley. In the evenings, the 30-or-more hot air balloons light up Panguitch's Main Street along with rides, raffles, and live entertainment. According to one Panguitch tourism site, this is the town's biggest event of the year. For adrenaline seekers, there are plenty of opportunities to ride along in the balloons here, too.

5 Canberra Balloon Spectacular

When people think of cities in Australia, Sydney or Melbourne are often the first places that come to mind. The capital city of this country-continent, however, is one you might not have ever heard of: Canberra. Canberra is the inland city that houses Australia's government and is also the host of the annual Canberra Balloon Spectacular. For those dwelling in the Southern Hemisphere, this is your chance to get in on the hot air balloon action. This week-long celebration is held in March, right in the middle of Australia's fall season, because holding a hot air balloon festival during "Down Under" summer would probably be unbearably hot.

4 QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning

This festival claims to be the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America. Whether or not that's true for the entire continent, it's certainly one of the top things to do in The Garden State. This two-day fiesta happens each July at the Solberg Airport in Readington. Never heard of Readington? A quick Google search will reveal this event as the top search result. Needless to say, the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning is this tiny township's claim to fame. The good news for guests is that this festival offers balloon rides in the mornings and evenings for less than $300.

3 Mondial Air Balloons

Unlike others, France's Mondial Air Balloons festival is held every two years. The French call this colorful gathering "BalonVille" and it's located in a small town called Chambley, where — fittingly — the Chambley-Bussières Air Base is located. The upcoming 2019 festival will be Mondial Air Balloons' 16th edition and it's expected to be a real blowout since the 2017 festival brought in a whopping 400,000 visitors. This event, held for an entire week, hosts all kinds of live entertainment, workshops, and night exhibits to keep its international guests entertained.

2 Great Texas Balloon Race

2017 was the 40th anniversary of the Lone Star State's Great Texas Balloon Race. Back in 1985, this popular event earned its host city of Longview the coveted title of "balloon capital of Texas," its website says. The July balloon races have long been a Texas tradition. It actually started out as an advertising venture when one balloon pilot dropped a banner to promote the local mall. It then grew into a night glow event where a group of balloons would be lit up and tethered to the mall parking lot. Now, the Great Texas Balloon Race features at least 50 balloons per year and has been a regular host of the Balloon Federation of America's United States National Championship competition.

1 Cappadocia, Turkey

Flying in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia is at the top of just about every seasoned traveler's bucket list (and if it isn't, then, well, it should be). This Turkish city is known as much (or more) for its postcard-worthy hot air balloons as it is for its so-called "fairy chimneys," the cone-shaped rock formations that blanket the ground. Perhaps it's these peculiar configurations that made hot air ballooning here so popular in the first place. Rising up above these otherworldly natural wonders in a basket suspended by a balloon is nothing short of a fantasy. Okay, so what if this UNESCO World Heritage Site doesn't have a big annual festival? Every day is a hot air balloon fiesta in Cappadocia, and that's why it's at the top of our list.