Hot air balloon rides are one of the most fun ways to explore somewhere new—floating lazily high above the landscape, travelers can enjoy the unique experience of having a birds-eye view of whatever scenic vista awaits down below their (hot)airborne chariot in the sky.
While taking a balloon ride while on vacation may seem like a novelty (or a luxury) to some, there are actually destinations around the world that are famed as top spots for catching the best sights while perched comfortably in the buoyant basket of a colorful floating balloon. However, despite these cities’ reputations as popular spots for aerial adventure, there’s often more to these distinctive destinations than just hot air and the sky-high views—when on the ground, visitors can find a whole new world of land-based attractions that are equally as exciting when seen from below (as well as from above). Below are some of the best cities around the world where visitors can take a hot-air balloon ride to remember; and afterward, catch some world-class attractions on terra firma, too.
Albuquerque Shines From Above, And Below
New Mexico’s largest city is world-renowned for its spectacular balloon rides through an incredibly scenic landscape dotted with mountains and rugged, desert scenery. Known for its perennial International Balloon Festival which takes place every October, Albuquerque’s high desert climate makes it the ideal place to take a balloon ride throughout the year, too. However, though it’s home to the largest hot air balloon festival and race in the world, Albuquerque is known for more than just its sky-high flights of fancy.
- Take a hike at Petroglyph National Monument where history meets top-notch desert scenery and recreation, or venture outside the city to visit the famous Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
- Catch some stellar views from the La Luz Trail, which climbs to the highest point of Sandia Peak; or go even higher with a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
- Spend the day in Historic Old Town, Albuquerque’s first neighborhood that’s now a cultural and artistic center
Queenstown’s Scenic Vistas And (Land-Based) Adventures
Queenstown is known as New Zealand’s adventure capital because of its adrenaline-heavy lineup of heart-stopping activities that include bungee jumping, zip-lining, and water sports galore—and, of course, the rugged landscape of this NZ gem also makes it a great place to take a scenic balloon ride. But don’t take to the air just yet—Queenstown also has a number of spectacular sights tailored to excite land lovers as well as air adventurers.
- The third-largest lake in New Zealand, Lake Wakatipu is one of Queenstown’s most scenic spots where visitors can take a steamship tour, fish, swim, soak up the majestic vistas, or visit the Queenstown Gardens
- Take a hike on the Mount Crichton Loop Track to experience some of Queensland’s best mountain and forest views, or have an adventure on two-wheels on the Queenstown Trail
- See Queensland from a different perspective on the Skyline Queenstown Gondola; or get an adrenaline fix with a bungee jump from Kawarau Bridge
Tuscany’s Romantic Side
The rolling hills and lush landscapes dotted with historic villages and medieval castles of Tuscany, Italy may be the ultimate in romantic sights when viewed from above—but the idyllic, countryside vibes and sumptuous setting can also be enjoyed while on land, too.
- Famed for its world-class vineyards, there’s nothing more romantic than taking a scenic tour; sipping some vino, and scoping a spectacular Italian sunset—and the famed Antinori Chianti Classico vineyard is the place to do it
- Go medieval with a visit to one of Tuscany’s charming centuries-old towns, like Lucca, San Gimignano, or Montepulciano
- Stay in the lap of luxury at a hotel that has it all, like the Castello Banfi Wine Resort located in the scenic medieval town of Montalcino
Melbourne’s Urban Scenery
Unlike most hot air balloon rides which tend to focus on scenic countrysides and sprawling natural landscapes, the aerial adventures in Melbourne, Australia tend to highlight the city’s urban sprawl—a breathtaking panorama of historic landmarks and city skyscrapers. And while seeing Melbourne from above is a one-of-a-kind experience; the city must be viewed from below to truly appreciate its bustling and hip Australian vibes.
- Seeing Melbourne from the water is just as stunning as seeing it from the air, and a cruise on the Yarra River is the way to do it
- Melbourne’s natural beauty is on display at Dandenong Ranges National Park, home to a number of forest walks, scenic views, and local wildlife; while its colorful gardens are on full display at the Royal Botanic Gardens, a famed attraction for over 150 years
- See Melbourne on foot—visit Queen Victoria Market; take a street art tour; or visit famous landmarks like Flinders Street Station and Federation Square
Alpine Beauty On Display In Switzerland
Taking a hot air balloon ride from the resort town of Gstaad, Switzerland is the adventure of a lifetime—known for its year-round adventures in the air, the Bernese Oberland region is home to some of the most dramatic scenery that can be seen from both above and below, even in the wintertime.
- A castle, a cable car, and a view to remember: all can be found at Harder Kulm with its stunning panoramic views of the nearby lakes and towering mountains of the region
- Subterranean waterfalls await at Trümmelbach Falls, where visitors can also take a hiking tour to experience the Lauterbrunnen Valley’s plethora of other nearby waterfalls
- Take a ride on the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station also known as ‘The Top Of Europe.’ This multi-stop trip is full of awe-inspiring sights along the way, too—including a ride on the Eiger Express from Grindelwald
- Visit the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz, and take the scenic boat ride to Interlaken for more spectacular views
Taking in the panoramic vistas of the earth below on an awe-inspiring hot air balloon ride is one of the best (and most dramatic) ways to experience the sprawling landscape below—and there are many cities throughout the world that are famed for their lofty treks through the air up there. However, there’s more to these cities than a bird’s-eye view; seeing these top places from terra firma is equally amazing—a new perspective on an otherwise faraway place; not only glimpsed from the basket of a beautiful balloon but up close and personal from the ground below.