On November 21, 1783, two Frenchmen made the world’s first successful hot air balloon flight. Back then, people stared in awe that man was in the skies. But even with today’s ever-present jetliners zipping overhead, there’s still something magical about floating hundreds of feet off the ground nestled into the basket of a balloon. Here are Go Ahead‘s five favorite places to soar silently, destinations whose natural beauty may best be appreciated from above.
1. Masai Mara, Kenya
Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is a wildlife lovers’ dream throughout the year. But during the annual Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest travel through the park in search of water, the only way to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the event is from the air.
2. The Outback, Australia
Australia’s “Great Red Center” is sometimes misconstrued as a desert; a visit to the region will show you otherwise. Australia is not only the smallest continent on Earth, but also the flattest. Riding in a hot air balloon at dawn, you can see for hundreds of miles as the sun breaks over the red soil. From your vantage point, you’ll be able to watch the rising sun spread across the 2,800-foot-high face of Uluru, the monolith once known as Ayers Rock.
3. Cappadocia, Turkey
In Cappadocia, Turkey, man-made buildings seem to spring organically from the multi-hued rock. The strange rock formations in layered blacks, whites, pinks, oranges and reds are simply unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. A balloon ride in Cappadocia can feel like a tour of a distant planet.
4. Grand Tetons, Jackson, Wyoming
The wild crags of the Grand Tetons inspired American photographer Ansel Adams to do some of his best work, but Adams’ iconic black and white photos of the Tetons and the Snake River valley at their feet don’t convey the contrasts you’ll see here. The Tetons are a geological paradox: the mountain range is one of the youngest in the Rockies, but it’s made up of some of the oldest stone on the continent. These forces combine to create the serrated snow-capped peaks of the Tetons, while the relatively young Snake River meanders through the valley below. Visually, hot air balloon passengers will see the pine-tree-lined Snake River sunk into the bottom of a gentle, green valley; a short distance away, the steep greenish-blue slopes of the Tetons race into the sky, giving way to the jagged white and brown peaks that caught Ansel Adams’ eye.
5. Nile River, Egypt
The Nile has always been Egypt’s lifeline, the waters that allowed a great civilization to flourish in the midst of a harsh and unforgiving desert. In a hot air balloon, it’s easy to see the difference between the lands lucky enough to feel the Nile’s touch and those scorched by the Sahara’s merciless winds. The ancient Egyptians were among the first peoples to use irrigation for agriculture, and with the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the mid-20th century, the Nile’s annual floods have been tamed. Today, a thick carpet of green extends for miles on either side of the Nile; but nothing grows beyond the irrigation channels, where the stinging sands of the desert shift and sway. In a hot air balloon, you can see the limits of this fertile valley in stark contrast to the dusty desert lapping at its edges.
Have you enjoyed a hot air balloon ride in any of these places? Or maybe you have an adventure in a balloon from somewhere else that you’d like to share! Leave us a comment and let us know!