A Sky-High Adventure: Five Amazing Destinations Around the World for a Hot Air Balloon Ride
What better way to explore timeless destinations and make unforgettable memories than from a 360-degree aerial view on a hot air balloon ride? With over three quarters (73%) of global travelers wanting to experience ‘out of comfort zone’ travel that pushes them to their limits in 2023,* Booking.com is sharing just that. Travelers can escape the crowds and observe spectacular sights from a unique perspective, whilst drifting where the wind takes them. With that in mind, Booking.com has delved into its more than 28 million listings in over 160,000 destinations across the globe to discover five of the best destinations for a magical hot air balloon ride that will inspire travelers to soar to new heights.
Napa Valley, United States
Known all over the world for its picturesque vineyards, the Napa Valley can be explored from a different perspective. For those looking to elevate their wine country visit from ordinary to extraordinary, a hot air balloon experience should be at the top of the to-do list. From up above, travelers will have the opportunity to view the sunrise over the idyllic valley with clear sights of hillside chateaus, romantic rolling hills and vast expanses of perfectly ordered grapevines. Located north of San Francisco in California, expect to find wine tasting rooms in the town center that range from chic to casual, where travelers can then branch off to listen to live jazz or try one of the many fine-dining restaurants. After viewing the vineyards from above, guests can get up close and personal on a Guided Sonoma Wine Country Tour on Electric Trike to explore the Vallejo Estate and enjoy a decadent wine tasting experience in this neighboring town.
Where to stay: Nestled in the scenic Napa Valley is the exquisite SENZA Hotel. Each room is elegantly decorated with antique furniture and original artwork, and vineyard suites come with heated pebble floors, deep soaking tubs and two-person showers. Relaxation is at the heart of this hotel, and a shaded patio is available where guests can kick back and watch the hot air balloons in the distance. After a busy day of wine tasting, travelers can unwind around the firepit or take in the starry skies from the hot tub.
A hot air balloon ride over ancient ruins not to be missed is Cambodia’s most iconic temple, Angkor Wat. Covering more than 500 acres, this UNESCO World Heritage site is the world’s largest religious monument and one of the top attractions in south-east Asia. A national symbol, the temple complex is surrounded by a vast moat and dates back to the early 12th century, remaining well preserved today. Experiencing Angkor Wat and the picturesque Cambodian countryside with its rice fields and villages from above, either at sunrise or sunset, is a bucket list activity sure to take visitors breath away. Back on ground, travelers can opt for a Full-day Temples of Angkor Tour, to explore different shrines from Angkor Wat to the Terrace of Elephant. Outside of being the gateway for these majestic temples, Siem Reap is full of hip hotels, world-class dining and superb spas for visitors to indulge in.
Where to stay: Anansaya La Maison, situated in a quiet area of Siem Reap and a short drive to Angkor Wat, is a great relaxation spot. The boutique hotel features a silver-tiled outdoor swimming pool, a spa and an all-day dining restaurant serving local cuisine from Kuy Teav (a noodle soup) to Lap Khmer (a popular beef salad). Each room has either direct pool access or a balcony where guests can capture the hot air balloons drifting across the skies. This Booking.com Travel Sustainable property is making large investments and efforts towards sustainability and is a popular cycling spot, offering tours and activities organized by local guides.
For those wanting to experience a hot air balloon ride with the Swiss Alps as the backdrop, the quaint ski resort town of Gstaad will not disappoint. Travelers can even plan their visit for the last week in January to experience the International Balloon Festival in Chateau d’Oex, drifting up to 10,000ft (3050m) at dawn with spectacular views of the soaring mountains and grand glaciers – even viewing the mighty Mont Blanc on a clear day. For an adventurous thrill on the ground, the Bernese Oberland region is famed for its skiing with cable cars connecting surrounding areas, and its multitude of hiking trails attract visitors all year round with nature walks on an epic scale. A visit to the nearby Château Chillon, an impressive medieval castle located on a rock on the banks of Lake Geneva, is also highly recommended as the most visited historic building in Switzerland.
Where to stay: Nestled among the rolling peaks of the Bernese Alps is the chalet-style HUUS Gstaad. This design-led hotel with velvet sofas, arty bookshelves and floor-to-ceiling windows offers a sauna, steam bath and indoor heated pool. Ideal for adventurous travelers, it’s in the heart of the hiking action and just a short drive away from the balloon festival. Guests who have worked up an appetite will enjoy the Alpine flavors at the onsite restaurant from a gooey cheese fondue to mouth-watering steak charred to perfection over an open fire. This Booking.com Travel Sustainable property also makes efforts to offer its guests a more sustainable stay, by reducing food wastage and offering locally sourced food to its guests.
Known for its world-class wineries, magical natural beauty, and just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, is the picturesque Yarra Valley. This destination is a must for those looking for a panoramic vista of a wine country from above in the southern hemisphere. Travelers will be spoilt for sights from their hot air balloon with the distant mountain peaks, lush vineyards and orchards, working farms and Yarra River. There are several operators offering rides for visitors to find a tour that suits their budget and schedule. With 43% of travelers planning to be more indulgent in their spending habits whilst on vacation,* visitors can opt to upgrade to a sparkling wine breakfast in the air, ideal for those celebrating a special occasion. This region is famous for its national parks and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Following the excitement of being up high, travelers can ground themselves with a Healesville Sanctuary and Phillip Island Tour learning about native animals from kangaroos to koalas and platypuses. On Phillip Island, enjoy the panoramic views of the coastal landscapes from a lookout, and walk along the Nobbies boardwalk to view Seal Rocks and Penguin Parade.
Where to stay: Located in the heart of the Yarra Valley are the Yering Gorge Cottages, a blissful home away from home. Offering a range of self-contained luxury cottages, each houses a separate living area with floor-to-ceiling windows delivering stunning views. Set in 120-acres of countryside and home to kangaroos and over 85 different birdlife species, a range of onsite activities are available from bushwalking to golf and tennis. This Booking.com Travel Sustainable stay also offers bicycle rentals as well as activities organized by local guides including hot air balloon rides with pickup from the property.
A list of top picks for a hot air balloon ride would be incomplete without Albuquerque, home to the largest gathering of hot air balloons in the world. Witness the awe-inspiring vista of hundreds of colorful dots floating in the sky, or join in the magic lifting into the air just after sunrise above the beautiful Rio Grande Valley and the Sandia Mountains. Available all year round, travelers can schedule their trip in October to watch the spectacular sight of the International Balloon Fiesta complete with concerts and fireworks throughout the day and night. New Mexico’s largest city sits in the high desert with historic adobe buildings, museums that explore its Pueblo culture and pink hues at sunset. To end the day on a high, visitors can explore the city with an exciting Zombie Scavenger Hunt to discover landmarks such as the San Felipe de Neri church and the Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes monument while playing a zombie-themed game on their smartphone.
Where to stay: Situated in a garden compound, the Casas de Suenos Old Town Historic Inn is a charming and quirky bed and breakfast which features comfortably furnished rooms and a separate living area for guests to relax and feel at home. The friendly B&B allows for easy walking to the Albuquerque Old Town Plaza shopping district as well as alfresco dining at one of many local restaurants for red chile enchiladas and a regional beer. Guests can start the day right with a gourmet breakfast of eggs, bacon and green chile burritos in the sunroom before their hot air balloon experience, just a short drive away.
*Travel Predictions 2023 research commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who plan to travel for business or leisure in the next 12-24 months. In total 24,179 respondents across 32 countries and territories were polled (including 1014 from Argentina, 1006 from Australia, 505 from Austria, 504 from Belgium, 1009 from Brazil, 503 from Canada, 1009 from China, 1010 from Colombia, 505 from Croatia, 505 from Denmark, 1010 from France, 1001 from Germany, 500 from Hong Kong, 1005 from India, 504 from Ireland, 504 from Israel, 1008 from Italy, 1003 from Japan, 504 from Mexico, 502 from The Netherlands, 1007 from New Zealand, 1009 from Portugal, 507 from Singapore, 1008 from South Korea, 1001 from Spain, 505 from Sweden, 508 from Switzerland, 500 from Taiwan, 504 from Thailand, 1006 from the UK, 1009 from the US and 504 from Vietnam). Respondents completed an online survey in August 2022.