The well-known Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is fast approaching, and one of our Gadling Flickr Pool members submitted a teaser shot of sorts, from a smaller festival in Louisiana. Have you ever encountered a balloon festival on your travels?
Tickets range from 250 euro for a half-hour “first flight” tour of the castles around Vexin (including the Villette Castle from “The Da Vinci Code” movie), to 650 euro for a royal tour of Versailles with Paris in the background. Flights take off from the Pontoise airport about 25 miles from Paris. The 250-foot-long airship carries up to 12 passengers and cruises at an altitude equivalent to the Eiffel Tower.
After takeoff, you are free to take in the views from the panoramic windows, sitting or standing. Unlike a hot-air balloon or blimp, the zeppelin is wind-resistant and heavier than air, with a low level of vibration and noise (the company compares it to that of a dishwasher). Airship Paris is the first commercial airship service in the area in 30 years.
Read more and book tickets here.
For vacationers, a hot-air balloon ride is the ultimate way of taking in the landscape. Floating thousands of feet above ground, ballooners are afforded a dramatic bird’s-eye view of popular tourist sites. But this week’s ballooning disaster, where 19 people were killed during a hot-air balloon ride over the Egyptian city of Luxor, has brought the ballooning industry back to ground.
The tourists, who were mostly foreigners, died after canisters on their balloon exploded, causing it to plunge 1000 feet back to earth with everyone on board. While an investigation into the disaster is still underway, Egypt has temporarily suspended all balloon flights and the incident has prompted questions into the safety of the activity.So what should you know if you’re considering taking a hot-air balloon ride during your vacation?
According to CNN, ballooning experts believe that the biggest concern is when a fire breaks out on board the balloon. This is because the only way out of the life-threatening situation is to make a jump for it – and that in turn makes circumstances worse for the other passengers onboard. “If passengers are jumping the balloon is getting lighter – it’s climbing again. It’s getting in a more dangerous situation because the higher you go the more dangerous it is to jump out,” said the president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Ballooning Commission. Fires often occur when balloons run into power lines, which is what happened during a deadly accident in New Zealand last year that cost 11 people their lives.
Another concern is the lack of international regulation when it comes to hot-air balloon operators. This leaves each country to enforce guidelines and safety measure themselves.
Despite this, experts told CNN that ballooning is still a relatively safe activity, and that balloons can be brought down safely even when they run out of fuel.
[Photo credit: Flickr user dfbphotos]
This video is a short but sweet time-lapse from Cappadocia, Turkey, where dozens of hot air balloons appear to bounce around like rubber toys as they hover over the region’s famous chimney rock formations. Although balloons depart daily here, passengers certainly get a once in a lifetime experience as they glide over this unique landscape, which includes hundreds of these unique pointed formations as well as the surrounding valleys and vineyards. The adventure comes with a hefty price tag – typically $150 and up per person – but it’s rare to hear of anyone who regrets the experience. Luckily, clear weather conditions are common in this region, and as you’ll see in the video, balloons depart just after sunrise because that is the calmest, coolest part of the day. It’s hard to tell from the sped-up video, but the entire activity lasts between three and four hours. It’s definitely something I’m adding to my travel bucket list!
When traveling, it’s always fun to explore a city from a new perspective. And, what better point of view than from the sky? These ten air balloon destinations will not only immerse you in beautiful scenery, but will also give you access to hidden treasures you may not have seen from the ground.
The Pyrenees is a mountain range that forms a divider between Spain and France. Crossing the Pyrenees in general is an unforgettable experience, and making this journey by hot air balloon will make it that more memorable. Watch as Catalonian buildings begin to resemble a Monopoloy game board. Lush greenery fills your view as you get the chance to see Santa Margarita, an enormous, well-preserved volcano crater, from an aerial point of view. In the winter, the snow capped mountains give the relaxing ride a magical ambiance.
While the scenery in the region is picturesque, with 51 skyscrapers over 246 feet, serene rivers like the Ottawa River and the Gattineay River, and bountiful flora, the real reason to visit Gatineau is to ride a hot air balloon during the annual Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. Not only are there several dozen hot air balloons marking up the sky, but they come in an array of shapes, sizes, and characters, adding a fun element to the scene. Climb into a space shuttle, a giant birthday cake, or a sad-faced court jester as the thousands of attendees, amusement park rides, craft stalls, and car show automobiles become ants in the landscape. Click here for more information.
If you want to ride a hot air balloon in a place with truly unique landscape, then Cappadocia in Turkey is the perfect spot. As you float high up into the clouds you will be looking down upon sandy desert and pointy limestone rock mountains that almost look like something out of a surreal fairytale. A natural brown landscape textured with steep valleys and red canyons and dotted with green olive groves will make you feel like you’ve left planet Earth (which, I guess, you have). Click here for more information.
Where better to vacation that wine country? Immersed in ripening grape vines and neatly plotted fields, the feeling is a mixture of rural living and luxury, especially since you know you will be tasting flavorful reds and whites during your trip. Exploring a wine region from the air is just as fun, if not more, as the you get to see the vineyards and fields from a bird’s-eye view. In Temecula Valley, your view of rolling hills will also be complemented by the beautiful Lake Skinner and a backdrop of mountains. Moreover, the annual Balloon and Wine Festival is held in this region, which mixes the joy of wine with the adventure of flying. Click here for more information.
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range that stretches for over 3,000 miles in western North America. With dramatic peaks and valleys that have been sculpted into the mountains, this is a destination favorite for travelers. But while many people explore the Rockies by foot, why not traverse them in a unique way, like hot air ballooning? Watch as Mount Elbert in Colorado, the highest peak in the mountain range, gets smaller and smaller, until it fades into a scene that looks like a real life Bob Ross masterpiece. If you’re in the mood for an event, Colorado Springs hosts their Colorado Balloon Classic every Labor Day weekend. Concession stands, entertainment, contests, and, best of all, dozens of colorful hot air balloons, are all part of the fun. Click here for more informaton.
Your sense of nature will really be ignited with a hot air balloon ride through the Outback of Australia. Flying in the sky you will look down on remote desert featuring only a few bush paths. Famous rock formation landmarks such as Ayers Rock and Mount Olga can be seen from one vantage point along with sparkling springs, waterholes, and rock caves. It is a very organic and undisturbed landscape to take in, and a must-see for hot air balloon enthusiasts. Click here for more information.
Located less than a mile west of Angkor Wat, there is the chance to go up in a hot air balloon that will allow you to see the many religious landmarks of Cambodia, such as the famous Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world, and the myriad temples surrounding the areas of Siem Reap and the Barays. The basket is in the shape of a donut, giving access to convenient 360 degree views. While floating 656 feet in the air, try to pick out the different temples by name, thinking to yourself how lucky you are to not have to fight off the hourdes of tourists to get a cultural lesson in local religion. No need to be nervous, either, as this is one of the less frightening rides due to the fact that the balloon is always tied down to the ground below, and it only lasts about fifteen minutes.
Costa Rica has quite a diverse landscape, and taking a hot air balloon ride over the country while floating over rainforests, volcanos, and mountain villages can help you take it all in. Riders will also interact with nature, skimming the monkey-inhabited treetops and dipping down into flowing rivers. When there is a break in the clouds, a clear view of Arenal Volcano, which is still active, can be seen. Click here for more information.
The Swiss Alps is one of those places that cannot be described with words or even understood through pictures, but must be experienced first hand to really understand its beauty. Float through the air while admiring the picturesque mountains, some bright with green, some sparkling and snow capped, as well as views of Mont-Blanc, the Matterhorn, and Lake Geneva. The best time to visit is the last week in January, when the town holds their annual International Hot Air Balloon Week. Click here for more information.
Riding a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara is not only a unique experience because of the landscape, which encompasses woodlands, grasslands, rivers, open plains, rivers, and a dramatic plateau, but also because of the game viewing. The Maasai Mara National Reserve located in southwestern Kenya, is home to one of the greatest events in the world, the Great Migration. From July through October, millions of gazelles, zebras, and wildebeests travel through Maasai Mara, making this a prime time to take a hot air balloon ride in the region. Think of the ride as a hot air balloon safari. Click here for more information.