Hot Air Balloon Rides: All You Need to Know

A group of people on a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

Ever thought about taking a hot air balloon ride? Floating above an exotic destination with vistas that take your breath away? You should.

No matter how many adventures you embark upon, you’ll never forget a ride in a hot-air balloon.

There’s no feeling of speed or ascension. You glide. It’s as if your basket is resting on an invisible people mover that spans the countryside. Except for the periodic deep roar of the burner and the “ooos and ahhhs” from your fellow travelers, ballooning is a silent affair, there’s no deafening engine to drown out the serenity of your journey.

And the view … well, It’s 360 degrees of spectacular.

Hot Air balloons being inflated in Cappadocia preparing for a ride
Bagan, Myanmar

What to Expect on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

  • You’ll have to get up REALLY early: The weather is usually milder in the early morning making it safer to balloon.  You’ll have to get up when it’s still dark. And though you’ll be groggy, when you see the sunrise from your perch in the sky you’ll be really glad you dragged yourself out of bed.
  • Your pilot will tell you all that you need to know: You’ll be assigned to a balloon with a pilot who will go over all the safety rules and what you can expect during the flight which will last about an hour. Baskets range in size to hold 12-16 people depending on the number of reservations they’ve booked, and unless you’re part of a large group you’ll probably ride with other travelers.
  • Watching the balloons inflate is part of the fun: When you get to your departure point, you’ll find a lot of activity as workers prepare the balloons for inflation. Once the pilots engage the burners to heat the air it takes about 30 minutes for the balloons to fill and rise above the baskets. Surprisingly, the process is thrilling to watch.
  • The view is beyond words: Imagine if you were standing on the top of a huge mountain with a 360-degree view. The world spread out beneath you in every direction. That’s the closest you’ll get to what it’s like in a hot air balloon.
  • The whole shebang ends with a champagne breakfast: Champagne after a flight is a worldwide tradition, but the size and bounty of the spread vary. I’ve enjoyed everything from yummy muffins and pastries to a full sit-down breakfast.
View of a hot air balloon ride in Kenya's Masai Mara
Masai Mara

Unfortunately, a Hot Air Balloon Ride Isn’t Cheap

I’ve ballooned in different parts of the world, and while there’s a hefty price tag (it can run anywhere between $250-$450 per person) it’s worth the pre-trip penny-pinching. Trust me.

Destinations Worth The Investment

Here are three of my favorite places to a hot air balloon, each is wonderfully different in both focus and view, but all are magnificent.

Balloon flying over the sandstone hills of Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

Known for its mushroom-like sandstone pillars the brochures call “Fairy Chimneys,” Cappadocia is all about its riveting landscapes. It’s brimming with unusual rock formations that burst with color, and stone that looks plumped and pleated like puffs of meringue.

Hot air balloon ride over the temples of Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan, Myanmar

Old Bagan, Myanmar

Myanmar is worthy of a spot on your bucket list.  If you love the majesty and grandeur of old temples, you’ll find them in Old Bagan. You’ll see over 3000 ancient shrines sprinkled across the countryside on this stunning ride. The ruins vary in age and some are better preserved than others, yet all are magnificent. Sunrise is particularly beautiful because the temples seem as if they’re glowing.

Kenya - Why Everyone should Try Hot Air Ballooning
Masai Mara

Masai Mara, Kenya

It was cloudy and cold in Kenya during my flight, but it didn’t detract from the experience one bit.  We glided over herds of zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe. The sheer expanse of the Masai Mara from above was jaw-dropping. Imagine if I’d been able to see a wildebeest crossing in action. Now wouldn’t that have been special?

If you have an adventurous spirit than a ride in a hot air balloon is tailor-made for you. Let’s face it, it’s not every day you get to see the forest for the trees. In a balloon, you’ll see it all at once.

Have you ballooned someplace fabulous? I’d love to hear about it.

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Why you should go on a hot air balloon ride. Where to go, what to expect, and why it's worth every penny

60 thoughts on “Hot Air Balloon Rides: All You Need to Know

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  3. ekc says:

    Floating over the Mara at sunrise was one of the highlights of our trip to Africa….yes, it is pricey, yes, you have to wake before the crack of dawn, but the ride and elegant breakfast on a vast savannah (witnessed herds of grazing zebra, wildebeests and buffalo in the distance) that follows is absolutely worth every cent….you will feel like you tumbled onto the set of “Out of Africa” ….

  4. thelifeofasolivagant says:

    Ah this is amazing. I did an air balloon ride in Lake Bled and loved it. It was my first time. Made me wish I spent the money for one over the Masai Mara to be honest. Would definitely love to do it in other places in the future.

  5. thelifeofasolivagant says:

    You should add Lake Bled in Slovenia to the list. It’s amazing! My first time going in one and I loved it. would definitely do it again anywhere that has pretty views!

  6. Lucy says:

    It’s always been on my bucket list to go on a hot air balloon ride but I had no idea how expensive it was. Definitely worth saving for though by the sounds of it! xx

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    • Susan Portnoy says:

      I would be remiss to suggest I have a cure. What I can tell you is that almost every time I’ve gone up there’s been someone who says they are afraid of heights. And every time they’ve said it wasn’t as scary as they thought. No one freaked out in any of the balloons I was in and no one behaved as if they would never do it again. Not sure that helps but if you’re on the fence, I would definitely suggest you try it.

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Wow.., and they’re tiny you must have been low. Congrats on the sighting, serval cats are rare to see during the day.

  9. Sheree says:

    Went on a hot air balloon ride over the desert in Arizona – worth every penny. It was spectacular and definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

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    • Susan Portnoy says:

      That’s what makes ballooning so remarkable. There really isn’t anything else the average person can do to get the same experience. It’s wonderful.

  12. Roxanne Reid says:

    I’ve only been ballooning at Sossusvlei in Namibia and it was fabulous floating over the red dunes and seeing the “fairy circles”. Definitely one of my best travel experiences.

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