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Top 5: Balloon trips

Travellers are basket cases for gas-powered flights over the world's great landscapes.

Published 28 Jul 2016, 09:00 BST, Updated 7 Jul 2021, 14:14 BST
Namib Desert, Namibia. Image: Getty
Namib Desert, Namibia. Image: Getty

01 Turkey
Best for rockstars

Get a VIP view of the 'fairy chimney' rock formations and cave churches of Cappadocia's volcanic landscape. But choose your operator with care. Skies here get crowded, with over 100 balloons in flight at once, and the region's safety records aren't great. This isn't the time to go no-frills flying.

02 Namibia
Best for seeing red

The wild preserve of luxury safari travellers, a balloon trip above the Kulala Wilderness Reserve in the Namib Desert usually comes with a Champagne breakfast and the silent, soul-soaring sight of thousands of red dunes rolling
out below you, across the country's vast Sand Sea.

03 Myanmar
Best for stupendous stupas

Sail over the Buddhist temples and stupas lining the Bagan banks of the Irrawaddy River. The golden pagoda of Shwezigon was built by royal order back in 1057, starting a tradition of temple building that continued for over 200 years. Bagan's plains are littered with them, spectacularly encountered by air.

04 Kenya
Best for Big Five

Take to the skies above big game country in the Maasai Mara during the annual Great Migration to get panoramic views of stampeding wildebeest surging in their millions across the savannah, predators in hot pursuit. Pack that long lens camera and steady yourself for the show.

05 Albuquerque
Best for bonkers balloons

Pegged as a 'desert kaleidoscope', the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque brings technicolour action to the burnt browns of New Mexico's desert. Pilots compete in races and 'drops', while such events as the 'mass ascension' and 'special shapes' (pictured) provide the biggest spectacles. (1-9 October 2016)

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Published in the Jul/Aug 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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