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10 Breathtaking Places to Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride

From the Buddhist temples on the Bagan Plains in Myanmar, to the pyramids at Teotihuacan just outside of Mexico City. From the ruins of Pharaonic Egypt on the West Bank of Luxor to the historical landmarks of 20th century Berlin. These are not only amongst the most popular and sought after tourist destinations around the world, they are also places that can be experienced from above. Here are ten breath taking ancient and historical places that can be seen on a hot air balloon ride.

Have you ever watched, with your feet firmly on the ground, mesmerised as a hot air balloon floated by above? Then imagine what it is like to be up there. Gently drifting along.

There is something quite magical lifting off just as the sun is coming up over the horizon. As you get carried away by the wind, the sounds from below are muted, as if far, far away. Dogs barking and car engines revving amongst the many other sounds, are intermittently drowned out by the roar of the gas burner just above your head. But you really are fixated on the view, wherever and whatever it is.

Although my first hot air balloon ride was not one of choice, I was not really in a position to decline. Anyway, I did want to try it at least once. So it was probably best I was given a gentle nudge. Also, I was with a good group of people – some of whom felt much like I did. To be candid, I suffer acrophobia. Climbing Lion Rock at Sigiriya in Sri Lanka was tough for me. What kept me going was knowing there was some great archaeology at the top, and some exquisite frescoes on the way up.

Usually my acrophobia is so strong I my feet tingle when looking at someone standing too close to the edge of a building in a film! Truthfully, I my feet did tingle, especially when I looked down. But riding along in that basket just felt so natural. Floating above the ravines of Terra celle Gravine in Puglia (not that far from Matera, see below) was one of the most memorable experiences I have had.

This list of hot air balloon rides over some of our most amazing archaeological and historical sites is then my hot air balloon ride bucket list. Being able to look down upon these ancient places, ignoring those tingles, is to have yet another perspective on the past. For me this is what archaeology travel is all about: finding different perspectives on the world’s pasts.

Bagan Plains, Myanmar

Before and/or After Your Bagan Temple Balloon Ride

Paestum, Italy

Before and/or After your Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Paestum

Teotihuacan, Mexico

Balloon Teotihuacan
Looking on to two of the largest temples at Teotihuacan from a hot air balloon: the Temple of the Sun in the foreground and the Temple of the Moon in the distance.

After your Teotihuacan Hot Air Balloon Ride

Segovia, Spain

Before and/or After your Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Segovia

Cappadocia, Turkey

Before and/or After your Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride

Matera, Italy

Before and/or After Your Matera Balloon Ride

Luxor West Bank, Egypt

The stark contrast between the desert sands on the left and the narrow strip of arable land alongside the Nile River to the right could is so clear from above. Here you see hot air balloons riding above the Ramasseum.


Before and/or After Your Luxor West Bank Balloon Ride

Chenonceau, France

You might think that a boat trip is a better way to see this extraordinary castle spanning the Cher River. There are indeed a few outfitters that hire out kayaks and small boats. The water is very calm making a boat trip a very enjoyable experience. From a hot air balloon you get to appreciate another dimension of this second most visited castle in France. That is the physical extent of the estate. Seeing the formal gardens and forest with its maze is just as spectacular from above as it is on the ground.

These balloon rides can be done, subject to good weather, from April to October. You have the choice of early morning or end of day departures. Like most, the balloon ride lasts an hour, but three hours is required from your pick up point to the launch site, and then returning from the landing site. During the ride you will be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, who will point out the many not so obvious features of the UNESCO World Heritage area.

Before and/or After Your Loire Valley Balloon Ride

Assisi, Italy

Before and/or After Your Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Assisi

Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s Welt-Balloon deserves a place on this list even though it is a very different experience to the other hot air balloon rides mentioned above. Known as a ‘captive balloon’ because it attached to the ground by steel cable. Once filled with fireproof helium the balloon ascends only 150 metres, with a maximum of 30 people in the steel cage suspended below the balloon. Even though the balloon is heavily controlled, the weather does effect the operation of this attraction. Otherwise, subject to weather, this attractions is open throughout the year.

At 150 metres above the streets of Berlin, at a point on what was the Berlin wall, you can still get a feel for the geography of some of the historical landmarks for which Berlin is well known. You get to see the iconic Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and the Potsdamer Platz skyline. If the history of the Berlin Wall interests you, walk the length before going up in the balloon. Get a feel for its course. Then, from above, retrace your steps keeping in mind some of the historic photographs you have surely seen that show the extent of the wall.

Before or after your balloon ride above historic Berlin

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

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