World's top 10 most spectacular hot air balloon rides

Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

Sail over the Anatolian plains in a hot air balloon and see the diverse landscape of Cappadocia in Turkey, with its limestone caves, river valleys and villages.

SERENGETI, TANZANIA

The sun is a morning fireball. Then it's up and away into a pink sky. Below, elephants lumber and zebra graze. You might spot giraffes munching on acacia trees. Even more spectacular is the drift over the towering cliffs, wide grasslands and flamingo-haunted lakes of nearby Ngorongoro Crater. Tanzania has an added thrill at landing – always unpredictable in this sport – you don't want to descend amid a buffalo herd. See tanzaniatourism.go.tz

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA

Hot air balloons flying past Parliament House during the Balloon Spectacular festival in Canberra on Saturday 10 March 2018. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Almost every morning in the nation's capital a hot-air balloon or three can be seen drifting over Lake Burley Griffin. This is one of few places where you can fly so close to major national buildings. From aloft it's easy to identify old and new Parliament House, the cubic High Court and colourful National Museum of Australia. In March, the week-long Balloon Spectacular is Australia's foremost ballooning event. See visitcanberra.com.au

BAGAN, MYANMAR

Temples in Bagan, Myanmar.

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

The riverbanks of the Irrawaddy River at Bagan are dotted with some 2200 pagodas and pagoda ruins, mostly dating back to the 11th century, some with gleaming gold spires. In the October-March dry season you can float above as sunset stains the horizon orange and enjoy the serene sight of temples, villages and farmland passing beneath. In the distance, purple hills provide a serrated horizon. See tourism.gov.mm

CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY

Hot air balloon flight over spectacular Cappadocia
 SunSep2cover - right place at the right time – Ute Junker
Credit: Shutterstock
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Photo: Shutterstock

Near-perfect flying conditions have made this scenic region of central Turkey, with its rugged valleys and startling rock formations, a world ballooning hot spot. At Uchisar an entire village has been carved out of rock, while in Zelve Valley cliff faces are riddled with ancient churches. Elsewhere, the forces of volcanism and erosion have created rock pillars in pink, white and even green, looming from surrounding fields and vineyards. See goturkeytourism.com

WADI RUM, JORDAN

Sun9Juneballoon

The jagged mountains of southern Jordan make this one of the best ballooning spots in the Middle East. Unpredictable thermals mean you can't fly over Wadi Rum itself, but the desert scenery is still superb. As you take off at sunrise, the valley floor turns from black to orange, and rocky hills are splashed in red. Squint hard enough and you might spot the distant Red Sea. See visitjordan.com

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CANTERBURY PLAINS, NEW ZEALAND

Sun9Juneballoon

You get a fair slice of New Zealand's ubiquitous beauty on a balloon ride here which, unusually, combines both mountains and ocean views. The snow-capped Southern Alps are a magnificent backdrop, culminating in the country's highest peak, Mount Cook. Below spread patchwork fields and the Rakaia River, which sprawls in magnificent braids across the landscape. On a good day, you can see for 300 kilometres. See christchurchnz.com

JAIPUR, INDIA

While drifting in blue desert skies between September and April, balloonists on the outskirts of Jaipur can admire Rajasthani countryside strewn with monuments, forts and the maharajas' mausoleums at Gaitor, and also get a close-up look at magnificent Amber Fort, connected by fortified ridge-top walls to the ruins of Jaigarh Fort. It's a thrilling outlook over the powerbase of old Rajput princes, surrounded by rust-red semi-desert landscapes. See tourism.rajasthan.gov.in

LUXOR, EGYPT

sataug18egypt Valley kings Queens Luxor Egypt Hor Air Ballon ; text by Alison Stewart credit: Shutterstock *** REUSE PERMITTED *** Hot Air Balloon Over the Valley of the Kings

Photo: Shutterstock

Glide above Luxor by balloon, away from the hubbub beneath, and you'll be mesmerised as thousands of years of civilisation sprout along the Nile's riverbanks in an unfolding of temples and tombs, railway lines and modern hotels, villages and date palms. As the sun comes up, it illuminates the immense columns of the temples of Karnak and Hatshepsut, with the silent Valley of the Queens hidden in the distant mountains. See egypt.travel

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, GERMANY

In the early 20th century, Germany's mighty zeppelins were the ultimate in luxury travel. Visitors can still experience flights at the place where zeppelins are famously produced, or even take a two-day pilot-training program. Board at the hangar and, within minutes, you're over Lake Constance with the Swiss and Austrian Alps on the horizon. Hot-air ballooning is an alternative (and less expensive) option with the same splendid views. See friedrichshafen.de

ALBUQUERQUE, USA

A hot hair ballon lands on a service road as many others fly during the opening day of the 44th International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. The nine-day event attracts hundreds of balloonists and thousands of spectators from around the world. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Photo: Andres Leighton

The world's largest hot-air balloon event is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, which for nine days in October sees some 500 balloons soar above the scenic Rio Grande Valley, splashed with autumnal colours. The competition is enlivened by fireworks, music performances and other entertainment. The festival is especially known for its Special Shape Rodeo that herds together balloons in the shapes of animals and cartoon characters. See balloonfiesta.com

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