select - Hot-Air Ballooning

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Few experiences beat the serene aerial drift in a hot-air balloon across beautiful landscapes. Here are some of the best to be found.

 


Cappadocia, Turkey

Rugged valleys crammed with startling, twisted rock formations – the result of volcanism and erosion – make Cappadocia one of the world’s most remarkable landscapes. At Göreme a honeycomb of caves hide ancient churches painted with Byzantine frescoes in blue and gold. At Üçhisar an entire village has been carved out of a great mountain of rock. And in the Zelve Valley, cliff faces are riddled with churches and houses inter-connected by tunnels and steps. Rock formations here are especially varied: giant mushrooms, expanses of pink, crumpled rock-like frozen rivers, and petrified stone forests. Float in a hot-air balloon – the flying season runs April to October – and you’ll also pass over cheerful farmland and orchards punctuated by rock columns known as fairy chimneys in pink and white, even the occasional pale green.


WHERE
Cappadocia is a region of high plateau in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey, mostly within Nevøehir Province.


WHY
A landscape so spectacularly odd that it’s almost surreal, coupled with near-perfect weather conditions for flying hot-air balloons.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Ankara.

 


Kruger National Park

Kruger unfolds rustling expanses of grassland stretching to the horizon and larger than small countries. Massive clouds like vast cotton balls float across an immense African sky. Vast towering boab trees have trunks fully 20m round and have been standing on these plains for a couple of thousand years. Taking a hot-air balloon flight across the Kruger is an unusual way to experience the national park. The grasslands of the central area have herds of antelope, kudu, and waterbuck, and are also home to the big cats that prey on them. The north, the most distant and least-visited part of Kruger, is the haunt of elephants, buffaloes, leopards, and nyala. The waterholes of the south, meanwhile, are good places to see elephants, hippos, and crocodiles from the safety of the air.


WHERE
Kruger stretches for 220,000km2 along South Africa’s eastern border with Mozambique, within easy reach of Johannesburg.


WHY
A balloon ride not only takes you over vast landscapes, but herds of elephant and impala, and sedate processions of giraffe, too.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Johannesburg.

 


Wadi Rum, Jordan

Above the Wadi Rum massif magnificent landscapes are seen as you take off for an early-morning ride at Bait Ali. The sun stains the desert pink, then red, and the sky is the palest of blues above the towering cliffs and twisted rock formations that make Wadi Rum famous.


WHERE
Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) is a desert valley in southern Jordan some 60km east of Aqaba.


WHY
More comfortable and serene than the traditional camel or 4WD tour, and a stunning overview of Jordan’s desert landscape.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Amman.

 


Jaipur, India

India’s first commercial ballooning operation launched in Rajasthan in 2008 at some of the state’s most scenic destinations, and nowhere better than above the pink-hued city Jaipur, with its geometrical grid of streets laid out in 1727 and surrounded by massive walls 10km in circumference. Floating in the blue desert skies, balloonists can also admire the surrounding countryside, strewn with monuments and forts. At Gaitor, a royal park encloses the mausoleums (chhatris) of the maharajas of Jaipur. Not far away at Amber, fortified walls wander along ridges and culminate in a chain of fortresses. The biggest is Jaigarh Fort, the most glamorous are the majestic ramparts of Amber Palace overlooking Maota Lake. It’s a view of the power base of the old Rajput princes, and a splendid outlook on the rust-red landscapes of Jaipur's surrounds.


WHERE
The largest city and capital of Rajasthan lies in the eastern part of the state in northwest India.


WHY
Desert landscapes and majestic monuments provide an impressive backdrop to one of India’s few hot-air ballooning opportunities.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has twice daily flights from Doha to Delhi.

 


Luxor, Egypt

On either side, there is nothing at all: Eastern Desert and Western Desert are what the maps simply call this sun-scorched sand and red rock. In between, strips of fertile green riverbanks appear like a mirage. At the centre of it all, sluggish and muddy, the mighty Nile River is a great artery of water, symbol of an ancient culture and the heartbeat of modern Egypt. 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.


WHERE
Luxor (ancient Thebes) lies in Upper or southern Egypt, across the Nile from the Valley of the Kings.


WHY
Float above the brooding calm of the west bank, where desert sands are punctuated with worn-down statues and pharaohs’ tombs.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has daily flights from Doha to Luxor.

 


Friedrichshafen

In the early 20th century, Germany’s mighty Zeppelin airships were the ultimate in luxury travel. Visitors can still experience flights at the place where modern Zeppelins are manufactured. Board at the hangar and, within minutes, you’re over the blue waters of Lake Constance, with the Swiss Alps along the horizon in one direction, the rolling hills and villages of the Black Forest in the other.


WHERE
Friedrichshafen sits on the north shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee) in Bavaria in southern Germany.


WHY
Not quite hot-air ballooning, not quite flying, going aloft in a Zeppelin is a unique experience.


HOW TO GET THERE
Qatar Airways has 11 flights a week from Doha to Munich and 3 flights a week to Stuttgart.

 
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