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Get your camera ready: some of the world’s most beautiful places are best seen from a hot-air balloon.

Château d’Oex, Switzerland

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Even in winter, the temperate microclimate of Château d’Oex allows for 360-degree panoramas over storybook villages and toward snow-capped Mont Blanc, the Eiger, and the Matterhorn. Individual flights are $444 per person, or watch from the ground during the International Hot-Air Balloon Festival, when the village welcomes nearly 100 aerostiers from around the globe to paint the Swiss sky in a kaleidoscope of color. ballonchateaudoex.ch; festivaldeballons.ch

Best Hot-Air Balloon Rides

Château d’Oex, Switzerland

Even in winter, the temperate microclimate of Château d’Oex allows for 360-degree panoramas over storybook villages and toward snow-capped Mont Blanc, the Eiger, and the Matterhorn. Individual flights are $444 per person, or watch from the ground during the International Hot-Air Balloon Festival, when the village welcomes nearly 100 aerostiers from around the globe to paint the Swiss sky in a kaleidoscope of color. ballonchateaudoex.ch; festivaldeballons.ch

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Best Hot-Air Balloon Rides

Delayed flights, long lines, TSA pat downs—flying isn’t what it used to be.

But stepping aboard one of these hot-air balloons is a guaranteed way to rekindle a love of air travel. It’s an opportunity to revel in the world’s most beautiful landscapes, high above the fray. And it’s the kind of worthwhile splurge that you’ll be talking about long after you’re back on solid ground.

There’s nothing quite like floating over the yellow grasses of the Serengeti while lions and zebras frolic just a hundred feet below. Or watching the first rays of sun paint Myanmar’s ancient pagodas and temples in hues of gold. On average, baskets carry four to eight people, so the ride can be as intimate and romantic as it sounds.

Festivals also celebrate ballooning as a lofty spectator sport. Fans turn out in droves each October to watch as hundreds of jaunty balloons ascend en masse into the cerulean skies above Albuquerque, NM, making it the world’s most photographed event.

Although ballooning is now popular in all corners of the globe, it began in France as the whim of two brothers, Jacques-Étienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, who, in 1793, wowed Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by sending a hot-air balloon aloft over Versailles with three passengers: a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. A month later, the brothers invited two Frenchmen to board, launching our love affair with exploring the wild blue yonder.

Whether you choose the birds’-eye view over a French château à la the Montgolfiers’ original flight or prefer to skim the treetops of the Costa Rican rainforest, your spirits are destined to soar.

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