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Among the most iconic images of hot-air balloons in the Asian sky is from Bagan in Myanmar, where operators have been taking tourists to the sky for decades. Angkor might have loads of temples, but Bagan is a whole new level (though there are some restrictions on balloons travelling directly over the top of the temples). Bagan is jaw-dropping any time of day, but flying over the fields of temple is an even more unique experience, as you navigate above the diverse places of worship. As the sun sets over Bagan, you board your hot air balloon in time to admire this spectacular show that Mother Nature puts on every day. With just a single ride over the plains of Bagan, you will see more temples than you would have with three days on the ground.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
You can now also balloon over beautiful Inle Lake. Flights operate for six months of the year, from October to March, and rates tend to be higher than in other Southeast Asian countries. At 220sqkm it’s safe to say that contemplating Inle Lake in its totality is an impossible task. However, to grasp the vastness of this beautiful lake there is nothing quite like hopping onto a hot air balloon and making for the skies. From the air, you can admire the region’s rolling scenery of the lake, mountains, marshes and stilt-house villages. To get a good feel of the region and its intriguing culture, be sure to couple your hot air balloon expedition with a lake cruise and meet the friendly locals.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
If you thought the Angkor temples of Siem Reap were spectacular when seen one by one from ground level, how about peering down on all of them (there’s over 1,000, by the way!) from a hot-air balloon? You’ll need to time your travel just right, though. The window of operations for balloons at Siem Reap is small: they generally operate only from December to March each year. Sunrise and sunset flights are available.
Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle showcases the country’s majestic Sinhalese ruins and gliding above the ruined cities is a treat. Fly over wildlife roaming freely, watch the sunrise over the morning mist and admire dry plains with rocks jutting up dramatically, meandering rivers and ancient temples.
Does a winter visit to the snowfields of Hokkaido – Niseko, in particular – seem to be the current favourite getaway for travellers? Yet Japan’s northernmost prefecture is well worth visiting in summer too, and Furano in the middle of the island is a picture-perfect place for getting sky-bound in a hot-air balloon. The views of Mount Tokachi and the Daisetsu National Park are majestic – especially when the lavender is blooming in June.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai might be up in the mountains already, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go higher still. And, as far as the best hot-air ballooning in Asia goes, this is a destination that’s highly regarded by travellers. On a sunrise flight, you can expect to see lush jungle, rice paddies and lakes and villages in mist, and Chiang Mai itself in the distance, twinkling in the first light of the morning.
Such a unique and sprawling landscape is best admired from above. Prepare for a truly exceptional journey on one of the most popular spots in the world for a hot air balloon experience. Take off early morning and watch the sunrise over the surreal landscape of Cappadocia, then fly over the region’s famed fairy chimneys, valleys and moonscape dotted with villages, orchards and vineyards. The numerous hot-air balloons taking off and floating through the air also add to the mystery and beauty of the region.