Have you been on a hot air balloon? I haven’t. (The queues were always too long!) But I would like to imagine that being lifted up high into the air, without actually flying off into space and still being able to breathe in the atmosphere, sounds rather exhilarating.
Other than the fact that hot air balloon travel is the first successful human-carrying flight technology—with the first untethered manned hot air balloon flight recorded in 1783 in Paris, France, in a balloon made by the Montgolfier brothers—today, many people have attempted to break world records with it, with Fedor Konyukhov flying solo around the world in 268 hours and 20 mins in 2016!
It’s baffling how with just a basic application of Archimedes’ principle, the physics of lift of a hot air balloon can be explained and understood. That is, whether a hot air balloon is lifted off the ground depends on the difference in temperature between the inside of the balloon, and outside.
In fact, balloons by the Montgolfier brothers are still being manufactured today (of course, with some modifications and improvements, and, well, by different people too). While there certainly have been refinements to the balloons themselves, it’s amazing to find out that the principle by which hot air balloons achieve lift is still the same.
One of the best places to experience a hot air balloon ride would be the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, where you’ll be treated to galloping gazelles and dazzles of zebras drinking from puddles of water. Imagine the sight of over 1.5 million white-bearded wildebeest and half a million zebras during their annual migration in search of water!
If not for the park’s abundance of wildlife, then for the sole purpose of finding out if it were true that Serengeti truly has “endless plains” (the Maasai uses the term siringet to describe the area, meaning the place where the land runs forever).
Another well-known location would be Cappadocia, Turkey. You might have probably seen its famous backdrop of hundreds of hot air balloons against an azure blue sky, hanging like lanterns over tall, cone-like rock formations looking like “fairy chimneys”.
Cappadocia is also famous for its Bronze Age homes carved into the walls of the rocky valley, in a time when cave dwellers still roamed this area. Today, these ancient homes are more renowned for their use as refuges by early Christians. In fact, in the same area, you will find some of the most stunningly rock-cut monasteries, chapels and churches with frescoes painted inside them from the 9th to 11th century!
Though you can’t see these frescoes from a hot-air balloon ride, you can take in the breath-taking natural scenery of the region – a plateau over 1000 m in altitude pierced by volcanic peaks, and even nearby mountains like Mount Erciyes standing at close to 4000 m!
A fairy-tale destination, indeed!