As the self-proclaimed ‘hot air balloon capital of the world’, there are few better places to take to the skies than Albuquerque and the vast desert horizon is often bobbing with colorful balloons. The most atmospheric time of year to experience the thrill of a hot air balloon ride is during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot air balloon festival on the planet, which has been held every year since 1971 and draws crowds of up to 800,000 spectators. More than 500 elaborately decorated and uniquely shaped balloons will be gliding through the skies during the big event, creating a spectacle that is as mesmerizing from the ground as it is from the skies, so be sure to keep your camera close to hand.
Don’t worry if you can’t make it to the festival – you can still learn about Albuquerque’s long history of ballooning at the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, then enjoy an unbeatable bird’s eye view over the desert with a tranquil hot air balloon tour. Albuquerque’s calm, steady winds and year-round mild climate mean that it’s possible to enjoy a hot balloon flight almost every day of the year, and the most dramatic time to fly is at sunrise or sunset. There’s no experience quite like floating above the desert as the horizon melts beneath hues of red, orange and yellow, and once you’re back on solid ground, you’ll be able to celebrate your safe return with a glass of champagne.