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Have you ever dreamed of soaring through the air as free as a bird? No, we don’t mean skydiving (which may also be on your BUCKiTDREAM list), we’re talking about taking a ride in a hot air balloon. This experience is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people, but others enjoy it so much they take every opportunity they can get, wherever they may be, to take to the skies.

Luckily there are some absolutely fantastic destinations around the world where you can ride in a hot air balloon if it is your first time. OK, it may not always be a cheap experience but if it’s something you love or want to try, we say ‘why not?’.

Part of the appeal of hot air ballooning is that it looks a lot safer than sky diving, which relies on a parachute opening at the correct moment. Although hot air ballooning does have an element of risk, since you are airborne and held up only by a balloon, it’s a lot less stressful for people that don’t particularly enjoy heights. Plus when you’re gliding over some gorgeous scenery with the wind in your hair, all your fears simply just melt away.

Depending on which company you go with, it can be an intimate experience with a few other people or a shared experience as part of a larger group. Any occasion, be it a birthday, anniversary or a ‘just because we can’ impulse are all good reasons to take a hot air balloon ride.

So if you happen to be planning on traveling to any the following 5 places, we highly recommend checking out these hot air ballooning tours on offer; the elevated views are breathtaking!

Take Flight Over Tuscany This region of Italy is stunning enough from the ground but from the air, it’s even more so. You can take a one-hour Tuscany hot air balloon flight from San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a small village just a 30-minute drive or one-hour train ride from Florence. (NB: you can upgrade the tour to include hotel pickup and drop-off from central Florence.) From San Casciano, you’ll meet with your experienced captain and crew at the launch spot. They will talk you through a brief safety overview, then you’ll hop aboard the basket and gracefully rise up to 2,000 feet.

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This tour allows you to take in one of the most celebrated and romantic landscapes in the world with olive groves, villas, vineyards, villages and castles dotted over the countryside below. You’ll soar over sunflower fields basking under the mellow Tuscan sun and skim treetops for a risk-free thrill. Finish off your tour with a glass of Champagne on the ground and head back to Florence with your BUCKiTDREAM list item checked off. This could be the best hour you ever spend in Italy.

Fly Over Las Vegas While blackjack and slot machines are usually uppermost in people’s minds when they visit Las Vegas, why not take the opportunity to see Sin City from the air? If you’ve just got hitched at the Chapel of Love then this could make a perfect activity to do with your new spouse. Hop on board a Las Vegas hot air balloon ride for an hour’s flight either at sunrise or sunset over the Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock Canyon and surrounding neighborhoods. (NB: the option of the sunset ride is between December and February).

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This tour offers pickup from selected hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, or make the 20-minute drive yourself if you have a rental. After a safety briefing, it’s just a matter of climbing into the basket and you’re up and away on an amazing experience. From this height, you’ll truly appreciate how unique the desert city of Las Vegas is and get a bird’s-eye view of all its famous hotels, which your experienced guide will out. The tour is actually 3.5 hours long as it includes a picnic and Champagne toast (beginning to see a fizzy theme?). If it’s your first time in Las Vegas then this could quite possibly be the highlight of your BUCKiTDREAM trip, unless of course, you win big at a casino!

Soar Over the Loire Valley There’s something sublime about the French countryside, especially the sweeping vineyards, lush forests and fairy-tale castles of the Loire Valley. You can experience just how lovely it is with a small group, 3-hour Loire Valley hot air balloon ride from Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci spent the latter years of his life. From overhead you’ll see landmarks such as the Chateau de Chenonceau, one of the most beautiful châteaux of the Loire valley, and Villandry with its world-renowned castle and luxurious 3-tier gardens, the scale of which are only truly appreciated from above.

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This sunrise or sunset tour includes hotel pickup and transfers by 4×4, and you may even get a hands-on experience by helping to inflate the balloon. After lift-off, make sure you have your camera at the ready for amazing views of patchwork quilted fields, surreal châteaux, rolling hills and fruit laden orchards as you sail along the banks of the Loire River. While in the air, your pilot will comment on various points of interest and, as you come into the land, you can enjoy a glass of Champagne and pastries. You’ll also receive your own personalized flight certificate.

Sail Over the Arabian Desert You can always expect the unexpected in Dubai, so it’s no surprise that can you do a sunrise hot air balloon ride combined with an overnight safari. The first part of this exotic experience involves traveling across the desert in a vintage Land Rover no less, then settling down for the night under a starry sky at a Bedouin-style safari camp where you can smoke a shisha pipe or get a henna tattoo, whichever may takes your fancy.

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Wake early to board your hot air balloon which will sail away over the Arabian Desert for an hour as the sun rises above the horizon. Each basket is designed for largish groups, so it’s roomy and you’ll have plenty of space to spot roaming gazelle and camels below. Your pilot will provide an interesting commentary about the geology and wildlife of the protected Dubai Desert Conservation Reservation. After an hour, the balloon will land and there will be a gourmet breakfast waiting, where you’ll collect a personalized flight certificate before you get driven back to Dubai.

Glide Over Cappadocia The semi-arid region of Cappadocia in central Turkey is a geographical wonder honeycombed with ancient settlements and dotted with cone-like rock formations called ‘fairy chimneys’. What better way to experience this unique landscape than with a one-hour or 1.5 hour hot air balloon ride along with a Champagne breakfast? (NB: The one-hour flight can hold up to 20 people while the 1.5 hour flight is more intimate with a maximum of 12 people). You’ll be conveniently picked-up by an air-conditioned minivan from your central hotel and taken to the launch site for a pre-flight buffet breakfast consisting of pastries, fruits, meats, salad and coffee or tea.

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At the launch point, greet your expert pilot and jump onboard a colorful 100-foot tall hot-air balloon that will take you 1,000 feet up into the atmosphere. What makes this tour so memorable, and such a popular one, is the pilot’s expertise and knowledge on the geological history of the region, as well his skill in safely negotiating the numerous rock formations, canyons and old volcanoes on your flight path. Toast your safe landing with a glass of Champagne that will be waiting for you at the end.

Even if you only manage to tick off one of these hot air balloon rides, you’ll have memories (and photos) that will last for a lifetime. Remember to take note of all of these ballooning destinations in your BUCKiTDREAM planner and share images from your dream trip on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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