Amid Marrakech's vaporous clouds
If there's one country that should be admired from above, it definitely is the Cherifian Kingdom, built upon the amalgamation of Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Carthaginian and Arab populations and cultures. Daylight brightens up the snowy mountains of the Atlas and shines a light on the Ourika Valley's Berber houses. A swallow of hot tea will calmly prepare you for the gentle Moroccan morning as you observe professional pilots peacefully preparing the balloons for takeoff. Feeling ready to leave the ground? It is now time for a celestial promenade beyond the traditional and thousand-year-old landscapes of the Marrakech area. As you gain altitude, vast desert lands spread over interspersed with typical regional villages, thus revealing a little known side of the country to tourists and travellers alike. One, two, three or even four hours up in the air await you, amid reddish Morocco, punctuated with narrow waterways, small wooden bridges and walking paths.
Sacramento and Napa Valley's wine routes
From the basket of a multicoloured hot-air balloon, you'll explore the Sacramento and Napa valleys, filled with orchards full of juicy lemons and silky almonds on one side, and lush vineyards on the other. Bevies of carefully aligned plants follow the hills' undulation and perfume the surroundings: merlot, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet-sauvignon are the pride and joy of Californian wine makers. One hour and a half away from San Francisco, they bottle grape varieties that are typical of the Napa Valley, helped by the Mediterranean climate of the region. As you roam across the vineyards, light as a feather, the regular lines of large rectangles progressively take shape in front of you. Fields border on the Sacramento foothills in a ballet of green, merely disturbed by the shadow of passing clouds.
Wadi Rum, Jordania's lunar satellite
Driving a few hours will get you away from the Jordan capital to a strangely lunar desert. Frequently used by science-fiction movie directors, the Wadi Rum takes you to a whirlpool of sandstone cliffs, granite arches, natural canyons and ochre caves. The sun is rising. The light is soft and the wind is fair. So just let the wicker basket of a hot-air balloon take you higher for an aerial getaway worthy to feature in a Jules Verne novel! Under your feet, the oldest rift valley known to this day plunges into the bluish Gulf of Aqaba. Planted in sand dunes for more than 30 million years, the jebel mountains of red, yellow and black stone proudly stand against time and erosion. You'll fly over the Khazali Canyon and the Burdah Rock Bridge, observe the spectacular remains of a Nabatean temple, decipher Talmud inscriptions and rock drawings and brush past one of the seven pillars of wisdom.
Destination Yangshuo, backdrop for Chinese splendour
In Yangshuo's twilight sky, dozens of hot-air balloons swagger behind the veil of persisting haze. You'll have to drive a few hours from Guangzhou to take part in the aerial exploration of one of the world's most beautiful natural sites. The flight depends on weather conditions. It is therefore recommended to favour early morning or late afternoon takeoffs between Yangshuo's rice fields and karstic rock formations. The balloon comes close to orange and bamboo groves as well as kumquat branches. Numerous Chinese tourists go down the Li River on makeshift rafts, shading from the sun. Dedicated peasants work the land, closely followed by ducks and geese. Horses and buffaloes seem to revel in the olive-coloured waters of this striking picture.
Spotlight on the Cappadocia plateau
A one hour flight from beautiful Istanbul, Anatolia's heart reveals a basalt-based soil of amazing intensity. Born from the outburst of the four elements, Cappadocia shows the results of a plateau covered in ash, sprung by nearby volcanoes, dug and grown wider by rivers hidden in sunken valleys and studded by rock formations nicknamed “fairy chimneys”. It's been 10 million years now that man has found a home in troglodyte caves, now listed UNESCO World Heritage sites. Turkish winds are suitable for a soft rising through the air, and you will float over the villages of Göreme, Uchisar and Urgup. The flames of the burner will discreetly break the silence, the evening sun will colour the earth with orangey hues.