The ONE Experience That Belongs on Every Romantic's Bucket List

Sophie Miura

Across the valley, hundreds of orbs glowed gold against the dark sky, signaling the impending break of day. Like countless flickering fireflies, each furnace inflated the colored balloons, illuminating the surrounding rose-hued hills for a fleeting moment. I sat bundled in a thick Berber blanket, fighting heavy eyes and the urge to return to my warm bed, knowing that the scene unfolding before me might be one of the most breathtaking travel experiences I would ever have.

I was in Cappadocia, an otherworldly mountainous region in Turkey, where the hillside is punctuated with cave houses, whistling winds form so-called "fairy chimney" rock formations, and one of the top bucket list experiences in the world takes place: hot air ballooning over Rose Valley.

Each morning, up to 300 multicolored balloons lift into the silent sky to see the first rays of light illuminate the valley. That morning, I was watching the event unfold from a mountaintop; the next, I would be in a basket, rising above the Turkish landscape.

If you're yet to experience hot air ballooning, this is my advice: Book a trip during the shoulder season before the crowds swell, wake up before dawn breaks, and bring your camera. You've never seen the world like this before.

Château-d'Œx, Switzerland

PHOTO:

Claudia Baumberger for Association Semaine de Balloons

The View: Skiers and snowboarders might be used to tearing down the powdery slopes in Switzerland, but hot air ballooning in Château-d'Œx offers an entirely new perspective. Drift above the silent icy landscape for a bird's-eye view of the blue-white mountains, or find a vantage point below on a mountain peak to observe the colored orbs dot the landscape. 

The Logistics: Plan your trip during the International Hot-Air Balloon Festival in Château-d'Œx, a region in the southwest of Switzerland, near the French boarder. The festival takes place over nine days in January and sees roughly 100 balloons from over 20 countries take flight. Wake up early on the seventh day to see the "night-glow" show, where the balloons light their burners in the snowy valley before daybreak. 

The Itinerary: The festival isn't the only reason to travel to see Château-d'Œx. Visit nearby Castle of Gruyères, then make tracks to Rochers-de-Naye on a clear day for stunning mountain views. 

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