This Is Why Albuquerque Is the Best Place to Fly Hot Air Balloons

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A row of hot air balloons lined up for a morning flight at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

You can spot hot air balloons floating slowly in the sky worldwide. There are hot air balloon festivals in the United States, England, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Australia. However, none can compare to the hot air balloon capital of the world: Albuquerque, New Mexico. A hot air balloon in Albuquerque is a pretty common sight.

What’s so special about Albuquerque? Today, we’ll show you why Albuquerque is the perfect spot to fly a hot air balloon. Let’s get started!

What Is a Hot Air Balloon?

A hot air balloon is a form of travel with a basket at the bottom of a giant balloon. A pilot uses a propane flame to fill the balloon with heat.

Because hot air rises and the balloon traps the hot air inside, the balloon lifts the basket and any passengers into the sky. The result is a smooth and slow trip in the air.

While there is no steering wheel, pilots can use the wind direction and speed to steer the balloon.

Pilots must know the wind speed and direction at the various altitudes to successfully navigate the balloon. They may need to climb or descend to move the balloon in the correct direction.

Why Is Albuquerque Good for Hot Air Balloons?

Albuquerque has one of the most predictable wind patterns on earth. It has cooler air temperatures in the mornings, which can be beneficial for ballooning. The cooler temperatures help pilots get their balloons into the air faster, and many find the balloons handle better.

Not only is the weather excellent, but there’s plenty to see. There are numerous open spaces and changes in landscapes that make for stunning views. Watching the city wake up for the day is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll likely remember for the rest of your life.

A man take photos of multiple hot air balloons taking off into the air with his mobile phone.

How Does the Albuquerque Box Work?

The Albuquerque Box is a circular movement of winds that pilots in other parts of the world only dream of experiencing.

This seasonal wind pattern occurs every fall when dense air from the northern mountains heads south into the valley. However, despite the cooler temperatures at lower altitudes, higher altitudes experience warmer air blowing north.

These wind patterns create as close to perfect hot air ballooning conditions as possible.

Pilots can take off from the Balloon Fiesta Park, float through the sky at higher elevations, and head back to the park. Taking off and landing from the exact location is a rarity in hot air ballooning.

What Is the Albuquerque Balloon Festival?

In 1972, a group of balloon enthusiasts gathered in a mall parking lot with 13 balloons to start what would become the world’s largest hot air balloon festival.

Over the next 50 years, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began steadily increasing the number of balloons at the festival. While the festival maxed out at over 1000 balloons in 2000, you can expect approximately 600 balloons and 700 pilots at the fiesta.  

What began in a mall parking lot now sits on a permanent site of more than 350 acres. In addition to securing a permanent location, event organizers have a list of unique events and activities that bring hundreds of thousands of guests each year. The event is an annual tradition for many balloon enthusiasts.

Keep in Mind: While visiting New Mexico, you’ll have to try these 10 popular meals!

Can You Ride a Hot Air Balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival?

While there are hundreds of balloons at the festival, Rainbow Ryders is the only commercial company to charter balloon rides from the fiesta site. There are other hot air balloon charter services in Albuquerque; however, these vendors launch from at least five miles away from the fiesta.

If you’re planning to take a ride while at the fiesta, we recommend doing so from within the Balloon Fiesta Park. Taking off and landing among hundreds of other balloons is an incredible experience worth every penny.

Two women take a selfie while up in a hot air balloon on a clear sky morning.

What Time Do Balloons Go Up in Albuquerque?

Balloons typically start going up around 7:00 AM. You may see a balloon floating around, checking the weather and scoping out landing conditions for other pilots.

The balloons usually ascend in waves, which they call the Mass Ascension. Seeing hundreds of balloons in the early dawn is an exciting way to start your day.

Keep in Mind: Albuquerque isn’t the only place you can ride in a hot air balloon! See why the Adirondack Balloon Festival in New York is a fan favorite.

How Much Does It Cost to Ride a Hot Air Balloon in Albuquerque?

Rainbow Ryders is the only vendor in the fiesta with approval to offer chartered rides. During the fiesta, these rides typically cost $595 per person. However, you can pay $250 to $300 per person by going with one of the services several miles from the fiesta activities.

Cost during the fiesta comes with a premium price. If you visit the area anytime when the fiesta is not taking place, you can find hot air balloon rides for less than $200 for adults and under $100 for children.

Looking up into the balloon of a hot air balloon floating up into the sky.

Is Riding a Hot Air Balloon in Albuquerque Worth It?

There’s something special about gently floating through the air in a hot air balloon over Albuquerque. While the burner to keep the balloon afloat can be rather loud, the silence between burns can be an unforgettable experience.

You can see for miles and enjoy the incredible New Mexico landscapes. We think a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque is something everyone should experience. Have you ever been on a hot air balloon?

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