Mass ascension over Albuquerque – photo © Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Balloons come in all shapes – photo © Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The event: The world’s most spectacular gathering of hot air balloons, with hundreds of all shapes and colours taking to the skies of New Mexico.

When: October 6-14, 2012

What happens: The annual, nine-day spectacle is the world’s largest hot air balloon festival. From just 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall car park in 1972, it has grown into a multiple-launch event with a 78-acre launch field as the centrepoint of the 365-acre custom-designed Balloon Fiesta Park which includes a host of other activities and entertainment. Up to 750 hot air balloons can fill the skies at the same time during the mass ascensions, while other events include “special-shape rodeos” featuring unusual designs, early-morning and evening “balloon glows” with burners being fired to light up dozens of tethered balloons, and flying competitions.

Do it: Cosmos includes two nights in Rocky Mountains for a mass ascension at the fiesta as part of its 15-day Native Southwest & the Rocky Mountains Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta tour. Also taking in Arizona, Colorado and Utah, including Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, it costs from £1,879 with flights.

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