The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is a time-honoured tradition that has filled the skies with a rainbow of hot air balloons since its inception in 1972. What started off as a collection of 13 balloons firing up from a parking lot has transformed into a huge annual event in early October, drawing crowds of enthusiasts and spectators from around the world. Almost 600 balloons now converge on Albuquerque every year to participate in the phenomenon and the 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park welcomes guests with entertainment and events over the nine-day festival.
Taking a guided festival tour to enjoy this spectacle means that everything is taken care of. Your admission is arranged and included in your tour, and there is no need to worry about how to get to and from the event grounds – this is all arranged by your tour operator. Your sessions will differ depending on which itinerary you choose, with tours spending one or two days soaking up the atmosphere of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.
The biggest display during the festival is the Mass Ascension where all participating balloons launch and fill the New Mexico sky with vibrant colours and the sound of their burners roaring in unison. Most tours take in this highlight, and some also include a Balloonist presentation and admission to the International Balloon Museum. There are also static balloon displays after sunset that some tours enjoy, with the Balloon Glow and Night Magic Glow lighting up the grounds like beacons of all colours, shapes and sizes.
Taking a guided tour means you’ll also get an insight into Albuquerque itself, with guided sightseeing around the city. Most itineraries include a tour of the Old Town where a fusion of Mexican, Native American and Spanish heritages come together. You’ll usually also get the chance to visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and gain an understanding of the Pueblo Indian history and culture of the region. While Albuquerque and its iconic fiesta is a highlight of these festival tours, itineraries combine this historic experience with other holiday hotspots.
Shorter itineraries, like the five-day Albuquerque round trip with Globus or six-day Balloon Fiesta with Collette combine time in Albuquerque with a visit to Santa Fe. Tours follow the Turquoise Trail and wind through the foothills of the Sandia Mountains en route to Santa Fe, where you’ll take a trolley tour to sightsee the highlights. If you have more time on your hands, journey beyond New Mexico and take in even more treasures of the USA.
Trafalgar follows the colourful trails of the southwest to Albuquerque, taking in the stunning landscapes of America’s national parks along the way. You’ll marvel at the layered cliff face of the Grand Canyon, ride in open air vehicles between the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley and enjoy a traditional cookout with your Navajo hosts against the rugged red backdrop. Explore Arches National Park and journey to the San Juan Mountains, before visiting Santa Fe and arriving at Albuquerque in time to watch the Balloon Glow from the exclusive Chasers' Club. A great way to see the show!
Hit the road with Cosmos to take in the highlights of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. This journey not only coincides with the Mass Ascension at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, but also with the Mother Road Festival in Springfield. This festival is a celebration of the golden age of Route 66 and you’ll be there to see the streets come alive with hot cars, vintage motorcycles, food stalls aplenty, and live entertainment featuring tunes from the 50s and 60s.
Swap vintage cars for historic trains of the Old West with Globus. Journey along the Arkansas River on the Royal Gorge Route Railway, ride the iconic steam train through the San Juan National Forest taking in the best of Durango and Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad, and enjoy views of the rugged mountain ranges as you rock along the Georgetown Loop Railroad. This round trip from Denver will see you stop in Albuquerque for the Mass Ascension, the Balloon Glow, and the After-Glow Fireworks Show. An experience to remember, and rightly one of the most photographed events in the world!