Animals, aliens and famous faces fill the desert skies.
This month, the annual nine-day International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest such event, will see more than 550 balloons from 22 countries take to the skies above the New Mexico desert.
Among them will be about 100 ‘‘special shape’’ balloons – Elvis, Darth Vader, dragons and zebras have been sent skyward in previous years.
The city’s 1524-metre elevation, wide open spaces and typically blue skies make it ideal for hot-air ballooning – and holidays in general.
New this year is the Candlestick Burn, during which hundreds of balloons light their burners in the pre-dawn darkness before ascending en masse.
The America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race is a perennial favourite – teams from around the globe vie for the honour of travelling the longest distance in a helium balloon.
The festival is also a great chance to immerse yourself in the unique culture of the American southwest – country and jazz music, the National Institute of Flamenco, Native American dance, a gun-slinging theatre troupe and ‘‘chainsaw sculptures’’ all feature.