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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta by Rail

You are viewing the 2024 itinerary. Select your departure year
9 days From $2,995 $2,795 per person
4.2 stars(46 reviews)
Last 100 Spaces

Join visitors from around the world at the annual International Balloon Fiesta, where hundreds of brightly colored hot air balloons are launched into the Albuquerque sky and the whole town is abuzz with excitement and festivities. You’ll also visit the incredible Arches and Mesa Verde National Parks, ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and tour historic Santa Fe.

Travel among a group of like-minded travelers led by a professional tour manager
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Offer ends April 30th - Save up to $500 per person on select Escorted Vacations to North America, offer varies by tour. Prices as marked online.

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Mobility Rating 3

2024 Tour code: ABF24

About the tour

This 9-day tour takes you through the southwest in autumn, one of the most beautiful times of year to see the splendid colors and formations of Arches and Mesa Verde National Park, and of course, to gaze in awe at the hundreds of colorful balloons contrasting Albuquerque's blue skies during the International Balloon Fiesta. Your journey begins in Chicago, San Francisco, or wherever along the California Zephyr route is most convenient for you. After a night aboard the train to Grand Junction, you'll continue by motorcoach to the breathtaking red rock landscapes of Moab, Utah. The geography here is like nothing else in the country. Visit Arches National Park, featuring more than 2,000 natural stone arches. Continue to Mesa Verde National Park, where you'll explore the more than 600 ancient cliff dwellings dating back to A.D. 600. Next, aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, you'll journey along the Animas River and through the stunning Rocky Mountains, bursting with fall colors this time of year. In Santa Fe, you'll learn about the Spanish colonists that formed the city and saw the oldest building in the United States. Finally, you'll head to Albuquerque where you'll join visitors and locals alike to watch as hundreds of hot air balloons are launched into the sky, floating into the sunrise in the perfect photo moment. Tour Albuquerque and enjoy ongoing festivities around the city before gathering again to watch the balloons at sunset, complete with a fireworks show. A spectacular southwest adventure you'll remember for years to come!


What’s included


Day 1 – Depart Chicago aboard the California Zephyr

Arrive at Chicago Union Station and board the California Zephyr. Settle into your onboard accommodations and prepare for your overnight rail journey. Travelers may elect to travel from San Francisco or points in-between and meet your tour manager in Grand Junction. Overnight train.

Day 2 – Grand Junction

Spend your time aboard the train admiring the passing scenery en route to Grand Junction, situated on the Western Slope of Colorado. Check into your hotel with the evening free to rest and enjoy dinner at your leisure tonight. Overnight Grand Junction, CO.

Day 3 - Arches National Park

After breakfast, we depart Grand Junction and follow the Colorado River to Moab, Utah. Our morning stop will be at Arches National Park. On our tour you will discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks. This Utah wonderland will amaze you with its unusual red rock formations.

Next, we head into downtown Moab for lunch on your own and free time to explore. After, we will climb to the top of the Mesa Verde where we will be spending the night. Enjoy dinner tonight while you look out over the Four Corners area. Overnight Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4 – Mesa Verde National Park

After breakfast this morning, we tour Mesa Verde National Park and see some of the cliff dwellings and surface ruins of the ancient Anasazi people. Mesa Verde offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. We will begin our tour at the Far View Museum for a look at the artifacts that have been found at this site. We will continue what is called the "ruins" road to view some of the other sites in the park. After lunch on your own at the Far View cafeteria, we head east to Durango, Colorado where we spend the next two nights. Your evening is free to enjoy downtown, Durango. Overnight Durango, CO.

  • Breakfast
Day 5 – Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This morning it is all aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The scenery is on a grand scale this morning as we follow the Animas River into the Rocky Mountains. There are no roads that follow these rails, so we are in true wilderness most of the way to the mining town of Silverton. Be sure to bring your camera to capture this breathtaking scenery. The train arrives in Silverton where you will have time for lunch and to shop and browse the town before we board our motorcoach and return to Durango where the remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Overnight Durango, CO.

  • Breakfast
Day 6 – En Route to Santa Fe

We depart Colorado this morning and turn south into the state of New Mexico. The scenery of northern New Mexico is lovely as we head through quaint Spanish towns that were founded in the 1700's and earlier. Our first stop will be at the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant for lunch. The adobe walls of this 18th-century hacienda are thick and cool, and the ambiance of this restaurant will take you back to the days of the Spanish settlers in northern New Mexico. After lunch, we will stop at Ortega's Weaving Shop to see the hand-woven textiles that this area is famous for. We will also stop at the Santuario de Chimayo, an 18th-century church that is known for its "curative soil." Many people take a bit of this healing dirt home for whatever "ails" them. Our final stop will be in New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe. We will spend the night just steps away from the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail and within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Overnight Santa Fe, NM.

*Ortega's Weaving Shop is not included in all departures*

  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 7 – Santa Fe Sightseeing / Albuquerque

This morning we enjoy an informative historical walking tour of Santa Fe. On our walk, we will hear about the history of the Spanish colonists that helped found this town in 1610 and see the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the United States. Visit the famed Loretto Chapel, stop at San Miguel, the oldest church, and more. You are free after our walk to enjoy the museums and galleries around the Plaza and have lunch in one of Santa Fe's local restaurants.

After lunch, we will head to Albuquerque. Upon arrival at our hotel, there is time to rest and freshen up before we enjoy an early dinner. You will want to get a good night's rest tonight. Tomorrow we are up with the birds to enjoy the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Overnight Albuquerque, NM.

  • Dinner
Day 8 – Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Set your alarm for 0'Dark Thirty this morning. We are off to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. On arrival at the Balloon Field, we will begin looking into the morning sky to see if the Dawn Patrol is up in the air. These 5-6 hot air balloons ascend into the early dawn sky to check the weather conditions. As they light up in the dark, they look like twinkling rainbow lights above your head. We will have time once we are on the field to enjoy the many arts and crafts booths before the ceremonies begin. Breakfast is included on the field this morning in the exclusive Chaser's Club lounge area. You can eat breakfast and watch the Balloons at the same time, but remember, this is a participatory event. You do not want just to stand on the sidelines and look. You can walk onto the field, talk to the balloonists, take pictures of the balloons as they are filled with cold air, then propane and then as they slowly inflate until the referees in the striped shirts (zebras we call them) tell each balloonist that they can lift off. There could be as many as 600 balloons in the air this morning! It is an event of a lifetime. 

After the balloons leave the field, we depart for a tour of Albuquerque. We stop at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Museum for a tour and the ceremonial dances that are performed during the Fiesta time. Then, it is off to Old Town for festivities and lunch on your own. We return to our hotel to rest before returning to the Balloon Fiesta for the Night Glow*, when the balloons stay on the ground and inflate and illuminate on the field. Dinner is on your own at one of the food booths. We return to our hotel after the fireworks show. Overnight Albuquerque, NM.

*Available September 29, October 3, 4, and 5 departures

  • Breakfast
Day 9 – Tour Conclusion

This morning is at leisure to pack and get ready for your flight or train home. We also reserve this day as a reserve Balloon day if needed. A group transfer to Albuquerque Amtrak Station will accommodate trains departing after 11:00 a.m. and a transfer to Albuquerque Airport will accommodate planes departing after 12:00 p.m.

  • Breakfast

Additional information

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


Best Western Plus Rio Grande Inn, Durango

Best Western Plus Rio Grande Inn, Durango

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DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Junction

DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Junction

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Far View Lodge, Mesa Verde National Park

Far View Lodge, Mesa Verde National Park

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DoubleTree Albuquerque Convention Center, Albuquerque

DoubleTree Albuquerque Convention Center, Albuquerque

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Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

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4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 46 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star


4 stars

Submitted 31 Oct 2023

The trip was awesome. The Travel Guide Ed and our Driver Ron were wonderful. I went as a single and met really nice and friendly people. The parks we visited and the scenery out west was just spectacular. I give it only a 4 because the overnight train ride from Chicago to Denver was rough. Amtrack doesn't really invest in their trains and the tracks are owned by the freight companies. The full day train ride from Denver to Grand Junction was really nice. I really enjoyed the Balloon festival. I would definitely travel with this company again.

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Kathleen R

5 stars

Submitted 23 Oct 2023

Outstanding tour director, Ed, and coach driver, Ron, helped make this a vacation dream come true! Fabulous scenery along the tour routes plus beautiful National Park destinations. Enjoyed learning history and culture of these Southwestern states. The Balloon Fiesta was the absolutely best event I've ever attended! A true dream come true for this gal.

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5 stars

Submitted 23 Oct 2023

This trip met all my expectations and helped to check some sites off my bucket list.

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5 stars

Submitted 23 Oct 2023

Absolutely fantastic. Tied for first place as my best trip.

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4 stars

Submitted 23 Oct 2023

Although the tour director (Bill) was good, I think he could have been a little more helpful by listing area restaurants that we could choose from while on our own for meals. He seemed to be looking up things as we had to do. We relied on recommendations from fellow tour members. The driver, Kevin, was excellant. But there were times when he wasn't as friendly as he could be. But, he does have a lot to worry about with that Big Bus. The biggest help would have been lanyards with our names as other tour groups provide. All in all, it was a great trip even though Amtrak cheated us out of 2 hours of travel due to a mudslide. (Not Tour fault certainly).

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3 stars

Submitted 21 Oct 2023

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enjoy the balloon festival due to weather conditions, but the second day make up day was not even offered to us to have due to the fact bus driver had another affair she needed to go to, and people had early flights. According to the agenda, there was a make up day and people should’ve made flight reservations after noon they did not. Actually we missed a lot of the balloon festival. Very disappointing.

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