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Hot Air Ballooning Over Luxor

Posted on the 20 July 2018 by Cheekymeeky

I wasn't that keen on hot air ballooning over Luxor - something that was heavily advertised to me as a must-do experience. However, my daughter the Snubnose was excited about it, and since neither of us have ever done it before, we thought we'd give it a try. And now almost three months later, I am sharing all about this experience - the good and the bad.

Price and Booking Details

Our hot air balloon flight was a last-minute decision. We consulted with the local guide and just forked up the money - a whopping 150 USD per person. Eeps! This is why you should always plan travel itineraries well in advance. After reading my blog post, if you decide you want to book this, check the rates here. You might see some good deals. On the other hand, ballooning depends heavily on the weather on that day. Luxor especially seems prone to sand storms, so keep the weather conditions and return policy in mind when you book.

Anyway, our booking was last-minute, and expensive. Still, the real deterrent was the 3:20 wake up call time. We needed to be ready by 3:20 to board a boat to cross the Nile. We were on the East bank of the Nile, and would need to sail to the West Bank where the balloons were set up.

Getting Ready

So, we were up not-so-bright but definitely early, and sharp at 3:20, we made our way to the boat that was picking us up. They served us up some tea and biscuits, while the captain of the hot air balloon (never knew there was such a person), went over all the safety regulations with us.

There were a lot of safety regulations, and I was hard put to keep my eyes open while he droned on endlessly. There were some Chinese tourists along with us on the boat, and one of them was openly restless. The captain shut him super-quickly, and we all were made to realize in no uncertain terms that he is the boss of this little expedition.

Here's a photo of our captain. He's smiling and cheerful, but also really particular about safety (which is a good thing, of course).

After the lecture, we crossed the river, and made our way to to where the balloon rides were organized. And OMG, my heart did a little flutter when I saw all the people busy getting the balloons blown up.

I can't say that I have thought too much about how hot air balloons work. I certainly did not expect to see so many people on the ground working so hard to get the balloons up in the air. As a balloon expanded, it was pretty hard to control. There were multiple people with ropes pulling the balloon hard to keep it down.

All this meant that we spent a lot of time just hanging around watching them while slowly each balloon took flight. Sunrise came and went, which was very disappointing. I really would have liked to see the sun rise over the Nile while I was up in the balloon.

Our turn eventually came, and we clambered in rather clumsily into the bucket. There is only one hole in the bucket to get stand on and get in. If you are on the shorter side like I am, getting in is a very undignified process with people pushing your backside to get you in. The bucket itself is standing room only, and was packed full with people. There's no room to move (and you are not supposed to either). Overall, not the most comfortable experience.

Up in the air

The balloon swayed in the wind, until suddenly the people let go of the ropes and suddenly you are up 20 feet in the air and only going higher.

And the view below us.

The balloon ride was a weird mixture of sublime and weird. The experience of going up and seeing the view of the area all around was amazing. We were in the vicinity of the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut's temple. However, the ride once we were up was underwhelming. Our captain swiftly took us to a view point and then stopped. There was nothing particularly special about the spot. Presumably he didn't want to use up any more fuel than he had to, so we just drifted quietly in the air for the next half hour until our time was up. The way we were standing all cooped up even a conversation was challenging. Cue awkward craning of necks and nervous laughter and trying to get whatever shots we could.

Another bummer was that we weren't allowed to take DSLR cameras on the balloon. In hindsight, that was wise, as I don't think there would have been enough space. However, it was extremely challenging to take any kind of decent long-distance shots using the phone. The Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut's temple were much too far to feature in the photo.

The only decent monument I could capture is this one of Howard Carter's house - the man who unearthed Tutankhamun's tomb.

I kinda loved the whole Martian appearance of the landscape though.

Overall Thoughts on the Experience

I thought it was a little meh. However now looking at the photos and videos I have, I think it was certainly a lovely experience, maybe more so in photos than in actuality.

After drifting along peacefully for an hour we landed gently and got out of the bucket thankful to have some stretching room. We then made our way back to our cruise boat where a hearty breakfast was waiting for us.

Post-breakfast, we came back here, this time to explore the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut's temple by land. Fodder for another blog post.

Hope you enjoyed this post on our experience hot-air ballooning in Egypt.

If you have any questions on our trip or itinerary, leave a message in the comments or email me, I"ll get back with details.


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