We woke, blurry-eyed at 3:30 a.m. Christina and I stumbled around the stateroom on our Nile cruise to make sure that everything was set for our Luxor hot air balloon experience. We shook the kids awake, and with their excitement about the days adventure adding to our own, we raced down to the lobby to board our 4 am shuttle. The sky outside was still pitch black, but we knew that soon the pink and orange hues of the Egyptian sunrise would begin to light up the sky. And we would be soaking in the view from hundreds of feet above the magical Valley of the Kings. Hot air balloon rides in Luxor have been one of the most magical ways to soak in the incredible architectural and historical wonders of this Nile-side city for decades. And after our last-minute escape from Egypt, this was the last big adventure we had in the country.
One of the great things about the hot air balloon Luxor experience, is that it’s one of the few destinations that allows even young children to embark into the peaceful skies. And with our two boys, C, who is 9, and D who is 6, along with us on our Egypt adventures, we couldn’t wait for the opportunity for us all to experience our first hot air balloon ride as a family. This would totally fit into our love of unique and adventurous travel experiences.
How We Picked Our Luxor Hot Air Balloon Experience
Before our trip to Egypt, we were approached by Viator Travel asking if we wanted to test out their platform one our upcoming adventure. We’ve recommended Viator tours in the past, so it seemed like a great way to refresh our personal experiences while also taking part in another unforgettable family travel experience. Of all of the amazing Viator tours in Egypt, we settled on the Hot Air Balloon Luxor experience because it ticked off one of our all-time dreams. None of us had ever gone on a hot air balloon ride before.
The booking process was seamless. We registered for the Luxor hot air balloon tour on the Viator website. During the booking process we mentioned the number of passengers, selected our preferred launch time (the options were 4:30 am, 5:00 am, and 5:30 am). After some research, we learned that the 5:00 start time generally offers the best sunrise views, although, to be honest, the views were pretty incredible through the whole experience. So, no matter which Luxor balloon experience you choose, expect beautiful scenery.
Once you’ve chosen your time you just have to let them know where they need to pick you up from. You can choose a hotel or one of the Nile cruise ships.
Our Hot Air Balloon Luxor Experience
After we met our driver in the lobby of our Nile cruise we were escorted to the van. As we drove, we picked up two other couples before heading to a nearby marina. To get to our Luxor balloon tour we needed to cross from the East bank to the West Bank of the Nile. There is only one bridge that crosses the Nile in Luxor, so many tours use boats to make the crossing. On the boat we were served a small snack, coffee, tea, and juice box. When the rest of the group boarded, we set out across the river in the dark while our crew gave us a safety presentation and let us know exactly what to expect from our Luxor balloon ride.
As we crossed the Nile we enjoyed the peaceful feel of the cool desert wind on our faces. But it wasn’t long before we docked on the West side of the Nile and transported by another van into the Valley of the Kings where we had been exploring just the day before. The dawn light was just starting to give the sky a rich blue glow as the van dropped us off at the launch site. We piled out of the van and posed for a few photos and video from the balloon company’s content guy before wandering through the crowd of semi-inflated hot air balloons.
The sight of these massive quilts being blasted with flame to heat the air inside was, in a word, gobsmacking. The crews were at work expertly righting the baskets and straightening lines while all we had to do was wander through the crowd and take it all in.
Luxor Balloon Launch – Up, Up, and Away!
As our balloon, a tall white balloon with multi-colored checkers spiraling up its canvas, was ready to board, our captain ushered us into a circle to let us know how everything would proceed. The boarding was relatively simple, but did require some flexibility. The walls of the hot air balloon baskets are high. This is to keep people from falling out once they’re inside. But that means that you need to climb up on a step ladder and swing yourself over the top edge to get in. The boys, being much smaller, had to be lifted into the basket. Once inside the captain showed us all the brace position should the balloon be heading for a rougher-than-normal landing.
Each hot air balloon was set up with four compartments. They were designed to hold a total of 20 passengers. Each compartment could hold a maximum of five people and the captain was in the middle along with the gas canisters and the flame control. On our tour there were about 15 total passengers and one camera person.
We were honestly, a bit apprehensive about the whole experience. None of us had ever done this before. Would the peaceful photos of hot air balloons over epic destinations turn out to be a farce? It turns out that our fears were completely unfounded. The ride was so peaceful that we didn’t even feel the balloon lift up off of the ground. The only sign of our ascent was the view of the ground slowly disappearing beneath our feet. We slowly lifted up into the Luxor sky just as the sun began to peek above the horizon.
Witnessing The History Of Luxor From Above
As we continued up and up in our hot air balloon, Luxor began to spread out beneath us. The first thing we saw was the spectacular Valley of the Kings being lit up by the morning sun. We took turns trying to pick out the locations of the incredible tombs that were lying just below the mountain surface. Shortly afterward, we were flying over the tomb of the Queen King Hatsheput. Squinting, we could make out the sphinxes that guard the stairs to the second floor of the tomb. Everything unfolding below us was an absolute sight to behold.
When we reached, what we thought was, our cruising height, we began to descend without warning. Not quickly, but definitely enough that we noticed the ground coming up beneath us. At first we thought that we were just angling for a different view. But within moments we were in the midst of a field of sugar cane. Christina and I looked at each other as the bottom of the basket began to scrape the top of the sugar cane. As we looked up for explanation. The Captain, with a huge smile on his face, began to tell us about all of the sugar cane fields that help sustain the agricultural industry in Luxor. Turns out this was all part of the show!
Look Out Below
After running our hands through the tips of the sugar cane plants, we rose to the sky again. Soon we were flying over the massive Colossi of Memnon. The day before we had seen workers laboring at renovating and repairing these colossal statues. Shortly afterward the convoy of hot air balloons made their way towards the outskirts of Luxor. The vegetation, fed by the Nile River turned to the harsh desert. We began our long, slow descent towards the ground.
As we got lower we could see the chase teams on ground following us like ant chasing food. The various ground crews were covering the rough desert landscape. Their tools were motorbikes, vans, and even donkeys as they tracked the floating bags of gas above. As the wind pushed us in different directions the crews down below would adjust and make their way over the hills so that they could be in the predicted landing spots before we got there.
The captain expertly maneuvered balloon, choosing his landing zone and getting us in place. As we reached the ground the only indication of our landing was the subtle sliding of the bottom of the basket against the ground. The ground crew quickly gained control of the balloon and carried it across to a flat spot. Once we were safely on the ground we were asked to quickly exit the basket so that the ground crew could gather up the balloons in safety. We posed for a quick photo with our skilled pilot and began the trip home, even more excited about what we had just done then when we had begun. After this experience, we won’t think twice about taking up the next hot air balloon adventure that we can.
Check Out Our Luxor Hot Air Balloon Video
We got some great photos of our Luxor hot air balloon ride. But there are some experiences that just can’t be fully captured in a single frame. I’m really excited about this Luxor hot air balloon tour video. I think it really shares just how peaceful this Luxor tour really is.
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Tips For Luxor Hot Air Balloon Tours
The hot air balloon Luxor experience was magical. But there are always questions when undertaking a new experience in a new country. I’ve laid out some of the ones that I had myself, as well as questions that others have asked me since my family went on this adventure. If you have any questions that I haven’t answered here, feel free to put them in the comments below. Or you can always reach out to me by email. I will always get back to you.
Are Hot Air Balloons In Egypt Safe?
On paper, the hot air balloon safety record in Egypt is not the best. In the past 15 years there have been three major incidents, two of which have led to the deaths of passengers. However, when you balance this with the thousands of Luxor hot air balloons that launch each week, the number of incidents barely add up to a fraction of a percentage of all flights. While doing a Google search on the experience before we left, it seemed that disaster was all over the front page. But on digging deeper and doing the math, I felt comfortable enough to choose this as an experience for my family.
As always, I recommend partnering with reputable companies. Do your research beforehand. Egypt is a bit like the Wild West in places. So make sure that the company you choose to fly with has a good record, responds to comments, and has solid reviews. Booking your hot air balloon ride through reputable agencies such as Viator also helps to ensure that you are booking with verified companies.
That all being said, you know what makes you comfortable. If you wake up in the morning and the weather seems bad to you, I recommend canceling. The flight companies’ safety constraints may not match your own, so always go with your gut.
How Much Are Hot Air Balloon Rides In Egypt?
Egypt has to be one of the most budget-friendly hot air balloon destinations in the world. You will find prices ranging from $75-$150 for hot air balloon rides. You can save money as well by combining your Luxor balloon ride with a tour of the Luxor archaeological sites.
Can Children Ride Hot Air Balloons In Luxor?
One of the reasons we picked Luxor for our first hot air balloon experience is that they allow even young children to ride. In fact, our hot air balloon basket had slots for smaller children (such as D) to look out of without the fear of falling. Heightwise, I recommend children be over 4 ft tall in order to be able to see over the edges of the basket, but smaller children can still enjoy the experience.
There Are So Many Flight Times, Which One Should I Choose?
A 3:30-4:00 am wake up time might sound pretty gnarly. But you won’t regret choosing a sunrise tour. These typically launch between 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning depending on the time of year. Do some quick research on the sunrise times at the date that you’re in Luxor. Aim for your launch time to be about 30 minutes before.
Beyond the magical views, sunrise hot air balloon rides are also more comfortable. They also usually last longer. As the desert air heats up, so does the wind. This can lead to shorter flights and rougher landings.
Can You Take Photos On a Luxor Hot Air Balloon Tour
There are some interesting rules surrounding photography on hot air balloon Luxor tours. The Egyptian army isn’t keen on people photographing military bases. Although from this article, you can tell, that yes, people DO take photos on these tours. The general rule is, ‘don’t take photos near the military bases’. And if you are landing near the bases, hide your cameras. I’ve never heard of someone being challenged. But why take the chances. Our captain let us know when photography was safe, and when it wasn’t advised. So feel free to ask.
What About Tipping?
Like everything in Egypt, there are tips for the Luxor hot air balloon experience. That being said, you won’t be tipping the well-paid captain. Instead, the money that is collected (usually before you land) is for the hard-working ground crew. These folks are as responsible for your safety as the captain is. And as you land, you’ll see just how hard they work. Dig in and throw them a few Egyptian Pounds.
What Should I Wear On My Hot Air Balloon Ride?
The temperature can drop a lot during the Egyptian nights. And temperatures drop even further as you lift into the sky. Make sure you dress warmly for your hot air balloon ride. We always travel with packable down jackets like these. They weigh nothing and pack up super small. We used them all the time during our travels through Egypt.
Disclosure: We were guests of Viator Travel for our hot air balloon over Luxor tour. All opinions remain our own. Wandering Wagars is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.