Is it safe? Is it scary when it ascends? Are there stomach-churning moments? What if it lands in the wrong place? I don’t know how to fly, can I still do it? :-p Were some of the many apprehensions we had before our first Hot Air Ballooning flight over the Hatta Desert in UAE.

2 balloon flights later, (the second one being in Cappadocia with our daughter on board too), we concluded it is one of the most exhilarating adventure sport on our Travel Bucket List with possibly the least adrenaline rush!

Hot Balloon gliding over Hatta Desert Dubai

Hot Air Balloons glide over the Hatta Desert near Dubai

Here’s what you can expect on a Hot Air Ballooning Experience:

Unlike many other adventure sports that also deal with heights – like skydiving, paragliding, zip lining or bungee jumping – Hot Air Ballooning does not involve you being suspended in mid air, does not involve sudden ascent and is usually done in a larger group.

Fortunately, you can fly on these magical parachutes in many parts of the world, from Cappadocia in Turkey to Bagan in Myanmar, from Napa Valley in California to Pushkar in India! You can fly over a variety of terrain like caves, vineyards, valleys or deserts. Itching to add a hot air balloon experience in your next vacation?

If you’re nervous about any probable risks, anxious or just curious on exactly how this whole thing works – we’ve got you covered.

While the ballooning experience and procedures vary depending on the site, weather, the ballooning company and even depending on the pilot – here are some common things you can expect:

Early morning rise:

Most Ballooning flights go up just before sunrise, which means you leave your hotel at unearthly hours of the morning. Of course, the flight more than makes up for the lack of sleep!

Early Morning Hot Air Balloon Ride Hatta Desert Dubai

Walking to the Hot Air Balloon Base at Hatta Desert – 4 am with a mild drizzle

Prepping for the flight:

You will be allocated a group (group size depends on the capacity of the basket like 12 or 16 or 24). The Company Staff or your pilot will brief you on safety regulations and you will then be taken to the balloon. Watching the Balloon being inflated is almost as exciting as the balloon ride (at least that’s what I thought)… The balloon crew helps you climb into the basket (the basket has notches to step on or footstools are provided as climb-on support). The Basket is usually divided into sections and each section can hold 2 or 4 people (standing) during the flight.

Hot Air Balloon being inflated at Cappadocia

The Crew inflating the Balloon at Cappadocia, Turkey

Climbing into a Hot Air Balloon Dubai Hatta Desert

Climbing into the Balloon at the Hatta Desert

The Ascent:

With everyone ‘set-in’ in the basket and ready to fly, the pilot roars up the balloon (not even remotely as roaring as aircraft engines), and you gently ascend. The ascent is slow and gentle and you don’t feel the kind of adrenaline rush that you find in high speed adventure activities. Spectacular views emerge and you struggle to decide if you should ‘enjoy the view’ or ‘capture the moments on camera’! Many balloon flights have photo equipment installed by the company that you can fall back on if you don’t want to take pictures yourself.

Hot Air Balloon Soars into the air Hatta Desert Dubai

The Balloon soars up in the air!

The Landing:

While the descent is once again slow and gentle, the actual landing is a bit bumpy and rough as the basket touches down (more like hits) on the ground. You are of course instructed by your pilot before the actual landing to brace yourself. After landing, the company transportation takes you back to where you started (or directly back to your accommodation sometimes).

Hot Air Balloon Descends Cappadocia

A Hot Air Balloon descends into a valley of rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey

Dependence on Weather:

Whether your scheduled Balloon flight will take off that day or not, will completely depend on the weather that morning and the pilot’s assessment of winds. In Cappadocia, for example, our flight was cancelled for 2 mornings in a row due to bad weather before we got on board on the 3rd day. (Luckily for us, we had 5 days in Cappadocia).

Some Tips to note before your first Hot Air Ballooning Flight:

  • Always book your balloon flight earlier on in your trip.That way,even if there are cancellations due to weather, you still have days left to give it another shot.
  • No matter how warm the country is when you visit, you have to dress up in layers on a balloon flight as it gets cold as you ascend (how many layers will depend on how warm or cold the country is, but layers for sure). That way, you will be comforted when it’s cold up in mid air and you can shed off the layers when it gets warm after you touchdown. Wear comfortable shoes too as you will be standing through the balloon flight (usually 45 to 60 minutes).
  • Make sure you have a light breakfast before you get onto your flight – as the transportation, waiting, prep stage and the actual flight – can be anywhere between 3 to 5 hours and you dont want to be famished.
  • Ensure your cameras/ phone / other equipment that you use for photography have slings that you can put around your hand or neck – not the best memory of your flight if your camera were to slip off from your hand in mid air!
  • And finally, take moments to enjoy the breath-taking views (and not just capture them on camera).

Itching to go on your first (or second or third) Hot Air Balloon flight? Add it to your Itch List now!

the itch list

Deepti Gadekar

Posted by Deepti Gadekar

A traveling mom and a serious foodie! Loves to Travel, Eat and enjoy the little things in life! Itching to visit Myanmar, learn Mandarin and go zumba!

6 Comments

  1. Great! Thanks for setting my expectations for a Hot air balloon ride, now just to find the place to take one..:)

    Reply

    1. Deepti Gadekar

      Indeed, we re now spoilt for choice for destinations with hot air ballooning sites now 🙂

      Happy Travels Amarja!

      Reply

  2. Thanks Deepti – that was an extremely informative and helpful post! I’ve always wondered about this but never really put it on my bucket list. But now, I’m excited about it. Will definitely keep this in mind for our next vacation – if we can chose the destination accordingly. Let’s see.

    Reply

    1. Deepti Gadekar

      Great to read that Kulpreet! Would love to hear about your experience when you do! Cheers!

      Reply

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