Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt: Soaring Above the Valley of the Kings

This fall we spent a magical morning soaring above the Valley of the Kings inside a hot air balloon in Luxor, Egypt.  Watching the sunrise over the scenic and historic Al Qurn mountain ranks as one of my most memorable travel experiences to date.  Despite having to wake up at 4am, the picturesque panoramas made the early endeavor worthwhile.  As such, I would highly recommend the experience to any adventurous traveler.

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt: Soaring Above the Valley of the Kings

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. My favorite photo of the day captures my friend, Linda from Las Vegas, who we met on our Viking Cruise.
Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. My favorite photo of the day captures my friend, Linda from Las Vegas, who we met on our Viking Cruise.

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt: Soaring Above the Valley of the Kings

The Logistics of our Hot Air Balloon Ride in Luxor, Egypt

As part of our Viking River Cruise down the Nile River, we elected the optional hot air ballon ride in Luxor.  For roughly $200 USD per person we planned to soar high above the Nile’s west bank capturing the famed Valley of the Kings.  Since I had never before been on a hot air balloon, I was certainly not going to miss the chance to do so in Egypt.

The only downside is that we had to wake up at 4am in order to be on the balloons before sunrise.  Unfortunately, in this part of the world dawn commences before six am in late September.  This meant we needed to disembark our Viking Cruise ship by 4:30am.  Thereafter we boarded a bus which schlepped us to a dock further down the east side of the river.  From there we crossed to the west bank on colorful aquatic taxis.  Ultimately, vans transported us to an open field filled with a colorful sea hot air balloons and about one hundred spectators.

Amid a fence of green grass we watched as workers carefully laid out the nylon globes.  Pilots inside the whicker baskets filled the spheres with a gaseous cool air mixture by operating a value on a propane fired-fan.  As I approached closer, the heat from the flame warmed my face, making the adventure much more real.  We were actually going to float over the Valley of the Kings in a fiery, gas powered balloon!  My excitement elevated as the balloons inflated, signifying our imminent departure towards the heavens.

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. The balloons take off at different times and then land at different times, and even locations. It's all dependent on the wind.
Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. The balloons take off at different times and then land at different times, and even locations. It’s all dependent on the wind.

Floating in a Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt

Under close instruction, workers separated the crowds into smaller groups of approximately twenty patrons per balloon.  Next, we were guided individually up a wooden step ladder into one of four compartments of the gondola.  Once the whicker basket was evenly filled weight-wise, the pilot began to ignite the mixture of propane and air, propelling us slowly into the sky.

Languidly we lifted, calmly taking us where ever the wind blew.  Primarily we hovered over the Al Qurn mountain known as the Valley of the Kings.  This is where many of the famous pharaohs were buried in subterranean tombs packed with riches and treasures.  In fact, later that day we would explore these same spots on foot.

For about an hour we flew at an elevation of two hundred to two thousand feet.  The pilot essentially controlled our altitude with how much or how little he operated the flame.  Both rising high and traveling low offered different but equally interesting visuals.  At one point I felt like I could touch the earth.  Soon after, we’re towering thousands up feet above admiring a panorama hundreds of miles away.

In the distance the other balloons splashed across the sky looking almost toy like.  I realized for the first time in my life, I’m going to watch the sunrise from inside a hot air balloon.  As the sun peaked out from beyond the horizon, it illuminated the sky in pinkish purple hues.

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. Balloons rise because the hot air inside creates buoyancy, since it's lighter than cooler air outside.
Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. Balloons rise because the hot air inside creates buoyancy as the hot air is lighter than the cooler air outside.

Departing our Hot Air Balloon Adventure in Luxor, Egypt

Gradually the pilot released less hot air into the balloon causing it to descend close to the ground.  As we hovered above buildings and fenced-in areas,  I wondered how many times the wind or careless pilots caused these spheres to run into hazards like electrical wires.  What if we landed on highly-traveled roads or in unaccessible areas like mountain tops?

Then we approached what appeared to be a prison.  Certainly we were not going to land inside its wall.  But what would the guards think of a hot air balloon landing along side?  Luckily our pilot advised us the prison was new and unoccupied.

In a open field nearby the pilot found a field in which to land.  Briefly he schooled us on the proper landing position.  This involves grabbing the side of the basket opposite to which we are moving.  Then we needed to bend our legs and crouch low.  Presumably this helps maintain the gondola up right.

As the balloon kissed the ground ever so gently we assumed the landing position.  Our perfect landing was met by the arrival of vans ready to pick us up.  This is when I realized they had been tracking us from the sky.  The whole operation impressed me: from the ride to the landing, I enjoyed the venture thoroughly.

Finally we exited the balloon on the same wooden ladder, packed into the vans, and returned to the same motorboats to repeat the ride home.  Once back on our Nile cruise there was no time to sleep.  Our guide had planned a full day of tours for us.  After all, we didn’t come to Egypt to sleep.

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. As with aircrafts, hot air balloons cannot fly beyond the atmosphere, which reaches about 700km (435 miles).

My Overall Sentiments of Riding a Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt

Really almost anyone can enjoy the experience of riding above the Valley of the Kings in a hot air balloon.  In fact, in our group a pair of eight-five year old ladies and a partially-disabled man managed to partake.  I would say that the various steps from the motorboats to getting into the gondola did provide some obstacles, but they were overcome with some assistance.

Flying is really wind dependent, so if there are large gusts, the ride and landing will be a bit more interesting and dangerous.  However, my journey passed calmly and smoothly.  Without a doubt I would recommend the experience to almost anyone, and would repeat it myself.

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut can be seen to the bottom right of this photo. The following day we went to visit this very sight.
Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut can be seen to the bottom right of this photo. The same day we went to visit this very sight.

Hot Air Balloon Booking Details in Luxor, Egypt

Viking Cruises used Dream Balloons to book our hot air balloon adventure in Luxor, Egypt.  It cost a couple of hundred USD per person for the sunrise tour.  I highly recommend Viking Cruises and any company they use, including Dream Balloons.  You can book the trip online using the online form or email on their website.

Dream Balloons: Phone +20 100 069 6297, Luxor, Egypt

Hot Air Balloon Map in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt
Hot Air Balloon Map in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt
Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. Hot air balloons are typically made from nylon, while the part closest to the flame is made from a fire-retardant material like Nomex.
Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt. Hot air balloons are typically made from nylon, while the part closest to the flame is made from a fire-retardant material like Nomex.

Read More About Egypt

Marveling at the Neck Bending Beauty of Hathor Temple in Qena, Egypt

Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb: Capturing Over Three Thousand Years of Egyptian History

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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2 Comments

  1. Kailash Sahu
    February 4, 2019 / 12:34 am

    “Thank you for providing such a wonderful trip experience. We are indebted to you Devy, for life.

  2. Vinod Balchandani
    February 13, 2019 / 1:02 am

    a very picturesque place indeed ?

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