When you visit Luxor, one of the must-do is the Hot Air Balloon. Flying up high will allow you to see the world’s largest open-air museum. That is the Valley of the King and Valley of the Queen.
Hurghada Red Sea – Luxor Journey
We depart from Hurghada Red Sea to Luxor and guess what time do we leave from our hotel to Luxor? You will be shocked to learn that we depart at around 2 am from Hurghada to travel to Luxor. From Hurghada to Luxor it takes about 4 hours to arrive by bus. We hope to arrive at Luxor at around 6 am so that we will be able to catch the hot air balloon and see the sunrise. The best timing for hot air balloon is in the early hour that is during sunrise.
The road that links the ancient city of Luxor and Hurghada Red Sea is mostly deserts!
What to expect to travel in the desert at midnight?
Midnight travel can be quite an experience. The good things are you will be able to see stars in the desert when the coach passed by the wide desert. Stargazing in the desert is simply amazing! The darkest skies in the desert are the best place to watch stars. This is also where stars shine – they don’t twinkle, they shine like a diamond, so bright.
Traveling in the desert during the night can be dangerous too! There are lots of roadblocks from the police with big machine guns and that can be quite scary to look at. Similar to the situation in Xinjiang China, security is tight here too. At one point, our coach being held up for about 30 minutes! There are restrictions to drive across the desert for tourists, some needed a permit.
Hot Air Balloon Pick Up
Once we arrived in Luxor, we check-in to our 4 days 3 nights Nile cruise that sails from Luxor to Aswan (The cruise waited for us while we went for the hot air balloon ride). Nile cruise is super popular in Egypt and your tour usually includes that.
Later we were picked up by the hot-air balloon staff. We first catch a boat taxi then a mini-van to reach to the hot-air balloon take-off area.
Travel with boat taxi is common in Eygpt
The boat taxi brings us to the opposite side of the river to catch a minivan then to the hot-air balloon area. The boat taxi provides tea and coffee and little snacks and the duration is only 15 mins.
A minivan that will bring us to the hot-air balloon take-off place, about 10 min journey.
At the hot air balloon launching ground
We arrived in the hot-air balloon take-off ground at around 6.30-7.00 am. We were late! In Egypt, don’t expect people are on time. In order to watch the sunrise, you need to leave very early and arrive at the take-off ground at around 5 am.
We waited for another half an hour for our basket and hot-air balloon to get ready. There is actually a lot of work in the hot air balloon that comes at the beginning and the end of the flight. The take-off time and landing time are both very critical period and we must listen to the pilot’s instructions carefully.
The staffs begin to blow up the balloon with a ventilator until the balloon is fully inflated. Then it’s time to heat the balloon with the blower till the balloon can be put up vertically.
We are all ready to board the basket.
How much does hot-air balloon cost?
Hot air balloon rides are not cheap, I tried once in Turkey and it cost me USD 200 per person. Over here in Luxor Egypt, we paid USD 150. At first, I thought it is a lot cheaper compared to Turkey but later I checked online and there are better deals and as cheap as USD 80. So do some research on the market price then decide. Some travel desk in the hotel lobby offers a good price too. I bumped into a French lady who has the same ride with us but only paid USD 80.00 and she booked it from the hotel lobby.
A hot air balloon is highly dependent on the weather. If it is raining or the wind is too strong, the hot-air balloon is not able to go up and have to cancel.
Our hot air balloon sits up to 22 people. You don’t have a lot of space to move around and it is best to stay at your spot and stick to it. The pilot can also rotate the balloon so you can still get the full 360-degree experience.
How safe is hot air balloon ride?
You may ask if hot air balloon safe? I am sure you have heard about the balloon crash and I can understand that you are worried. I am not going to lie there have been a few cases of accidents over the past 10 years. Balloons are checked daily by trained engineers to ensure your safety. If you have not tried before, you are encouraged to try at least once. Think about it this way, there are more traffic accidents happen on the roads than hot air balloon ride.
Best season to go up?
Do you know when is the best time to visit Egypt? The best time is during winter month Nov to Mar, the same goes with a hot air balloon ride. The best is to go up when the weather is cooler. It was quite hot when I was up despite the winter month of December. The burner that lights up the fire adds up the heat. The burner works as an engine that makes the balloon rise. Every time the pilot light up more fire in the burner, we feel hotter.
Once we were on board, we did some rehearsals to practice landing stance and listen carefully to the pilot’s instruction. Slowly our balloon got off the ground and everyone was very excited.
The sky is filled with colorful balloons, quite a beautiful sight.
Valley of the Kings & Valley of the Queens
Ancient Egyptians and ancient Chinese share some similarities, they built massive tombs underground thousands of years ago. The most famed collection of such elaborate tombs in Egypt is called the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens that lies on the Niles’ west bank near Luxor. When we were up in the hot air balloon, we could see everything from the top.
More the 60 tombs in the Valley of the King, vary from small tombs and large tombs but too bad many of the tombs were looted thousands of years ago. What remains were the artwork on the walls that allow archaeologists to learn about the lives of the Pharoahs.
King Tut was found here!
The most famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings is that of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, sometimes called King Tut. It was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, the Englishman and had been largely untouched by thieves and vandals.
Interesting sights from the top
From the top we saw many interesting things, archeologists and tomb workers are still working hard at the sites, digging and uncovering from the tomb sites. We also saw the villagers’ houses that have the flat roofs, the unusual thing is chickens and goats were kept on the rooftop.
The flat roofs were designed to keep the heat of the summer out and protect from the cold winter night. Similar to Ughur in Xinjiang China, people often slept atop their houses flat roofs to escape the heat in the summer.
Our guide also added that many of the unfinished housing in Egypt is because people don’t want to pay property tax. Once a house is completed and has a roof, then the owners have to pay property tax.
Peep at the local villagers’ life
From time to time we also heard children on the ground greeting “hello” to us! Villagers here seem to be so friendly and I am not sure if they have enough privacy as hundred and thousands of tourists are watching them from the top. Checking on their daily life, such as feeding chicken, hanging their laundry, canning their children, smoking their shisha water pipe and many more.
The Nile River View
I was shocked to see the amount of greenery beside the Nile river. Not very far from here, it was desert all over the place, ancient ruins and archeological sites, tombs and sands. The Nile is a life source in Egypt and you can witness it from the top of the hot air balloon. It is such a wonderful sight to see the lush and beautiful greenery on the Nile’s banks.
The hot air balloon landing
Since it was not my first time of the hot air balloon ride, I knew what is coming. The landing site and launching site are two different areas.
When I was in Turkey, the hot air balloon land on the back of a truck and the landing was rough and kind of scary. But this time in Luxor, the landing was very smooth and perfect.
Once the balloon is stationary, the ground crews (believed to be villagers who lived nearby) hold the basket down to allow us to disembark.
When we were in Turkey, we had celebrations with a champaign after the landing. Photographs are taken and commemorative certificates handed out. Over here in Luxor, there is no champaign celebration but certificates were given to us without our names written on it. Lol.
A total shock!
Kids from the village rushed to us once we land and out from our basket. It was shocking to see them riding their donkeys charging at us. They asked food from us and told us they were hungry. They knew that tourists usually have their breakfast pack from the hotel with them.
We gave them all of our breakfast packs which include a large orange, apple, bread with ham and fruit juice. It is really heartbroken to see the village kids grabbed the breakfast packs and fight over it. I have not seen anything like this and it was a total shock for me. They seem so hungry and never seen food before.
If you are doing a hot air balloon ride in Luxor, please bring along your breakfast pack and pass it to the kids.
If you asked me if you should do a hot air balloon in Luxor Egypt, then my answer is -100 % Yes. If you miss the hot air balloon, it is as if you don’t have chicken in KFC. Hot air balloon is one of the must-do in Luxor and flying up high allow you to see the world’s biggest open-air museum – that is the Valley of the Kings and Queens with bird eyes view.