I was browsing Facebook one evening when an advert from viator.com highlighting a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of Kings came up on my feed. Whilst living in Melbourne and often seeing balloons drift over the city, it was always a dream of taking a balloon ride. My interest was piqued enough that I booked our trip to Egypt. You can read the trip summary here.
As we began booking our trip to Egypt, I started learning my lessons that the Valley of the Kings is nowhere near the Great Pyramids of Giza. Giza is next to Cairo, like New Jersey is next to New York. The Valley of Kings is near Luxor, an hour’s flight from Cairo.
The Night Before the Big Balloon Day Arrives!
The touring company contacted us the day before our ride to confirm our hotel location and time for pickup. With our details locked in with the hot air balloon company, it was time to ensure all cameras and recording gear was charged up and ready to go. It was an exciting time, so we had a quiet evening with a view to attempting to get an early night for the 4:15 am start. Our hotel (In Luxor Nile Apartments) was on the West Bank of Luxor. Hence, the actual meeting area for everyone flying that day was only a 5-minute walk straight down the road from us (10 minutes by minibus as the road is terrible). I doubt it happens very often; I suspect we were picked up by a different tour operator with which we were booked as we had to change buses four times before we were on our way out to the balloon launch area.
We arrive around 5 am as hot air balloons fly in the early morning because that is when conditions are the most stable. Early morning typically provides the best chance for good weather – allowing for cool temperatures and the rise of the morning sun, making for spectacular views. As we arrive, a few balloons are firing up; we hop into the basket with six slots on each side of the pilot slot, with three people in each space. So, we had around 36 people in the balloon basket (18 on either side of the centre). They give a brief overview and instruction, particularly around this ‘landing position’, which is squatting down, but this would only be if you were dropping quite fast as we didn’t need to use it when we landed.
Above is one of the views you will get, worker tombs and living areas in the foreground. Behind is Hatshepsut as pharaoh. Hatshepsut undertook ambitious building projects, particularly in the area around Thebes. Her most outstanding achievement was the enormous memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, considered one of the architectural wonders of ancient Egypt. Behind is the Valley of the Kings.
It doesn’t take long after lift to get pretty high into the air, and you have a fantastic experience and views. It is tranquil, peaceful, and wonderful but also exhilarating simultaneously. If you suffer a bit of vertigo, it would be advisable to take up a position towards the back of the slot. Our pilot was quite talkative and made a few jokes along the lines of ‘reading the pilot instructions’, which I asked if he only did in the morning! I won’t go into the other information the pilot gave out; you will get to experience it. We flew up to around 1600 feet and were up and down quite a bit. Our pilot had grounded us out amongst the papyrus plants at one point. It seems that depending on your height dictates which direction the balloon travels in; as we were up and down, we looked to go around in a square. Our ride lasted an hour, which the operator highlighted as a win for us. Afterwards, they take a few photos; you are asked to drop your tip into a jar for the ground crew and fairly swiftly bundle back to the minibus home so they can get the next bunch of punters into the air. We returned to our apartment and debriefed before bed for a rest.
We were able to video the entire balloon ride on the GoPro 10 in full 360°, hopefully, edited and uploaded here soon.
The Best Nile River Cruise
Later that day, we had the best 3-4 hours on the Nile River for a cruise courtesy of Ramadan, who works as the ‘ferryman’ for our hotel. Unfortunately, there was no wind on this day; otherwise, Ramadan would have pulled out the sailing boat. Instead, we took the motorboat up to Banana Island for a short tour (you don’t need much time on Banana Island), then further up to a tiny bit of sand where we could swim in the Nile. We anchored, and after a nice little swim, we watched Ramadan jump in the Nile from the boat’s top. We went further up the river doing some sightseeing until Ramadan cut the engine, had us sit on top of the ship and let us drift for the next few hours or so back down the Nile during a magnificent sunset. It was nice that Ramadan joined us. We chatted about all things life-related. It was a fantastic few hours which I’d highly recommend doing whilst in Luxor.
Later that evening, we returned to our favourite eating restaurant in Luxor to finish the day off. Egypt played Sudan in the 2nd leg of the World Cup qualifier (they are football-mad in Egypt) that evening. We watched it in the restaurant. As Ramadan took us over the river before the game, he kept telling us how Mo Sala was his brother and how much he adored him. In the penalty shootout, Mo goes first for Egypt and sends it way over the top (probably still going up now), and although not the only one to miss, Egypt is out of the World Cup. On our way back across the river, Ramadan politely says, “Mo Sala, not my brother, just a perfect friend, ” which had us all laughing! The Egyptians do have a sense of humour!
What we’d do again:
Do the hot air balloon ride again. Great experience for the price, but I would check that it will travel down a bit. Our trip stayed around the same area.
Do the late afternoon/evening boat ride with Ramadan. Hopefully, a bit of wind would go the sailing boat.
What we’d do differently:
It was a great day; not sure I’d do anything different further on this one.
Watch our full Valley of the Kings Hot Air Balloon ride below in full GoPro 360° vision.