The purpose of visiting Egypt was to cross something (Giza Pyramids) off the bucket list, so I figured I’d keep the trend going and cross something else off the list whilst in Egypt…
…hot air ballooning!
Whilst doing research about cool things to see and do in Luxor, I kept on seeing recommendations for a sunrise hot air balloon over the stunning Egyptian city. It seemed like a bit of a splurge (I paid around $60 but prices online appear much higher) but I had spent far less moolah than I had expected, so the splurge seemed well worth it.
There are two departure times each morning, and believe me, you want the earlier one! It does involve a rather heinous 4am wake up (kill me) but it is worth feeling like the walking dead for a few hours.
Getting to the departure point involved a short boat ride across the Nile (with coffee, thank god) followed by a short bus ride. We came to a patch of open fields very close to the Valley of the Kings, were given a quick safety briefing and then waited (im)patiently for our balloon to get moving.
I am rather glad that there is no video footage of my climbing into the basket, because if I looked as spazzy as I felt, it truly would have been a sight! But despite falling face first into the basket (yep, I am that unco) I could not have cared less – it just meant that I was that much closer to flight!
After about 10 minutes of playing with the flames in the balloon, we started to drift up into the sky, as if by magic.
The first light had fallen as the sun emerged from its slumber, and it painted the rocky lands of the valley below a hue of ever so slightly burnt orange. In the distance I could see the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, and could even make out excavation zones in the valley itself.
As the sun continued to rise, so did more balloons. But even though I could see at least five balloons off in the distance, somehow, it felt like the sun was rising for only us.
The Nile stretched out in the distance, and it looked even more ethereal when covered by the steam and smoke that seemed to rise from the very land itself.
This next photograph is one of my favourite shots from my time in Egypt. There is something very special about the way that the shades of orange and magenta seamlessly blend together.
Every now and then our balloon would descend a little and bring us closer to land. I love how the boat in the next shot appears very tiny, but somehow still manages to command the focus of the shot.
As each minute passed, the sun rose a little higher, and the sky became a little brighter. It was impossible to get bored with the landscape – it looked a little bit different with each passing moment.
I never worked out exactly where all this smoke came from. I could not see any fires burning, nor could I smell them. Wherever it came from, it made for some bloody beautiful shots.
All too soon it was time to gently drift down towards the ground. The initial descent was nice and relaxed, but dropping down that final metre and landing wasn’t exactly smooth! Every time we landed, it would only be a few seconds before another gust of wind would blow and we ended up kinda hopping across a field of long grass!
It took about 15 minutes of hopping (and the effort of at least 10 men on the ground pulling on our ropes) before we were steady enough to de-balloon.
As I said goodbye to the balloon, it also occurred to me that I was saying goodbye to Egypt too.
My time in Egypt was incredibly short and unbelievably amazing. It gave me a taste of a country that I know I will return to one day, and provided me with some travel experiences that I will never forget; so as sad as I was to leave, I also left feeling content – because I know I will be back one day.
As always, thanks for reading and happy solo travelling xx
Getting to Luxor: The overnight train from Cairo is a popular choice, but domestic flights are cheap and abundant for travellers who are short on time
Luxor Hot Air Balloon: Quoted prices are around $100 – but you can get a cheaper deal by booking with late notice
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Take a jacket with you, the mornings can be chilly