Luxor From Above | A Hot Air Balloon Adventure

In two jam-packed weeks of touring Egypt with On the Go, I never once felt rested, but the exhaustion was absolutely worthwhile.

In the first five nights, we’d stayed at a hotel in Cairo, attempted to snooze on a jerky, 13-hour overnight train to Aswan, spent two nights under the stars on a felucca on the Nile (on which I didn’t sleep a wink other than my daytime cat-naps) and then spent about half a night fitfully napping at a comfortable hotel with the most magnificent shower I’d ever seen.

(It would have been the most magnificent shower ever even if I hadn’t just gone three days without a bathing on the felucca trip. There were literally more than two dozen nozzles. It took me 15 minutes to turn it on and I ended up having to shower with the door open because I couldn’t figure out how to turn the steam off and I was suffocating. It was the best shower I’ve ever ever ever seen in the world – unparalleled in all my travels!)

Heating up the balloon

My wake up call the following morning came at 3:45 a.m., which is far too early on a normal day and obscene given the breakneck pace of the Egypt journey so far. Though that morning’s activity was optional, and I was thisclose to crawling back in bed, I knew I’d regret skipping my second hot air balloon ride of the year… this time over historic Luxor, Egypt.

The heat from the flames kept us warm on the chilly October morning

It was still dark as we crossed the Nile by boat and met awaiting vans on the other side of the river. The vans transported us to a patch of desert dotted with the expanding silhouettes of colorful balloon canvases. As the horizon grew from black to dark grey to purple, dozens of workers crowded around each basket, ensuring the balloons were filled with enough hot air to lift their passengers into the sky.

Just before the sun rose, we boarded our compartmentalized balloon basket

The 4th sunrise I saw in 5 days

Though there weren’t as many balloons in the air as I saw a few months earlier in Turkey, the sight of the desert and the fertile Nile banks, punctuated with famous temples and ancient sites, was just as dramatic as the Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia.

(While hot air ballooning in Luxor, Egypt, doesn’t exactly fall into the cheap fun category, in my opinion, it’s a worthwhile expenditure, running about $150 for an hour.)

Sunrise : Hot Air Ballooning in Luxor, Egypt

A couple kids and their dog wander the desert just outside Luxor

One of the benefits of hot air ballooning in Luxor was getting a bird’s eye view of the entire region at once, without the crowds you’ll find within individual historic sites during the heat of the day.

In 60 minutes, we floated over Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb, the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Nobles, the Colossi of Memnon, Luxor Temple, the Ramesseum, Karnak Temple, the Nile, rural homes and endless desert. So much history before breakfast!

Karnak Temple

Queen Hatshepsut’s Tomb

Excavations near Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings at dawn

Being a Florida/NYC girl, I haven’t spent much time at all in desert climates, so I am awed by the vastness of the sand and how the landscape changes colors from minute to minute at dusk and dawn. Watching the sunrise over these historic spots, like so many pharaohs and Egyptians before, was captivating and dare I say, romantic?

The fine line dividing the lush West Bank of the Nile with the surrounding desert

The moon looking over Queen Hatshepsut’s cliffside tomb

Though I began to suspect it during the magical two night felucca cruise, the Luxor hot air balloon experience confirmed my feelings: Egypt was shaping up to be one of my favorite destinations all year.

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  • Avatar
    January 23, 2012

    Wait, TWO hot air balloon experience in a period of months? Lucky lady! I’m still going for #1…. 😉

  • Avatar
    January 23, 2012

    Angie, you should be working for Egypt’s tourism board! I never thought I’d be itching to go so badly!

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    January 23, 2012

    What a cool experience! I’ve never been in a hot air balloon. And, to do it over Egypt!

  • Avatar
    January 24, 2012

    Hot air ballooning is the one thing that scared me! Although it was soo cold — your experience looks so much warmer and more pleasant.

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    January 24, 2012

    That looks amazing. I think the first place I ever saw a hot air balloon was in Luxor waaaay back in 1989. I so wanted to be able to fly over the desert. Since then I have been lucky enough to do so, but in the US southwest, not Egypt

  • Avatar
    January 25, 2012

    Looks like a beautiful way to see this part of the world.

  • Avatar
    January 25, 2012

    Great photos! What an amazing way to see Egypt!

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    January 25, 2012

    These photos are great! A hot air balloon ride is on my bucket list and Luxor looks like the perfect place to cross it off.

    • Avatar
      January 27, 2012

      Either Luxor or Cappadocia in Turkey are perfect spots to give it a try….

  • Avatar
    January 25, 2012
    Cam

    Very cool! Some great photos

  • Avatar
    January 26, 2012

    This post gave me chills!

    That first photo needs to be in a hot air ballooning magazine. I have never wanted to go hot air ballooning in my life, but you are right – what a way to see the sights and take it all in!! Absolutely breathtaking.

    Thanks for turning me on to hot air ballooning – and possibly Egypt! Although, I was already obsessed with the history there after my art history class 🙂 .

    • Avatar
      January 27, 2012

      It’s definitely a must-do! Glad you enjoyed!

  • Avatar
    January 27, 2012
    @TravelEater

    Great photos and great descriptions – thanks for posting! I’ve been ballooning in Turkey and loved it, and now Egypt is definitely on my ballooning list too. My current debate: is it worth $500 US pp to do it above the red sand dunes in Namibia? Anyone done it there? Thanks!

    • Avatar
      January 27, 2012

      My sources tell me it would be pretty unbelievable, especially during sunrise, but $500 is pretty steep. Once in a lifetime though… so maybe just go for it!

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        January 29, 2012
        @TravelEater

        Thanks- I think you’re right …. Another $1000 to the cost of the overall trip is not tons, and I think I’d always remember the missed opportunity if we didn’t do it!!
        Hopefully my pics will be as spectacular as yours.

  • Avatar
    January 27, 2012

    Wow! Looks like you had a great time! I think I would be really nervous to go in a hot air balloon

    • Avatar
      January 27, 2012

      It’s surprisingly smooth & not scary. I suppose if you’re scared of heights it might be a bit nerve wracking!

  • Avatar
    January 29, 2012

    Looks like an incredible experience!

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    March 21, 2012

    So want to do this! Another one for my Egypt bucket list. Jampacked 3.45am starts however? Nuh-uh.

    • Avatar
      March 22, 2012

      Those early starts were ROUGH. Can’t even hide it.

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    March 23, 2012

    WOW!! i love this. those photos – incredible.

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    April 12, 2012

    In all of our adventures, we’ve never taken a hot air balloon ride. It looks absolutely magical!

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    September 16, 2014
    Elishka

    Ok you win. After looking at your balloon flight in Turkey I’ve decided to book one too! Bring on Thursday! And I’m even pondering over doing one in Luxor in a couple of weeks time. Is it really that amazing to see the sights from a birds eye view? Cheers 🙂

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      October 01, 2014

      It really is amazing! I’ve seen Luxor & Cappadoccia from the balloons and there’s nothing in the world like it!

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    April 11, 2015
    Nancy

    Thank you so much for these blog entries on Egypt. Planning to join the On the Go tour this September/October 🙂

    • Avatar
      April 13, 2015

      You’re going to love it! I hope you have Haytham as your tour guide – he is one of my favorites of all time!

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