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Hot Air Ballooning in Luxor, Egypt – Ultimate Guide for Families

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Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

This was such a beautiful experience to share with the kids.

Egypt offers endless secrets to lucky travelers who embrace its fast-paced culture, crazy driving, and sweltering summer temperatures.  Our family of seven embarked on a quick journey to Egypt earlier this year, and it quickly soared into the top tiers of our expanding countries list .  Our five kids, ages 16 years to 7 years old, enjoyed our fast-paced tour of one of the birthplaces of humanity, despite the hectic pace during our first visit to this amazing country.

By far, the highlight of the trip was soaring over Luxor together at sunrise in a hot air balloon.  While my husband and I had done one hot air balloon ride in New Zealand, our children were too young to accompany us at the time.  It takes a special kind of courage to go high in the air and leave your children back on the earth (what if something happens to us?!), so I was thrilled to learn that even our youngest was now old enough to fly for 45 minutes over the “World’s Greatest Open-Air Museum.”

Luxor offers the only location in which hot air balloons can fly in Egypt. It provides a stunning backdrop with its lush, green farm fields, morning mist over the Nile, and views of the Valley of the Kings, Hatsepshut’s incredible temple and more.  As you float over this history-laden land, the Nile runs its ancient course nearby. Egypt also provides this luxury ride at one of the lowest costs in the world, around $80 USD per person, compared to several hundreds of dollars in many other destinations.

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Green farm fields to take off in the hot air balloon.

Fun Facts About Luxor Hot Air Balloon Rides

Our perfect family shot! 
  1. Hot air balloons only take off from Luxor between 5:30-7:30 am each day. Hundreds of balloons can be airborne in peak seasons between these two hours. Up to 70 balloons can be airborne at the same time. It was shocking for us to see around 20 at the time of our flight. I can’t imagine 70 at the same time!
  2. The latest balloon ride takes off at 7:30 am, but this is often after sunrise. Take offs before sunrise provide the most amazing views.
  3. Balloon traffic is controlled by air traffic control, similar to an airport. Dozens of companies (22 at the time of our visit) provide this service, and it’s best to read reviews before choosing which one you’ll use, as this activity does come with some inherent danger. Each company flies 2-3 balloons.
  4. The ride itself lasts 35-45 minutes but can vary slightly due to landing location and weather. Unlike an airplane, hot air balloons are completely subject to the air currents of that particular morning. This is partly why hot air balloons are only available first thing in the morning before the sun has warmed the earth and air currents increase.
  5. The pilot, trained and certified, chooses when and where to land. This varies on each flight. They also sometimes choose to dip passengers into tree leaves below for fun!
  6. Typically, hot air balloons land in a field some kilometers from their take-off point. Trucks, 4-wheelers, horses, and more are used to track the balloons in flight, so men are ready to help when the balloon begins to land.
  7. Airborne height is typically 400-500 meters, or around 1500 feet.
  8. The pilot can only control the balloon’s altitude by heating the air inside, not the speed or direction of the balloon.
  9. Balloon sizes vary, as well as the number of passengers. The largest balloons carry up to 32 passengers in five compartments: one in the middle for the pilot to be alone and four large corner compartments for passengers. The smallest balloon carries 12 passengers.
  10. The idea for a hot-air balloon ride in Luxor began in 1988. In 2003, it became an official activity in Luxor and was approved by the government.
  11. Our balloon company, arranged by our tour guide, described the landing options as follows:
    • Egyptian landing: relatively soft landing as you first hit the ground.
    • English landing: A bit bumpier on approach and landing.
    • American landing: Rough and rocky. In this case you need to brace yourself within the basket (demonstrated as you first get in) and be prepared for it to tip over.
    • He promised that 80% of landings were Egyptian.

How Your Luxor Hot Air Balloon Ride Will Go

Getting to Your Luxor Hot Air Balloon

We all woke, blearly eyed and exhausted, on our last day in Egypt at 3:30 am.  The kids struggled to wake up, as we’d been sightseeing all week with only a few breaks.  Despite our best efforts to get to bed earlier, we all settled in around 10 pm. Running on only five hours of sleep was tough!  

We asked our hotel for to-go breakfast boxes, which is extremely common (they may even do it automatically for you as long as you mention you are leaving early or doing a hot air balloon ride).  Nearly all the other tourists on our ride also had breakfast boxes from their hotels. 

The hot air balloon companies provide a ride from most hotels to the balloon sites.  They (or your guide) will let you know a time for pick-up from the front of your hotel.

We loaded into a van around 4 am and picked up a few more tourists from other hotels.  Everything was dark and felt rushed as everyone hurried to the river crossing.  The bridge over the Nile isn’t open until 6 am, so all guests staying on the east side, where most tourists stay, need to cross the Nile by a quick boat ride.  

The boat ride is around five minutes long, and coffee and tea are served.  We ate a few items from our boxes but saved most of them for the time after the ride.  Our guide let us leave things in the van during the balloon ride.

Once you get into a van on the other side of the Nile and navigate traffic (which is intense for 4:30 am!), you’ll drive about 10-15 minutes to the take-off site.  You’ll walk five minutes or so to the take off area and be stunned to suddenly encounter dozens of balloons getting ready or prepped to fill.  The teasings of sunrise make everything easier to see, and the bright, vibrant colors of the balloons contrasted with the fires burning below them takes your breath away.

Taking off on Your Luxor Hot Balloon Ride With Kids

You’ll be led to your balloon and get into the basket, which is just that: a basket.  It’s not unlike a giant picnic basket for people.  There are many men holding the basket down on the ground while the balloon fills, and they can help you and children inside. It’s a bit rushed and chaotic as the timing is quick to fill the balloon but not lift off the ground.

This photo was us getting ready to take off!

Pro Tip: The balloon companies want to make money on your trip by capturing video.  The Egyptian government also doesn’t necessarily want these sites filmed from above.  Technically, video equipment is not allowed on the flight for this reason. However, we found if we simply waited to take our equipment out until we were airborne, it was OK.  Until then, keep anything other than cell phones hidden from view.  Like most things in Egypt, a good tip to your guide/pilot can gain lots of leeway.

When inside the basket, the guides will show you how to take the bracing landing stance by crouching into the basket and bracing your legs and back on opposite sides.  Small children, like our youngest, brace in between your legs and arms.  

Our youngest between Chris’ legs.
This view is just priceless.

Once the balloon is ready to go and you’ve snapped a couple of pictures, it’s time to take off!  The helpers will let go of the basket, and off you go!  Your balloon will start to gently rise, along with others around you, and you’ll be shocked by how smooth it all feels.  

Soaring hundreds of feet off the ground, you’ll start to see a birds-eye view of the area.  Hopefully the sun will start to peek over the Nile and the lush, green farm fields, while the desert monuments and Valley of the Kings provide a stark contrast on the other side.  

Your pilot will point out some of the sites as you soar by, but mostly you’ll be taking in the wonder of seeing the earth from this perspective.  Everyone will be snapping photos and filming videos like crazy.  As the sun continues to rise, the scenery gets better and better.
Our pilot was fairly conservative, thankfully for my heart, but some pilots dipped their baskets into treetops over the farm fields.  I was always a bit worried about balloons running into each other, but nothing even came close to this.  As we progressed, we witnessed a few balloons landing before our own.

This sunset. Just beautiful!
Chris and Harrison
Enjoying the sunset.

Coming Back to Earth After Your Luxor Hot Air Balloon Ride

After 45 minutes in the air, we watched the men on the ground race to meet our balloon in trucks, trying to anticipate the exact location.  Our balloon slowly started to descend, and the landscape came clearer into view.

I was slightly alarmed when our pilot called for the “American landing” stance.  Would it be such a rough landing?  We got into position, heads tucked under the lip of the basket in case it tipped.  Thankfully, while we did bounce a couple of times, we never fully tipped over.  Men quickly caught the basket and brought us down to earth.  

Immediately, workers lay out tarps to catch the silky balloon fabric and they start to gather it in their arms.  We could not exit the basket until the balloon itself was mostly on the ground, and then we were quickly helped out of the basket and into the waiting van.

We made it! Haha

A quick 10 minute drive had us back to a cafe near the Colossi of Memnon, a monument for which your ticket may be included with your balloon ride.

Colossi of Memnon After Your Hot Air Balloon Ride

These two massive statues built by Pharaoh Amenhotep III, representing himself,  guard the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep.  This large temple continues to be discovered and is not yet accessible, but the statues, which frame the entrance, give you some scale to the sheer size of this structure.  These statues have stood since 1350 BC and were a well-known travel stop for travelers to this area.

Massive statues built by Pharaoh Amenhotep II.

Visiting them takes just a few minutes (especially with kids who don’t really care about them), but it’s fun to see them in person and snap some pictures.  Rumor has it that in 27 BC an earthquake damaged one of the colossi and cracked its lower half.  At sunrise, the statue would “sing.”  Modern science believes this to be due to the moisture trapped in the cracks of the statues evaporating in the dry, hot heat of the area and causing a vibration sound.

This myth led to the name, Memnon, which stems from Greek mythology.  Memnon, the mortal son of Eos, Goddess of Dawn, was slain by Achilles.  This sunrise crying was thought to be Memnon crying to his mother, and travelers journeyed to see this phemomenon as early as 20 BC.  Many modern-day visitors may think the statues are Memnon, but in fact they are statues of Amenhotep II himself.

The cafe across the road, where we were dropped after our ride and waited for our guide for Luxor, offers some nice snacks and drinks.  We were almost tempted by the crepes but chose to finish our breakfast boxes instead.

Safety of a Hot Air Balloon in Luxor

Recognizing the inherent risks of a hot air balloon ride is important before you embark on your journey.  While the percentages are so small, there have been accidents in the past 15 years, some resulting in death of passengers.  However, considering the thousands of passengers going up and down safely each month, we were willing to take the risk.

Read reviews of your balloon company before you decide, and weigh the risks.  

If you have too much anxiety about this, I would recommend skipping it.  There isn’t much point spending serious money to hate every minute of it.  I simply told myself that if we go down, at least we all go down together!  At some point, you have to let go of control and enjoy the ride.

Other Tips for a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Luxor With Kids

A few additional tips for families considering this adventure in the skies:

  • Baskets have cut outs into the sides so smaller passengers can look out without having to look over the sides of the basket.  This was perfect for our younger two kiddos
  • If your itinerary allows it, try to plan a nap on this day.  We had packed our day full, ending with an overnight flight home the same night, and it was definitely too much.  We ended up all taking a 1.5 hour nap in the air conditioned van we were riding in with our guide (we simply parked in a parking lot and all snoozed).  We also had to cancel our felucca ride that afternoon because the kids were just too tired.
  • A jacket is a good idea as well, as the temps early in the morning can be lower.
  • I liked seeing the sites we were going to visit in Luxor from the air before we went to see them on the ground. Consider making this one of your first activities in Luxor.  This also allows for flexibility if there are weather disruptions to your hot air balloon flight.

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Additional Reading

11 Fun Things To Do in Aswan, Egypt With Kids

Visiting the Great Pyramids in Egypt With Kids

Visiting Abu Simbel Temple in Egypt With Kids

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