HOT AIR BALLOONING

Aerial Adventure - Hot Air Ballooning in Nepal

Hot  air  ballooning  in   Nepal  is something  that many travellers have written home about.  In the five years since its flight,  the sport has been very popular with  tourists,  for  it  affords  the   most spectacular view of the  Kathmandu Valley and the Himalayan  ranges towering  in the background.  On  a clear day,  it is a superb way to view the Himalayas (from over 6000 m up), and the view of the valley is equally breathtaking.

The huge balloon  comes  to life in the morning light, "a sleeping  giant decorated with the all-seeing eyes of the  Buddha" as it ripples, stretches, expands and readies ittelf for  its  load  of passengers.  The departure is gentle  and one  hardly feels the ascent. The advantage of this ancient and romantic  form of flight  is that there is no whirring or whining of engines, nor any airplane wings to obscure the  most magnificent of views. Like the agency puts it, "Even if you do not climb Mt. Everest, from  the perfect safety and comfort  of a wicker basket, you will feel that you have reached the top of the world  in effortless security."

The best months for a hot air balloon flight are October-November and march, although the season extends from October to April. The Flights take place daily during the season, and are dependent on the wind for it's direction The landing could be anyplace mostly in the terraced paddies that stretch out across  the  fringes of the valley, usually attracting a large impromptu gathering of villagers checking to see what has fallen out of the sky!

The Trip
The balloon takes off from Thimi, near the historic town of Bhaktapur,  one of the  three erstwhile principalities of the Kathmandu Valley and in many ways the most medieval. From there, depending on which way the  wind  blows, it takes you on a trip  that gives  you a bird's  eye  view of Kathmandu and the valley.

The cost of the hour-long ride hotel transfers and breakfast at a  Thamel restaurant included is $195 (could vary) per person. Each trip can carry 12 passengers. The flights are manned by a team of much-decorated balloon pilots.

Reservations for a balloon flight can be made over the phone or through a travel agent in Kathmandu. They can be purchased by travellers' cheque, credit card or cash. Tickets must be purchased a minimum of three days before the flight, and the company notified about your place of stay. On the day before the scheduled flight, the company will inform you of the pick-up time.