Hot Air Balloon trips are an unbelievable experience. The peace and serenity of soaring almost soundlessly above the world below is something almost without compare. Now imagine how amazing drifting over snow-capped mountains must be, with the jagged peaks spread out before you. Here are just some of the most incredible hot air balloon rides you can take advantage of on your trip to the Alps.
France – Mont Blanc and Courchevel
Cruising alongside the vast and imposing tower of Mont Blanc is one of the most dramatic hot air balloons on offer. Mont Blanc measures up at an impressive 4810m high, making it the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe, and you can get a good look at what’s up there without having to endure the arduous climb that 20,000 people put themselves through each year. Ballooning company SKIVOL offer a three hour adventure with 45 minutes cruising time through the French Alps, and has the added advantage of running both summer and winter flights. All winter flights depart from Courchevel’s Altiport, giving you a great view of the mountain resort, and you can go from here throughout the summer too. Prices are around 260 Euros per person. For more information on these hot air balloon rides, check out www.skivol.com.
Switzerland – Gstaad up over the Swiss Alps
The Alpine village of Gstaad is a famous one for more than just the stunning countryside – despite being a village of about 3,200, it is known for its luxury hotels, its high end shopping and its popularity with celebrities, as well as featuring in several movies. But you can do more than just shop and be pampered: hot air balloon rides leave Gstaad and travel through the scenic mountains at either sunrise or sunset, allowing you to see the Swiss Alps in a whole new way. You’ll find tours at www.city-discovery.com which last three hours with a one hour flight and which include champage. Being Switzerland, it isn’t cheap, but it’s magical.
Italy – From Piedmont with views of the Italian Alps
Piedmont is a lovely region in Northern Italy which is surrounded on three sides by the Italian Alps. This makes it a great place to get a balloon ride from, because it is sheltered by the mountains and the weather conditions which notoriously make balloon flights difficult are more stable. Go Ballooning (www.goballooning.co.uk) is a British company which has branched out to Italy, providing hot air balloon flights lasting over an hour for 240 Euros per person. Nearly half of Piedmont is mountainous, making it a great place to see from the air.
Austria – Salzkammergut and Dachstein
Austria has some of the most beautiful regions for hot air ballooning, due to being able to take in a vast variety of countryside. Lakes, mountains and towns are all on the radar, and the most beautiful and popular region of all has to be Salzkammergut, with its easy access to the Dachstein mountain region and ski resort. The Balloon and Airship Company (www.freiheit.at) offer a 1 ½ hour trip in a hot air balloon which takes you into the mountains and which runs in both winter and summer. Hoher Dachstein is the second highest mountain in the Nothern Limestone Alps, so you can imagine that views get quite dramatic. Prices start at around 380 Euros per person, but drop considerably if you’re going in a group.
If you find yourself in the Austrian Alps for the 2012-2013 ski season, keep a lookout for the Snow Spectacle and Balloon Week in Gosau ski resort. On January 18, 2013, several dozen hot air balloons will be sailing over the Salzkammergut, along with a coordinated firework display.