A quick guide outlining 10 things everybody needs to know before going hot air ballooning in Luxor over the Valley of the Kings (Upper Egypt).
If you’ve never been on a hot air balloon ride and find yourself in Luxor, do yourself a favor and book this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Imagine gently floating over the Valley of the Kings, the final resting place of some of the greatest Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The early morning sun gently rises upstream of the River Nile as you slowly float over ancient temples and forgotten ruins.
In this quick guide, I’ll outline everything you need to know about a Luxor hot air balloon ride. I’ll give you some insights on how to book, what to expect, and of course, the ten things to know before going! I’ll also share some of the photos from my trip that I hope will inspire you.
How to Book a Hot Air Balloon Flight In Luxor
Did you know that Luxor is one of the best and most cost-effective places to take a hot air balloon tour in the world? As a result, there are lots of different hot air balloon companies offering Valley of the Kings sunrise flights.
I booked my trip through TravelTalk Tours, which is the awesome tour company that I traveled all over Egypt with.
I highly recommend TravelTalk if you’re on the lookout for a great organized trip. But, if you’re set on traveling independently, then the easiest way to lock in this experience is to simply book it online. Below are two great options with the best price online from two locations in Egypt.
What to Expect
Wondering if the Luxor hot air balloon experience is right for you? Here’s a quick rundown of what you might expect based on my experience.
No matter which hot air balloon company or travel agency you book your experience with, you’ll get a hotel transfer included. However, be ready for an early wakeup!
Our day started with a 3:30 AM alarm to be in the hotel lobby by 4:00 AM. Since the best trip is a sunrise flight, an early rise is part and parcel to the experience.
We were staying at the amazing Steigenberger Hotel in Luxor, on the east bank of the River Nile. All hot air balloons depart from the west bank, near the Valley of the Kings. So, for us, the first transfer involved a quick ferry across the Nile. Afterward, a van picked us up to drive us to the take-off area, approximately twenty minutes from the Nile.
Once we arrived at the launch site, it was immediately clear just how many balloons were about to launch! The sandy valley was absolutely full of balloons, each with large fans filling the balloon with hot air.
If you’ve never been hot air ballooning before, then you’ll be glad to know that the safety briefing is always very basic and standard. In fact, hot air ballooning in general is a very primitive form of aviation and there really isn’t much to it.
This was the second time I’ve been fortunate enough to undertake this amazing experience, so I was already well aware of the procedure. I glanced over at the other members who I’d be sharing a basket with. They were all doing their very best to listen intently, while simultaneously yawning and yanking up their eyebrows in attempts to keep their eyes from drifting to sleep.
The Hot Air Ballooning Experience in Luxor
It was instantly clear to me that the teams working the hot air balloons in Luxor were exceptionally experienced and efficient in their procedures. In no time, our balloon was airborne and had flipped its basket to the upright take-off position.
Our basket fit roughly twenty passengers, which is a somewhat large balloon by ordinary standards. In the middle of the basket stood our pilot and tour guide. Similarly to the ground staff, his experience showed immediately. He told us after that he had thousands of commercial flights under his belt.
Within less than five minutes we were up, floating over 500 meters (1600+ feet) above the west bank of the Nile River.
For first-timers, it’s a difficult experience to put into words. The best I can do is instant weightlessness. It really just feels like you’re floating, not at all like a plane or helicopter. In a way, hot air ballooning doesn’t feel real, it’s as if the laws of physics have suddenly been flipped on their head.
Our pilot notified us that since conditions were perfect, he decided to double his usual elevation to 800 meters (2600 feet). We hit our maximum altitude just as the sun rose to the east, casting a huge ray of light across the valley and illuminating the Nile Rive like a glowing serpent, wriggling its way across the plains. Looking down, the light began to pierce the canopies of the ruined temples and ancient burial ground entryways below.
From up here, it was immediately obvious why the ancient Egyptians placed so much mythological weighting on the sun.
After the Experience
After approximately one hour, we descended to our landing position, close to the Valley of the Kings. Before we touched down, a pickup truck with at least a dozen men were already there to catch our ropes and bring us down safely.
From here, we were again picked up by the same van that dropped us at the launch site and this time brought back to our hotels, ready for the well-deserved buffet breakfast– shoutout to the Steigenberger, one of the best buffet breakfasts I’ve ever had!
Also, to commemorate the amazing Luxor hot air ballooning experience, we were given a signed flight certificate, which is a nice keepsake.
10 Things to Know About Hot Air Balloon Rides in Luxor
I hope that the quick recap from my hot air balloon flight in Luxor has inspired you to book this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Before you rush out and book, here are a few things you’ll want to know!
1. Hot Air Balloons in Luxor Are Very Affordable
I mentioned this earlier in the blog post but it’s worth repeating. Luxor is one of the cheapest places to go hot air ballooning in the world!
Other famous places in the world cost at least double this price. So, if the experience has been on your bucket list for a while, now’s the time!
2. You’ll Need to Book Your Balloon in Advance
While there are plenty of balloons departing daily, it’s a good idea to book with a reputable company, for obvious reasons.
Usually, booking a day or two in advance is more than adequate, but it wouldn’t be something I’d leave to the last minute. Below is a live availability checker for one of the best hot air balloon companies in Luxor.
3. You’ll Want to Get Up Early
Yes, there are hot air balloon trips over the Valley of the Kings that depart in the afternoon.
However, this activity is very much a sunrise one! Sunrise is by far the best time to go since you’ll get the best light! Trust me, the views are worth the early pickup!
4. Cameras Are Not Allowed in the Balloons But…
As with most things in Egypt, the bureaucracy surrounding photography is a little tight and frustrating. Technically, you’re not supposed to take photos from the balloon, and large cameras are not allowed.
In saying that, sneaking in a camera was surprisingly easy. My tour guide told me to just sneak in a GoPro, but I brought my entire camera backpack with me. The initial plan was just to leave the bag in the van locked up. However, I was surprised that no one even asked to search it before I boarded the balloon– so I just went with it.
Of course, I was careful not to parade the camera while taking off around the security staff at the launch site. However, once we were up I was able to use my Canon R5 and huge 100-500mm lens with no problem.
I’m not sure if I got lucky or not and I wouldn’t recommend doing the same as I did (don’t blame me if your camera is seized). But, getting a GoPro or 360 camera onto the balloon should be no problem.
5. The View is Incredible
Another reason why I think hot air ballooning in Luxor is one of the best places in the world to do it is that the views are absolutely amazing!
The ancient temples and famous ancient monuments you’ll get an aerial perspective of include:
- Valley of the Kings
- Valley of the Queens
- Colossi of Memnon
- Deir el-Bahari (Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut)
- Mortuary Temple of Seti I
- Karnak Temple & Luxor Temple (in the distance across the Nile)
6. There Are Many Balloons Departing Daily
I was really surprised at just how many hot air balloons depart each morning from Luxor. I counted at least 15 balloons during my flight!
This is definitely one of the most popular things to do in the city!
7. Trips Will be Canceled in Bad Weather
Unfortunately, hot air balloons are not the most reliable form of aviation. The truth is that if there are strong winds, the companies will cancel the flights.
That’s because no matter if they are an experienced pilot, they really do not have much control of where their balloons will end up. The entire practice relies largely on natural wind pockets to steer the direction. At the end of the day, cancellations are for your own safety.
For this reason, I recommend booking a balloon flight for the first day you get to Luxor. If you book with GetYourGuide (link above), you can easily reschedule the flight for another day for free.
8. It Can Get Chilly Up There
Don’t let that midday sweltering sun fool you. Those that have spent some time in the desert, you’ll know that temperatures plummet after sundown!
Since the best Luxor hot air balloon flights are for sunrise, the first ten minutes or so can get chilly. As a result, I recommend packing at least a wind jacket.
9. You Can Ride Hot Air Balloons All Year in Luxor
Unlike other places in the world, Luxor’s weather conditions are quite stable, with little to no precipitation and regular wind patterns. This is great for us since it means hot air ballooning is not seasonal, and you can book at any time of the year.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that the months between June and August are considered the tourist high season in Luxor. This is the best time to visit, but will also be the busiest.
10. Hot Air Balloons Are Very Safe
Lastly, for readers who are still hesitant to book– hot air ballooning is very safe! Hot air balloon tours have been running in Luxor since 1988.
The Egyptian authorities place a high value on safety and all qualified pilots are very skilled and well-trained.
Where to Stay in Luxor
Luxor, the ancient capital of Thebes is nicknamed “The City of a Thousand Gates” due to its many temples and historic sites. Most of the attractions, including the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple are situated on the east bank of the Nile.
Therefore, it makes the most sense to stay on this side. Below are some of the top picks for where to stay in Luxor for various budgets.
- Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa – Nestled on the bank of the Nile River the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa offers luxury-styled rooms and facilities with a spa and a total of seven bars. This is the ultimate luxury resort in Upper Egypt.
- Steigenberger Nile Palace – Located in the heart of Luxor this hotel showcases a beautifully decorated interior with large open rooms. The buffet is one of the best I’ve ever had and the rooms are incredibly affordable for the luxury you get.
- Sweet Hostel Luxor – The best budget/backpacker option is the Sweet Hostel. Guests are offered a free la carte breakfast each morning and the location serves as a great base to explore Luxors landmarks including Luxor Temple– which is only a 9-minute walk away!
More Egypt Travel Guides & Inspiration
I hope that this quick resource has helped convince you to go hot air ballooning in Luxor. It really is one of the best experiences you can have in ancient Thebes!
Looking for more travel inspiration to Egypt? Check out some of my other guides and blog posts below!