air ballooning in Nepal is something that many travelers have
written home about. In the five years since its inception, 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’s a superb way to
view the Himalayas (from over 6000 m up), and the view of the
valley is equally breathtaking.
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 itself 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, no dusty perspex and no 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’. Cool!
The best time for a hot air balloon flight is during
the months of 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 the direction the
flight will take (Eastward or westward across the valley). The
landing could be anyplace, mostly in the terraced paddies that
stretch out across the fringes of the valley, and usually attracts
a large impromptu gathering of villagers checking to see what
has fallen out of the sky!
The hot air 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. Bhaktapur
has a collection of some of the finest Hindu and Buddhist temples,
and ancient villages. From there, depending on the wind direction,
it takes you on a trip that gives you a bird’s eye view of historic
Kathmandu and the valley.
The cost of the hour-long flight (hotel transfers and
breakfast at a Thamel restaurant included) is $195 per person.
Each trip has 12 passengers. The flights are manned by a team,
which includes experts and much-decorated balloon pilots.
for a balloon flight can be made over the phone or through a travel
agent in Kathmandu (or hotel concierge). They can be purchased
by travelers 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 a pick up time at your hotel when
you must be ready to depart.
a flight is cancelled due to bad weather, the ticket is fully