It’s simple science: hot air rises. Capture that and you can go up with it. The Montgolfier brothers mastered it in 1782 and the world has been fascinated ever since. There’s something about gliding along in a hot-air balloon that is both romantic and exciting, an open-air adventure that gives you unparalleled views of the land beneath your feet.
Switzerland is an ideal place for a scenic balloon ride, with its rugged mountains and medieval towns, cow-dotted fields and boat-spotted lakes. There’s no better way to enjoy the Swiss landscape than from the basket of a floating balloon, so it’s no surprise that there are many operators – you’re almost spoilt for choice. We’ve listed three of the main ones for you.
Related: Switzerland's Global Balloon Race
Ballons de Leman
In the centuries since the Montgolfiers first took off, the technology has improved a little, at least when it comes to the balloon; the wicker basket is probably much the same as it was back then. The hot air is provided by propane cylinders which inflate the vast nylon mass until it becomes the whale of the skies, a mini-Zeppelin ready to glide over hill and dale.
But what does a balloon ride actually entail? What should you bring, apart from your camera? Every trip is individual but here’s some general advice about what to expect on a typical flight:
- The whole experience will last a minimum of four hours. It takes about 30 minutes to inflate the balloon (and you can help do that) with most flights in the air for 90 minutes to two hours.
- Wear sensible shoes, as you might well land in a field, and layers of clothing. The air temperature up there will be much the same as on the ground and there’s usually little wind.
- The exact course and direction will depend on the conditions that day, so just go with the (air) flow and enjoy what you see.
- Summertime flights are normally at sunrise or sunset. For an afternoon trip, you have to go in spring or autumn.
- Departure points are located all across Switzerland, and not just tourist spots like Interlaken or Gstaad. The company websites have details of where you can take a flight, and flight packages usually include transfers from your hotel.
- Many commercial balloons can carry up to 20 passengers but for something truly special, you can have it all to yourself; all three operators listed here offer balloon rides for two.
- Or you can go the whole hog and indulge in a gourmet flight with a chef cooking on board: Ballons de Leman offers this exclusive trip.
Ballons de Leman
It’s as easy as that. All that’s left is to stand back, feel the final roar of burner and float on upwards. We have lift off!