A hot-air balloon ride is one of the experiences you have to live at least once in your life. So I didn’t hesitate long when the idea came to me to make this birthday gift for my husband.
Where to go ballooning in the French Alps (Savoie or Haute-Savoie)?
Hot air balloon companies exist in all regions of France. We lived near Chambéry, so my search was more focused on companies in Savoie and Haute-Savoie.
Many years ago, my father had himself made his first balloon ride in the Loir-et-Cher; I think that the experience was good but the flat landscapes much less impressive in the middle of the plains.
I choose a company in Talloires, a city in the southeast of Lake Annecy (Haute-Savoie): “Compagnie des Ballons”. It was created in 2010 and offers exclusively hot air balloon flights. Their three balloons have each a capacity of 3, 5 and 8 passengers besides the pilot.
Between the promise of unforgettable landscapes from the lake and good reviews given on Google, it seemed to me a very good choice. The discovery flight for 2 people cost €500. This flight can also be cheaper for those who book a place to fly on the call of the company according to the last availability. There are also higher rates to privatize a balloon gondola. The price will depend on its size.
Conditions for a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Any healthy person of at least eight years old can take a balloon ride.
One of the inconveniences of giving such a gift is that the flight can be canceled on the day before the event. Indeed, the flight is subject to weather conditions: it must not rain and the wind must not blow at more than 20 km/h (around 12 miles per hour). In our case, we had to call the company the day before to get the confirmation of the flight and the meeting place.
If you make a gift to someone, you should avoid keeping the secret until the D-day at the risk of seeing your plans fall through. That’s why on his birthday, I simply gave my husband a card to reveal his gift which was planned for the following week. The weather prevented us from keeping the planned date and we had to postpone the reservation. Our flight was postponed for a month because we could not take days off to do it during the week.
First flight in a Hot-air Balloon: our Feedback
We had our first hot air balloon ride in June 2019.
The flights take place one hour after sunrise. So don’t expect to sleep in on this day.
From the parking lot where we parked, we were taken by a SUV to the take-off site, a glade in Talloires. We were about ten people to participate, so there were two hot air balloons used that day. The basket and the envelope were installed and once the balloon was sufficiently inflated, we could climb aboard.
The experience of a balloon flight is magical. We find ourselves at altitude, in a soothing silence, observing breathtaking landscapes. The balloon moves with the wind.
For about one hour, we could admire the mountains and the alpine lakes. At the closest, we obviously had Lake Annecy (Lac d’Annecy) and the city of Annecy which spread out at the end of the water. Beyond the Semnoz, we saw Lake Bourget (Lac du Bourget) to the west and even bigger Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to the north. With a little more elevation, we recognized the Mont Blanc to the East, over the Aravis mountain range.
Throughout the flight, the pilot gave us indications on the landscape, shared anecdotes and let us enjoy the moment. He regulated the altitude of the balloon by heating more or less with the burner. He was also regularly in communication with his colleague who followed the route of the balloon in the SUV to reach us at the landing place. This last one is never known in advance because it depends simply on the winds which direct the balloon.
The landing did after a smooth descent. It took almost 25 minutes to find a clear enough glade where the SUV could reach us and the balloon would descend enough to be held down. Once on the ground, we all helped to fold the balloon and to move the basket.
To close the morning, we each received our first flight diploma and toasted with a glass of champagne. Then we were taken back to the departure parking lot in their vehicle with a lot of memories.
My Advice for an unforgettable Balloon Ride in the Alps
I just want to finish with some advice for those who would like to make their first flight in a hot air balloon:
- Expect that the flight may be postponed and think about a backup date.
- Dress comfortably: a sweater and flat shoes because you will be standing up all morning long.
- Don’t forget your sunglasses.
- Take your camera to capture panoramas.
- Enjoy the moment.
Don’t worry about vertigo because the flight is calm and the feeling of emptiness is totally different compared to a helicopter.
My best Pictures of my Hot Air Balloon Flight in Annecy