Best Hot Air Balloon in Belgium - Montgolfiere.be - Review

This article first appeared on My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
FLYING IN THE SKY AFTER FALLING FROM THE SKY!

After the fast and furious Skydiving experience,
it's time for the slow & serene experience with Hot Air Balloon in Belgium!

Ever since I did Skydiving in Belgium at Spa, I kept thinking about the next sky activity to do. I've been eyeing Hot Air Balloon Ride in Belgium ever since and recently I managed to do it after almost a year of planning, depending on public transport!!!

Best Hot Air Balloon Ride Belgium


Things to do in Baisy Thy

Things to do in Baisy Thy
ULM Baisy Thy Pilot School

Charming villages pf Wallonia - Baisy Thy

SKYDIVING vs HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE - SIMILARITIES & DIFFERENCES
Adrenaline: Unlike Skydiving, there is no adrenaline rush involved in Hot Air Ballooning at all! It is an overall peaceful, quiet, serene experience. One similarity between Skydiving & Hot Air Ballooning is that the feeling of flying in a Hot Air Balloon is similar to that of after the Parachute opens in Skydiving.  
Dependence on the weather: While both are dependent on the weather, hot air ballooning relies so much more on it, than skydiving. While rain and cloud cover plays a major role in skydiving and wind plays only a minor role, in hot-air ballooning, all of these aspects play a major role. If the sky looks clear and it is not too windy, Skydiving will definitely happen; but even if it is slightly windy, Hot Air Ballooning will not happen. Not just wind speed, but even the wind direction matters. If the wind blows towards Brussels or Charleroi, Hot Air Ballooning will not happen in Brabant, because Brussels & Charleroi Air Space is barred for recreational flights; similarly, Hot Air Ballooning will not happen in Spa if the wind blows towards the forests because landing & retrieving the balloon in the middle of the forest is extremely difficult & dangerous as well. So there is a substantial chance that your scheduled Hot Air Balloon flight might get canceled because of wind!!!
Hot Air Balloon Flying: The take-off is extremely gentle. Since you move along with the wind, you won't feel the wind blowing on your face, unlike skydiving where your face tears through the air! 
Hot Air Balloon Landing: In Skydiving, the parachute can be steered to land in a particular area, but that's impossible in Hot Air Ballooning since there's no steering at all here. So landing happens somewhere about 20km away as the crow flies which cannot be pre-determined! It could be in the middle of fields or grasslands or just a plain! 
While landing is relatively smooth in Skydiving, in Hot Air Ballooning, landing is a bit jerky (though the take-off & flight are very smooth)! Since your inertia of motion comes to rest all of a sudden, when you touch the ground, the smooth ride comes to a jolting halt. Even if it is slightly windy, the balloon would be dragged a bit, thereby dragging the basket too or even tipping it over, before stopping completely. This is normally expected at every landing. If it doesn't happen, well and good; but if it does, that's normal too!

Hot Air Balloon experience in Belgium
Early morning scenes from the sky!

Hot Air Balloon experience in Belgium

Hot Air Balloon experience in Belgium

Hot Air Balloon experience in Belgium

WHICH IS THE BEST LOCATION FOR HOT AIR BALLOONING IN BELGIUM?
Montgolfiere operates in 5 locations in the south of Brussels (Wallonia + Southern Flemish Brabant) - Brabant, Liege, Namur, Meuse valley, and Durbuy. Some of these places have multiple take-off points. While you can select which region you want to fly at, it is not possible to choose your take-off point. That is chosen only by the pilot on the day/ the day prior to the flight after studying the wind direction.  
The best location is most definitely Brabant. Brabant has multiple take-off points including Abbaye de Villers-la-Ville, certain Castles near Brussels incl. Huizingen Castle, Enghien Castle, Gravenhof Castle, & more, Lion's Mound in Waterloo, etc. To be able to see any of these awesome locations from the sky would be absolutely amazing. However, since there are so many take-off points in Brabant the actual place where the take-off would happen is confirmed only some hours before the flight. 
Namur is the next best option because thanks to the meandering River Meuse and the majestic Namur Citadel, the view from atop is spectacular. July onwards, Durbuy is a good option because you get to see the Barvaux (Durbuy) Labyrinth from the sky. It's truly an awesome view from the sky. In either of these cases, there is only one take-off point, so as long as the weather is good, there's no confusion about where the take-off would be.
The natural beauty of the Ardennes region is absolutely divine and it looks like paradise from the sky which is the very reason why I chose SkydiveSpa in the first place for my skydiving experience. Spa has 7 take-off points, so the actual take-off point wouldn't be known till the previous evening. 

SUNRISE OR SUNSET - WHICH TIMING IS BEST FOR A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE IN BELGIUM?
Unquestionably sunrise! At sunrise, the world wakes up - there's no one in the monuments & on the roads, and in the countryside, there are farm animals, deers & rabbits getting out to graze. There are hardly any people on the ground. The angle of the sun rays gives such spectacular lighting on everything - both nature & monuments. Also, you will not be late at the take-off point because the roads are empty and there are no traffic jams! 
The sunrise flight/morning Hot Air Balloon Ride happens about an hour after sunrise and the sunset flight/evening Hot Air Balloon Ride happens a few hours before sunset. The decision whether the flight would happen or not, is done at 6:00PM the previous day for sunrise/morning flights and at 2:30PM on the same day for sunset/evening flights. 
That said, it all boils down to convenience. If you own a car or can hire a taxi, and if children can wake up at 4:30AM, Sunrise flight it is, otherwise Sunset flight it is.

Montgolfiere.be review best hot air balloon belgium

Montgolfiere.be review best hot air balloon belgium

Montgolfiere.be review best hot air balloon belgium

Montgolfiere.be review best hot air balloon belgium
 
MY PLANNING STAGE FOR HOT AIR BALLOON IN BELGIUM WITH MONTGOLFIERE
The biggest issue while planning the whole Hot Air Balloon experience is my dependence on public transport. After looking into all options (I mean, I literally tried to find the route to each and every take-off point from Brussels on weekdays and on weekends, using not just Google Maps, but also the official websites of SNCB, DeLijn, and LeTEC, both for sunrise timings & sunset timings). I've made it easier for you, scroll down to see what is possible if you depend on public transport.
I finally chose a sunrise flight in May in the Brabant region. As I mentioned before, since Hot Air Balloon is extremely dependent on weather, it got canceled, not once but twice. Finally, I flew one fine morning in July.
As I mentioned earlier, the thing about Brabant is the multiple take-off points. I really hoped it would be one of the Castles near Brussels, Abbaye de Villers-la-Ville, or Lion's Mound in Waterloo. If none of these then at least The Sloping Lock of Ronquières, which is a boat lift similar to that of La Louviere Boat Lifts.  
While the other 2 take-off points - Place de Ceroux Mousty and Baisy Thy, have no monuments or places of interest. But in these 2 locations, you'll see the absolute beauty of the Belgian countryside with endless fields, grazing lands with various farm animals, charming little houses with huge backyards, and more.

MY HOT AIR BALLOON EXPERIENCE IN BELGIUM WITH MONTGOLFIERE.BE

SMS Confirmation on the previous day: Since I had a morning Hot Air Balloon flight/sunrise Hot Air Balloon experience in the Brabant region, the decision on flight + take-off point was informed by SMS to me the previous evening. The take-off point was mentioned as ULM Baisy Thy at 6:30AM. 

Reaching the take-off point by taxi: I booked my taxi for 5:00AM (I used Get Transfer and I had Uber as a back-up) on the day of the flight and reached the take-off point much earlier than expected. 
Baisy Thy is absolutely in the middle of nowhere! We crossed the Lion's Mound in Waterloo, and went on. The last bit of the travel was absolutely in the middle of nowhere, through endless fields. Till the last minute, I couldn't even spot the building where the take-off would happen but I came across a very interesting road sign that warned car drivers about the possibility of getting hit by tiny aircraft! Literally, I have never ever seen such a road sign!!!

What is ULM Baisy Thy? ULM Baisy Thy is a pilot school as well as a flying experience. You could, in fact, book an Aircraft/Glider/Helicopter sightseeing experience as a follow-up after Hot Air Balloon if your take-off point is Baisy Thy! Yes, you can book it the previous day after your location gets confirmed. Nope. I did not do that though, so I have no personal experience to talk to you about. Keep in mind, that the Glider/Aircraft experiences are only for 1 person per vehicle, plus the pilot (helicopter can carry 3 persons at a time though). Here's the official website of ULM Baisy Thy if you would like to try that out. 
The flight take-off strip of ULM Baisy Thy is being used by Montgolfiere for the take-off of their Hot Air Balloons.

Preparation & Inflation of Hot Air Balloon: Since we reached quite early, we were on time to watch the sunrise over the bean fields sitting there peacefully, in absolute quietness and peace. It was such a memorable experience. Soon after sunrise, the team of Montgolfiere reached ULM Baisy Thy and unloaded their balloon. All of us, the passengers, gave a hand to spread the balloon and hold it, so inflation could begin. I had already warned Atyudarini about the loud sound of fans used for initial inflation, so she was cool. The basket was fixed to the ground to keep it from flying away.

Hot Air Balloon Inflation

Hot Air Balloon Inflation

Hot Air Balloon Inflation

Hot Air Balloon Take off

Take-off and Flying in a Hot Air Balloon: The basket is segregated into 4 sections to keep the passengers' weight balanced through the surface. There are ideally 4 persons in each section on a fully booked Hot Air Balloon. You also have to mention your weight in the form that you fill while reserving. So the overall weight in each section is calculated to maintain the balance. 
There are holes on the sides of the basket to climb into the basket and soon the ropes that hold the basket down are released and you float away! 
The take-off and the flight are incredibly smooth. Again, I had already warned Atyudarini about the noise and heat of the burner, so she wasn't startled by it. Thanks to the wind direction, we flew from Baisy Thy towards Gembloux.

Feeling while flying in the Hot Air Balloon: The first things first - the serenity and peace up there is just unbelievable. As I mentioned earlier it was similar to the serenity after the parachute opens in Skydiving. It was silent.. pure silence... There's no sound of leaves or birds or insects or cars, nothing at all, not even the sound of wind because you're moving with the wind! 
Of course, 1 hour of that silence is not practical. People, the other passengers, talk, Atyudarini did talk a lot, so that sound exists. Then the occasional sound of the burner. Then again, silence... peace... serenity!

Views from the Hot Air Balloon over Baisy Thy: Being in the middle of the Belgian countryside, early in the morning, the views from above were also absolutely serene. We were primarily flying over fields and plantations and guess what, I saw multiple deers skipping by and a few rabbits hopping by; I saw several, several, cows & sheep & horses grazing in the grasslands. As I rightly described, so serene and absolutely peaceful. I tried to see if I could catch a glimpse of Villers Abbey or Waterloo Lion's Mound far away, but unfortunately no such luck.

Landing in a Hot Air Balloon: As I mentioned before unlike the take-off and flight, the landing is not so smooth in a Hot Air Balloon. We landed in the middle of some wheat field. It was slightly windy that day and we were warned that our basket might topple over and fall on its side and it did! After we landed, the wind pushed the balloon and the basked toppled over. I had warned Atyudarini that it might happen as well, but still she got irritated, not scared but irritated & annoyed, that the basket landed on its side. She said 'Oh man!' much to the amusement of all other passengers! 
Soon we all jumped out and the car & shuttle that were following us reached us. It took at least 20 hands to deflate and fold the balloon and load it up. 

Time for Champagne & Celebration: The pilot called each of the passengers to hand over the flight certificate and when it was my turn, he just turned to me and gestured for me to come and I burst into laughter. I can imagine his plight, when most Indians cannot pronounce my name right, for a Belgian, it would be way too complicated!
Morning flights always wrap up with a few croissants & champagne. It was the perfect way to wrap up our early morning. The shuttle van dropped us at Waterloo and we caught the train back to Brussels.

Views from Hot Air Balloon Belgium Montgolfiere

Hot Air Balloon Landing

Hot Air Balloon Landing

Hot Air Balloon Landing Champagne

HOT AIR BALLOON IN BELGIUM VIDEO VLOG


QUESTIONS I HAD ABOUT HOT AIR BALLOONING & TIPS FOR THE FIRST FLIGHT ON A HOT AIR BALLOON
Can Atyudarini fly with me? Yes and she did! But how old should one be for a Hot Air Balloon flight? There is no minimum age for flying in a Hot Air Balloon. However, the minimum height to take a Hot Air Balloon flight is 100cm. Atyudarini is taller now and she flew with me! 
What is the minimum height requirement to fly a Hot Air Balloon? While the minimum height requirement is 100cm, I'd recommend waiting until about 120cm, so it is possible to see over the railing. Over to the next point on why!
How did Atyudarini see the views from inside the Hot Air Balloon basket? Atyudarini could easily see from the stepping holes of the basket. However, that was only in 1 direction. To cushion the knees while landing, there is the padding on the sides, so there are no holes there. So Atyudarini could only see from one direction. Also, the hole isn't big enough to put her head through it and turn around in other directions. Carrying her in my hand/hip, is obviously, extremely unsafe, so that's out of question. So yes, she did have a great time seeing everything from above, but her views weren't as spectacular as ours.
How much time does it take? About 3 hours for the overall experience. The time indicated on the SMS, is the time they start unloading and inflating the balloon. That process takes about 20-30 minutes. The actual flight is for about 1 hour. After landing, it takes another 30 minutes to deflate & fold the balloon and load the basket onto the trailer. Then another 15 minutes for Champagne if you have a morning flight (not applicable for evening flights). Then another 15 minutes to receive your certificate and little souvenir! At this point of time, you're probably in the middle of nowhere! If you rely on the Montgolfiere shuttle van to bring you to the railway station/take-off point, it takes another 15-30 minutes. So more of less, 2:30hrs to 3hrs for the whole experience.  
Is it cold up in the air? What should I wear? It isn't any extra cold that the ground. Since you're moving along with the wind, it isn't windy, so it is just the temperature and that is the same as that of the ground! Since there's fire involved, it is recommended to wear cotton clothes and not nylon or polyester. Definitely wear a cap (if you're wearing a hooded jacket, that would do). I'm not as tall as most Europeans, but I felt the burner's heat on my head. So definitely carry a hat/scarf/hooded jacket.
What if I want to pee?! You can't! For morning flights, the bathrooms at the take-off points aren't already open as well and in the sky, definitely, it isn't possible. I usually carry my FUD on all my travels and recently, I've started getting Atyudarini to use a FUD as well. This time, for Atyudarini, I carried an empty water bottle along with her FUD, just in case! Diapers would do the trick as well if you aren't sure!
Is there a photo package? Unlike Skydiving, you're allowed to take your own camera on the Hot Air Balloon flight. So, there's no package that includes photography. 
Is there any life jacket or any safety harness while flying? No.
What about the worst-cast scenario? The undertaking document that everyone has to sign before the flight also includes a clause about insurance. Every passenger is automatically insured against injury and death!

Sunrise Early Morning Hot Air Balloon experience Belgium

Sunrise Early Morning Hot Air Balloon experience Belgium

Sunrise Early Morning Hot Air Balloon experience Belgium

Sunrise Early Morning Hot Air Balloon experience Belgium

HOT AIR BALLOON IN BELGIUM WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORT
It is possible, but Hot Air Balloon in Belgium, depending on public transport is a bit tricky. 

Here are some points to keep in mind:
1. Since the spot you land after the flight is unknown, you'll have to depend on the shuttle-van of Montgolfiere to take you to the take-off point or the nearest railway station if any (you'll have to request it earlier). This service is applicable only in Brabant and Namur, so you can choose only either of these 2 places. 
2. Sunrise flights always happen at 6:30-7:00AM it would be impossible to reach the take-off point on time depending on public transport since trains start running only at 4:45-5:30AM. So if you depend entirely on public transport choose only evening flights. 
3. In June & July, the evening flight is at 8:00-8:30PM which means, by the time you land, the last train would have already left, so skip that too, if you depend entirely on public transport.  
4. In late October, the evening flight is at 4:15PM which means, you may not reach on time at the take-off point depending entirely on public transport, because the flight is confirmed only at 2:30PM.
 
There are a few options though: 
1. If there is absolutely no wiggle room, and you're 100% depending on public transport, choose the sunset flight in April, late August, September, or early October on a weekday (not a weekend or public holiday) in the Brabant region only. The sunset flight takes off from 5:30PM to the latest at 7:00PM. After the experience (+2:30 to 3 hrs after arrival), they would drop you (request this at the time of booking) at the nearest railway station or one on the way. That might be Braine-le-Comte, Waterloo, Halle, etc. This would mean you can reach the railway station, latest at about 10:00PM which gives you enough time to catch one of the last few trains (the very last train is around 11PM) to reach Brussels. 
Why not a weekend or public holiday? The last bit of the travel is mostly on a bus and many of these bus routes do not run on weekends!
In late September, or October alone you could also choose a sunset flight on a weekday (not weekend or public holiday) at Namur. The experience would get over by 9:00PM at the latest. Keep in mind, that the last bus from Namur airfield to the railway station is at 9:49PM and the last train from Namur is at 10:06PM. You absolutely need to catch these!
Do keep in mind, that the weather is cloudy & windy more often than not, as autumn sets in (late September - October) or in early Spring (April), unlike summer (July, August). Since Hot Air Balloon is extremely reliant on wind, there are more chances that your flight might get canceled during these time periods. If it does, don't worry, you can easily re-book through their website on the next available option. 
Also, keep in mind - certain locations might need a couple kilometers' walk from the nearest railway station / bus stop. If you can ride a bike, this might be easier.

2. The best option, if there's some wiggle room, is to take a taxi one-way. Choose the Brabant region (sunrise or sunset on any month, but only on a weekday) because it is the nearest to Brussels. Since the Brabant region has multiple take-off points, you'll get to know it, only on that day / the day prior. One-way taxi to any of the Brabant take-off points would cost between €35 (if it's Halle or Huizingen or Waterloo etc) to €65 (if it's Villers-la-Ville or Baisy Thy etc). In this case, if you have a child with you, bring along the car seat booster. You could choose Namur too, just that the taxi cost would be more. If you can afford it, go ahead and choose Namur, if you want! 
For sunrise flights, take a taxi to the take-off point. After landing, they would drop you at the nearest railway station or back at the take-off point by around 9:30AM-ish. You could take public transport to return. Ideally,  choose a sunrise flight because it is easier to get a taxi 'from' Brussels.
For sunset flights, you should book the late-night (+3hrs after take-off time) taxi from the take-off point to your home as soon as you know the location. Go by train (/+bus) to reach the take-off point. After landing, they would bring you back to the take-off point. Return by taxi which should be waiting for you now. 


HOW MUCH DOES IT COST FOR A HOT AIR BALLOON IN BELGIUM
The cost of a Hot Air Balloon in Belgium at Montgolfiere is €160 for a single person on a weekday (+€10 on a weekend). However, for 3 people or more it is €15 less per person! So, if you're a family of 3 or more, on a weekday, it costs €145 per person. The price is no different whether you're a child or an adult. 
But wait, there's something more. Though there are no flights between November and March, their gift voucher service can be still purchased and I purchased mine when their last Christmas & New Year offer was going on with a 25% off, and per ticket cost only a bit above €100!
Either of these can be booked through the official website of Montgolfiere.be.

SLOW & FURIOUS PACKAGE
Did you notice that the Hot Air Balloon has the photo & logo of Skydivespa? Well, they are partners! A combined ticket called the 'Slow & Furious Package' - Hot Air Balloon Experience with Montgolfiere.be and Skydiving Experience with SkydiveSpa can be booked together at the official website of SkydiveSpa for €310 (the two separately would cost €375)

Montgolfiere Hot Air Balloon Belgium Montgolfiere Hot Air Balloon Belgium

Montgolfiere Hot Air Balloon Belgium Montgolfiere Hot Air Balloon Belgium

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

9 comments:

  1. Super crisp, detailed and descriptive post. All the doubts I got in mind while thinking of this adventure got cleared. Many thanks! Can’t wait to have this experience now.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, definitely I'll also try once!

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  3. I don't know if I could do a hot air balloon ride as I'm scared of heights! But it sounds like a great company in Belgium to book with and the views are spectacular. A sunrise ride sounds great but I'm not usually awake that early lol. It's good to know that weather conditions are taken seriously!

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  4. What an exciting experience to do with your child and flying over this scenic landscape and I see that you captured some amazing wildlife along the way. I was wondering how the landing experience is like and I assumed it to be just like you describe, but at least the champagne toast in the end makes it awesome along with that feelling of tranquility from above, looks like a fantastic experience for both of you.

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  5. We have seen a lot of hot air balloon rides but have not yet managed to plan a ride. As a former skydiver I loved being in the air whenever I could . Although I never wanted to skydive from a hot air balloon. Interesting to read that the hot air balloon landing was a bit jerky. But then you can’t really flare it to slow it down. We too would choose to do the hot air balloon in Belgium in the morning. What a lovely experience. Especially finishing up with champagne!

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  6. The Ropeways and Helicopter rides are a great way to see beautiful hill destinations from top and that is all that we have experienced. But a Hot Air Balloon would be so much more adventurous. The sights here just fantastic. Frankly hadn't heard of Montgolfiere before and now would love to go. The video is amazing which gave a great insight into what to expect. There is so much more to experience in Belgium for us.

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  7. What an amazing experience, do not you love the feeling being on the air for the first time. I bet you do. I could tell from the article. I learn some good tips and knowledge about hot air balloons and sky diving . The article is totally informative. If I have the choice to choose between the two. I would pick skydiving for sure. You could say, I am an adrenaline junky.

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  8. Taking a ride in a hot air balloon has long been on my bucket list! While I knew it would provide beautiful aerial views, I did not even consider that you would see wildlife below. That's incredible! Now that I know the details and tips for taking a hot air balloon ride based on your experience, I'm more likely to actually do it. Looks as amazing as I envisioned!

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