You know what the most awesome thing in the world is? Pure and simple: Great Friends.
Thanks to our “wolf pack” of friends, after Stef’s present (paragliding over Sopot) it was my turn experience an aerial adventure of my own: flying with a hot air balloon.
I am a great fan of gifts which bring you a memorable experience rather than a material present, so things like this make me really happy.
The best time to fly
You do not need warm weather to book your flight
I thought I had to wait for warm, pleasant weather to book a date for my balloon flight. However, it turned out that air currents and wind are much more important than temperature: especially the amount of the wind at the lower altitude from which the balloon is supposed to take off.
In fact, Hot air balloon rides can be done all year round: even in winter. The heated air below the blast valve certainly won’t let you freeze even then. It is, in fact, easier to take off (it takes less fuel, etc.) when the surrounding air is colder than the air inside the balloon.
Rise & Shine: dusk and dawn are the best times to fly
In general, flights are done either early in the morning or at dusk/sunset: the times of the day when the air is more stable and cooler. The hot air inside the balloon is lighter than the surrounding air: so the bigger the difference between the two, the better. As the day unfolds, the heated air forms thermals (upward currents of warm air) which can interfere with the proper flight of the balloon and make it harder for pilots to navigate with precision.
So we got up at 5.a.m. A fresh way to start the day! For less than an hour we were near Botevgrad: near the protected area Dreneto, which was one of the two options for takeoff this week.
With daily temperatures hitting 35+ degrees, it was incredibly refreshing to enjoy the morning chill. Not to mention that a flight at 7 am (which lasts roughly about an hour) allows you to enjoy nature and still be available for a full workday afterwards.
Keep Calm & Enjoy the View
Hot air balloon flights are really, really chill. Unlike the adrenaline involved in paragliding, both takeoff and landing here are very smooth and chill (or maybe they felt that way because we had a really good pilot).
The speed of the flying is controlled by entering air currents at different altitude: the highest point we reached was above 600m above the ground but it never really felt like we are flying at high speed. So don’t expect a wild ride: this type of flight is all about enjoying the view and having a really, really pleasant experience.
The terrain over which we flew was mostly plains surrounded by mountains on the horizon, but the pilot told us that when the weather is right, they also do balloon flights between the Belogradchik rocks. I am absolutely looking forward to such an opportunity: as you can see from my photos below: Belogradchik is well worth seeing even without a balloon! I can only imagine how surreal it would be to fly across this type of terrain.
Note to my friends: Thank you so much, guys! ❤
P.S And let’s mark the day because the number of lovely people around me grew by one person today: give it up for baby Lora <3!.
Do not leave the basket before the pilot tells you to do it! Weights are well calculated during a balloon flight: there are 4 gas tanks (35kg each), 4 passengers and the weight of the basket. As soon as one person leaves the basket, it could suddenly fly up because it is lighter. This is not such a problem when there is a skilled pilot inside but there is a risk of the basket turning over if the balloon lifts too quickly.
In general balloon flights are very safe and the only accidents occur when landing near places with electric cables nearby (as the balloon can get entangled) or during competitions and flights with several balloons around in which it is hard to see whether someone is flying above you. So don’t worry, listen to the instructions and enjoy the ride!
Flying with Aeroact
My flight was a Birthday gift from friends who purchased a voucher from Aeroact balloons. I have no experience with other balloon flights but based on the detailed information about flying we were given by our pilot Kaloyan and the smooth ride, I’d say that they are doing their job really well.
More importantly, they make no compromise with safety: going all the way to Austria each year to have a proper* inspection of their balloons (*there are no certified safety inspectors for hot air balloons in Bulgaria). So if you are interested you can check their website and Facebook page.
✓ Wear the proper clothes and shoes:
– wear layers: the heated air from the valve will quickly change the chilly morning temperature so have a tanktop/t-shirt and something with long sleeves over it
-wear sneakers or comfortable ankle-high shoes: balloons often land in fields with grass or wheat and there is also a good chance your feet will get wet in the mud so flip flops and sandals won’t be a great choice
-take a hat with you: the hot air from the valve is just above your head and it is more comfortable if you are wearing something
-for the girls: wear comfortable pants or (not skinny) jeans by all means. To enter the balloon basket you will need to climb on it, so be practical: no shorts, skirts or dresses.
✓ Bring your good mood and your camera, the view is worth it!