One of the best places in the world to do a hot air balloon flight is in Bagan, Myanmar. The golden glowing sunrise view above the ancient temples and pagodas of of Bagan with nearly 1000 years of history makes it a very special experience. With over 2200 temples and pagodas, there is no better way to take in the incredible history spread across the plains of Bagan. Read in this blog post everything you need to know about a hot air balloon ride over Bagan, and our personal experience with Balloons over Bagan in February 2020!
About the hot air balloons Bagan
Every morning from October until half April the sky of Bagan is filled with hot air balloons. Of course if weather conditions are good, but the general season for hot air balloons in Bagan is from October until half April.
If you don’t know how hot air balloons fly, here a little background info.
Hot air balloons fly when the air inside the balloon is less dense than the air surrounding it. Because hot air is less dense than cool air, causes the heated air the balloon to rise. Simply because it is lighter than an equal volume of cold air. The burner inside a hot air balloon heats up the air inside the balloon which makes it fly.
There are a few companies offering Bagan air balloon rides. Balloons over Bagan is the biggest one and operates in Bagan since 1999. They were the Myanmar hot air balloon pioneers, so with more than 20 years of experience they are a very trusted company to fly with.
Bagan hot air balloon season
The Bagan hot air balloon season runs from October until the first week of April, but for specific dates and bookings, visit the website of Balloons over Bagan.
Bagan hot air balloon price
The Bagan hot air balloon costs are about $350 per person for a classic balloon flight with free inflight photos. You will share the basket with in total 16 people, 4 in each compartment.
For a premium balloon flight with continental full breakfast you will have a more intimate and luxurious experience in one of the smaller 8 passenger balloons. With an own dedicated launch area and private basket compartments for couples, this is an option for special occasions. A highlight of this unique Premium Service is a guided interactive tour around the balloon during inflation from your pilot just prior to take off, and separate continental full breakfast after landing with sparkling wine. The price for this service is $450 per person.
What to expect during a hot air balloon ride in Bagan
If you book your Bagan balloons experience with Balloons over Bagan, (which I highly recommend!), you will get picked up around 5.30AM from your hotel with a very nice oldskool bus. Once arrived at the pitch dark launch spot of the hot air balloons, you will get served coffee or tea and you will be asked to sit on the seats. Then you will meet your captain who will explain about all do’s and don’ts. Pay attention because the instructions are important! Especially the explanation about all safety reasons and precautions.
Slowly the light will bright up the sky as the balloons will be filled with air. After 15-20 minutes the balloons are ready and everyone will be asked to be prepared to board! The last safety instructions about a safe lift off and a safe landing will be explained, and then it’s time to go!
Ready to fly!
All the hot air balloons in Bagan typically launch a few minutes before the sun rises. So as soon as you’re up in the sky, you will be greeted by the beautiful golden light with a horizon filled with ancient pagodas and balloons. A beautiful panorama where Bagan is so famous for. On a clear day you can even see as far as Mt. Popa and Mt. Victoria! It depends on the wind in which direction you’re flying, but most of the time you will see a lot of pagodas beneath you.
The hot air balloon rides in Bagan usually take about 45 minutes, and you will land on the sandbank next to the the Ayeyarwady river. After landing, you will be served croissants, banana bread and champagne or lemon juice. We were quite hungry after the beautiful balloon ride over Bagan, so the food was a satisfying breakfast. We were also given a “Balloon flight certificate” which is lovely memory of our trip to Bagan.
Our experience with Balloons over Bagan
It was my (Ilse) first time in an hot air balloon, so the experience itself was already super special! For Atiba it was the second time in an hot air balloon and we both enjoyed every second of the balloon flight. The views on the ancient pagodas from above are so beautiful, but also if you look in the distance and you see the mountains, the river and the local life. It’s such an incredible and peaceful experience high up in the sky to witness the glory of beautiful Myanmar.
Our pilot Elly from Balloons over Bagan was super enthusiastic and told us we we were very lucky to fly over the Ananda temple. She told us that only happens about 6 times in a season. And in one season there are more than 160 hot air balloon flights!
The team of Balloons over Bagan is super professional and fun! They are enthusiastic and you can see that they know what they’re doing. There is a lot of staff to help you getting in and out of the basket. And Elly our pilot even told us that in other countries (where salaries are much higher), there is no staff to clear away the hot air balloon! Then you have to help the crew instead it’s being done for you.
So in a short summary. If you travel to Bagan and you want to experience the beautiful UNESCO Heritage Site from above, then you should definitely book your Bagan hot air balloon flight with Balloons over Bagan!
Photography tips for your hot air balloon flight
You have to pack as light as possible for a hot air balloon flight as there isn’t much room in the basket. So leave your tripods and unnecessary photography accessories at your room.
If you have a zoom lens you should definitely take it with you. To capture the vast landscape, you want to use a lens somewhere in between 12 – 35 mm, but to capture some landscape details or the mystical fog and magical light rays created by the sunlight and fog, you should take a tele lens with you from 70-200mm, or like we had with us, a 100-400mm tele lens! Also don’t forget to bring ND filters, because as soon as the sky gets brighter, you’ll need those sunglasses for your lens!
Early in the morning before the sun rises, you may need to bump up your ISO to capture enough light. You want to keep the shutter speed high (1/250 or faster) enough so that you won’t get any motion blur, particularly at lower altitudes. Once the sun comes up you’ll have some remarkable light for about 15 – 25 minutes, so take advantage of it! Also look for the fog and where the light hits the fog to capture those magical light rays.
Half an hour after sunrise it gets quite bright so then you will need an ND filter. Shoot towards the north and west (away from the sun) to get the best colors.
Is a Bagan hot air balloon ride worth it?
Yes, absolutely! You can find all the reasons above. But if, for some reason, you didn’t make it to fly over Bagan in an hot air balloon, and you still want to experience Myanmar from above, there is another option! Because you can also choose to go ballooning over Inle Lake! Balloons over Bagan also offers balloon rides over Inle Lake. Check their website for more information!
Is it safe to take a hot air balloon flight in Myanmar?
Absolutely! All of the pilots of Balloons Over Bagan (but also from the other companies like Golden eagle and Oriental ballooning are from Europe or Australia and licensed in the UK. Like many other hot air balloon pilots, they travel around the world to different countries to fly during each place’s respective hot air balloon flying seasons. The balloons and equipment are manufactured in Europe and imported to Myanmar. And also the ground crew is highly trained in all aspects. But needless to say, always make sure that if you travel, you have a good travel Insurance!
What to wear during a hot air balloon ride?
Although it might be cold in the early morning, you won’t get cold in the balloon! Due to the heat emitted by the burner there will be enough warmth around you. So you don’t need to put on super warm clothing. Be aware that you are close to fire, however the burner is on safe distance. But it’s a good idea to wear cotton clothing. I would also suggest to put on something easy so you can step smoothly in and out of the basket. So no dresses or skirts as it might be an awkward moment for you! From Balloons over Bagan you will get a sponsored cap to protect your head from the hot air.