A UNESCO World Heritage site, Myanmar’s ancient city of Bagan is home to more than 2,500 stupas, temples and pagodas which are spread over a 30-square-mile plain. Known now as Old Bagan, the area is a site of significant historical importance and is a bucket-list destination due to the prominence of hot air balloon adventures.
There truly is no better way to see the scale of the ancient city than from the air. With nearly three thousand temples to explore, the best way to get up close and personal with them is from the air, and witnessing the sun rise above this magnificent landscape is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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The History of Ballooning in Myanmar
Hot air balloon flights have been happening for over 20 years in Bagan. As tourism has increased in Myanmar over the past two decades, the popularity of this fantastic experience has gained traction and is now one of the main reasons why people visit the ancient city.
You can also take a hot air balloon flight over other areas of Myanmar, including Mandalay, Inle Lake, and Ngapali Beach. A hot air balloon ride is in itself an incredible experience, but I think Bagan should be top of your list to enjoy this breathtaking activity.
When To Visit?
The balloon flying season is from October to April. The flights take place in the morning during sunrise hours, as the cooler temperatures mean that the balloons can fly lower and get closer to the temples to marvel at their detail.
Its also a gorgeous time to experience Bagan from the air. The rising sun creeps slowly above the horizon dazzling everything in an incredible glow and soaking the entire place in a dreamy, magical haze.
Which Company To Use?
Four hot air balloon companies operate in Bagan. Balloons Over Bagan, Oriental Ballooning, Golden Eagle Ballooning and STT Ballooning.
All offer similar standard packages, but some have exclusive premium packages if you want to splash the cash!
Balloons Over Bagan are a well-established company that has been operating in Bagan for over 20 years. They have a fleet of 12 balloons and offer a standard and a premium service.
The standard balloon ride is for 14-16 people per balloon and includes pick up and drop off at your hotel/accommodation, pre-flight refreshments and pre-launch inflation viewing, and sparkling wine, fruit and pastries after landing. The premium service includes complimentary pick-up and drop-off, pre-flight refreshments and pre-launch inflation viewing, and a continental breakfast after landing, and is limited to just 8 passengers per balloon. It’s far more intimate and means you’ve got a better chance of getting that incredible Instagram shot!
This is the company I chose to use and they were fantastic. They have more balloons, so you have more chance of grabbing a last minute seat which I did when I booked the day before the flight, back in 2019.
Oriental Ballooning has been operating since 2013 and has balloon operations in Mandalay, Inle Lake, Pindaya, and Ngapali Beach, as well, of course, in Bagan.
In Bagan, they offer a standard twelve-passenger balloon ride and have a complimentary pick-up and drop-off service, viewing of pre-launch inflation with refreshments, and a sparkling wine and fresh fruit reception after landing.
Golden Eagle Ballooning are a boutique balloon service. As a subsidiary company of Golden Express Tours, they have been flying over Myanmar since 1999 and are an experienced and well-established company.
With only five balloons flying a day, they offer a more exclusive experience. They have three different packages to choose from, a 12-passenger balloon, an 8-passenger balloon, or a private charter. All flights include a pick-up and drop-off service, pre-flight refreshments, and a champagne celebration on landing. The premium charter service has additional extras such as photo souvenirs, and a full continental breakfast after landing.
STT Ballooning established in 2016, is the newest company to offer flights of Bagan. With a fleet of 7 balloons, offering flights in either a standard 16-person balloon or a premium 8-person balloon.
Each flight includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, pre-flight refreshments and pre-launch inflation viewing, and a champagne ceremony on landing. The premium service also includes a limousine transfer.
How Much Will It Cost?
Prices range from $190 for a standard experience to up to $4000 for the VIP Boutique Golden Eagle experience.
The average price is around $300, but it’s worth checking with different agents to see the best price they can offer.
What To Expect
The day will start with a 5 am pick-up from your accommodation. This will depend on the location of your hotel and the company will let you know the day before the flight.
From your hotel, you will head to the take-off location. This varies depending on the wind and will be decided by the pilot on the day of the flight.
You will meet your pilot and be given a full safety briefing whilst enjoying some light refreshments. You can watch in amazement as your balloon is inflated and prepared to launch whilst enjoying a delicious hot drink.
Once the balloon is inflated and prepared, get ready to board. The pilot and the team will ensure everyone boards the balloon safely and is aware of any safety instructions before take-off.
When everyone has boarded the balloon safely, the pilot will get ready to go. Take-off time!
You will glide smoothly into the skies as the balloon flies higher and higher, starting around the treetop level and then flying higher, depending on the wind speed and direction. As you soar above the skies, you will glimpse temples, lush landscapes, and beautiful terrain. Get your camera ready for the sunrise breaking above the horizon, casting its shimmering light across the beauty of Bagan.
Flight time is usually 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the wind on the day. The pilot will aim to stay out as long as possible before finding a safe place to land.
After an expectedly soft landing back down to earth, you will be greeted with sparkling wine or champagne, and a delicious breakfast to enjoy, whilst savouring the incredible experience.
When breakfast is over, you will be taken back to your accommodation to enjoy the rest of your day after such a wonderful start!
Things To Know
- It gets cold in the morning, so dress warmly. Layers are best as it can get pretty hot with the heat of the balloon
- Stick to an outer corner of the basket to get the best views from two sides, and the best photo opportunity spot!
- Try to book your flight for the first morning you will be in Bagan. If your flight gets cancelled for that day, then you’ve got more opportunity to book again for the rest of your stay
- If taking a hot air balloon ride isn’t in your budget, then the best way to see the balloons is to watch them from the ground. I would recommend watching them from the ground even if you are going up in one too. It’s a whole different experience but just as beautiful
So there you have it – a complete guide to booking your once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon flight in Bagan.
Although it’s a pricey experience, I’m glad I bit the bullet and booked it, and I think you will too. A bucket-list activity that is worth every penny.
The featured image at the beginning of this post is from Blende12 of PixaBay.