There’s nothing in the world quite like getting a birds eye view of the ancient temples of Bagan. The unique landscape, riddled with mystical pagodas makes the Bagan hot air balloon so iconic and a must do bucket list experience when visiting Myanmar. Below is a complete guide to help you decide if the Bagan hot air balloon experience is for you, and if you do decide to book make sure you take advantage of the amazing discounts I’ve included.
What is hot air ballooning in Bagan like?
The day started early at 5am, when I was picked up at my hotel. After a short drive I arrived at the launch site and was greeted with a light breakfast. I was nervous, so didn’t eat, but chatted with the other first timers instead.
Soon I met our pilot who gave us a full safety briefing and instructions on what to do during takeoff and landing. The briefing was clear and I then felt much more ready to board the wicker basket and get going.
First I had to wait for the hot air balloons to be inflated and prepared for the flight.
Once we boarded (which involved climbing up and over the basket edge), I got a corner position in the basket so I could adjust my view if needed. We were told to bring a windbreaker but there was so much heat radiating from the balloon that I took mine off immediately.
We took off a few minutes after sunrise, and began drifting through the air, slowly and gently. I expected it to be more like a plane taking off but I actually hadn’t even noticed we were off the ground it was that smooth!
As soon as we rose higher and higher into the sky I knew how incredible the next hour would be and I suspected I may have triggered a new obsession. We had panoramic views of the temples of Bagan. We passed local villages and waved to those on their morning commute, whilst getting a view we would never otherwise be able to experience.
As we floated over the trees and temples our pilot taught us about the history of Bagan and explained some of the background of ballooning to us too. I learnt that the pilots don’t know exactly where the balloon will end up as this largely depends on the wind, but every morning calculations are made and the balloon crew drive out to the area they think we will land and then follow the balloons in the car if this changes. This means every day the flight route is different resulting in a unique experience for everyone.
At around 7.30am we prepared to land by holding onto the ropes and for safety reasons, getting into a seated position in the basket. We landed gently and I wasn’t even sure if we had hit the ground yet. We disembarked one by one and were greeted with a glass of champagne, in true aeronautical tradition. With a smile on my face, I tucked into the continental breakfast provided and treasured the personal flight certificate I received. The balloon was deflated and packed up by the crew. At around 8.15am we were driven back to our hotels and arrived at around 9am, with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day in Bagan.
When can you ride a Hot air balloon in Bagan?
Bagan hot air balloon season 2020 runs from the beginning of October to the middle of April. Bagan hot air balloon rides last 45 minutes to an hour and occur at sunrise, as the cooler morning temperatures allow balloons to float closer to the ancient stupas for a more detailed glimpse. Daybreak also tends to bring with it more dramatic layers of haze, dreamily blanketing the landscape for perfect photo opportunities.
During ballooning season sunrise changes and is around 6.15am in October and November, 6.30am in December, 6.45am in January, 6.30am in February, 6.15am in March and 6.00am in April.
Note that during the below peak periods, prices increase by 20 USD and Bagan hot air balloon rides need to booked further in advance to ensure availability:
- 23 December 2019 to 5 January 2020 (Christmas and New Year)
- 23 January 2020 to 27 January 2020 (Chinese New Year)
- 12 February 2020 to 16 February 2020 (Valentines Day)
What is included in the Bagan Hot Air Balloon Ride?
The Bagan balloon ride includes hotel transfers, hot drinks, snacks and fruit before take off, insurance, a branded cap and a commemorative flight certificate. Premium options also exist which include less passengers in the basket, and full breakfast after the Myanmar balloon ride and inflight photos.
Which Bagan Balloon Company Should You Choose?
In London I had researched the three companies offering hot air balloon rides in Bagan, I hadn’t noticed until I reached Yangon but each company had balloons in three different colours (yellow, green, and red) representing the Myanmar flag! Here is some info on each of the Bagan hot air balloon companies:
Golden Eagle Ballooning
The bright yellow balloons flying over Bagan belong to Golden Eagle Ballooning. They have been organising hot air balloon rides in Myanmar since 1999, and donate 5% of ticket sales to community projects.
As my trip to Myanmar was so last minute there was only one company with Bagan hot air balloon availability, Golden Eagle Ballooning. After a day of oohing and aahing, I decided to bite the bullet and book the balloon flight over Bagan. The experience was seamless from start to finish, Golden Eagle Ballooning made the day special beyond belief and I have no hesitations in recommending them to anyone who is considering a hot air balloon in Bagan. (If you want a cheeky 15% discount click here).
Golden Eagle Ballooning, Bagan Umbra Hotel (Wet Kyi Inn), +95 9 25208 4232 or +95 9 25208 4242
Balloons over Bagan
The biggest hot air balloon ride company is Balloons over Bagan. They have twelve dark red coloured balloons, that you often see in the photos of Bagan. They have been running for over 20 years and also offer hot air balloon rides in Inle Lake.
Balloons over Bagan, Thiripyitsaya Block No. (5), Nyaung U (Bagan), Myanmar, +95 9 424 313 404
The dark green balloons in Bagan are run by Oriental Ballooning. They have been around since 2013 and offer other location options for hot air balloons in Myanmar. They have pilots who speak several languages such as English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese and they employ over 100 local staff, who are offered free English lessons to improve their skills. Click here to book the Bagan hot air balloon ride.
Oriental Ballooning, No. 76 A, Lanmadaw Road, Sone Kone Quarter, Nyaung U, +95 9 250 505 383
Price Comparisons of Hot Air Balloons in Bagan
The Bagan Myanmar hot air balloon prices are extremely high, especially by Asian standards (hot air balloon rides in Laos are 1/3 of the price). I thought about it a lot before I decided to splurge nearly as much as my flight ticket from London for 45 minutes floating in the sky but as soon as we rose, I had butterflies in my stomach and knew it was 100% worth it to me for the experience. Here are the prices of the three hot air balloon companies in Bagan compared to each other and some bonus discount offers if you book via the link provided!
Golden Eagle Classic Boutique with 12 passengers max is 330 USD (350 USD in peak season). This option does not include a memory stick with inflight photos. This Bagan hot air balloon ride is currently $276.25 if you book via this link!
Golden Eagle Premium Boutique with 8 passengers max is 390 USD (410 USD in peak season). This hot air balloon ride in Bagan Myanmar includes a memory stick with inflight photos.
Golden Eagle Private charter costs 4000 USD total (4200 USD in peak season). This includes inflight photos, a meeting with the pilot before the flight, and a full continental breakfast after landing.
Balloons over Bagan, Classic service flight costs 280 USD. These Bagan balloon flights include inflight photos.
Balloons over Bagan, Premium service flight costs 380 USD. This includes inflight photos and full breakfast.
Oriental Ballooning with 12 passengers max is 380 USD (399 USD in peak season). Click here to check availability and book.
Missed out on a Bagan Hot Air Balloon Ride?
If you miss out on reserving a hot air balloon in Bagan, don’t give up just yet. Contact each of the three companies detailed above and ask them to add you to their reserve list for ALL the dates you are in Bagan. It’s a long shot but I know a couple who managed to secure a hot air balloon ride in Bagan the night before by using this method. If you don’t want to play it by ear, and prefer to have your balloon ride booked in advance, check out some alternative locations for hot air balloon rides in Myanmar.
Alternative Myanmar Hot Air Balloon Locations (2020 Season)
The Bagan hot air balloon is the most iconic ride and features in countless photos aimed to inspire you to visit Myanmar. However, other areas offer rides on hot air balloon in Myanmar. They still need to be booked in advance but will be easier to secure a spot and they provide a more exclusive and intimate experience as the balloons only hold 4-6 passengers for these destinations in Myanmar.
Balloon over Bagan also offer an Inle Lake hot air balloon ride for 350 USD per person which lasts between 60 – 90 minutes and run from 5th November 2019 until 15th March 2020. Oriental Ballooning offer Inle Lake hot air balloon rides for 350 USD per person, and run from 1st November 2019 until 15th March 2020. However if you book via this link you can get 20 USD off.
Oriental Ballooning offer Burma balloon rides in Thandwe (Ngapali) for 350 USD per person, and run from 21st November 2019 until 15th March 2020.
Oriental Ballooning offer Pindaya hot air balloon Myanmar rides on a private charter basis, and run from 1st November 2019 until 15th March 2020.
Oriental Ballooning offer Mandalay hot air balloon rides for 350 USD per person from from 16th November 2019 until 28th February 2020.
Alternative Sunrise Viewpoints in Bagan
If ballooning over Bagan doesn’t fit your travel budget this time around, or if soaring over the temples seems too daunting, there’s still a chance to marvel at the Bagan hot air balloons by heading to the temples themselves and watching the balloons fly over.
For some of the best shots head to Sunrise temple to take in a panoramic view of nearby temples and Bagan’s iconic skyline dotted with balloons in the distance. Be warned this location gets busy, but the view is worth it. I visited Sunrise temple on my first morning in Bagan after arriving at 2.30am on the night bus from Yangon. Climbing the pagoda (barefoot) up to this viewpoint was the wake up call I needed and was definitely the best way to start my next few days in the region, and get me excited for my Bagan hot air balloon ride the next day.