With a name and design like ours, it was about time we went up in a hot air balloon, and we were delighted when Vol de Coloms invited us to do just that on a recent trip to Catalonia. Me oh my, what a day.
The day began at 7am when we went to the Vol de Coloms launch site. We drank coffee while watching the balloon come to life. The weather forecast had been uncertain so we were delighted to see that the conditions were in our favour.
Steve got involved, helping to inflate the balloon…
…while I realised that I was actually somewhat terrified (again) of flying in a basket…
….powered by flames.
I got my act together, let excitement take precedence, and clambered inside….
….even managing to smile. The butterflies were having a party in my stomach…
…and we weren’t even off the ground yet.
The roar of the flames intensified…
…and we were off! All fear subsided and exhilaration and awe set in.
How could it not with such stunning views? The landscape of Garrotxa and the surrounding area is an incredible mass of wooden mountains, valleys and volcanoes, with the sea visible in the distance.
We even flew over a dormant volcano with a little church perched in the centre. It isn’t working today but you can hike there to take a peek inside.
Floating in the balloon is sublime. In-between the roar of flames, the basket glides smoothly through the sky in perfect silence. It’s the perfect condition for some earth gazing and a mini overview effect.
I was amazed by how much control the pilot had over the balloon. We went from around 1,200 feet at one minute, to lightly skimming the trees the next. I felt like I was in a BBC documentary, smoothly zooming in and out of the landscape.
Just when things couldn’t get any better, the pilot produced some cava and cake.
…and cake in the sky. I was in bliss.
Capturing our shadow made for many fun photos, until it was time to land. We’d been flying for over an hour.
Our pilot originally chose the field above, but at the last minute decided upon a cycle path instead. Flanked by a road and a ravine, I was a little nervous but needn’t have been seeing as we landed with barely a jolt.
Half of us jumped out and helped hold the basket down as we maneuvered it off the path…
…and waited for the balloon to deflate. Another pilot from Vol de Coloms had been following us in a van, and shortly arrived to help pack up.
A group effort ensued and we rolled up the massive silk, magically fitting it back in its tiny box.
High off adrenaline and awe, we journeyed back to the Vol de Coloms camp where a Catalan feast had been laid out including cheeses, omelettes, bread and salad (and of course hams for the meat eaters). We were shown how to make proper pan catalan (bread with garlic, oil and tomatoes), and tried our hand at drinking from a spout. It was a wonderfully sociable way to end an awesome experience.
We were even given a certificate to commemorate our day. And it was certainly a day worth commemorating. The landscape, the views, the treats, the wonder of flying beneath a balloon – it has to be one of the most peaceful and romantic ways to travel. If you get a chance to experience it, don’t miss it. It’s one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever done.
Next up, I’d love to go to this one: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, USA
Vol de Coloms is in Santa Pau, Garrotxa, Catalonia, about an hour and a half drive from Barcelona. We drove there in a hire car and stayed the night before in the incredible Mas Can Battle. It makes a gorgeous brak away from the city, and it’s amazing how much the landscape changes within the hour.
The balloon ride lasts around an hour and a half and is suitable for all ages and abilities including those in wheelchairs. There were about 10 people in our balloon but you can arrange to go just as two.
A flight costs 170€ and includes cava, cake and a full meal with wine afterwards, as well as a certificate.
There are lots of excellent hikes in the area so it would be nice to combine a ballon ride with some exploration of the surrounding countryside and historic towns (such as Olot, Santa Pau and Besalu).
Many thanks to Vol de Coloms for inviting us to take the balloon ride. It was spectacular.