Hot-Air Ballooning -- The idea of floating over the East Bank as the sun rises over Medinet Habu, the Valley of the Nobles, and the Colossus of Memnon has caught on with a vengeance. There are now dozens of companies vying for your business. The three below have been in business for several years, employ certified pilots, and carry insurance. That said, services vary little. They will all pick you up at your hotel very early (around 5am) and take you via boat to the other side of the river. A light picnic breakfast is served en route, and you're in the air a little after sunrise. Flights last 35 minutes to an hour and go where the wind blows. Check to make sure that you'll get a refund in the (highly unlikely) event of the flight being cancelled because of bad weather. Exactly which monuments you'll float over depends on the wind, but you're likely to get fantastic views of the temples of Hatshepsut, Mentuhotep I, and Thutmoses III as you rise up the Deir al Bahri escarpment that separates the valley from the desert. The village of Qurna, with its surrounding patchwork of green fields, will be spread out below, and you'll get a great view of the Nile as well.
Prices vary wildly by season. In season, expect to pay between LE500 and LE1,000 ($91-$182/£46-£93) per person for the flight. Out of season, you should expect to pay half of this with a bit of negotiating.
- If you book through a hotel or Thomas Cook, you may well find yourself flying with Sinbad, which is well established and heavily promoted. 37 Abdel Hamed al Omda St.; tel. 095/2361960 or 095/2370437; fax 095/2365405; www.sindbadballoons.com.
- Skycruise maintains desks in the Sonesta St. George and Isis hotels at which you can pick up information and book flights. 110 Khalid Ibn el Walid St. (close to the Luxor Sheraton); tel. 095/2360407, 095/2370638, or in Cairo 02/27383751; fax 02/27383761.
- Part of a big transport company, Viking has a range of balloons for groups from 2 to 20. They also have desks in many hotels. 3 Ahmad Orabi St.; tel. 095/2277212; fax 095/2271211.
- A little more expensive than the others, Hod Hod Soliman has been in the business since it started, and once you've been featured on CNN, you can afford to charge a little more. Omar Ali Street (on the second floor close to the Golden Palace hotel); tel. 095/2370116; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.