Hop aboard a balloon for an eagles eye view of southern Spain.
If you think Andalusias sights are impressive from the ground, just imagine how they look from the air. A hot air balloon gives a new perspective on sights such as the Alhambra in Granada, where the Pasajeros del Viento company offers regular flights.
In the breathtaking mountains of the Serrania de Ronda in Malaga, the British-run Aviacion del Sol company has been taking passengers over the sierras for the past decade, giving travellers to Andalusia an eagles eye view of Spains most scenic region, in an experience which is thrilling and calming at the same time.
The ideal flying conditions are in the early morning. Just as dawn approaches, the balloons are filled with air, which is then heated to give the balloon buoyancy. After passengers climb into the sturdy wicker basket, the balloon slowly rises, and for the next hour or so it wafts over the countryside as the seasoned pilot deftly guides the craft, rising or descending to seek the desired wind direction.
When the balloon lands a backup vehicle is awaiting for the rendezvous, loaded with the makings of an essential ingredient of balloon flight: a champagne breakfast. In the case of Aviacion del Sol, aside from Spanish sparkling cava theres freshly squeezed orange juice, sausage, cured Serrano ham, quails eggs, sweet buns and coffee. Finally, passengers receive a certificate as a memento of their Andalusian ballooning adventure.
Passenger flights are only part of the activity at Aviacion del Sol. This is the Spanish base for the Lindstrand Balloon School, which offers professional training for those who want to learn how to fly a hot air balloon. A fourteen-day intensive course, with some 16 hours of flight training, allows students to learn the basics to become a competent pilot. Trainees include those with some flying experience who want to refine their skills and clock up hours towards their professional license in the unbeatable landscape and carefree environment that southern Spain provides.
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photo courtesy of Aviacion del Sol - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet