International Hot Air Balloon Festival
The Swiss hot air balloon capital, Château-d’Oex in the Vaudois Alps, plays host to a fleet of hot air balloons at the end of January each year since 1979. The Château-d’Oex International Hot Air Balloon Festival brings together pilots from some 20 different countries, with nearly 100 hot air balloons taking advantage of the exceptional climate of the Alps in winter. The festival attracts crowds of people over the nine days, including two weekends, with hot air balloons in special shapes and colors, air displays, and model hot air balloons. Wednesday afternoon is as always dedicated to children—captive balloon flights and the grand balloon release are guaranteed to create delight on hundreds of little faces!
The connection between Château-d’Oex and hot air balloons is a historical one. It was from here that in 1999 the Breitling Orbiter, piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, set off for the first around-the-world trip in a hot air balloon. Visitors can learn about the story of this mad adventure at the Balloon Museum, which is housed in a historic building in the heart of the village. On the upper floor of the museum, an exhibition area with the latest in multimedia equipment informs visitors about the history, invention, technology, and adventures of hot air ballooning. Another area is entirely devoted to fun activities, services, and practical questions related to ballooning; nothing is left out in depicting the wonderful world of balloonists. Château-d’Oex can be reached in a little over 2 hours by car, or 3.5 hours by train.
Tickets are CHF 15 for adults and CHF 5 for Wednesday afternoon. You can also book a passenger flight online.