Winter in Switzerland: the International Hot Air Balloon Festival of Chateau d'Oex
There’s Albuquerque, there’s Cappadocia, and then there’s Château-d’Oex. Haven’t heard of that one? It’s a beautiful Swiss town known for it’s International Hot Air Balloon Festival, of course!
If you are interested in a unique, winter experience in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, this is for you. Here’s what you need to know:
Château-D’Oex is a French speaking town in the district of Pays-d’Enhaut. From the town of Montreux on Lake Geneva it is a quick (and insanely beautiful) one hour train ride.
Château-d’Oex is a charming little town, famous for being the World Alpine Capital of Hot Air Ballooning. Each year there is a nine day international festival which takes over the entire town at the end of January. While I definitely recommend visiting during this time, if you aren’t able to make it then you aren’t entirely out of luck — passenger flights are available through the year.
International Hot Air Balloon Festival of Château-d’Oex
This year marked the 40th International Hot Air Balloon Festival of Château-d’Oex. Once Kristen learned of the festival and that it would be celebrating a big anniversary this year, we knew we had to include it in our itinerary.
While the festival itself lasts for nine whole days, we were only able to make it for two of them. The program includes a handful of different events and details what is happening when, so make sure to check that before making any plans if you aren’t able to be there the entire time.
During our time there we were able to do two main things that I highly recommend: attending the Night Glow and taking part in a passenger flight.
The Night Glow event is one that happens at night, of course, and is a show of both lights and sound. The performance includes hot air balloons, paragliders, fireworks, and more! Everyone meets on Temple Hill which overlooks the “stage" across the hill.
Since this happens in January and at night after dark, it will be very cold. Make sure to dress incredibly warm.
Prior to taking off you have to prepare your balloon for the ride. It takes a bit of time, I’d estimate anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes depending on the setup. All the balloons at the festival launch from the same spot so this can be a good time to grab some photos of the balloons taking off or getting setup (in addition to helping setup if needed, of course).
For our flight we were paired with a really sweet couple from the Netherlands. Our pilot’s entire family more or less was in the industry so they also had her parents there to help setup which meant we didn’t need to do much at this point. They even brought their 2 year old up with us!
Since it is winter and weather can be a bit testy, you’ll likely need to be flexible as far as timing goes. We were supposed to launch early and ended up being told last minute to wait an hour before heading to the festival because we weren’t able to go at the time originally planned.
Once we finally took off the weather was completely overcast and gloomy. After a little while it started snowing which was a truly magical experience. It became somewhat hard to see around us and was as if we were in the middle of a snow globe. As we watched the snow fall around us everything was dead silent except for the sound of our balloon.
Once the snow stopped the weather completely cleared and were met with sunny, blue skies. It was again absolutely breathtaking, in a different way than the snow globe, and such a pleasant way to end the flight.
We really lucked out in terms of weather, especially since we were able to get a mix of everything. Our ride ended up being around 1.5 hours, whereas most of the others were around 30-45 minutes.
All in all, I would definitely recommend visiting Château-d’Oex for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival any chance you get. It’s a unique and fun experience, one that many people don’t even know you can have!
While attending the festival we stayed in the neighboring town of Rougemont at Hotel Valrose. It was beautiful and the town is adorable - I highly recommend staying with them. Rougemont is 10 minutes by train from Château-d’Oex.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? DO YOU WANT TO CHECK OUT THE INTERNATIONAL HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL?