Study the heavens just above the Swiss Alps in early 2018 and a whole new world of colour, design and floating inspiration will arise in the snowy mountainous skyline. Switzerland’s International Hot Air Balloon Festival in the Alps’ stunning Châteux-d'Oex is a colourful celebration of sky-high culture and creative cool, running for 9 days at the beginning of every year – an ‘out of this world’ must for you ski-mad culture kids.
This year is the festival’s 40th anniversary, running from the 27th of January 2018 to the 4th of February 2018, and will see the Swiss Alps dancing with nearly 100 hot air balloons from over twenty countries. Awash in history as well as unique, Insta-worthy sights, it was in 1999 in Châteux-d'Oex that the Breitling Orbiter – piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones – set off for the first tour of the world in a hot air balloon. Not bad for a different kind of culture trip.
The weekends are undoubtedly the highlights, with crowds streaming into the valley to watch this one-of-a-kind spectacle, but it is Friday 2nd February that really lights up Switzerland’s mountain stage, with the festival’s ‘Night Glow’ event. The twinkling Alpine night sky is lit up with a shining cacophony of softly glowing hot air balloons, a bright fireworks display (a bit further back – don’t worry, none will catch alight) and music to serenade.
Wednesday afternoon is then one for the kiddies, with the ‘grand balloon release’ seeing hundreds of you release bright red balloons into Switzerland’s azure blue sky, captivating your mini skiing pros, and even yourself.
Get some serious Phileas Fogg vibes going post-ski sesh this year, it’s time to switch up your normal routine. Just a 15-minute drive from Gstaad/Saanenland’s cosy hub of contemporary alpine cool, Hotel Spitzhorn, there’s no excuse not to chillax completely, and spy the world from up, up and away.
For more ski-worthy sights, spots and things to do, check out our Ski Genre, or peek in our Travel Journal for more Switzerland goodies, from learning about Zermatt’s record-breaking bridge to the culture hub that is Valais, to Geneva’s Art + Design Guide to a culture fiend run-down in Zurich does Design.
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