Bucket List: Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Montserrat

Bucket List: Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Montserrat

Once upon a time, I was asked by a client if I could fly to Barcelona to shoot a short film.

“Sure, why not? What’s the assignment?”

“We want you to go to Barcelona and do all the coolest and most luxurious things the city has to offer and film yourself doing it?  You’d be staying at the Ritz-Carlton Arts Hotel and you’d have your own driver and guide to the city. Oh, we’ll also get you a private helicopter, sailing boat, and you might need to go hot air ballooning over Montserrat.”

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The running joke in my head whenever I get such a ridiculous assignment is, “how much do I have to pay you?”

And of course, the best part about it is that I was the one actually getting paid. I pinch myself and then I pack my gear.

You Always Fly At Dawn

This is by no means a complaint, but in order to be in the air for the sunrise, you have to get up way earlier than normal. The last time I flew a hot air balloon in Myanmar, we were up and ready for our pick-up around 5 am to fly over Inle Lake.

My assistant and I had been waking up before dawn the last couple of days to shoot, so luckily for us, a 6:30 am call time was nothing. We have a 45 minute drive to our point of departure at Sallent just outside Barcelona, so I find a nice spot to flatten my face against the window and take a mini nap.

It is still pretty dark when we arrive, but our pilot and his team from Barcelona Balloon Flights greet us with warm Spanish greetings and and an even warmer nod towards the coffee. This is just what I need to jump start the excitement that kept us both up late the night before.

Pilot prepping hot air balloon at dawn

Where Can You Fly Near Barcelona?

Barcelona Balloon Flights offers flights near Montserrat, Costa Brava, Montseny, and the Pyrenees. It’s 170€ for 1 person and 330€ for 2. You can also charter an entire basket.

The Balloon Is Massive

If you’ve never flown or been up close by a hot air balloon, you will be in for a surprise when you see how big the thing is. Laying flat on the ground, it stretches out some 80ft (24m) from one end to the other. Massive.

While we drink our coffee, the balloon is slowly inflated by two fans blowing hot air from the capsule burners. This takes about 15 minutes and the coolest part was that I am given permission to walk inside the balloon itself while it is inflating. This gives me an even greater perspective to the size of this thing. Massive I tell you.

Up, Up and Away

We waste no time once the balloon is fully inflated. After a quick safety briefing, we jump in and before I even know it, we are off. I nearly miss the take-off shot because it just happened so fast and gently.

And like that, I begin to lose my breath.

As we rise over the countryside, there is a morning haze that just creates the most perfect light. I chase this quality of light all around the world for the perfect shot and here it was, come out from nowhere. How else I can describe it other than to say that it is warm and enveloping, a light that embraces you. As the balloon turns in the air, we are treated to a 360 degree view of the Montserrat area, blue skies contrasting with that warm yellow sun glow.

Off in the distant, our pilot points out the distinctive sawtooth ridge line of Montserrat. It is partially obscured by the morning mist and haze, but its ridge line rise above it all and it is unmistakably the Montserrat I had only seen in photographs.

Sunrise view of Montserrat from Hot Air Balloon
View of Montserrat Mountain from the air

Take My Breath Away

Down below, we fly over the ruins and what looks like an old farm house and I am overwhelmed by the idea of time. It is neither good or bad, so I just let it pass over me. A little later, I see a paraglider below us and have a little fun with filming a sequence where I squash him with my fingers. A bit of perspective play.

And as if to say, “you haven’t seen anything yet”, the light only gets better and I cannot help but to turn the focus on my assistant to get a shot of her mesmerizingly staring out over the world below.

Swedish girl looking out of hot air balloon smiling

And then of course we take some fun selfies, because, it’s only 8:30 in the morning and we really shouldn’t be taking ourselves too seriously at this hour.

Our flight lasts right about an hour, which was plenty of time to take in the region without feeling rushed. The entire flight goes as smooth as you can expect and we have a perfect landing with the customary cava celebration waiting for us below.

Stepping out of hot air balloon first person point of view

Once we jump out and regain our breaths, we give the team a hand with deflating the balloon before retreating back for the cava and some jamon. I love Spain for this combination and it’s the reason I plan to move there at some point in the future. But that’s a different story.

Is this on your bucket list? If you need some ideas for an adventure or random places to visit, check out my bucket list for inspiration and get out there.

Updated on March 11, 2020


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