Top Ten Switzerland Classic Adventures

Go Ballooning in Chateau d'Oex
By Mark Honan

Floating high over a Swiss valley, the other hot-air balloons appear as flattened disks. They slide slowly over the snow-dusted fields, looking like a shoal of overweight, brightly colored tropical fish. The captain fires the burners, and the whoosh of the jets is answered by a slow, gentle ascent. We soar higher above the undulating peaks fringing the valley. The jets stop, I can hear the metal clicking as it cools, and silence reigns again.

Hot-air ballooning is one of the big draws in Chateau d'Oex, in southwest Switzerland. Try to visit in January for International Hot-Air Ballooning Week—you'll see spectacular mass ascents, with dozens of spherical or specially shaped balloons taking to the skies simultaneously. While you can find ballooning all over the country, Chateau d'Oex is the most established place. It's expensive—more than U.S. $200 for a 90-minute flight—but worth it for the "wow" factor. You'll soar over green pastures and wooden chalets, at eye level with mountain peaks.


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