India

Araku Valley Balloon Festival

As a popular ‘60s song says, “Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon…” And that’s exactly what you can feel – over Andhra's majestic Araku valley! Float magically and enjoy the morning breezes suspended from a hot air balloon and marvel at a landscape bursting with small rivers, hills, forests. And once your feet are back on earth, participate in captivating tribal dances, delight in luxurious tent living, and wonder at the heavenly hues of the Araku valley.

2 years ago | tourtravel
A spectrum of marvelous hues spread over the luscious green Araku valley on the occasion of the inaugural Araku-balloon festival as scores of hot-air balloons rise into the heavens

In this Article:

Would You Like To Ride In My Beautiful Balloon
Araku Balloon Festival
How To Get There
Where To Stay In Araku
What To Eat In Araku
Contact
Checklist
Some Images From Our Trip To Araku Valley Balloon Festival


“WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE IN MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOON?

We have a go for launch! Up, up, and away! My thoughts of anticipation are interrupted as I felt my body jerked upwards. The surprise caused me to lose my balance and I hastily grabbed for the safety rope. My stomach felt like it had flipped when I felt a blast of the cold, early morning air. But then the warm blow from the burners firing over my head served to calm my nerves.

I opened my eyes and looked down. I was floating above the earth! I looked down and watched the waving spectators grow smaller as the balloon climbed into the sky. It was like so many dreams I had of flying. But this time, the feeling was real.

I had never been in a hot-air balloon before and had not really known what to expect. I was torn between watching the landscape below recede and marvelling at the wonderful sky above. Off in the distance, a grey shadow presaged rain, but the sky overhead was an unblemished blue, save for the warm, yellow ball of fire floating just above the tree-clad hills. The colourful hues of the balloon above lent an air of wonder to the world around me.

A tribal woman proudly wears her golden nose rings and a flower in her hair. Many different tribes live in this area

A tribal woman proudly wears her golden nose rings and a flower in her hair. Many different tribes live in this area © Dinesh Pagaria


The Araku Valley below spread below me in a random pattern of wood-clad hills, checks of tilled earth and stretches of grass – all presenting a checkerboard of brown, green and yellow hues – while houses, huts and other structures seemed to like playing pieces sparsely scattered across the giant board. I could also see light sparkling in streams and fields of flowers glowing yellow in rolling across the Eastern Ghats.

The four of us continued to climb – the almost total calm around us was broken only from the soft rush of air and the bursts from the burner that drove us ever higher. Our launch site quickly receded as we soared over the valley. We reached our maximum altitude of 1,000 feet at around 6:30 am, and the rainbow colours of the other balloons around seemed to enclose us in a world of almost unimaginable peace.

We spent a good 45 minutes in the air, but that seemed far too short a time when the pilot told us that we had to begin our descent. I felt like I do when being rudely awakened from a marvellous dream only to find myself in bed. But, as though in compensation, the pilot had one more surprise for us.

The tethered flight sessions set the night aglow and enchant the hundreds of visitors in attendance

The tethered flight sessions set the night aglow and enchant the hundreds of visitors in attendance


ARAKU BALLOON FESTIVAL

Andhra Pradesh Tourism organised the Araku Balloon Festival in association with Sky Waltz and E Factor. In November, sixteen balloons from thirteen countries conducted morning flights and tethered evening flights. Para-motoring stunts thrilled spectators, and invitees were able to experience the delights of glamping.

The village church in Araku seen in the early morning light

The village church in Araku seen in the early morning light © GANESH MOHAN


We got a warning when he instructed us to bend our knees, clamp our elbows around the safety lines and brace our backs against the edge of the basket. Then came the surprise! A sudden and hard thump rocked us as we collided with the ground. We bounced up and down a few times until we finally came to rest.

This was the very first time that I had experienced the wonders of balloon flight. Andhra Pradesh Tourism had arranged this Araku Balloon Festival – in association with Sky Waltz and E Factor – in order to make the world aware of Araku’s unique beauty. The festival ran for three days and 16 balloon crews came from 13 countries from all over the world including Brazil, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom. Para-motoring experts also exhibited their stunting skills. Invitees were treated to glamping (luxury camping) as part of promoting Araku as a destination for international ballooning and parasailing enthusiasts and in order to attract heli-tourism.

People came to the festival in hundreds from Visakhapatnam and beyond to witness first the balloons taking off in the early morning light. The days passed in a cloud of balloon clouds and looping flights of para-motoring. The nights came alive with ‘night glow’ displays of tethered hot-air balloons glowing and swaying in the breeze. The nights pulsed with balloon light and regional music. By all accounts, the most impressive balloons on display were Iwi the Kiwi, the seahorse-shaped Neptuno and the giant Bumble Bee.

Visitors exploring the Borra Caves in the Araku Valley. They are considered the deepest caves in the country

Visitors exploring the Borra Caves in the Araku Valley. They are considered the deepest caves in the country © gnanistock


Araku has long been popular with tourists for the Borra Caves nearby, Bongulo chicken (chicken smoked in bamboo), its local coffee, and its native tribes. I loved the flavour that Araku chocolates added to my coffee, and I heard that the strawberry farms in the area provide luscious flavours. I stepped out my tent on my way to dinner one night when I came across women from the Pooja tribe singing and dancing around the campsite fires. They were performing Dhimsa, the traditional dance of Visakhapatnam. Suddenly, a rather beautiful dancer, who was holding a peacock feather in one hand, pulled me into the group. Others came by and joined in until it seemed that the whole campsite was dancing.

I was eventually able to escape and enjoy the whole scene – the magic of the music and the dancing, and the serenity of the Araku night sky above. The day’s adventure and the evening delights finally took their toll, and the luxury tent provided a comfortable place to fall asleep and dream of soaring.

Flying free. In a sense, Araku will always mean that to me.

A Jeep with tourists follow the winding road around the mountains surrounding the Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh

A Jeep with tourists follow the winding road around the mountains surrounding the Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh © Bgopal


NAVIGATOR

HOW TO GET THERE
By air: Vizag Airport in Visakhapatnam is nearest (114 km / 3 hrs distant). Visakhapatnam can be reached by direct flights from major Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

By rail: Visakhapatnam station is the nearest. Direct trains to Araku are available there.

By road: Araku is well connected by road, and it is a pleasant drive Visakhapatnam. If you drive down from Vizag, which takes around three hours, you can also stop at the marvellous Borra Caves along the way.
 

WHERE TO STAY: Araku has limited but well-equipped options for overnight accommodation. The Valley Resort if luxury is what you want. Haritha Mayuri is an option if you want to be closer to nature. But for a truly remarkable experience, nothing beats glamping!

WHAT TO EAT: You just have to treat yourself to Araku’s famous Bongulo (bamboo) chicken. And be sure to sample the local coffee, a pack or two of Indian spices and chia seeds at very low prices!

CONTACT: For more information, visit the website of the Araku Balloon Festival

Bamboo Chicken is a popular traditional dish around the Araku Valley

Bamboo Chicken is a popular traditional dish around the Araku Valley © Poushparna Pal


CHECKLIST

Visit the Borra Caves, India’s deepest caves. They date back a million years.

Be sure to take in the Tribal Museum – it provides remarkable displays of tribal lifestyles in the Eastern Ghats.

• The area’s spectacular waterfalls and reservoirs are a must-see.

Visit Araku’s renowned coffee plantations, and keep an eye out for bee-keeping yards.

Bamboo Chicken is a delicious traditional tribal curry dish. The chicken is stuffed into the bamboo shoots and cooked over the fire

Bamboo Chicken is a delicious traditional tribal curry dish. The chicken is stuffed into the bamboo shoots and cooked over the fire © Lsprasath


Some Images From Our Trip To Araku Valley Balloon Festival


A professional photographer captures a couple on film at one of the viewpoints in the Araku Valley. The town is a popular tourist attraction, famous for its waterfalls, gardens and beautiful scenery

A professional photographer captures a couple on film at one of the viewpoints in the Araku Valley. The town is a popular tourist attraction, famous for its waterfalls, gardens and beautiful scenery © Bgopal


Vistadome coaches with glass roofs offer breathtaking views during a trip through the scenic Araku Valley

Vistadome coaches with glass roofs offer breathtaking views during a trip through the scenic Araku Valley © Lalam photography


Women dressed in shades of red perform the traditional Porja tribal dance called dhimsa

Women dressed in shades of red perform the traditional Pooja tribal dance called Dhimsa © Ewamewa2


Roadside vendors displaying their harvest of bananas make a colorful picture

Roadside vendors displaying their harvest of bananas make a colorful picture © Dinesh Pagaria


Looking down one of the many spectacular waterfalls in the Araku Valley

Looking down one of the many spectacular waterfalls in the Araku Valley © Rammohan Banda


Buckets of fresh strawberries, fragaria ananassa, ready to be packed and sold

Buckets of fresh strawberries, fragaria ananassa, ready to be packed and sold © Alla Sravani


A spectrum of marvellous hues spread over the luscious green Araku Valley on the occasion of the inaugural Araku-Balloon Festival as scores of hot-air balloons rise into the heavens

A spectrum of marvellous hues spread over the luscious green Araku Valley on the occasion of the inaugural Araku-Balloon Festival as scores of hot-air balloons rise into the heavens


Beautiful green fields stretches as far as the eye can see along in the Araku Valley

Beautiful green fields stretches as far as the eye can see along in the Araku Valley © Nishant chinnam


A stunning view over the mountain ranges of Araku

A stunning view over the mountain ranges of Araku © Durga Vara Prasad Bojjagani


Leaves of Piper Nigrum, a black peppercorn creeper in an Araku Valley garden

Leaves of Piper Nigrum, a black peppercorn creeper in an Araku Valley garden © Alla Sravani


A tourist buys colorful bangles from a local roadside vendor in Araku

A tourist buys colorful bangles from a local roadside vendor in Araku © Dinesh Pagaria


A little thatch roofed house in Araku

A little thatch roofed house in Araku © suresh vetcham


Glamping in the Araku Valley – luxury and comfort surrounded by natural wonder

Glamping in the Araku Valley – luxury and comfort surrounded by natural wonder


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