On Saturday we had the great pleasure of attending the Festival International de Ballons at Château-d’Oex in Vaud for the 41st edition of this unique event in the Swiss Alps.
If you haven't heard of this before, it’s an amazing gathering of hot air balloons from all around the world combined with a number of other great activities in a beautiful countryside setting. The festival is currently running until 3rd February.
We were a little late in arriving and a lot of the car parks close to the festival were full, but the attendants were really great and helped us to find a space not far away from the village since we have a handicapped badge for Elio.
We started with a quick walk around before heading to the restaurant that the organisation team had suggested for lunch. Le Chalet is located near the main car park and is a very cosy restaurant serving traditional Swiss food. We received a warm welcome despite the restaurant being very busy and settled down to order our food. These days we are grateful for the bustle of a busy restaurant so that the children's noise doesn’t bother other diners and this place is really a dream for families with children. As well as being a restaurant, they also produce their own cheese and we saw men making cheese in a large vat over coals which was an impressive sight and the children were captivated. The menu was good for adults and children alike and we decided the fondue was one of the best we have eaten. We would suggest booking, or arriving early as the restaurant was filling up fast and people were waiting for tables. They have a nice outdoor area which I expect would be lovely in the summer months.
After our lunch we went back to explore the festival. We were lucky that the sky was brightening up so we were able to get a clear view of some of the hot air balloons soaring above us. There is something whimsical about the sight of brightly coloured balloons gliding peacefully through the sky and to see so many in one place was a real delight. We referred often to our programme to identify the balloons and Jude and Alba enjoyed pointing out their frequently changing favorites.
From there we went to get tickets for the helicopter ride which was a real highlight of the day as it is something that had been on my bucket list for a long time but I had never had the occasion to try. Jean kindly stayed on the ground with Elio and Alba while Jude and I took a 5 minute trip around the valley. It was a brilliant experience and Jude was thrilled especially during the take off and landing which made our tummies somersault. The view from the air was amazing and we were buzzing when we came down.
Back on terra firma, there are lots of other things to see while you are there including light aircraft displays, food stalls and even a museum in the village (Musée du Pays-d’Enhaut) where you can learn more about the history and culture of the region. You can of course also book a balloon ride or a tethered ride (where the balloon goes in to the air but is still attached to the ground).
On Friday 1st February there is also a "Night Glow" even which I imagine is beautiful with the balloons all lit up in the dark. Wednesday 30th is dedicated to children with lots of animations oriented towards little ones. There is so much to see!
After about 4 hours, Elio decided he had had enough of being outside so we headed back to the car.
Our advice would be to try and arrive early and to check the website or the festival's social media for updates before you leave as the hot air balloons can’t fly in adverse weather conditions.
It was really a beautiful day out and we’ll be happy to go again next year.
Parking : Yes
Toilets : Yes
Baby Change Facilities : None that we thought in public toilets
Accessibility : Suitable for pushchairs (challenging when snowy)
Included : entrance to the museum "Espace Ballon", entrance to the philatelic exhibition, slidshow of the "Caves de l’Etivaz".
Saturday and Sunday : CHF 15.- (from 16 years old)
Wednesday afternoon : CHF 5.- (from 16 years old)
Permanent subscription ( Pin's) : CHF 25.-
Pre-sale of the Pin's from mid-december at the price of CHF 20.- in the shops of the Pays-d'Enhaut and the tourist offices.
Tickets are sold at the entrance of the Festival.
Parking in the village : free Underground parking : fee-paying
Children CHF 195.- (until 16 years old)
Adults CHF 390.-
HELICOPTER TOUR WITH AIR GLACIERS
Children CHF 50.- (from 2 to 13 years old)
Adults CHF 60.- (from 14 years old)
Booking not possible.