Tourist tip #338 / The Hot Air Balloon Festival takes flight
This year, the festival takes place at two venues, in the north and the south. You can even camp there.
It's Sukkot and it's that time of year – to watch the annual hot-air balloon flyover, by people from all over the world.
Because of the show's popularity in years of yore, this year the Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place in two venues, in the north and south.
In the north it takes place on Sunday and Monday, September 22-23, at the Ma'ayan Harod ("Herod's Spring") National Park at Mount Gilboa. Visitors will be treated to a show by Israeli singers Miri Maimon and Shimon Buskila, and on the 23rd, Rinat Gabay will be appearing.
Visitors to the Ma'ayan Harod festival can camp out, if they bring their own tents and equipment – the site offers showers and toilet facilities. If you're camping out you can come from 11 A.M. on Sunday, to set up, but otherwise you won't be let in until 2 P.M.
The festivities continue in the Negev desert, where the chosen venue is the Eshkol National Park, by the town of Urim, on Monday and Tuesday, September 23-24. (It's also near the ancient copper mines of Timna, which has been proven to date back to King Solomon's time.) Visitors can arrive on Monday from 5 P.M. Again guests can camp out if they bring their own tents and equipment; hygienic facilities are provided. Campers will be let in from 5 P.M. on Monday.
The festivities include "glow shows" at night as the fire-powered balloons light up the night, and fly-bys with dawn. We do mean dawn. Other facilities include food stalls and more.
Note that entry isn't free. Tickets to the Eshkol festival cost NIS 99 a pop while the Ma'ayan Harod one will set you back NIS 129 per person.
Kids under 3 are free, and there is an option of discounted family tickets if you have more than one child over 3. If you can read and type in Hebrew, by all means seek tickets online; if you can't call (08) 866-3300.
Do note that the festivals have proved popular: You don't want to just show up and hope for the best. At least call to make sure there are tickets before you make the schlep. And for what it's worth, the Gilboa regional council begs to note that barbecuing and setting any fire (presumably except to light cigarettes) is strictly forbidden in the campsite.