To take to the skies in a wicker basket is a very cool thing to do, and something you might only get to experience once in your life. It’s pretty rare. Even rarer is the chance to fly in a hot air balloon above a capital city. London? No. New York? Definitely not! How about Vilnius? Well, yes actually. For a totally unique perspective of this gorgeous little city, we chose Padangiu Geles for a trip up and up away in their sky flowers above Vilnius. Join us for this full Padangiu Geles review.
Our flight was sponsored by Padangiu Geles but all opinions are our own.
Who or What is Padangiu Geles?
There aren’t too many cool hot air balloon company names out there but Padangiu Geles really is. Although it might not mean much to English speakers, it roughly translates as Sky Flowers. Isn’t that cool. It makes me think of a psychedelic orange sky with lots of spinning, bold, sixties blooms. The balloons of Padangiu Geles have been flying above Vilnius since 1997, founded by Romanas Mikelevičius. He first flew in 1988 and has been passionate about ballooning ever since having trained over 30 pilots and his three sons too! You can be sure that when you fly with Padangiu Geles, you are in good hands.
We hired a car for our Baltics road trip, making getting to the meeting spot easy. Due to a large festival taking place in their normal launch spot, we were given directions to somewhere different. Once you are booked with Padangiu Geles, their communication is through WhatsApp. Over a few messages, we got our meeting time and a google maps pin to follow. We were a little confused as it appeared to be a car park for motorhomes and caravans. The gatekeeper was equally confused about our presence. As we looked slightly blankly at each other, we noticed a couple of guys from Padangiu Geles approaching. They pointed us down a country track that led behind the car park and we wandered down, arriving at a huge field. There were lots of other people gathered here and the jeeps of the hot air balloons dotted across the field.
Watching the thin material being unfurled is slightly disconcerting. When laid flat, the balloons don’t seem like they would bear my weight and so the moment the fans are blasting and they begin to fill with warmed air is always a lovely moment.
There was a drone hurtling around the field at a rate f knots. Often, so fast that we couldn’t keep u! it was both a welcome distraction and slightly alarming. Surely they would stop when the balloons began to swell!?
We watched the balloon bulge as the group was given a safety briefing. Everyone else spoke the same language so they had theirs first and then Mr Fluskey and I had a quick summary in English. As we have been hot air ballooning before, he just needed to give us a quick reminder of how not to fall out.
Our Instagram Moment
Our pilot, Adam, called us over and gestured into the envelope (the big balloony bit). He let us run in and have a photo. I was FAR too excited and nearly tripped over in my haste but it was such a treat. This is our third balloon ride and we have never been offered this awesome addition before. Honestly, it was pure joy to be inside, it brought back great memories of playing parachute as a kid.
After standing still and watching from the edge of the field for a while, embarking felt so quick. We hopped into the basket trying not to tumble in head first. After a little re-arranging of clothes, cameras and hair the burners were put on full. The floor beneath us started to shift and before everyone knew it, the basket was hovering. We ascended with surprising rapidity. The balloons underneath us were soon the size of toys and actually, we spent most of our trip higher than the other hot air balloons we could see. Adam was confident with the burners and seemed entirely relaxed as he recounted the story of a close encounter with a drone as he was trying to take off on another occasion. I was thrilled that we had left the drone far below.
The TV Tower
I realised how high we were getting when far, far below us we spotted the 326.5m tall Vilnius TV Tower. This 1950s structure is the tallest building in Lithuania and one of the tallest TV towers in Europe….and it was teeny! We had visited it on the way and it had seemed to touch the sky. What a change of perspective.
We drifted south across the River Neria and over the vast, tree-covered Vingis Park. This is Vilnius’ largest park and is the usual launch site for Padangiu Geles. Below us, the field was bursting with rock fans enjoying a huge concert, headlined by Måneskin (Eurovision 2021 winners). It was amazing to see the scale of the event and hear the bass of the music and screams of the crowds wafting up on the breeze.
A Quick Side Note: Estonia LOVES Eurovision even though they are rarely score well. I mean, I feel their love and their pain
Below us, the centre of Vilnius rolled by. The red rooves contrasted with the green fields and parks that surround it. Vilnius is a very green city. Every view is packed with trees and grass, more than any other city we have visited. Even from above, you can see the way nature is thoroughly entwined through the city streets.
Mr Fluskey was trying his best to identify buildings we had visited during our time in Vilnius and he found when he recognised the cathedral square, we got far too overexcited. On the bottom left photo of the gallery below, it is easy to spot.
The city slowly became patchier until it was gone completely, replaced by a patchwork of fields. There was less to see during this portion of the flight so we relaxed and watched the pastoral scene with the sun peeking through the bottom of the grey clouds. I think it would have been nicer to be a little closer to the ground for some of this to allow us to indulge in the details BUT that makes everything slower so I guess its a 50/50.
Mr Fluskey spotted a plane in the distance, making its approach to Vilnius Airport. He whipped out his phone and we found it on FlightRadar. We could hear the air traffic control communication over the pilot’s radio. It was a wonderful moment for a couple of AV geeks. If you are flying to Vilnius in the early evening, keep an eye out of your plane window and you might spot some balloons!
We began to descend and started to pass over a gorgeous field. I was busy looking ver my side of the basket when I realised there was a bit of a hubbub behind me. I turned to realise everyone was getting giggly and nervous that we were heading for a clump of trees. Of course, Adam raised the balloon just enough at the last minute to give us all a little thrill. I sort of love it when pilots show off their skills. As we came back down on the other side, I spotted the Padangių Gėlės van bumping down the track towards us. It was definitely time to touch down. We landed with a very, very gentle bump before the team, with the help of the burners, pushed the basket up onto the trailer. It was a perfect landing.
We were all given a small certificate with our names on it to commemorate that we made it through the ride without doing anything too stupid. It made an excellent mosquito swatter. Yes, there are HUGE mosquitoes in the Lithuanian fields in summer so make sure you have repellent or long clothes on. I was not aware and got eaten alive.
Drinking a glass of bubbly after landing a hot air balloon is a tradition that goes back to the early pioneers of the activity. They meant to guzzle it on board but after landing in a French farmer’s field, they softened the blow by offering up a nice large, glass of the good stuff. Padangiu Geles served everyone a huge glass of sweet local sparkling wine which slipped down rather well. Obviously, with Mr Fluskey behind the wheel of the hire car, he only took a small sip before I polished off the rest of his. As the team packed the balloon away, the sun merged from the clouds for one last sunset hurrah, bathing us in a rosy glow.
If you are thinking of taking a hot air balloon with Padangiu Geles, here is some information you might like to know:
- For the best offers and lots more information, check out the Padangiu Geles website.
- You can book a normal flight for around £110 or opt for a romantic private flight at around £425.
- As the flights are in the afternoon/evening, it gets cooler as the flights go on. It is also worth noting that it is chillier at altitude. Bring a layer or two that you can pop on easily. A cardigan or jacket that does up at the front is easier to negotiate in a busy basket than something that goes over your head.
- The opposite applies if you go for one of the less popular morning flights. Start in layers that you can easily remove.
- We recommend flat shoes as you will be hopping in and out of the basket and don’t want to get stilettos stuck in the padding, the fields or your fellow traveller’s feet.
- Don’t wear a high hairdo or cover yourself in hairspray, there are already enough flames on board. Some taller people like to wear a cap or similar hat to avoid the uncomfortable heat from the burners.
- There are rather large mosquitoes in the Lithuanian countryside (oh, if only I had read my on blog post first) so bring repellent or wear something that covers your arms and legs.
- Remember to bring something to help secure your electricals if you are planning to film or take photos. Bring a case with a wrist strap or nack strap, a popsocket won’t cut it. If you drop your phone/camera, you aren’t going to get it back and you may injure someone below.
Final Thoughts in Our Padangiu Geles Review
As soon as I found out that you can fly over Vilnius in a balloon it was at the top of my bucket list for the trip. It was great to read about the passion behind Padangiu Geles and they didn’t disappoint. We had a lovely flight which was unique on account of the city below and the sunset scudding along the horizon. It really completed our trip to Vilnius.