North eastern Mexico, which includes the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, is a predominantly mountainous region that boasts a variety of landscapes, ranging from pine and oak forests to prairie, snow-covered mountains in winter and diverse types of deserts. The rugged, imposing mountain range that runs through all three states is called the Sierra Madre Oriental and is one of the largest mountain ranges in Mexico.
Monterrey, the capital city of the state of Nuevo Leon, is not traditionally considered a popular tourist destination, but the city definitely has much to offer its visitors. Set in a 1,800 foot high valley and surrounded by the Sierra Madre, this industrial metropolis affords visitors access to numerous outdoor activities and adventure tours, including hiking, mountain biking, zip lining, canyoneering (in season) and some easy caving.
Given the rugged landscape one of the most rewarding experiences to be had in this region is hot air ballooning. The tour always leaves before dawn as winds are at their most calm in the early mornings and successful flights are virtually guaranteed (if wind speeds change this could lead to flight cancellation).
The pre-flight preparation is a fascinating process to watch. The massive “envelope” (the actual fabric balloon which holds the air) is laid out on the ground and an inflator fan is used to fill it with air. The basket (where the passengers and pilot stand) is then attached to the envelope and the burner (the unit which propels the heat up into the envelope) secured in place. With the balloon now half full of air the burner can be fired up and the rest of the envelope fills up quickly.
Then it is time to get airborne. Hot air balloon rides are an incredible mix of adrenaline pumping moments at takeoff, the thrill of moving through stratus or cumulus clouds into the welcoming sunlight above, the unique silences of drifting in the sky and the obviously spectacular views that can only be had from this unique vantage point. So if you find yourself in Monterrey be sure to set aside some time to enjoy an unforgettable hot air balloon ride.