International Balloon Festival FIG
Since ancient times, humans have felt a particular fascination with flying. A part of us envies birds and butterflies, capable of crossing the blue sky at will, so we have engaged in a race against ourselves to challenge our earthly nature.
Airplanes, helicopters and other vehicles manage to move through the air at dizzying speeds, but only one is able to offer us the languid pleasure of communing with the clouds at pleasure: the hot air balloon.
The International Balloon Festival, held every November in Leon, Guanajuato, is the encounter with the air, the colors and the joy of being one with the birds and butterflies.
The origin of FIG
The International Balloon Festival was born in 2002, when it is possible to gather 25 hot air balloons in Leon, Guanajuato, on December 1. The Festival grows exponentially every year, with more participants, guest countries, singers and groups but it is in 2010 when, among the celebration of the Bicentennial of the Mexican Independence, the event “200 Years, 200 Balloons” is held.
In 2015 is created an alliance with North American and European balloon festivals to make a bigger party. Nowadays, hundreds of balloons can be seen painting the sky of Leon in one of the most spectacular festivals in the region and which has become one of the 3 most important balloon festival in the world and the only one in Latin America.
Tricks to take enjoy the FIG
If you aren’t at Mexico, you can reach the Bajío International Airport in Guanajuato from anywhere in the world. If you are at CDMX, you can take a bus to Leon. The trip takes less than 5 hours and is much cheaper.
You can go rent a car to make the road trip to Leon, but it is better to park it at the hotel or where you are going to stay and move to the Metropolitan Park of León Guanajuato using public transportation, because the place gets too congested and it is almost impossible to find a place to park the car. To arrive by bus you must go to the San Gerónimo Bus Station. You can use routes A-40, A-68 or A-76, which will leave you at the main entrance of the park.
If you want to take your car anyway, you must arrive very early to find a place to park. Don’t park it on the street, the crowds can be rowdy and your car can be affected. There are neighbors who lend their space to park the car and take care of it for a minimum amount of money.
The festival takes place in mid-November, so if you want to stay in a hotel or AirB&B within the city, you will need to book a few months in advance. However, if you like adventure, you can take a group of friends and camp inside the facilities of the Metropolitan Park of Leon.
You should arrive some time in advance to the festival (the day before, for example) to get a good place within the camping area. Don’t forget to bring an inflatable mattress and warm clothes, as the mornings and nights can get cold. If you take your bike or rent one, much better, because the distances within the park are extensive.
Where to eat?
You can take your own food and eat it inside the Park, without any problem. This is an excellent option for large groups or people who want to control their budget. If bringing your food is not your thing, inside the enclosure you will find the area of Expo FIG, where you can eat at stands, food trucks or fast food stalls. There are many options and you will not have to leave the enclosure to eat, but you should know that when is lunch or dinner time there’ll be long lines. Mind you, if you leave the park you will have to pay a ticket again to be able to enter again.
At the event
Buy tickets in advance. From the month of September you can find them on the Superboletos page and in October at the OXXO stores in León. Avoid rows and tumults to enter by buying your tickets online.
Every year the invited artists change, so you must check the program on the official website of the International Balloon Festival. There is a balloon show throughout the day, concerts with national and international artists, zeppelin flights, as well as workshops and other activities for the whole family.
It is highly recommended to arrive at dawn, because at approximately 5 AM you’ll be able to enjoy the balloons preparations and take off. It is a magical moment, you’ll see how the skies progressively fills with colors. You’ll feel like a child again.
Wear warm clothes, because in the mornings it is quite cold inside the park. A thermos with coffee, tea or hot chocolate is the ideal companion for the take-off show.
At sunset you can enjoy the Magic Nights. Hot air balloons are anchored to the ground and light up with a play of lights that is activated in harmony with the music. It is a wonderful show that you will not want to miss.
If your dream is to fly in a hot air balloon, you can make it come true at the festival. You only need to register as a crew member by clicking on this link. Those who meet the requirements and become crew members will receive a training course where they will be prepared to be an active part of this experience, because you can learn how to prepare a balloon, inflate it, take off and fly.
It is advisable to bring folding chairs or a blanket to sit on the floor to watch the show and rest.
– Wear comfortable and simple clothes. Remember that you are going to walk inside a natural park.
– Smoking and entering alcoholic beverages into the park are prohibited
– Avoid going with children too young. The park is huge, thousands of people attend and the distances to travel can be extensive, so young children can be in danger or just feel very overwhelmed.
– Avoid throwing glass objects, burning matches, cigarette butts in the park. Collect your garbage and waste and take it to the places intended for it.
– If you go with a group of people, remember to plan a meeting point in case someone misses or strays the group. Take your mobile phone with battery and/or external batteries to recharge if necessary.