Flying into Ireland by plane can be a spectacular introduction or reintroduction to the incredible Irish countryside, with endless miles of greenery sprawling in every direction below you.

What if you could take it all in at a slower pace?

Over 150 lucky competitors in this year’s Hot Air Balloon Championships have done just that, spending a week flying over Galway and taking in its best scenery from the air.

Kicking off last Sunday and running through this evening, the 46th annual National Hot Air Balloon Championships welcomed over 40 international teams to Loughrea, Co Galway this week, the first time the annual event has been held in the county.

The competitors were faced with some delays in waiting for the typical Irish weather to clear up during the week-long event, but once they took to the sky the views from the ground were just as spectacular as they must have been for the two to three-man crews in the air.

“We are delighted to see this event coming to Galway. Already we are getting a great reception from the locals, landowners and businesses,” event director Joe Daly told the Connacht Tribune.

“Galway County is a beautiful sight from above and the teams are very excited to visit Galway for this first time. This event brings color, wonder to both participants and spectators.

“Landing in a field and seeing the communities follow the flight is wonderful experience for the balloon teams and spectators alike!” he added.

The teams have come from the USA, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Italy, France and Spain. Each day they set off from a location around Loughrea determined by wind direction and strength.

Read more: Ireland from the air - photos taken by the Irish Air Corps

The 46th National Hot Air Balloon Championships in Loughrea, Galway. Photo: Trevor Dubber

— Galway 2020 (@galway2020) September 27, 2016

As flights can only take place early in the morning due to weather conditions. This left the crews with plenty of time to visit local schools and to instruct the public on the science behind a hot air balloon. They also had time to take in the sights and other pleasures Galway has to offer.

The festivities reached a climax on Thursday night when thousands gathered in Loughrea to witness the amazing spectacle that is the Night Glow.

The Irish Hot Air Ballooning Association is the representative body for ballooning in Ireland and promotes ballooning in the country with the longest running National Ballooning Championships in the world. The Championships are held on an annual basis in various locations around the country.