You simply can’t visit Cappadocia without experiencing a hot air balloon ride. It’s an absolute “must-do”. The ride will be something that you will never forget. We were a bit skeptical at first, but were really glad we did not pass on the experience.
Due to the calm winds and unique landscape, the area is known as one of the top three places in the world to do a balloon ride. The colorful valleys and unusual landscape make for incredible views and excellent photo opportunities. The weather in the area is great for ballooning. On average the balloons fly around 340 days a year, which is well above the typical average of other balloon destinations around the world. There are hundreds of companies offering the experience. The cost ranges from €100 – €175 per person. This may seem a bit high, but the experience is well worth it.
We went to bed early the night before, knowing that the balloon company would pick us up at 5:00AM. That morning we piled into a minibus filled with people who would be in our balloon. We ended up waiting for a few people that weren’t outside and ready to go when the bus arrived. Several people on the minibus got rather angry, as they were afraid that we were going to miss the sunrise. It got rather tense in that tiny van as the seconds ticked by. Being late for your ballon ride minibus is a quick way make enemies. People take their sunrises SERIOUSLY…
Slowpokes gathered and crisis averted, we finally arrived at the launch site after a short 15 minute ride and the balloon was ready to go. We signed our flight log, read the safety instructions and then we began to climb into the balloon. I was quite surprised with the balloon basket, as it was a bit taller then I had imagined it would be, which was a good thing. The balloon basket was divided into five sections. The center section held the propane tanks and burners with a space for the pilot. The other two sides were divided into two areas and filled with 3-4 people each. In total the balloon carried about 15 people, which was bigger than I anticipated.
As we floated off the ground, I was shocked at how smooth the ride was. I had some initial hesitation due to my fear of heights, but the balloon ride was so gentle it was never really an issue. We floated up and down into valleys and over canyons. As we looked out at the horizon, it was sprinkled with hundreds of balloons and tiny clouds. Watching the sunrise was absolutely breathtaking. The colors of the clouds and the silhouettes of the other balloons were marvelous.
After the sun came up, our pilot floated us all around the area showing us special rock formations and various pigeon houses. Our pilot had over 30 years of flying experience and could fly with balloon with impressive accuracy. He dipped down into numerous canyons and gently skimmed treetops. After rising out of one canyon, we skimmed the top of an ancient vineyard floating about 3-4 feet off the ground. It looked amazing in the morning sun. Then he took us up high so that we could see the entire area. As we concluded our trip we floated gently down into an open field and waited as the ground crew brought us safely to the ground.
After we unloaded the balloons, we celebrated the successful flight with a traditional glass of champagne. It was nice, even though it was non-alcoholic (Turkey has stringent laws on alcohol). We also had little snacks, and were able to talk with one another about the experience we’d all just shared. We were presented with official ballooning certificates before we loaded up the minibus and returned to our hotels. It was definitely one of our greatest experiences traveling thus far.
A hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is a MUST! Highly recommended.