Perhaps the most touristic thing to do in all of Turkey is a hot air balloon ride over the hills and valleys of Cappadocia. It’s such a popular activity that during the season there can be over 200 balloons in the sky at any given time. I’ve been to Cappadocia a few times and everybody always asks me, “What’s the best way to take a balloon ride in Cappadocia?”
To start, you’ll need to realize that Cappadocia is not a city, but rather the name for quite a large region in central Anatolia. The easiest way to get there is one of the many cheap flights from Istanbul or Antalya.
The two main airports that service the Cappadocia region are Kayseri and Nevshehir. However neither of these cities are where you’ll want to stay. For that you should look around Goreme. Some people also stay in Uchisar or Urgup, but they are less popular.
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It seems like everyone and their mother is a travel agent in Cappadocia, or at least is partnered with one. This is to say, you should have no problems finding someone to sell you a hot air balloon flight. You’ll probably get a message from your hotel after you book offering to arrange different activities during your stay as they make money from referrals.
I booked my Cappadocia hot air balloon flight with Pokemon Travel Agency, who, despite their name, were extremely friendly and professional. I also used them to arrange airport transfers far cheaper than anywhere else I saw online. I’m assuming because their office is off the main road they worry less about rent.
There are two types of flights you can take, private or group. As I’m sure you can guess, private flights are much more expensive (around $1000). However if you’re looking for a memorable honeymoon activity it is something you won’t soon forget.
The group flights are the most popular, as the balloons can hold around 20 people. Don’t worry though, you won’t feel cramped as the baskets are huge (or at least we didn’t on our flight). These can range anywhere from €70-€150 depending on the season and tourism levels. Last time I went however we only had to pay €55 a person.
Short answer? Yes. Long Answer, Yeeesssss!!!. I personally have always wanted to go on a hot air balloon, and felt Cappadocia is one of the best choices for the price. Not to mention flying over the beautiful valley with it’s alien landscape littered with fairy chimneys.
If you’re on a super tight budget a trip on a balloon may seem like a big expenditure, but it’s really the only splurge you’ll need to make in Cappadocia. Just plan on eating at cheaper restaurants in Goreme.
If you’ve never flown in a hot air balloon before then you may be a little apprehensive. I was extremely nervous before even booking the flight, but once I got in the basket all my nerves went away.
The baskets are large with high walls, and have dividers so you aren’t jostled around by the other passengers. In the center of the basket is the pilot and gas tank.
The balloons aim to take off right around dawn so you can see the whole valley getting slowly illuminated by the rising sun. This means you’re going to have to wake up quite early. For my last flight in early June, we were picked up by the shuttle at 4:15AM.
The shuttle will drive you to the field with the balloon and you’ll be helped into your compartment. When everyone is aboard they will give a short safety talk and instruct you how to position yourself for landing. Then, it’s up, up, and away.
The pilot will allow the balloon to rise and in this moment you’ll see dozens if not hundreds of other balloons also lift into the sky. Where you go mostly depends on the wind. We flew over Goreme city and a bit of Love Valley before heading back after an hour.
Landing is both fun and a bit scary depending on how strong the wind is. To land you are instructed to basically squat low in the basked with your back against one of the basket walls. Then the pilot brings the balloon down to the ground and, after a few bounces, the basket stops. There are many attendants who rush over to grab straps and, with one last burst of fire, the balloon rises a few feet off the ground and the basket is pushed and tied into the back of a truck bed.
The attendants help all the guests disembark and pour some sparkling apple juice for everyone. Then the shuttle will drop you back off at your hotel where you can wait until breakfast begins.
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