Sitting at home on a cold winter night, I ventured out again into my dreamland of foreign destination, the unknown and exotic spots, and the adventures that bring the thrill and excitement to my life. With a glass of wine, wrapped in a soft blanket, I searched the travel guides and somehow came across Cappadocia, Turkey. The colorful images of balloons over uniquely shaped mountains swirled into my imaginary world and instantly I knew, I have to be there. Take me to the moon! Take me hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.
Few months later, we finally ventured out. Quit our jobs to travel the world and Cappadocia, Turkey was definitely part of the plan. We booked our stay in Göreme, a small town in the middle of Turkey, surrounded by incredibly shaped volcanic mountain formations. Known as one of the best places in the world to hop on the hot air balloon and fly high for out of this world experience, we could not be more excited. Nothing, however, could have prepared us for what we were about to see.
The day started early with a 4 am wake-up call. It was still dark outside and unusually chilly for an August summer night. Covered with blankets, we went down to the hotel lobby and met our group coordinator who just arrived to pick us up. In the large van provided by the balloon company, few excited passages were eagerly awaiting the adventure. We settled in and off we went. About an hour later, we arrived in the main location, where hot coffee, Turkish tea and light breakfast was served. The morning was still quite cold, so we enjoyed a little warm breakfast with travelers around the world, who gathered for the flight. Spanish, English, Russian, Japanese, and Turkish languages mixing around us. You didn’t have to speak any of them to feel the excitement in the voices.
Finally, it was time. We split into smaller groups, hopped into our van for a short 10 min ride to the take-off site. Deep, in between the volcanic mountains, a large valley opened up right in front of our eyes and there they were. Colorful, impressive, gentle giants, balloon canvas gently traveling with the wind and anxiously awaiting for the jolt of hot air, the oxygen for the flying lungs.
Speechless, interchanging with joyful squeals, we all jumped out of the van. Feeling five years old again, we ran and just wanted to touch them. They were grand, they were impressive, they were everything we imagined and more. Hard to believe that in just a few minutes we will be flying in those colorful birds.
Which one is ours? Can we have the colorful one? We were asking anxiously, as we mingled in between the balloons. Shortly, we were shown our precious flying gem and ushered to a little ladder draped over the weaved basket. We hopped in. The hot air filling the balloon just above us was like that warm blanket in the winter time at home in North Carolina. Warm and cozy against the morning chill in Turkey. The flashback was momentary and gratitude followed. We were really doing this.
Few mandatory safety procedures and test run of ducking down in preparation for landing. Now we are ready. Blow torch on. Hot air up. We are flying!
Smoothly rising up we started seeing all of them. Over 100 hot air balloons over the fairly land of Cappadocia. The beige sandy ridges and grey volcanic formations of Turkey so intricate that almost unreal. Like a decoration prepared for the ride. But it wasn’t. The mountains were real. The colorful balloons swiftly navigating in and out of the mountain ranges were real. So beautiful and so magical we almost couldn’t speak. We only looked at each other and smiled. We knew what the other was thinking…
Our colorful bubble was gently coming down in between the mountains, slowly turning around and rising again.
We navigated towards the sunrise. Red, orange, and yellow sky of Turkey surrounding us. We were floating in the sky and only the dark silhouettes of fellow balloons against the red, rising sun reminded us about our journey.
It has been an hour but seemed like only a few minutes. We started descending and preparing for landing. Softly and smoothly we landed next to our hotel located in the middle of a valley. Us and few other balloons slowly settling on the sandy ground, in between the mountain peaks and evergreens. A toast of champagne and memories for the lifetime.
But we didn’t leave right away…we were like little kids, who still wanted to play. Jumping on the balloon canvas spread on the ground ready for folding.
Running in and out of the deflating bubble, we knew that there is no way to truly tell the story. To experience this magical flight, you will have to make the trip to Turkey and experience it for yourself. There is really no way to describe how it feels to be a kid again, living in a imaginary world, that is actually very real…
How to Get There
Göreme, Turkey is a small, magical town located in the heart of Cappadocia region in Turkey. To get there, you can fly directly to the main city called Neveshir (Airport code: NEV), and take a shuttle bus to Göreme. Or if you are already visiting Istanbul, you can take an overnight bus from Istanbul to Göreme. The long distance bus system in Turkey is extremely well organized. The buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, include wifi, USB power outlets and refreshments. They can also be booked a day in advance or sometimes even the same day, allowing for plenty of flexibility. When booking a bus to Cappadocia, I recommend Nevshier or Metro bus line. Both can be booked at www.ClickBus.com
When to Visit
The region of Cappadocia is located on a high, dry plateau in the middle of Turkey. The region is one of hot, dry summers and cold, sometimes snowy, winters. The best flying weather is from April through October when the skies are clear and the winds light at dawn, but some companies fly in winter as well on days with favorable weather for flying.
How to Visit
It is important to know that even in the best flying time from April to October it is possible for weather to not to cooperate and great you with strong winds and rain. If that happens the balloons will not fly that day and may be rescheduled to the following morning. Thus, try to book your hot air balloon flight on the first morning following arrival and leave extra backup day or two for unforeseen weather. Göreme and Cappadocia region in Turkey are absolutely beautiful with lots of tours through the unbelievable scenery, underground cities and settlements built inside the mountains, so you can easily spend at least 3-4 days in the area and have plenty to see and do in addition to hot air ballooning.
Which Hot Air Balloon Campany to Choose
As there are over 100 balloons flying everyday over Cappadocia, there are also many different companies offering the flights. The best way is to book it online to secure your spot and get the best price. You can search online for the best companies. The most reputable are:
Each company will coordinate with you and pick you up from the hotel before sunrise. Most offer breakfast before the flight and a toast of champagne after to celebrate your experience.
Where to Stay
Definitely stay in the small town of Göreme in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. The town is probably one of the cutest I have ever seen anywhere in the world. The people are one of the kindest and most worldly, I we have met on our way. The local vendors are inviting, genuinely interested in you and love a good chat without pushy selling. The town is surrounded by the mountains and is simply irresistible. The small town center is filled with stores, restaurant and travel companies so you can book any adventures you desire.
The town is famous for Cave Hotels carved inside the mountains. Here are top 3 based on Tripadvisor ratings:
If you are looking for an alternative, check out the Tourist Hotel and Resort Cappadocia Turkey. It is located 5 min walking distance from the center, yet, completely removed from the town and placed in the middle of the mountain ranges. The stay includes breakfast and the property features a large swimming pool. Next to the hotel, you will find a small ranch with horses and a donkey. Finally the bonus: assuming cooperating winds, you will have a high chance to see balloons landing each morning next to the hotel. We stayed in this hotel and loved it.
What to do in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is full of breathtaking scenery and attractions. Walk around in the center of the town and check out lots of tours. I recommend the ATV tour through the mountain terrain of Cappadocia. You can also try horseback riding, safari rides, 3 different tours of Cappadcia: Green, Blue and Red and definitely don’t skip the sunset from the view point mountain right above the town.
Have you ever done hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey or anywhere in the world? Would you like to try it?