If magic was ever to come true, it was definitely that one morning in June, as we were slowly gliding over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, watching the sun rise and bring the unique rock formations of the Pink Valley alive. This Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon is to this day one of our most memorable memories from Turkey!
Cheesy you might say. Well, you might think so, until you are there, in the nacelle of your hot air balloon, flying over such a scenic landscape. If you have to do one hot air balloon in your life, Cappadocia is really the place to do so, if not one of the top destinations in any case.
It was an early rise, as we need to be ready for pickup around 5.30am. We first headed to a hotel for breakfast, where we grab some pastries, cheese and hot drinks. Temperatures were surprisingly cold but we had been warned to take warm clothes with us for the ride, so we were well equipped. Still, the hot tea and hot coffee were welcome. After allocating people to their dedicated balloon crew and captain, a van drove us to the launch area. Each company has a specific location they can depart from [regulations, how many now per day, etc] and several balloons were lying flat on the ground, like empty boats waiting ashore.
The crew was actively working in getting the propane burner on, several staff holding the empty balloon shell to start trapping the necessary hot air. The flames were burning high and strong, and very noisily. It was an impressive show to watch, seeing the balloon coming to life by the minutes. Pretty soon, it was standing tall and round, ready to take us onto our journey, with the captain maneuvering the gear in position.
The nacelle was firmly attached to the ground, and it was our turn to step in. The nacelle was divided in four sections and could contain about 12 people, plus our captain. Some nacelles can accommodate to little as 8 passengers, some of the biggest up to 24. But the smaller, the more intimate the experience. Getting onto the nacelle is not done with a sexy swoop – staff might get you a stool to help but it’s pretty much legs up and rolling over the edge of the nacelle, with quite a messy landing. Nonetheless, here we were, all boarded and after reviewing the safety procedures, ready to go.
The staff on the ground started to slowly let the ropes go and pretty soon, we were gaining elevation. As the balloon was getting higher, we started picking up some wind, and being pushed towards the Pink and Red Valleys, where some of the world-famous fairy chimneys of Cappadocia are located. This was all time perfectly as the sun was starting to rise, painting warm golden, pink and orange colors to our surroundings.
We were in awe.
Silence around us.
Magic was happening.
It was like being in a dream. True, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is very touristy and some might say overrated, but right there at this very moment in time, we could see why, and what we were experiencing was beyond what we had dreamt it could be.
Hot air balloons captains have few controls available – no break, no speed, no steering wheel. You are at the mercy of your burner and of the wind. Our captain was then a master of the wind as he was guiding the balloon as a orchestra maestro would, with minutiae and precisions. I am still not sure how he managed to do that, but he brought us up close with the chimneys, almost touching them with our bare hands. Flying low, we were drifting along the curves of the valleys, skirting the formations, admiring the remains of past cave habitations, pigeon houses, watching our shadow following us over the stones like inseparable twins.
Depending on the wind and conditions of the day, the balloons can travel from 4 to 20 kms away, though 5 kms is about the average distance, and as high as 900 meters (3,000 feet). As we were moving over the Pink and Red Valleys, our pilot brought us to higher altitude and we had a great view of Cappadocia’s moonlike landscape.
Heading towards greener and flatter areas, our pilot starting radio-communicating with the ground crew, directing them where we might be landing and have the crew ready to help us out. Descending in a regular smooth motion, our experienced captain managed to land directly on the trailer, with the basket nacelle in perfect position – very impressive!
Once the crew had secured ropes and anchors, they helped us out. Again, it was not the most elegant way out but you got to do what you got to do! Glasses of Champagne were waiting for us, chilled and bubbly as it should. The perfect ending of a perfect adventure trip!
This was truly an experience of a life-time and was one of the highlights of our Turkey trip. Totally recommended!
Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Travel Tips:
– Safety: Obviously the most important element of such an activity. After a couple of deadly accidents, the authorities made changes in the number of balloons that can fly on a daily basis, reducing the risks of air collision. Tougher guidelines are also in place, from the certifications and insurance necessary to be able to operate. However, not all companies are equal, and doing some homework would be important. As a Viator employee at that time, I booked our Cappadocia Balloon Ride and Champagne Breakfast on Viator.com, knowing that our suppliers are top notch. This specific supplier has raving reviews, using the most experienced pilots flying in Cappadocia. Our Australian pilot, David Stanley Parkes, had years of experience and was also helping training new pilots. This is an affiliate link, which means we receive a percentage if you make a purchase using this link. Our opinion is our own and is not impacted by this affiliate link.
– Wear warm clothes. From the dawn departure to the high elevations, temperatures can be chilly. A windbreaker, a turtle neck or a scarf, long trousers are recommended. A woolen hat can be a nice addition, as well as light gloves. Comfortable flat footwear is important as you will be standing on your two feet for the duration of the flight.
– Bring your camera but make sure you have something to tie it up with – either a wrist cord, or a turtle neck, to avoid losing it if you were to drop it. We had a walking pole we used as elfie stick which was very handy to get group photos – but check with the company you are flying with first, as there are increasing restrictions about such stick.
– Best time to fly is from April to October when you can get the best weather and clear sky. January and February are probably the least suitable months given the winter conditions. Early morning conditions are also usually the best, with light winds and the obvious highly sought-after sunrise.
– Not recommended for pregnant women due to potential bumpy ride and landing, children younger than 7-year old as they need to understand the safety procedure, or people with difficulty moving around as you need to be able to go over the basket edge.
– Book early if you want to ensure you fly the date and company you want. Though there are many companies offering the same services, like I mentioned before, not are equal.
Want to read more about Turkey? Check our posts about walking down history in Ephesus, tasting traditional Turkish cuisine in Istanbul, hiking through the Cave Churches of the Rose Valley of Cappadocia, or watching the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony.