Cappadocia is a region in the Anatolia region in Turkey. It is best known for its otherworldly landscape. The underground cities, cave churches, and rock houses are a sight to wonder. Cappadocia is considered one of the best places in the world to go hot air ballooning.
The winds and rains have eroded the lava-covered plains for over a thousand years. This region was volcanic around 2 million years ago. The mixture of the volcanic eruptions and erosion on the plains has led to the valleys, canyons and other unusual rock formations.
This unique landscape is what makes hot air ballooning in Cappadocia extraordinary. The views that are on offer here when you are a few thousand feet in the air will make you wonder if you are on earth or on the moon. Winters here offer a completely different experience with the entire region being covered in snow.
How do you get to Cappadocia
The best way to reach Cappadocia is by air. There airports in Kayseri and in Gülşehir. Both places are connected to Istanbul.
The bus journey from Istanbul to Cappadocia is 12 hours long.
About the Hot air balloon ride
First things first, hot air balloon rides are smooth and comfortable. If you are comfortable on a flight and don’t get airsick on them, be rest assured that you will enjoy your hot air balloon ride as well.
The balloons take off early in the morning because that is the least turbulent time of the day. You will be picked up at your hotel between 5 and 5.30 am. It is best to get into bed early the previous evening.
The balloons take off at around 6.30 am. The ride lasts for about an hour to an hour and a half based on which ride you take. The height the balloon ascends too also depends on the company you choose to ride with. They can take you anywhere between 3000 to 6000 feet high. You could go as high 8,000 feet high on weekends.
While you are in the air, you will be able to see the famous fairy chimneys of the region. They are tower-like structure naturally formed with a conical head that gives the appearance of a chimney. You will also be able to see some of the famous valleys like Monk’s valley, Pigeon Valley. You will also be able to spot the many caves of the region. The landscape of this region is entirely unique. You will be able to see various sides to the landscape – it might dry and arid and will shift to green in a few minutes of your flight.
Once the ride is done and you land, you will be served a champagne toast to celebrate. You will also be handed a medallion or a certificate to mark the occasion of your hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia.
Also See: Ultimate things to do in Antalya, Turkey
Types of Hot air balloon flights
There are basically three types of flights for hot air ballooning in Turkey. These can be named differently based on your balloon operator company.
General flights last for about 60 minutes. These flights accommodate around 16 to 24 people based on the size of the basket. The baskets are usually split into compartments of four.
The Luxury Flight lasts for between 75 to 90 minutes. These flights take lesser people on them. They usually take 16 people on a basket that could seat 20 people.
These flights are taken by people who usually want to mark special occasions like a wedding proposal, a wedding anniversary. The flight last for 2 hours. These flights are usually like chartered jets so there could be only 2 of you in a basket that could seat 16 people.
These are indicative costs
General Flights cost about $185 per person, the Luxury Flights cost $208, and the Private Flights about $4000 per basket.
Hot air balloons are allowed to take off only when you get a clearance from the Turkish authorities. The authorities make sure that the weather is safe for flights. It is ideal if you can stay in Cappadocia for a few days, so you have enough time to reschedule your flight in case of bad weather.
Best Time to go on the Hot air Balloon
You can go on a hot air balloon ride any time of the year in Cappadocia.The best time is during the spring (April-June) and fall (September-October) months.
How to Dress
It will get cooler as your balloon ascends. Even if you are flying in summer, make sure you carry warm clothes or more layers in case you need it during the flight.
Please make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes as you will be standing most of the time.
Where to take the best photo from the ground
Seeing all the balloons take off at once is a sight in itself. One of the best places to watch this spectacle from the ground is Göreme. Head there before sunrise.
Other sightseeing places in Cappadocia
There are other things that you can see while you are in Cappadocia
- The underground cities – There are intricate caves and tunnels underground here that make for a very intriguing visit. These caves are in Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu
These underground cities were actually inhabited by people permanently. There are tunnels that connect these cities. There have been over 40 such cities that have been discovered so far.
- Göreme Open Air Museum – This open-air museum has some magnificent caves and fairy chimneys to see. There is also a church in a cave nearby.
- Gümüşler Monastery – It is a beautiful monastery built in rock and almost inconspicuous to the outside world.
Also See: Pammukale travel guide
Things to do in Cappadocia
- Hiking – The beautiful landscapes and valleys lend themselves to a great place to hike around. Your hotel will be able to guide you to walking trails around the region. Some of the famous trails from the region are the trail to Pigeon Valley and the Rose Valley.
- Mountain biking – There are also outlets around that offer bikes on rent so you can go biking on these trails.
- Live in the caves – There are hotels in this region that are carved into caves. Though the prices for these hotels are very steep, this is once in a lifetime opportunity.
- Dervish dances – You can catch a show of the famous dervish dances from Turkey while you are here.
- Horseback riding – Cappadocia is known as the land of beautiful horses. Horseback riding is a great way to explore this region. There are lots of tours that operate out of Goreme.
- Sunrise and sunsets – Cappadocia boasts of some of the best sunrise and sunsets that you will ever see.
Tours in Cappadocia
There are various tours organized in Cappadocia that you can enjoy
- Goreme Open Air Museum and Fairy Chimneys Full Day Tour
- Devrent Imagination Valley, Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar Rock Castle and lots more
- Full Day Private Cappadocia Tour
- Goreme Open Air Museum, Kaymakli Underground City, Uchisar Castle, Devrent Valley, and Pasabaglar Valley
- Cappadocia Red Plus Tour
- Göreme Open Air Museum, Esentepe panoramic viewpoint, Learn and try making pottery and ceramics
- South Cappadocia Full-Day Green Tour with Trekking
- Derinkuyu Underground City, 4-kilometre trek in the Ihlara Valley and rock-cut churches
Shopping in Cappadocia
You can shop for pottery here. Avanos which has been a significant pottery center for ages is in this region. Also, you buy some beautiful carpets here.
Also See: Places for shopping in Istanbul
How do hot air balloons work
Hot air balloons work on the simple principle that hot air rises up.
The burner in the balloon burns a propane gas which heats up the air in the balloon that increasing its altitude. There are propane gas and oxygen cylinders on the balloon. The burner is like an engine. By regulating the heat in the balloon, the pilot is able to ascend or descend the balloon. All this heat is kept away from the passengers by a heat field in the balloon.
The basket varies in size from 2-20 people. The basket is divided into compartments which seat 4-6 people. They are the size of a decent sized conference room.
The hot air balloon can’t be steered. But, an experienced pilot can use the airstreams around to guide the balloon in the direction they want. This also means that the balloon will not land in a predetermined place.