A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
From reaching Cappadocia to recommendations on when to visit and where to stay, this is our guide to everything you need to know before riding a hot air balloon over the valley’s picturesque volcanic landscape
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Alex Azabache
24 March 2021
If you have ever dreamt of riding a hot air balloon over volcanic “fairy chimney” formations and scenic valleys, Cappadocia is the place to be. Located in central Turkey, the region is well-known among adventure travellers for the panoramic postcard-worthy views of hundreds of hot air balloons gracing the skies. Cappadocia is only around 3 hours southeast from Turkey’s capital city Ankara. You can get there by plane, and it takes just over an hour to fly from Istanbul to either of the two airports – Kayseri and Nevşehir.
Prior to visiting Cappadocia remember to book accommodation ahead, especially during peak season. The infamous cave hotels in the region ensure a unique stay, but their Instagram-appeal also makes them quite expensive. Yet, if you ever heard to Cappadocia, we recommend at least a night’s stay at the authentic rooms carved into mountainsides, where you can have a coffee on the rooftop in the mornings and watch the balloons fly overhead. One of the best towns to stay in the region is Göreme as it is situated closely to various landmarks, grocery stores, restaurants and hotels. Other main towns in Cappadocia are Selime, Uçhisar, Ihlara Valley, Ürgüp, Zelve and Guzelyurt.
The peak season for visiting Cappadocia is between June and August, and during the winter months it gets quite cold. The best time to visit the region is between March and June which is when the weather is warmer and there are less crowds. Yet, the hot air balloon season in the area is almost all year round, as opposed to other locations in Europe, meaning that you can enjoy scenic rides over winter wonderland scenery or witness the valleys at the peak of springtime. However, even in the summer months, the temperatures in Cappadocia can fluctuate and it can get especially cold in the early mornings. Make sure to pack a jacket and bear in mind that although there is no dress code to riding a hot air balloon, slightly conservative clothing is recommended in order to be respectful when visiting Turkey.
Here are the top five things to know before you hop in a hot air balloon basket for the opportunity to feel weightless across Cappadocia’s skies.
1. Book your ride early
Cappadocia is perhaps the only place in the world where up to 100 balloons ae allowed to take off before sunrise and another 50 follow half an hour afterwards. Over a couple thousand people a day get to ride the infamous hot air balloons in Cappadocia, which means that the spots for each take-off can sometimes fill up months in advance. For the best chance of getting on a flight, make sure to book a spot early or plan for a stay in the region of at least three nights.
2. Get ready to go high
Whether you have a fear of heights or are an adventure traveller, bear in mind that hot air balloons can fly high above the ground and depending on the wind can reach various speed – from 2km up to 22km per hour. Apart from the extreme altitude, experienced pilots can also take travellers right down into Cappadocia’s valleys, manoeuvring past the unique rock formations of the traditional cave hotels in Göreme.
3. Choose wisely
The hot air balloon industry in Cappadocia is blossoming thanks to the picturesque region and social media. Although the first commercial passenger balloon in Turkey took flight in 1991, today over 25 companies have registered around 200 balloons. Depending on the company and the amount of people in the basket, a ride across Cappadocia’s skies can cost between 130-180 Euros per person. A “deluxe” flight, although slightly more expensive, can last slightly longer and fits less passengers in the basket resulting in a more comfortable experience.
4. Expect flight cancellation
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia may happen on approximately 250 days of the year, but weather conditions may occasionally get a flight cancelled. Even if you wake up before sunrise, pay the fee and watch at the take-off site as the balloons fill up with hot air, with seemingly no indication of bad weather, sometimes there may be strong winds high above the ground. Apart from wind, natural occurrences such as snow, rain, for and thunderstorms can leave you watching your guide deflate the balloon at the very last minute.
Tip: Book a few-nights’ stay in Cappadocia to avoid missing a hot air balloon spot in the occasional event of your flight getting cancelled. If you experience flight cancellation, try to immediately reschedule with the same company. In peak season even next-day flights are often fully booked. In such case, call and email as many companies in Cappadocia as you can about spaces on various (deluxe, post-sunrise, sunset) flights, although they can be more expensive. Make sure to check your inbox regularly as most companies hold a spot only for an hour before moving on to the next person on their waitlist.
5. Enjoy the ride
Even n the safest conditions and with the most experienced crew, accidents can happen, yet much like aircrafts, balloons are subject to regular safety checks and get registered with the aviation authority. Pilots pass flight tests and medical checks, gaining a number of flight hours before starting to gain more experience. Hot air ballooning involves some level of risk and while there have been accidents in the past, as long as you choose an experienced balloon company that prioritises passenger safety, a weightless ride across Cappadocia’s picturesque terrain can be the ride of your lifetime.
As fun as hot air balloon rides can be, witnessing the balloons from any of Cappadocia’s viewpoints, is a rivalry enchanting experience. The region bursts with open air museums, sprawling underground cities and archaeological sites that await the curious travellers.
Bonus tip: Visitors that stay in Cappadocia for a few days, benefit from purchasing the Museum Pass Cappadocia card, which is accepted in most tourist locations such as Ihlara Valley, Zelve Archaeological Site, Derinkuyu Underground City and the Goreme Open Air Museum. The Museum Pass Turkey on the other hand is ideal for travellers, who wish to visit other cities across Turkey including Pamukkale and Istanbul.