Hot air balloons are almost as much a feature of Cappadocia as the magnificent underground cities and fairy chimney houses.
When you wake on your first morning to a sky filled with colourful balloons drifting almost silently over the remarkable landscape around you, you know you’ve arrived somewhere magical.
But do you want to fly in a hot air balloon? Here’s why you should.
Waking up in Cappadocia
Lying semi-conscious in bed as I woke on my first morning in Cappadocia, I was aware of two sounds that I don’t normally wake to. The first was a determined mooing, so loud the (presumably) cow could have been standing at the end of the bed (but thankfully wasn’t). The second sounded like a strong burst of air, followed by a quieter ‘whoosh’ – a hot air balloon! I leapt out of bed and dashed to my cave balcony. The balloons, for there were several in fact, were passing directly over my fairy chimney accommodation.
The rest of the view before me was also incredible. I looked across a valley at cave dwellings, fairy chimneys, a field of livestock (including the cow), and down towards the rest of Goreme, and colourful rock cliffs in the distance. Having arrived in Goreme in darkness the night before, my first morning in Cappadocia presented an exciting discovery at every turn, but the balloons were especially impressive and I booked a flight immediately.
|Hot air balloons at sunrise, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey|
Taking a hot air balloon flight
Thank goodness for good lighting in my cave as, on the day of my flight, I had to get up before sunrise since all flights leave at sunrise to avoid possible windy conditions later in the day. I stumbled to the transfer bus that took passengers to the balloon company office where we were served some breakfast before heading out to the take off site.
|Inflating the hot air balloon, Cappadocia, Turkey|
We were delivered to a large open field near Goreme Open Air Museum containing a balloon basket and semi-inflated balloon on the ground, and asked to wait. All around us balloons littered the landscape. There were at least a dozen nearby and a few already airbourne.
|Hot air balloons taking off at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey|
The balloon was inflated and we were invited to scramble into the basket, which was divided into four passenger compartments and one for the pilot – presumably to keep the weight evenly distributed. The pilot introduced himself and gave us instructions on how to position ourselves when landed. I had wondered how landing would go. (I remember thinking his instructions made sense - passengers crouching low in the basket are less likely to fly out if you have a bumpy landing)…
|Hot air balloons take off in Cappadocia, Turkey|
Up, up and away!
With a few roars from the gas canister, and some impressive flames, our balloon climbed slowly and confidently into the sky. We crested a hillside and the scenery dropped away (it felt a bit like those sweeping landscape shots you see in films, but this was real – eek!) Then we flew over Cavusin, a small modern town built around ancient rock dwellings that form a massive historic wall, right in the centre of the quiet settlement.
|View towards the centre of Cavusin, Cappadocia, Turkey from a hot air balloon|
The balloon then flew towards love valley, where we dipped lower to have a really close look at the rock formations the valley is suggestively named after, and also surprised a resident dog.
|View over Love Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey from a hot air balloon|
The views we admired from the balloon, and even simply the experience of flying by hot air balloon, were fantastic. The pilot was able to position the balloon very close to hillsides and rock formations and rotate the balloon so everybody got to enjoy the views. Flying slowly over a section of the region also gave me a bit more of a sense of direction and I felt like I knew my way around better afterwards.
|Hot air balloon pilot controlling the balloon, Cappadocia, Turkey|
Coming in to land
We had been soaring over Cappadocia for just over an hour when we ascended out of Love Valley, headed away from Goreme and towards some open fields. I saw the support team that had guided us to the balloon and a passenger minibus heading towards one field and knew this was the landing site.
Our pilot reminded us of the landing position and then expertly, and very precisely, landed the basket squarely on the company trailer without even a bump. We were simply airbourne one moment and back on the ground (well, trailer) the next: brilliant.
|Packing up the hot air balloon, Cappadocia, Turkey|
As some of the team packed up the balloon, others assembled a little ‘snacks and champagne’ landing party to absolutely cement the excitement amongst the passengers. After all, what’s not to like about champagne just after 7am?
|View over Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey from a hot air balloon|
While these manmade balloons can seem at odds with the spectacular natural environment, they are also quietly unobtrusive to those on the ground as they float mysteriously overhead and really add to the already magical atmosphere in Cappadocia.
|Hot air balloon passes over Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey|
If you are visiting Cappadocia soon I recommend taking a hot air balloon flight. It really is a once in a lifetime experience.