Our 100-foot tall hot air balloon floated above the ancient Turkish valleys filled with prehistoric stone edifices – and we just gazed in sheer wonder, 1,000 or so feet up in the sky. What I felt as we silently drifted above the pastel horizon while the sun slowly broke, is actually rather hard to express. Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia.
Part of me thought that those images of hundreds of balloons drifting in the pre-dawn light were photoshop creations but here it was, actually unfolding before us like a magical tableau. (Well, some of those images are definitely photoshopped, but that’s a discussion for another time.)
We were so very lucky – the hot air balloon flights for several mornings before ours had been cancelled due to inclement weather (I believe it was any wind above 12km/hr) and the first of two days that we were able to fly had been cancelled – but the second morning we were in luck.
Waking up to a pitch black 5am alarm was tough, I’m not going to lie – especially as with the time difference it was about 2.30am in the UK – and it was laced with a feeling of disbelief, even as we picked up a call from the hotel reception confirming that we were indeed in luck with the weather – and that our driver was on his way to collect us.
Driving into what seemed the middle of nowhere (with a stop off to pick up breakfast packs of a couple of drinks, a sandwich and a piece of fruit – I gave mine to the Mr) we tumbled out into the random field, walked around a couple of trees, and then waited. For something to happen. (This took about 30 seconds but felt like an age in the dark.)
A shout went up, and then flame shoots up out of nowhere, illuminating the clearing full of enormous baskets and deflated balloons – and our driver gathered us into bemused, mostly snoozy groups of tourists.
Wiping the sleep from the corner of my eye, I simply blinked at the quickly filling gigantic balloons in front of us.
From that point, it’s a delicate balance of pilots and their crews filling the balloon, climbing up into the baskets and listening to the safety chat our pilot had with us (it’s pretty basic, let’s be real).
Our basket had 12 people + a pilot within the sections – we’d chosen a luxury end of the balloon spectrum – there are huge balloons that take as many as 32 people, and smaller baskets who have between 2 and 4 people – but that was a step too far for my so-called ‘adventurous’ self.
Before we knew it, we’d lifted off, and were gently rising into the air.
Apparently a good percentage of the world’s balloon flights are in Turkey – something that definitely reassured me and added to the excitement we were experincing – I’d been chafing at Mr Kiwi to do a flight, and he successfully argued that doing it in Turkey would be magical compared to in the UK – which meant that I could book those all important Turkey flights with abandon.
A bonus of the balloons not being able to take off the days prior, was that we were able to witness 150 balloons rising in our valley alone – an incredible sight – and a record number for Goreme.
The experience was equal parts exhilarating and surprisingly gentle – with a tinge of terror as I thought about how high we were suspended. It was pretty incredible, and our pilot regaled us with his qualifications and the places around the world that he’d ballooned around, which reassured me a huge amount.
Mr Kiwi, on the other hand, spent a fair amount of the flight terrified – not of the flight – but that I’d drop my phone to the boulder scattered valley below to my utter amusement.
It was amazing. Drifting gently above the stone chimneys, around the various valley crags and bobbing slowly in the air currents.
What an office with a view, eh!
Sadly, after an hour or so (which honestly was enough time) our pilot began to drift us down, towards his ground crew.
Once our feet were firmly back on the ground, they slipped us glasses of non-alcoholic fizz (which is fair enough as we’re in a Muslim country – but I did think it a bit cheeky to call it champagne) which we toasted in delight as the cool morning air began to settle on our excited cheeks.
Oh, and I got a certificate to prove it! (Hilariously address to Emma Cheese which made it all the funnier.) Our ground crew bundled us back into the mini-van which would take us back to our hotel just in time for actual breakfast.
We sat with coffees on our hotel balcony, both in a bit of a state of disbelief about what we’d just done, only to come back and have a very civilised coffee and shower, just like any other day in our lives.
Practical tips for booking your hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia: hot air balloon Cappadocia
- We booked the experience via our hotel concierge – he was awesome at keeping us up to date with the weather effects.
- We weren’t charged for the day they didn’t take off – in fact, they didn’t take any upfront payment so that there wasn’t any faffing if we didn’t go up.
- Researching it before I went, there are several independent companies, as well as a collective who charge a set price based on the capacity of the basket – fewer people = costs more.
- Definitely book your flight for dawn – it’s incredible and well worth getting up for.
- Pray for good weather – and don’t book this on your last day in case you can’t go up.
- We stayed in Goreme not only to explore the nearby caves, but for ease of our hot air balloon experience. We didn’t venture into the town itself due to the time we had, and spending too much time on our hotel balcony all cozied with a drink.
Was it worth it? Absolutely no question – it was the highlight of our trip to Cappadocia and Istanbul – seeing the moonscapes of Cappadocia was incredible from our hot air balloon and one of our favourite things to do in Goreme. Cappadocia
Is hot air ballooning on your travel bucket list? Do you have any specific questions about the experience?
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