World’s most popular hot air balloon flight is definitely in Cappadocia, Turkey. One of the most beautiful experiences of my life so far and a thing that you have to add to your bucket list right away.
The view is breathtaking! Rising high up in the sky with more than 150 balloons around you is something that you will not see so often. The feeling of complete freedom and the lovely energy that you share with more than 2,000 people from all over the world who fly at the same time is unique.
Seeing the sunrise and feeling the golden gentle light caressing your face and spreading around the valley, like in a theatrical show very well directed where the light adds a little bit of drama to the whole act, is magical. The whole experience is pure magic!
It was the first time flying in a hot air balloon so I didn’t know what to expect. I was ready to not know what was going to happen and to enjoy the moment, to taste the freedom of that hour up in the sky and take all that beauty with me.
We are searching all our life for those awe! moments and this is definitely one of them! This is the sublime in its purest form. It is a show of magic and like in any other shows, there are lots and lots of people backstage who do a lot of work, so that you can enjoy this moment.
The Story of Cappadocia
Cappadocia has a very long history, being the heartland of the Hittite Empire at 1700 BC. The famous rock formations were created three to four million years ago by volcanic erosion.
The region has more than 5,000 kilometers and has played various roles in history, but has always been a center of civilization, even through Medieval times. More than 600 churches are carved from this soft rock and probably there are even more yet to be discovered.
The fascinating thing is that there are several underground cities in the area and I have visited the largest – Derinkuyu city, built on 8 levels underground at 85 meters deep, that used to host over 20,000 people with their animals.
In 1985, many rock sites of Cappadocia, like the Goreme Open Air Museum and Uçhisar Castle, have been enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Hot air ballooning has a history of hundreds of years, but only after 1997 it became a more touristic activity in Cappadocia. In 2011, they have started to invest greatly in professional staff and a number of organizations and commissions were formed along with the Balloon Pilot Degree Program at Cappadocia Vocational School.
Cappadocia became truly popular in 2015 and if you ask people around, they will say that it’s true. Four years ago there wasn’t any fuss about it, there weren’t so many tourists and the locals would usually fly just for fun with their friends. But something happened and this place became one of the most popular places on the planet.
I tend to blame Instagram for that, because it is one of the most photogenic places and everyone wanted to have their photo taken in Cappadocia. I am sure though that they have done their part too and all the investment in this place started to pay off at some point.
How to Get There
Cappadocia is very well connected with all the big cities in Turkey. I went there from Istanbul and I had two choices: flight or night bus.
The flight was available from Turkish Airlines or Pegasus Airlines, but when I went there, at the beginning of October, prices were pretty high. I have heard that they should be almost the same as the bus, but to be honest, the night bus is definitely cheaper.
There is another asset of the bus. Choose the Metro Tourism Bus and they will provide FREE shuttle from all over Istanbul to their main bus terminal. So, instead of getting the subway or a cab to the airport, you get a free bus in the price of the ticket, which was about $25.
Then, in Goreme, they leave you right in the center of the city so you will not need any other transportation, you can just walk to your hotel, while the airport is further away and you will need again a paid bus or a taxi.
Secondly, the buses are really comfortable, with TV sets with films and music – just like in an airplane – right in front of every seat. The ride is about 12 hours, so if you have no problem with sleeping in a bus, then you should really take this option and save money for the balloon flight.
Prices for The Balloon Flight
There are many things to do in Cappadocia, but this is definitely the most exciting one, the highlight of your trip. What you need to know is that the prices that I have seen online have nothing to do with reality. Make sure to check out the date of the article, because if it was written 4 years ago, the price will not be for sure $100. Also, take into account that the place has become hugely popular in the last two years, so the prices went up. Another thing that may be just about chance is the number of tourists that are there at the same time with you.
I have visited Cappadocia in a very popular season. I’ve heard that weather was not so good some days before my arrival so a lot of flights had been postponed on my dates. I caught brilliant weather all days, sunny and hot, but that made the price of the flight go up!
Make sure to book in advance and even pay in advance, if possible.
I had a reservation and two days prior to my arrival, I have received a message saying that due to technical reasons, the flight has been canceled and they will do their best to find another flight on the day of my arrival.
I really wanted to fly that day, because it was my birthday and I was super relaxed before thinking that the flight is booked. When I arrived, one day before my birthday, I have asked for the flight and the only spots available were at 300 euros. My original flight was 230 euros.
I started then to wander around Cappadocia to ask for flights and prices. I spent the whole morning going to each and every agency and I have been told that either they are completely booked for the following morning or that the price is 300 – 350 euros or even 400 euros. One agency offered the flight at 270 euros. Booked!
The Blissful Experience
I woke up around 5 a.m. My pick up was at 5:50 a.m. because my hotel in Goreme – Cappadocia Elite Stone House (the best breakfast ever!) – was very close to the take off point. That’s another great thing. All agencies provide free transportation from your hotel to the take off point and then they take you from the landing point back to the hotel.
I was very excited and a bit nervous, because I knew that flights can be canceled at any time. If the weather conditions are not favorable, all flights are canceled on the spot and this might happen even when you are already at the take off point.
You reach the place by car and you start seeing some enormous shapes on the ground that slowly grow in the twilight. You can see only the flames that light up the balloons one by one, like a light show in the dark.
You get to have a quick breakfast with coffee, tea, sweets and snacks, while you wait for your balloon to be ready. Then, you jump into the basket with 18 – 20 other people and get ready for the experience of your lifetime.
You slowly start to float and you begin to rise so gently and slow, that you don’t even know when you have reached the top of the sky and the world beneath you has shrunk.
I had the pleasure to fly with Moustafa, a very cool and entertaining pilot that makes you feel so relaxed and completely safe. It is indeed the safest way of flying nowadays, so there is nothing to be scared of.
The only moment when my heart skipped a beat was when I have realized that we are so incredibly high, above 1600 m and I remember thinking how did we get here? Because you really do not feel a thing, you float like a feather and simply rise, being dazzled by the breathtaking views.
And all of the sudden, the sun rises. You will experience one of the most beautiful sunrises ever. The peace mixed with the magical view, the serenity and all that beauty that I just wanted to soak in, gave me a feeling of freedom that I have rarely experienced.
I just wanted to take all that beauty with me and keep it inside as long as possible. You want to take photos, to film but at the same time, just stare in awe! at all of it and record the memory.
Moustafa is a true magician when it comes to landing. I have seen so many bumpy landings now on YouTube, but most of them in Dubai or other places. I feel that pilots in Cappadocia are very experienced and really know how to land a balloon. He landed straight on a trailer. I have no idea how he did this, very precisely and smoothly.
After one hour and a couple of minutes of pure bliss, we landed at around 7:30 a.m. When you land, it’s important to lower down, with your back in the opposite direction of landing and hold tight with both hands from the ropes in the balloon. Now I found out why those ropes are there! Had no idea before 🙂 You will anyway receive instructions from the pilot before the flight, so all you need to do is relax and enjoy!
After the amazing flight, we celebrated with a glass of champagne, some great photos and exchanging experiences and contacts with the new friends made up in the sky.
I highly recommend this. Don’t think twice and just go there and do it. It is totally worth it! Even if it was pricey, I have no regrets, especially seeing the amount of work behind. Every balloon has a team of 5-6 people at least that helps with both the take off and the landing. There are the drivers as well that take you from the hotel and these people get up at probably 2-3 a.m. every single morning. Chapeau for their effort and for bringing magic into the lives of over 2,000 people every single morning!