If you plan a trip to Turkey – you could probably find enough in Istanbul and the surrounding areas for an entire trip, but I highly recommend you take small side trips to other areas of Turkey. One of those areas is Cappadocia. The area is known for its Cave Hotels and Hot Air Ballooning and both are amazing – but this post is focused on Hot Air Ballooning.
You have to wake up extremely early in the morning, as the goal is to be up over the area in your balloon as the sun rises. On any given morning there will be 20-40 balloons filled with tourists who traveled to Cappadocia just for this experience. Each balloon company is different – some of the cheaper options will cram as many people as possible and on the other end some of the luxury companies will give you a private guided tour which will stay up longer than the rest of the balloons. The trips can be cancelled due to bad weather – so if you are headed there in the winter you may have to try across several mornings (though the snow on the ground adds an element to the experience that makes it worth the risk).
The company will pick you up from your hotel well before sunrise and most include a standard buffet breakfast at their headquarters. Its a short bus ride to each of their takeoff zones, within an hour of leaving your hotel you will likely be in the air. For us it was a very chilly morning, well below freezing and several inches of snow on the ground. The heat from the flames above you felt amazing. As you floated higher and higher the different balloons would trade spots -as you would change altitudes you can see the sun dip and rise around the horizon. You can look down and see the company’s car trailing you to figure out where you will land. Each day gives a unique trip as the winds dictate your path. Make sure you have ample memory space remaining – I guarantee you will not leave without taking hundreds of photos. When you land it is tradition to have a celebratory toast with champagne to commemorate your successful flight.
Which company to go with?
The top two companies you will hear mentioned are Royal Balloons and Butterfly Balloons. The guides for both of the companies speak English, both are reasonably priced (though they will not be the cheapest options), both have very high reviews across many sites and they both limit the sizes of the groups so you won’t be packed liked sardines in the basket. Many hotels partner with different companies and offer extra discounts. We went with Royal Balloons as they were a few euros cheaper on our flight. Keep an eye on both sites as they often have specials (especially in low seasons like Winter). If you are planning on spending only one day in Cappadocia – you are able to take the balloon ride in the morning and then do one of the cave/area tours on the same day.
How much should you expect to spend?
During the winter the 60 minute flight (which is really all you need) – you should expect to pay between 120-150 euros per person. During low season they are open to bargaining and you may get discounts if they have specials running or from booking at the hotel. During the high season you should expect to pay 160 – 200 euros per person. Though this price may seem very steep – this will be an experience you won’t soon forget.