It doesn’t come as a surprise that when one thinks of Turkey, a visual of hot air balloons comes to mind. Just like India is globally famous for the Taj Mahal, Japan for its Cherry Blossoms, Paris for Eiffel Tower, Egypt for its gigantic pyramids, and so on, so is Turkey for its Cappadocia hot air balloon ride.
It is undeniably an unforgettable experience for thrill seekers and laypersons likewise. So, if you’re a travel enthusiast and don’t have this amazing hot air balloon experience on your bucket list, I’m here to convince you why it is a good idea to consider it.
And if you already have a hot air balloon ride on your “to-do list,” then here is why visiting Cappadocia is a perfect way possible to experience it.
Cappadocia – Location, and History
Located in Anatolia, Central Turkey, Cappadocia has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing millions of tourists annually. There is little wonder why, given the peculiarly diverse landscapes, fascinating history, and rock formations in the Cappadocia region.
Cappadocia is a place where both nature and history merge. For instance, while natural events led to the formation of the famous fairy chimneys, we humans constructed houses and churches inside them.
Historically, there is evidence of contact between the region with Christianity. It is said that Christians came there and carved houses and churches into the hills to seek refuge from the Roman Empire.
Furthermore, in the 9th and 10th centuries, Cappadocia underwent a period of prosperity wherein many more rock-cut churches and monasteries were formed, which exist to date and remain a major site of tourist attraction.
Islam was also introduced to this region through the Seljuks and stayed due to the Ottoman Empire’s rule. As one may have already noticed thus, this was an area dominated by different groups and empires throughout centuries – From the Romans to the Persians, Macedonians, Hittites, and the before mentioned, among several others.
The Best Time to Visit Cappadocia
Unlike other popular tourist destinations, Cappadocia is a place one can visit all year round. Although the temperatures and weather conditions vary quite a bit between seasons, especially in the summer and winter, it does not quite affect the place’s scenic beauty. However, the months of July and August are always crowded with tourists, which is a little shocking considering that the climate during this time can be dry.
Also, though the hot air balloons are functional all year round, they depend on the weather conditions and wind speed, and since early April can be pretty windy, the air balloon rides during this time can be a little erratic.
Another thing to be noted is that balloon flights tend to be a little chilly during November and December. So, Thus, if one is looking to avoid crowds and extreme climates, spring or autumn is the perfect season for visiting Cappadocia.
Best Things to Do in Cappadocia
1. Hot Air Balloon Rides in Cappadocia
Cappadocia hot air balloon tour is among the top three most famous sites in the world for hot air ballooning. The reason is – they not only have one of the most experienced pilots but also, due to the lack of vegetation in the region, the hot air balloons are allowed to descend and fly close to the ground. High up in the air, too, giving one the perfect combined experience of viewing the unique rock formations.
Tourists do not need to worry about getting the best deal or price for hot air balloon tours since Cappadocia has a number of balloon companies providing their services.
The best part about booking through a balloon company is that they provide free cancellation along with the basic pick up from the hotel to the take-off site and drop off from the location back, with pre-flight breakfast included in some. However, the free cancellation is only applicable 24 hours before the air balloon ride.
After that, some amount is deducted, and the free cancellation policy no longer stands. Some well-known ones include Kapadokya balloons, SailnStay Travel, Tourmania, Royal Balloons, Voyager Balloons, and others. All the details are available on their website, or you can use Viator, Get your Guide, or Turkey Travel planner to get a package that suits your budget, convenience, and needs.
However, it is important to get your bookings done from a secure place, assured of their services because if in case of delay or cancellation of the scheduled flight, they provide a refund and the obvious free cancellation.
Here is a summary of how the balloon rides in Cappadocia include once you have tied up with a particular balloon company:
- Pick up from your hotel
- Registration and breakfast
- Driving to the take-off site
- Hot air balloon flight preparation
- Take off and fly
- Post-flight celebration and champagne toast
- Hotel drop off
Most hot air balloon rides start at 5 in the morning so that tourists can experience the sunrise from the top, in the air. Seeing hundreds of other balloons fly in the sky as the sun rises feels too surreal to put into words. Undoubtedly, the hot air balloon flights in Cappadocia have balloon pilots licensed to navigate it and operate the gas heater (due to which the air balloon can fly).
Although a hot air balloon does not have steering to guide it in a particular direction, having hot air balloon pilots is necessary as they navigate it in a suitable direction, and the experienced ones can even take you through narrow and winding routes (when flying low) to make the experience a more thrilling one. And due to them, one can also fly safely and enjoy the air balloon ride without any worries.
1.1. How to Prepare for The Balloon Ride?
Cappadocia hot air ballooning can be a life-changing experience when done right. For this reason, many people prefer to take balloon rides during sunrise or sunset, although the former is generally the preferable choice. If going for it in the early morning, do not forget to bring a light jacket with you as it can get chilly in the air – the temperatures can drop to 10 degrees Celsius!
Having a light breakfast before leaving for the balloon flight is sufficient and important, even if it is included in the balloon tour package. This is because often, these companies do not have a good spread in the name of “breakfast,” as promised. Thus, worst-case scenario having a light breakfast from your hotel before leaving is a safer bet.
1.2. The Process of The Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Tour
The Cappadocia hot air balloon rides can be booked according to your convenience. Thus, the flight time can range from as little as half an hour to even a whole day! Once the registration is done, the process after that is easy enough.
You are taken to the launch site, and since they have already prepared the balloon flights in advance, people don’t have to wait much longer, and before they realize it, the balloons rise, and they are already in the air!
The hot air balloon rides are also sightseeing tours, as you have a guide with you throughout the hot air balloon trip to show you the most iconic views and landmarks from an aerial perspective. So, if you are not someone who wants to sign up for sightseeing tours, take a hot air balloon tour instead.
Once you are done with the air balloon ride and back at the landing site, a small landing ceremony is held. It is a tradition in the hot air ballooning world. A champagne toast is held to celebrate the balloon flight with a few other snacks. This champagne toast is partly a celebration held partly in the name of the French (as they were the first people who flew in hot air balloons).
Once the champagne toast is made, people receive a souvenir flight certificate or a personalized flight certificate as a remembrance to mark the end of their successful balloon ride in Cappadocia.
1.3. Cost and Types of Hot Air Balloons
The balloon ride in Cappadocia can range from 150 USD to 300 USD per person depending upon the number of people in the hot air balloon (which can vary between 8 to 20 people). Private flights, however, tend to be much more expensive in comparison.
Standard flights are economical but of short duration and carry quite a few people. In comparison, although deluxe flights are relatively a little more expensive, they are of long duration, so you get to experience the hot air balloon properly. Thus, deluxe flights are a better option if you’re looking for a quieter balloon flight with more privacy.
2. Pigeon Valley
It is between Goreme and Uchisar and derives its name from the pigeon shelters carved on its rocks. It is a popular and easy hiking trail that takes you through several cave dwellings and pigeon houses. One can also spot ancient paintings on their walls and walk through the valley while catching glimpses of Uchisar Castle.
3. Derinkuyu Underground City
There are around 36 underground cities in Cappadocia, and Derinkuyu is the deepest and largest. The city is 85 meters deep and consists of storage rooms, living rooms, churches, and much more!
4. Goreme Open-Air Museum
Goreme is a small village in the Cappadocia region from which almost all major tourist attractions are easily accessible. Goreme also has some of the best cave hotels in Cappadocia, such as the Azure cave hotel, Hidden cave hotel suites, and the Gamirasu cave hotel, to name a few.
The cave hotel is a memorable and one-of-a-kind experience, special to this place that one should not miss out on. Most of these hotels are carved into natural rock formations, and some even offer an unobstructed view of the scenic valleys and Cappadocia balloons you can enjoy with your buffet breakfast.
From the city center, the Goreme museum is located within walking distance and is one of the top tourist sites with some of the most well-preserved cave-carved clusters of churches and chapels. These churches are painted with beautiful murals from the inside. The entrance fees costs around 15TL per person.
However, there is an additional entrance fee for the Dark church. One should preferably visit this place either early morning or late evening to avoid large crowds.
5. Fairy Chimney
One such fascinating feature of this historic location is Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys, also known as hoodoos. In reality, the fairy chimneys are tall, slender columnar rock formations that emerge from the ground in rocky or volcanic terrain, typically in badlands or arid drainage basins.
Although fairy chimneys are found worldwide, including in the United States, Serbia, and France, those in Cappadocia are revered for their beautiful look and connection to the region’s long and adventurous history.
The geologic process that led to the fairy chimneys began millions of years ago when volcanic eruptions spread ash across the area that is now Turkey. This ash solidified into the porous rock known as tuff, which was then covered in basalt. The slow process of erosion finally started. The softer tuff wore away over millennia, making space for pillars reaching 130 feet.
Although there are currently no permanent habitations on the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia and the surrounding countryside, tourists only visit chimneys that once served as the homes and buildings of numerous people who had migrated to the area in pursuit of a safe life.
Most travelers who travel to Cappadocia to learn about the region’s fascinating history put a tour of these mythical chimney worlds on their itinerary as a “must-see.” The stunning appearance of the entire environment, including the fairy chimneys, exemplifies the excellent balance between populated areas and striking natural formations.
Armies and personnel from numerous European countries and cultures, including the Persians, Romans, Ottomans, Byzantines, and others, have traveled through this region of Cappadocia, which was originally a stop on the historic Silk Road.
Tourists visit Cappadocia not only for hot air balloons alone, even since 1985, but Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys have also been a component of the Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia UNESCO World Heritage Site.