People often call hot air ballooning “romantic,” “gentle” or “peaceful”. It’s all of those things and more!
It’s magical. It’s spectacular. It’s eye opening. It’s breathtaking. It’s a bucket list activity that everyone should experience at least once in their life.
And what better place to do it than in Turkey?
I’ve been wanting to write about my hot air ballooning experience since I started this blog, but had a similar issue to Hobbiton: too many photos. It was even worse than Hobbiton, because the photos were all different! I maxed out my phone and used half of the space on my camera.
I say all of this as a bit of a warning and an apology for another incredibly image heavy post. However, the photos are pretty amazing, so I don’t feel that bad about it!
Where to Hot Air Balloon in Turkey
Cappadocia is on every “top 10 places to go hot air ballooning” list on the first three pages of Google. After going on my first balloon flight there, I can definitely see why.
Cappadocia has an incredible landscape with lots of natural features to enjoy from the air. You get to dip into valleys, drift above mountains and marvel at the expanses of land beyond the small clusters of homes.
Because of the Cappadocia’s fame for hot air ballooning, almost every Turkish tour stops in the city. I highly recommend you take advantage of the stop and go hot air ballooning.
Unfortunately, hot air ballooning is a weather dependent activity. The winds that make hot air ballooning possible can also be its downfall.
Apparently, for a week before our flight, no flights had been able to go.
If you’re going to Cappadocia solely to go hot air ballooning, make sure to book some extra days in case there is some bad weather.
Kapadokya Balloons was the first hot air balloon company in Turkey, having started in 1991. Now, there are dozens of hot air balloon companies in Cappadocia alone.
Their hot air balloons fly daily (weather permitting). Flights run in the mornings due to the wind. You also get incredible views of the sunrise. You get to fly from 5-1,000 metres off the ground, floating on air currents and glimpsing the waking world below.
Every hot air balloon ride with Kapadokya Balloons includes transfers, hot drinks and cookies before your flight, a flight certificate after your ride and a traditional landing ceremony. The landing ceremony involves getting your certificate, a glass of champagne or juice, and some cake.
Although the flight times are under 2 hours, the entire experience takes 3-4 hours. This includes the transfers, time to eat and safety instructions.
Since hot air ballooning takes place in the early morning, you’ll still have plenty of time left in your day for other activities.
Kapadokya Balloons requires you to be able to stand for the duration of the hot air balloon ride (about 1 to 1.5 hours).
I flew with Kapadokya Balloons, because my tour company worked with them.
Kapadokya Balloons: Flight Packages
A Standard Flight lasts 45-65 minutes and holds 16-20 people per basket. It costs €185 per person (€175 if you pay cash).
A Deluxe Flight lasts 1.5 hours. The balloons are smaller for maximum comfort, so only 10-14 people can fit in each basket. The Deluxe Flight costs €250 per person (or €230 cash).
Private Flights require contacting the company for price quotes and specifications. This experience includes the amenity of champagne and a fruit basket during your hot air balloon ride.
I did a Standard Flight.
What to Wear Hot Air Ballooning
Keep in mind that the balloons take off at sunrise and that you will be rising to approximately 1,000 metres in the air. In other words, it gets cold!
I wore thermals, long pants, a t-shirt, a fleece, a jacket, ear muffs, a scarf and mittens. Because of that, I didn’t feel the cold. (Note: I went in March, when the weather was cooler than it would be in the summer. In the summer, a coat and gloves would probably be sufficient.)
Bring sunglasses! Or else, once the sun rises, you’ll be blinded by the sun.
Make sure to take your camera for some incredible photos.
Kapadokya Balloons films your entire flight for you. You can purchase the CD for €20. Check out my video below!
Hot Air Ballooning: Preparing by Scaring
My stomach was in absolute knots about hot air ballooning. I was worried about getting motion sickness or vertigo or discovering a fear of height I’d never had before.
It didn’t help that the safety card they gave us showed that we’d land by tipping the basket sideways. How is that the best way to land??!
The yellow card clearly displayed four silhouettes squatting down inside the basket before the whole thing would fall so their backs were against the ground.
I definitely should have considered the whole “landing” part of this experience earlier.
After a short safety demonstration, we piled into vans to head to the balloons. We drove up to a spectacular sight of hot air balloons inflating, the fire lighting up the fabric against the night sky.
It turns out hot air balloons are massive. They towered above us, angled dangerously close to the edge of the hill.
Hot Air Ballooning: Lifting Off
Getting into a hot air balloon is impossible to do gracefully. Scaling up one side is fine; it’s getting over the edge into a basket full of people without kicking anyone in the face that’s the challenge.
Kapadokya Balloons’ baskets are divided into 5 sections. Four areas are for the 20 passengers. One, in the middle, is for the pilot.
The basket usually felt quite spacious, until you’re trying to get in or out of it.
I didn’t even realise when we actually took off. The basket is so solid beneath your feet that there is no sensation of leaving the ground. One minute we were beside the vans and the next we were dipping over the hill’s edge toward the valley.
It feels almost motionless as the hot air balloon drifts through the sky. The balloon turned slowly 360 degrees, but there’s no sensation of the movement.
None of it triggered my motion sickness or even really convinced me I was off the ground. If you had told me it was all an elaborate green screen, I would have believed you.
It really felt like something out of a movie. Granted, Wizard of Oz would have been very different if the hot air balloon was full of people snapping selfies.
Hot Air Ballooning: Dipping into the Fairy Chimneys
I don’t think I stopped clicking my camera the whole time I was in the balloon. I barely even looked at the screen, just snapping indiscriminately while I gaped at the view.
The flight path is every changing, completely determined by the wind.
My flight began by dipping into a valley filled with fairy chimneys. We flew low until I was sure the basket would scrape the ground. But we never did. Slowly, we began to rise.
We crested a hilltop lookout (the place to go if you just want photos of the hot air balloons). I looked back at the silhouettes of people (and maybe a dog?) only to see the balloon behind us looming close to the hilltop. For a moment, I worried it was going to smash into the people, scattering them like bowling pins.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. The pilot lit the burner and floated safely out of reach.
Hot Air Ballooning: Secret Messages
The sky was filled with balloons that morning. Cappadocia allows 150 balloons out at a time. That morning, our pilot estimated that there were 120. Everywhere you looked, you saw brightly coloured balloons. Up. Down. Left. Right. They were everywhere!
Occasionally, a balloon would light up when the burner flicked on.
The pilots played a game of flashing their burners in quick succession to pass messages, a sort of Morse code that seemed more playful than actually communicative.
Hot Air Ballooning: Floating Above the Clouds
Although Kapadokya Balloons’ states that the flights go to 1,000 metres, our pilot took us up higher. He announced every 100 metres off the ground until we got up to 1,400 metres. It didn’t feel high at the time.
We sat above a haze of clouds, no other balloons in sight. There, we got a perfect view of the sun breaking over the horizon.
I felt like I was in a dream.
When you’re above the clouds, it gets cold. My layers and the soft warmth of the burner helped keep the chill at bay as we hovered. For a minute, we were the highest balloon. But we had to descend back to our brightly coloured flock.
Hot Air Ballooning: Time to Tip Over
Our flight lasted between 45-65 minutes. I have no idea how long it actually was. I was far too entranced by the whole experience to have worried about time. Who checks their watch when you can play connect the dots with hot air balloons?
Hot air balloons can’t actually steer. Pilots use wind currents to direct the flights. That’s why the take off and landing points are so changeable. Our pilot had a walkie-talkie to communicate with the ground crew, so they could keep track of us.
We prepared to land by squatting low in the basket, a move that burned in my unexercised thighs. The balloon drifted lower until it brushed the ground. Once. Twice. Our pilot blasted the burned for a moment as the crew tugged some ropes. I could only tell we had landed because the commotion around the basket stopped. We were still upright.
Apparently worrying about falling backwards had been a total waste of time!
Hot Air Ballooning: A Bubbly Tradition
At the end of every hot air balloon flight, it’s traditional to enjoy champagne. The tradition started because hot air balloons, having no control over their flight path, often landed in farmers’ fields. Angry farmers could be appeased by giving them some champagne.
Now, it’s just a lovely treat (although 8am did seem a tad early for that kind of treat).
We got champagne mixed with cherry juice and big squares of marble cake. The feast entertained us while our pilot handed out our official certificates.
Watching the crew roll up our mighty balloon was rather sad (not just because deflated balloons are always rather sorry-looking). It meant that the magic was over, to be stored away for the next day’s fantasy.
Watch My Hot Air Balloon Flight
Check out the entirety of my hot air balloon flight below!
It’s almost meditative to watch. The way the balloon slowly drifts through the sky totally captures the feeling.
I know I’m the kind of person that enjoys finding the magic in this world. But even if you aren’t into magic and fantasy, hot air ballooning is just plain cool. It’s amazing to float in what is essentially a woven basket while flying without a motor. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to try it!
Yes, it’s expensive. And yes, you have to wake up crazy early. But it is totally worth it.
The memory of floating above the fairy chimneys and table top maintains is forever rooted in my mind. Sun rises bring me back to the hot air balloons that dotted the newly pink sky.
I can’t wait to float above the clouds again, to feel the firm certainty of the basket beneath my feet and to feel the heat of the burner on my face as it lifts me to the sky.
What’s the most magical travel experience you’ve ever had?