Cappadocia Balloon Ride: Sunrise over Göreme

Cappadocia balloon ride with a full moon.
Cappadocia balloon ride with a full moon.

A Cappadocia balloon ride. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but figured I’d never get the chance. Soaring over a rugged landscape dotted with craggy boulders in nothing but a wicker basket suspended from some brightly colored cloth? It sounded absolutely crazy and utterly amazing. I couldn’t wait to try it for myself.

Planning our Cappadocia Balloon Ride

Cappadocia balloon ride with snow covered mountains in the distance.
Cappadocia balloon ride with snow covered mountains in the distance.

Daniel and I didn’t have much time to plan a balloon ride, so we asked our hotel to arrange one for us. The cost was €150/person which seemed outrageously expensive at the time. We later found out this price was quite reasonable, thanks to travelling in the low season. The Turkish Civil Aviation Authority restricts the number of balloons that can take off each day. This limits the balloon passenger spots so that during the high season, prices can rise to upwards of €300/person.

We also realized we were lucky to get a spot on a balloon at all. The hotel arranged our balloon ride on the day of our arrival. During busy months, balloon rides book up well in advance. We also lucked out with the weather and had a beautifully sunny day with calm wind conditions – not to mention a full moon. Balloons cannot fly in stormy or windy weather and so apparently balloon rides are often cancelled in winter months.

So the moral here is to plan your Cappadocia balloon ride well in advance if you can.

We're in a hot air balloon! Daniel and I set off on a Cappadocia balloon ride.
We’re in a hot air balloon!

Before the Balloon Ride

On the appointed morning, the balloon tour company picked us up at our hotel before dawn. We shivered as we made our way to the passenger van in the dark. The temperature was well below freezing, so we bundled up with stocking hats, thermal underwear and warm coats. We were glad of all our extra clothing later – but it didn’t get as cold as we feared due to the heat from the balloon’s burner.

Daniel and I arrived at an open area dotted with bonfires. We warmed ourselves next to a fire as we watched the crew unload our balloon from a truck. They spread the balloon out on the ground and then fired up the burner. Flames shot into the balloon and began heating up the air. We could see the light from scores of other balloons flicker on and off nearby.

Soon it was time to board our craft and we clambered inside. We crammed 24 passengers into the basket and all squeezed together like sardines. I could barely move. But I barely noticed – I was too busy grinning like an idiot. Our pilot gave us a few instructions and it was time to lift off.

Preparing for the Cappadocia balloon ride: The hot air balloon is first inflated on its side.
The hot air balloon is first inflated on its side.
Preparing for the Cappadocia balloon ride: When the balloon has enough air then it is tipped upright.
When the balloon has enough air then it is tipped upright.
Standing around the fire to stay warm while the balloon inflates.
Standing around the fire to stay warm while the balloon inflates.
Climbing into the basket with 23 of my new closest friends as we set off on a Cappadocia balloon ride.
Climbing into the basket with 23 of my new closest friends.
Watching the nearby balloons prepare for takeoff for a Cappadocia balloon ride.
Watching the nearby balloons prepare for takeoff.
And we're off on our Cappadocia balloon ride!
And we’re off!

During the Ride

Soon we lifted off and began slowly ascending into the air. Balloons that had already launched soared over our heads in a brightly colored rainbow. We had a birds-eye view of the remaining balloons as they drifted gently into the sky below us.

For the first portion of the ride, we stayed low to the ground. We watched as ground crews packed up trucks and trailed behind their respective balloons. A couple dressed in wedding clothes posed for photographs as hundreds of balloons swarmed overhead.

Eventually we rose in altitude and began pulling away from the other balloons. We had a spectacular view of the craggy boulders and fairy chimneys dotting the Cappadocia landscape. Mount Erciyes came into view on the horizon and the moon, luminous and full, kept us company in the clouds.

Then it was time for the big event – sunrise! The sun poked out from behind the horizon and sunbeams streamed into the pale twilight. I shaded my eyes as we all oohed and ahhed in unison as we watched the sun emerge.

We begin our Cappadocia balloon ride.
We begin our Cappadocia balloon ride.
We leave the parking lot behind and begin to see some fairy chimneys.
We leave the parking lot behind and begin to see some fairy chimneys.
We have a great view of the nearby balloon.
We have a great view of the nearby balloon.
Wait - is she wearing a wedding dress?
Wait – is she wearing a wedding dress?
Yes she is wearing a wedding dress. What a great place for a wedding. Or wedding photo shoot.
Yes. Yes she is wearing a wedding dress. What a great place for a wedding. Or wedding photo shoot.
We bid goodbye to the happy couple.
We bid goodbye to the happy couple.
Up the nose shot on the hot air balloon.
Up the nose shot on the hot air balloon.
From the balloon we can see ancient dwellings carved into rock next to modern buildings.
From the Cappadocia balloon ride we can see ancient dwellings carved into rock next to modern buildings.
The full moon on the horizon.
The full moon on the horizon.
As the balloon rises in elevation we can see all the way to  Mount Erciyes.
As the balloon rises in elevation we can see all the way to Mount Erciyes.
After the sun rises, the balloons are bathed in light.
After the sun rises, the balloons are bathed in light.

After the Ride

All too soon, however, the balloon ride was over. The pilot navigated us towards our truck which was waiting on the ground. He instructed all passengers to brace themselves and deftly landed the balloon on the truck bed.

We tumbled out of the basket and hopped giddily to the ground. As the crew deflated the balloon, the pilot popped open a bottle of champagne and handed glasses all around.

As I sipped champagne amid a sea of landing balloons, I marvelled at the experience. I was still grinning like and idiot and realized that I hadn’t really stopped smiling the entire time. A passenger standing next to me introduced himself soon we were chatting about a balloon ride he took 20 years ago in Kenya.

What’s that you say? A safari balloon ride to see lions and zebras from the air? Apparently I have a new goal for my bucket list…

The balloon pilot navigates us towards the truck for landing.
The balloon pilot navigates us towards the truck for landing.
We assume the landing position and all hold onto the handles in the basket.
We assume the landing position and all hold onto the handles in the basket.
The neighboring balloon lands on a truck.
The neighboring balloon lands on a truck.
Deflating a neighboring balloon.
Deflating a neighboring balloon.
The Cappadocia balloon ride is over. Champagne celebration!
Champagne celebration!
They gave us certificates for completing the Cappadocia balloon ride which we promptly threw away since we don't have room for them in our bags.
They gave us certificates for completing the balloon ride which we promptly threw away since we don’t have room for them in our bags.

Where are we now?

We are in Göreme, Turkey

Location: Göreme, Turkey
Date: Saturday, January 11, 2020
Vagabonding Journey Status: Day 103

For more details on our vagabonding journey, see my previous posts:

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Interested in visiting Cappadocia? Riding a hot air balloon is a thrilling experience that should top everyone's bucket list. Read about my hot air balloon adventure at ARamblingUnicorn.com.

12 thoughts

  1. A balloon ride over Capadoccia is my DREAM even though I’m sort of scared of heights, flying, turbulence and all that kind of stuff! 😀 Did you feel safe in the balloon and was it a smooth ride all the way through?

    1. Yeah I felt pretty safe the whole time! There was no turbulence or anything – Turkish air traffic control doesn’t let them fly the balloons during windy weather. The pilot had a headset on and was in communication with traffic control the whole time. That was my experience anyway ☺️

  2. This looks like so much fun! I would love to do this whenever I get to Turkey. I wanted to do this in Bagan but it was over $300 per person so I decided to pass. But comparatively, 150 euros doesn’t seem to bad. Also love the photos!

    1. Thanks! It’s apparently more expensive in the busy months (fall and spring). So I recommend going in the off season as long as the weather holds! ☺️

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