Cappadocia is a magical place worth visiting every season, but especially in winter when the surreal landscapes are covered under a blanket of snow, the scenery is truly out of this world. For the best vantage point, all you need to do is to scramble into a basket and take to the skies. In fact, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is one of the most impressive, extraordinary activities you can experience not only in all of Turkey but in the world.
Once everyone climbs into the basket, the fully inflated balloon lifts off and you effortlessly soar through the sky, surrendering to the wind like a swarm of jellyfish sailing in the ocean current. There’s nothing quite like making your way up into the sky and capturing those snow-capped fairy chimneys and intricate rock formations while floating above the valley. All this in an aircraft that only has the ability to take off and land!
Flying is such an exhilarating experience in its own right (check out my previous post focusing on the sensation of flying). Although this is my third nonmotorized flight, I still can’t help but have safety concerns. I remind myself that the hot air balloon is said to be the safest aircraft, and Cappadocia happens to be one of the most highly regulated places in the world with an excellent safety record.
Pilots as well as the ballon materials are subject to strict regulations and licensing by the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority. No balloon operator can fly without a license, and we are up in the air with a reputable company recommended by our host. According to him, the flight captain has long years of experience with an excellent safety record. He also adds that we are lucky because we’re on the first flight after the balloons have been grounded for two weeks due to adverse wind and weather conditions. Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia is a year-round activity, but safety first. So, don’t worry and enjoy the ride.
Initially100 balloons are allowed to fly simultaneously in the early morning hours. If there is demand and the weather conditions are favorable, 50 more balloons can take off later in the day. Especially during the peak season, it’s recommended to book your flight as soon as you book your accommodation. It’d be wise to plan the hot air balloon ride for the first days of your trip to account for cancellations. Winter and early spring are the seasons most affected by balloon cancellations, but to compensate there are far fewer people, and the rates drop dramatically. Our balloon ride cost us only 50 EUR per person (as of January 2018). Cancellations can also happen occasionally during the peak summer season, yet expect to pay around 150 EUR pp (pickup and drop-off at your hotel, breakfast beforehand, and drinks and snacks afterward always included in prices).
If you cannot fly for any reason, be it budget, health, fear of heights, or whatever, you can alternatively watch the balloons from the ground. The best place to see this spectacle easily is Göreme. It also goes without saying that hiking among the fairy chimneys in winter is a real Turkish delight.
A standard hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia lasts between 45 minutes and one hour, and baskets are usually made to fit between 12 and 24 passengers plus the flight captain. There are about 25 different companies, and most offer a higher-end hot air ballooning tour option with fewer passengers and longer flight times of up to 90 minutes.
No matter which option you pick, soon, too soon, the flight captain instructs you to get into the landing position. All passengers crouch down in the basket and hold on tight. 1-2-3…and touch down.
Phew…time to scramble out of the basket safe and sound.
The balloon lies on the ground like a beached jellyfish.
Here’s a toast to life.