Hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia
Indeed one of the most wonderful experiences that can be done in Turkey is a flight with a hot air balloon gliding slowly in the sky over Cappadocia, a region unique in its beauty. Our day starts at 5 a.m. when the Rainbow Balloon Company picks us up from the hotel, heading to the launch site in the countryside of Goreme. After having a quick breakfast, we watch the pilot and the ground crew preparing the hot air balloon.
The big basket is on the field with the ballon envelope laid out and the burner system already attached. Using a powerful fan at the base of the envelope, the crew begins inflating it with cold air while the pilot is checking if everything is all right. Step by step, once the balloon starts reaching its impressive size and final shape, the pilot blasts the burner flame into the envelope mouth.
This heats the air, building pressure until the balloon inflates all the way and starts to lift off the ground. The balloon basket is attached to the ground crew vehicle until the last minute, so the balloon won’t be blown away before it is ready to launch.
When everything is set and the balloon stays still vertical, we jump on board, ready to take off. Suddenly the ground crew releases the balloon, and the pilot fires a steady flame from the burner. As the air heats up, the balloon lifts right off the ground, and our ride can starts! The sun is rising to start illuminating this amazing landscape with its purple-pink rays, and in front of us, the sky is dotted with colourful hot air balloons.
While we gently float into the air and the peacefulness and the silence are with us, the view is amazing: the terrain is surreal, featuring some of the most bizarre geological shapes on the planet, perforated with caves ingeniously fashioned by earthlings. Pushing by the wind ascending and descending through the valley, we stare at the landscape below us with its unique volcanic spires, chimneys, and villages dot the Cappadocia area.
The region has been formed overages through the forces of nature such as wind, floodwater and volcanic activity and with no doubt, it is something unique worldwide. The time flies with us, and the balloon rises, reaching at least 300 meters high, and the ground becomes so little that we can’t distinguish anything. The 1 hour and a half flight is almost done, the pilot starts communicating via radio with the ground crew to locate a wide-open space where to land.
Some minutes before landing, while the balloon gets quietly closer to the ground, the pilot indicates to us the landing instructions, then he opens the parachute valve all the way, and the air can escape out the top of the balloon. The ground crew grabs a cord attached to the top of the balloon and pulls the envelope over onto the tarp; we are ready to jump out! After the flight, we have a toast all together with a glass of champagne, and we get a commemorative certificate as a memory of our balloon ride over this incredible fairyland.
How to get there: if you start your tour from Istanbul, the easiest way is by flight ( Nevsehir Cappadocia Airport or Kayseri airport ). The other option is by high-speed train to Ankara (3.30 hrs ) and takes a bus to Nevsehir ( Goreme ). The buses depart from Ankara Asti main bus terminal about every two hours for Nevşehir ( Goreme ), and the journey takes between 4 and 5 hours (including a toilet stop). When you arrive at Nevsehir bus station (Nevşehir Otogar), you may be transferred to a shuttle minibus (servis) for the final part of your journey to another Cappadocia’s town ( Goreme, Uchisar, Orthasir and Urgup ). The cost of the minibus trip is usually included in your bus ticket fare. You can buy your bus ticket ( around 60 TL ) at the bus terminal or on the companies website.
How to book the hot air balloon: you can book in advance through the website of the many tour operators, once there with an agency or through your accommodation.
Where to sleep: Uchisar, Goreme, Orthasir and Urgup are plenty of accommodations, from budget ( around 15 USD ) to expensive. I slept in Goreme in the nice and friendly Nil Story House (around 30 USD x night). The owner can also arrange all the activities through this wonderful area.