One of the most magical experiences of our Turkish vacation this summer was a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. A fairly recent Instagram darling, Cappadocia is a region located in central Turkiye (fun fact: In summer 2022, Turkey officially changed its name to Turkiye), and is a quick one-hour flight from Istanbul. This region is known for its otherworldly landscapes (more about our Cappadocia trip soon, it was as varied and unique as Iceland), and the birds-eye view from a hot air balloon — while surrounded by a hundred other hot air balloons — was pure magic.
The Most Epic Sunrise
It was, quite simply, an experience of a lifetime.
Most hot air balloon rides take place outside of Goreme or Urgup, two cities (fairly close to each other) in the Cappadocia region. There’s something about the situation of these two towns near the mountains that allow for really smooth ballooning…as long as it’s early morning.
And by “early” I mean sunrise. We literally had to get up at 4AM, in the dark, to get to the balloon launch site on time.
The launch site itself was…wild. There’s shuttles and cars and wild dogs and, yes, bloggers and brides in large dresses, getting ready for an epic photoshoot, once the balloons lift.
The balloons looked like sleeping giants, rows and rows of them, side-by-side on the ground.
Once we reached a critical mass in the parking lot, the balloons, one by one, started to fill. It was the first time it really dawned on me that actual flame would be involved. Loud whooshing noises filled the air, and we could feel the heat from the fire on our faces. Slowly, the balloons started to rise, a sight both beautiful and…eery.
Once the balloons were filled, we boarded the baskets (they’re HUGE), and gently took off.
Once airborne, we were treated to the most epic sunrise of our lives.
I can see how hot air ballooning would be magical anywhere, but the addition of so many other balloons in the sky, on the ground, above us, below us…it was truly something spectacular.
I mean….come ON. How is this real life???
The ride overall was about an hour, and every second was…stunning. The landscape was more like sculpture than land, and every second was pure, breathtaking joy. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Is It Scary?
It turns out that Pax was scared for most of the ride. This surprised us — he’s the kid who goes off huge jumps on his snowboard and had zero issues with parasailing. In this case, however, he was really worried that our balloon would catch fire, or crash. He spent a decent amount of time sitting on the basket floor, peeking through the little window.
Personally, I found the entire experience exceptionally peaceful. There’s zero turbulence — it’s nothing like an airplane (or even paragliding).There’s no rushing wind. In fact, I barely felt any movement at all. I feel more movement in elevators than I felt in the basket of this hot air balloon.
All pilots are certified, and I was really impressed watching them work. They’re pros. Our pilot navigated us right down into the valley at one point, so we could better see the caves. They were also really great about chatting with Pax, putting him at ease.
Lastly, my understanding is that if there’s wind above five knots, the balloons won’t fly, so it’s best to book hot air ballooning early in your trip. That way, in the event that it does get rescheduled, you’ll have a few additional mornings to choose from.
How Big Are the Baskets?
The baskets are HUGE — as you can see in our video, ours fit roughly thirty people — and the balloons themselves were bigger than I pictured. There are compartments within each balloon that fit three to four people, so while the balloons themselves are filled, we never felt like we didn’t have enough space to take pictures, etc.
That said, it worked out really well to have Mike in a compartment next to us, instead of sharing our same compartment.
What To Wear In A Hot Air Balloon?
trench (size 4 for reference)
Cappadocia is a mountainous region and more like a desert (think Colorado), so the nights, even in July, are COLD. Dressing warmly was a must. Because we were there for a summer vacation, I didn’t have a ton of warm clothes with me (I hadn’t done enough research, gahhhh), but I wore my Frank & Eileen loungewear pants, a long-sleeve tee, and layered my trenchcoat over the whole thing. It was fine.
trench (4) | striped tee (6) | pants (small) | Vans
Which Hot Air Balloon Company To Use?
While there are several reputable companies, we used Goreme Balloons (a company recommended to us by locals). All companies seem to follow the same format: at the launch site, there’s some sort of cold breakfast while you wait (nothing amazing), then the ride, then you land in a random field somewhere. While they take down the balloon, there’s a “champagne” toast (aka juice), and a shuttle to take you back to the parking lot.
If there’s any sort of shuttle service to take you to/from your hotel to the launch site…do it. The launch sites can change, it’s pitch black, and parking at the launch site is kiiiiind of a mess. We were really happy to not deal with any of that. We booked our entire trip to Cappadocia via Kensington Tours (more on that coming later) which made things pretty darn easy.
All in all, this shockingly beautiful, absolutely breath-taking, once-in-a-lifetime experience was NOT over-hyped. If you are lucky enough to have a trip to Turkiye in your future, I highly recommend hot air ballooning in Cappadocia. It’s magic.
In the video, you can see some of the balloons filling up (look for the flashes of fire), and the guys taking the balloons down at the end — it’s pretty cool. Oh! See if you can spot one of the brides posing for photos, too. 🙂
Oh hey, Pinners…