Flying over Cappadocia

Neither of us is good with heights. That basic fear of tumbling from a high place and crashing as a heap of broken bones is quite strong with both of us. So thinking about soaring high into the sky in a tiny basket was not the most appealing. After some extensive research and arriving in the city of Goreme in the heart of Cappadocia in Turkey, we found ourselves precariously dangling from the bottom of a balloon, barely even noticing.

What Me Worry?

After reading everything we could find on the internet about taking a hot air balloon flight, and spending an almost sleepless night in worry and anticipation, we were lifting off the ground in our balloon. I didn’t even notice at first. The flight was so smooth and gentle, and I was still paying attention to the hustle and bustle around us as they launched the other balloons.

Floating over a small city near where we started, our pilot bantered back and forth over the radio with the other balloons. Then, we drifted off into the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia. Passing a castle carved out of rock, we dipped down into Pigeon Valley, named for the many niches carved in the rocks for pigeons to live in. The local farmers would keep pigeons, then collect their droppings for use as fertilizer. 

{video: Pigeon Valley}

Afterwards we climbed upward to get a great view of the surrounding area. Though a bit colder, neither of us were worried at this point about the heights. The sturdy high-sided basket, and more than capable pilot put us quite at ease. Drifting back down we passed Love Valley.

The aptly named Love Valley.

Next we passed where most of the other balloon companies had started, and still had plenty of time to fly over the crazy rock formations in the valley. After visiting the alien landscape there, we climbed back up again to see the terrific view over the entire area. High over the valleys and ridges, with the sun climbing over the horizon, it was one of the most quiet and peaceful experiences we have had on our entire trip.

You can hike up the hillside from Goreme to watch the balloons take off in the morning.

{video: Flying over Cappadocia}

As we came down we saw a few other balloons that had already landed. They looked like semi-squashed grapes. Just before landing our pilot told us to take the brace position they had taught us at the beginning of the flight. The landing was easy, and because the ground crew was a bit slow we got to help collapse the balloon. When the crew made it we had champagne and strawberries to cap off our great morning and even more fantastic flight over Cappadocia.

Squashed grape-like balloons.

Squashed, fermented grapes, a.k.a. Champagne.

Insider Tips

There are a ton of balloon companies in Cappadocia, and you could spend days researching all the options if you wanted. If you don’t, you can just go to your hotel or a travel agent and they will be happy to book whatever you want. If instead, you want a bit more control over what you pay for, you can do a bit of research. When we were researching we looked for a smaller basket size, and good online reviews. Since we were worried about the heights, the last thing we wanted was to be squished into a basket with too many people. 

A basket crammed full of people.

"Kissing Balloons" seems pretty terrifying.

We went with Butterfly Balloons, and were really impressed. The balloon basket had 16 people, but we had our own section and didn’t feel cramped. Mustafa, our pilot, was great, giving facts about where we were and joking with the other passengers and pilots. Because they launch their balloons away from the fairy chimney valley where all the other balloons launch,  we got to see more of the beautiful landscape of Cappadocia.

Captivating Cappadocia is a great resource of information with tips on what to look for in balloon companies.