4:00 am. The early-morning wake up call was a rude and shockingly early awakening. However, if you want to enjoy the Cappadocia hot air balloons, you need to be up early!
We were groggy and tired, but filled with anticipation of our Cappadocia hot air balloon ride adventure. When we first decided to come to Turkey, this was one of the things we were most looking forward to. And hot air ballooning in Cappadocia did not disappoint in the slightest.
This wasn’t our first balloon flight. I’m scarred of heights and don’t do well with such things. However, we went ballooning in Egypt the year before and I discovered I loved it! And the heights were not a problem for me.
Yet the morning didn’t start with excitement and enthusiasm. It started with a considerable lack of coffee and a 4:30 am pick up by the balloon company, Goreme Balloons. Our hotel wasn’t in Goreme, which meant we were the first passengers to get picked up – and we got less sleep.
After driving around for an hour and picking up other passengers, we went to the Goreme Balloons office for a light breakfast of rolls and tea (still no coffee), a thorough safety briefing, and providing our payment.
At this point, our enthusiasm was starting to build. Of the group, we were the only ones who had been ballooning before. There were some very nervous folks in the group. We could feel the anxiety tick up a notch and we tried talking to other people and assuming them it would OK.
After the formalities had been taken care of, we loaded into the mini-bus for a quick trip out to the Goreme hot air balloon launch pad. This area outside of Goreme has miles of large, dirt fields. This is the staging area for all of the Cappadocia hot air balloon companies.
Everywhere, as far as they eye can see are balloons in various stages of inflation. In the early morning blackness, burners would go off illuminating the envelope and the balloons in brilliant colors. But the burners make a hell of a noise.
We had a family that was already apprehensive about their flight and they decided to back out the minute the burners ignited. Our Turkish hot air balloon captain briefed us on balloon procedure and we all began loading into the basket.
After takeoff, it was immediately evident just how packed the skies can be. We counted nearly 100 different balloons from dozens of companies. Ballooning in Cappadocia is certainly big business!
Our captain hit the burner aggressively and our balloon rose into the Turkish sky. All around us, numerous balloons rose into the sky in eerie silence. Occasionally the silence would be punctuated by the rushing flames above our heads as the pilot warms the gas in our balloon.
All around us, the pilots of other balloons would hit the gas burners and their balloons would illuminate in vibrant colors. It was one thing to see this on the ground before flight, but to see it in mid-air is a sight to behold.
Our pilot expertly navigated the deep canyons and got us ridiculously close to some of the “fairy chimney” rock formations that Cappadocia is known for. From our vantage point in the balloon, we could see all of the Rose Valley, the Red Valley and Goreme Valley.
The rock formations in Cappadocia (many are called “fairy chimneys”) were formed over two million years ago from the volcanic eruption of Mt. Erciyes and Mt. Hasan. Over the centuries, men carved caves into this soft rock to live. It was here in Goreme that early Christians carved churches and homes into the rock. Our balloon flight took us over the valleys of these early Christian settlements, now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Taking this early morning flight was spectacular and one of the highlights of our trip to Turkey! A Cappadocia balloon ride gives a very unique perspective on this region of Turkey.
After the flight, we drive around to see some of the same sights from ground-level. Our balloon flight path had taken us past the Uchisar Castle, the site of a massive rock outcropping that was once used as part of the fortifications to protect the region (and is the highest point in the region).
From the balloon, you don’t appreciate the massive size of the Uchisar Castle. The views from this rocky outcropping are majestic and it is easy to see why this “castle” was of such strategic importance to the inhabitants of the area.
While the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride was the highlight of our trip to Turkey, it was also worth experiencing the formations of Cappadocia on the ground.
Have you been on the Cappadocia hot air balloons? Tell us about your experience!