When I first started planning my trip to Turkey, I didn’t actually know all that much about what I wanted to do and see. There was the exotic allure of Istanbul, the oceanside resorts on the coast, and a lot of mosques. After some basic research, I knew I wanted to go further than the typical big city/beach dynamic and discovered Cappadocia, a place that looks like its come from a sci-fi film and has a name that I didn’t know how to pronounce until I was in Turkey for a full week (the alternate spelling of Kapadokya is a handy phonetic reminder). One of the big-ticket tourist draws in the area was hot air ballooning, and I knew I didn’t want to pass up the chance to tick off one of the items on my bucket list that I was most excited about tackling. Hot air ballooning tops the “activities” section of my bucket list, and I can honestly say that the experience was everything I could have hoped for and more.
In Cappadocia we stayed at the Guven Cave Hotel, which is a lovely little place just off the main street. The owner/manager of the hotel, Mustafa, was super accommodating, and when we asked him about booking balloon tours he gave us a detailed run-down of the various companies that offered their services. He explained the differences in prices, which ran from €100-€170 for a standard flight, and the benefits and drawbacks of each company. Mustafa, conveniently, is also a pilot, and ended up being the pilot for our flight.
The company we chose was Air Kapadokya, which was Mustafa’s recommendation. The flight lasted slightly longer than one hour, cost €130, and came with a small, no-frills variety of biscuits and breads for breakfast. We were picked up from our hotel at 4:30 in the morning, which is an ungodly hour to have to be awake and prepared for an adventure, and were driven to the Air Kapadokya centre, where we were divided into groups and allowed some time to eat breakfast. Around 5:00 or 5:30 am we set out in the vans again and were driven to a large field full of colorful, flaccid hot air balloons, then led to our balloon. A few safety features were covered before the flight, and soon we were up in the air.
Mustafa took us into the Rose Valley, where we floated at just the right height to watch the sun rise over the flat plateaus. We then ascended up higher, with an amazing view of dozens of other balloons starting their flight as well. The entire experience was peaceful and serene, and didn’t even really give the impression of being at a height—which was a relief for Cheyenne and I, as Cheyenne is apparently fairly afraid of heights. We had six people in our basket, which was admittedly a bit snug, but everyone was friendly enough and we circulated around so that everyone could have a chance to be at the outer rim of the basket. If you go ballooning, try and be the last one to get into your basket—you’re more likely to have the coveted, unobstructed corner spot, which is definitely the best for taking photos.
After an hour and five minutes (exactly, as Mustafa informed us), we began to descend, with a small gaggle of men running under our balloon in an effort to catch the rope that would secure us to the ground. Once we were there we were helped out of the balloon, allowed to take some pictures in the field with the other descending balloons, and given some surprisingly tasty 6:30 am champagne to toast our flight. Once the champagne was popped everyone was given a flight certificate, and we all piled back into the vans that would drop us back off at our hotel. Some of the flight attendants, if you could call them that had cut some roses along the way, and gave them (free of charge, a rarity in Turkey!) to me and some other girls in the van before we were dropped off, feeling giddy and energized from this amazing experience.
And, if you’re really, really lucky, you might even get to play with some renegade puppies afterward.