HOT AIR BALLOONING IN CAPPADOCIA
By Roman Martin
For many people, Turkey is one of their bucket list travel locations. It is a fascinating blend of European and Middle Eastern cultures. There are so many incredible historical buildings to see, so many tasty foods to try, and so many unique destinations to visit. Perhaps one of the most interesting places in the whole country is Cappadocia, with its fairy chimneys and cave dwellings. And if you have the opportunity, you really must try hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.
Even if you’ve never been to this region, if someone were to ask you what you know about Cappadocia, it’s likely that you’d mention hot air ballooning. It’s almost synonymous with the region – as much as the cave dwellings are. The experience gained from floating above the barren landscape is one that people would remember forever.
How To, You Ask?
As you’d expect, due to the popularity of ballooning in the area, there are a lot of choices you can make. Among the many things you can decide are who (to hire), when (to go), where (to start from), how long (to stay up) and how many (people in a basket).
When it comes to choosing which ballooning company to work with, there are so many to choose from, and new ones are starting all the time. Just be sure to go with a company with exemplary safety records and quality reviews, like we do.
Deciding when to balloon is a little more straightforward. Generally ballooning starts very early in the morning. Since balloons depend on wind (or the lack of) to navigate, the hours surrounding sunrise offer the best times to float above the region. The winds are the softest at that time, and it’s a wonderful way to begin a day. Watching the sun come up over the horizon, as you are thousands of feet above the ground, is truly memorable. Flights can get cancelled at the last minute due to high winds, so try to stay a few days in the region if you have to reschedule.
Where to balloon is also a pretty easy decision to make. Since Cappadocia is a large area, covering 5 provinces and 10 villages, there are plenty of places to choose from. Wherever you stay, there will be many companies offering balloon rides. We prefer to stay in the Ürgüp region, as it’s got one of the finest cave hotels to be found anywhere. Be sure to read our post about the Yunak Elveri Cave Hotel from earlier.
Don’t worry about getting to your balloon take-off area on time, since most companies will pick you up at your hotel in the wee hours of the morning.
How long the ride lasts is mostly determined by how much you pay. Most rides are about 45 minutes to an hour. Longer rides, which cover more distance (and sometimes height), can be had for a premium rate. Keep in mind that in the early morning hours, it can be quite chilly at high elevations, so dress warm and wear comfortable shoes, since you’ll be standing the entire time.
How many people are in your basket is also a matter of price. Some balloons will hold up to 24 people, since the baskets can be quite large. Smaller head counts are available, again at a premium rate, with about 10-12 people. Some companies will even do private rides for special occasions.
The Mechanics Behind It
Ballooning is a pretty simple concept. The pilot has the ability to raise and lower the balloon, and can control steering through a system of vents. The pilot would raise or lower the balloon in order to catch a wind stream, which can vary in speed at different heights. To raise the balloon, the pilot releases hot propane-fuelled flames, which heats the air in the balloon, thereby raising it. To lower the balloon, the pilot releases air from the top of the balloon by pulling on ropes attached to vents. It’s all quite simple.
Since hot air balloons rely on winds to travel, the final landing location isn’t exactly known until close to landing time. An experienced pilot can control the direction and rotation of the basket with incredible precision. The pilot will look for an open field that’s safe to land in, and radio to the ground crew to meet at that location. Landing is just as exciting as floating, and is traditionally celebrated with a champagne toast.
If the idea of floating in an elevated basket appeals to you, there’s no better place to do that than in Cappadocia. Photo Workshop Adventures travels this area in Turkey twice each year, as part of our Istanbul + Turkey adventure vacation, in July and October. Check with us, and let’s get that basket off your bucket list.