Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon in Turkey; Everything You Need to Know
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2021. The Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon in Turkey is one of the top bucket list items in the whole travel world. Often this stuff can be a little overrated (like the yawnfest of the Terracotta Army in Xi’an). But occasionally it lives up to the hype (like the Taj Mahal in Agra!). But on which side does the famous hot air balloon in Turkey fall?
Don’t worry, it’s amazing! Like really, really amazing. I’ve traveled through Turkey a few times, once I overland from the East of the country, crossing in from Georgia, via public transport, all the way across to Istanbul. There I celebrated my 30th birthday. One of the best cities in the world, probably my second favorite ‘big city’ after Bangkok. And the highlight of my time in Turkey? The Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon.
I know, it would be much cooler to say something obscure, having spent so much time in Turkey. But honestly, the hot air balloons in Turkey live up to the hype. It’s epic. So let’s have a look at everything you need to know before you do it and my experience.
Where are the hot air balloons in Turkey?
They are in central Turkey, in a gorgeous area called Cappadocia. The town where the ballooning actually happens is called Göreme.
Ok, but where is Cappadocia/Göreme?!
Göreme (and Cappadocia) is about 700km southeast from Istanbul. It’s slap-bang in the middle of Turkey. And, not-so-conveniently, not really close to much else, nor any airports!
You can see here:
How to get to Cappadocia?
I’ve been twice. Once, and once via airplane. The best and easiest way to get to Cappadocia is to fly from Istanbul to Kayseri (the nearest airport). From Kayseri to Goreme, it’s about 70km, so an hour or so drive.
NOTE: It’s much better to have your Kayseri to Goreme transfer organised before you land! There are only very infrequent buses from the airport to the town, you’ll have to take a taxi ($50+). If you can organise a transfer with your hotel, it’s the best option.
You can also fly to Nevsehir airport, but Kayseri is easier.
Can I do a Day trip from Istanbul to Cappadocia/Goreme?
A lot of people visit Istanbul unaware of how far it is from Istanbul to Cappadocia (700km+!) and hoping to hop on a Cappadocia day trip. You CAN DO a day trip from Istanbul to Cappadocia but you CAN’T DO a day trip including the hot air balloon. The day trip will be a landed day trip of Goreme and the surroundings, beautiful but not anywhere near as cool as riding in the balloon!
To be clear, if you want to take the hit air balloon in Goreme/Cappadocia, then you MUST stay over the night before. This is due to the fact that the balloons set off at sunrise, and there’s no way for a flight to get you into Goreme in time. A 1 night/2 day tour from Istanbul to Goreme/Cappadocia is possible though.
How much do the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons cost?
It’s one of the cheapest hot air balloon experiences out there. This is surprising considering how unreal it is!
You can book HERE for about $100. Cheap as chips! BOOK IN ADVANCE! It sells out!
When’s the best time for the hot air balloon in Goreme?
The balloons run all year round. During the European summer it’s super hot, and during the European winter it’s FREEZING, and often snowy. The best time for hot air balloons in Cappadocia is April, May and June (Spring) and September and October (Autumn/Fall).
What’s the Cheapest/Best Way to Organise The Hot Air Ballon in Goreme?
The best way to do it is this:
- Book your own flights from Istanbul to Kayseri. Turkish Air, Pegasus, SenExpress and Onus all fly. Should be about $40 or so one-way.
- Then book your $11 shared airport shuttle to Goreme. DO THAT HERE.
- Organise your own hotel on Booking.com or whatever.
- Pre-book your hot air balloon ride for $100. You can do that here.
- The balloon people will pick you up, and you’ll have the time of your life.
- Book 2 nights in Goreme. It is possible to fly in, sleep, do the balloon the next morning and then either fly back to Istanbul or move on. BUT balloon flights often are cancelled due to the wind, so it’s better to factor in a second day to give yourself double the chance of experiencing it.
NOTE: I went back a second time, this time with my wife, and the strong wind canceled our Goreme hot air balloon experience. BE WARNED. Give yourself TWO days just in case.
Do I need to book in advance?
YES! This is one of the most popular bucket list experiences in the world. It often sells out. You should book in advance. AND, if there is bad weather the day before you arrive, there’ll be all those people trying to fly again which means it’ll be doubly-sold-out! BOOK IN ADVANCE. You can do it for $100 here.
What’s the best company to book the hot air ballons in Turkey?I
Turkey is a developed nation. It’s difficult to get a ballooning license. Personally, when I go back, I book the cheapest as they’re all pretty much the same. So $100 balloon? Sign me up.
Is the Cappadocia hot air ballooning safe?
Yes, it’s safe. Around 150 balloons take off each day. There have been a handful of incidents over the past decade, but since then Turkey has cleaned up its act and installed an air traffic control tower and system.
Other Things to do in Cappadocia and Göreme:
Goreme is beautiful. In fact, Goreme was famous for tourists long before the existence of the Cappadocia hot air balloons. It’s a small town, one which you can walk around, with lovely restaurants and bars. It’s the natural architecture, the natural ‘chimneys’ that have formed that frew in the crowds. And now much of the buildings have been constructed ‘into’ those chimneys, leaving impressive results.
- 100% MUST-DO: Sunrise balloon ride!
- MUST-DO: Stay in a cave hotel in Goreme
- MUST-DO: Take a Goreme day tour to see the other-wordly landscape.
- Check out the ancient churches and frescoes (and probably the carpet and pottery tourist traps too!)
- Sunrise viewpoint with the balloons (one morning take the balloon, another morning go to the view point and watch for a different perspective).
- For $600 you can get the ULTIMATE instagram photo-shoot with the balloons etc.
Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon in Turkey; My Personal Experience
The main reason I had come to Turkey was to ride in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, and finally, the day was upon me. I had seen all the beautiful photographs going viral every month with the harsh rock landscapes below and countless balloons emerging from the valleys below but now it was my turn to see it from a different perspective.
I chose to fly with Royal Balloon in Cappadocia, they’re about 20 euros pricier than some of the other companies but their safety record is perfect (that and they give you a champagne breakfast upon landing!).
An Early Start
It’s an early start for the hot air ballooning, you get picked up around 5 am and driven close to the take-off site. From there you have a delicious buffet breakfast and (nervously) check the weather forecast.
Luckily we had a clear day, although people had been waiting 3 or 4 days for the weather to improve so if the experience is on your bucket list be prepared to hang around for a few days just in case.
Fretting about the weather
After getting the all-clear, we headed over to the take-off site. As we’re getting driven towards our balloon you can see some of the other balloons taking off. It’s still quite dark though as we’re waiting for the sun to rise properly.
Finally, they start to inflate our balloon and it’s time to properly check out the bucket list item. Off we went. The sun was rising, and beginning to peak through the fog in the distance. More and more balloons were joining the party.
And we’re off
After 5 minutes or so we were up, and finally, I was in the shot that I had been seeing for years. Balloons and amazing landscape in every direction, the sun bursting past the horizon and I was loving it. The next 60 minutes disappeared in a heartbeat.
Suat, our superstar pilot, landed us safely and the ground team was there waiting for us. Within 5 minutes we were being handed Champagne flutes and cheering the morning of a lifetime. It might have taken years to get here, but it was worth the wait.
Final thoughts on the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon in Turkey?
If you can afford it, do it. If you’re on a budget? Do it. If you have to cut your trip short elsewhere just to finance the ballooning? Do it. Honestly, it’s epic. The early start, the heat of the balloon inflating, the Turkish breakfast while you wait, the excitement as you first leave the ground and then the views. The views of Goreme, and Cappadocia. The views of the hundreds of balloons around you. It’s breathtaking.
And then a champagne reception upon landing? Perfection. The hot air balloon in Cappadocia makes people’s bucket list for a reason, and it should now be added to yours. Enjoy!
TIPS FOR YOUR HOT AIR BALLOON IN CAPPADOCIA EXPERIENCE
- Book in advance, don’t be disappointed by it being sold-out.
- Give yourself at least 2 mornings in Goreme, in case the weather is bad on the first morning and the balloon is canceled (and if the Cappadocia hot air balloon is literally your BIGGEST dream, book 3 or 4 nights here to make sure!)
- Personally, I think booking your own flights from Istanbul to Kayseri, and booking your airport transfers yourself, and the hotel and hot air balloon yourself is the best way to do it. Total price? Maybe $200-$250. Not bad at all.
- Bring something warm for the early morning AND when you’re up there in the sky. Jackets are recommended!
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