Cappadocia in central Turkey is perhaps most well-known for the panoramic view of hundreds of hot air balloons ebbing and flowing above valleys and volcanic “fairy chimney” formations. Though it is but one of the many things to do in Cappadocia, hot air ballooning is one of the most popular activities in the region for a number of reasons.
Planning a trip to Cappadocia? Read on for essential travel tips for visiting Cappadocia in Turkey, where to stay, how to book a hot air balloon ride and what you need to know before your flight! But first, a few basics…
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How to get to Cappadocia
First of all, it’s important to know that Cappadocia is a region in Turkey, not a city or town. So, where is Cappadocia? It is pretty much bam smack in the center of Turkey, about 3 hours southeast from Ankara, the capital. To get to Cappadocia you’ll need to fly into one of these two airports – Kayseri (Erkilet International Airport or ASR) or Nevşehir (Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport or NAV).
There are several flights each day from Istanbul to Kayseri and Nevşehir, and flights take just over an hour. If you’re deciding which airport to fly into, go with whichever has a better flight time for your Turkey itinerary – it doesn’t make a massive difference which one you choose seeing as both airports are located 30-40 minutes away by car from Göreme/Uçhisar.
Essential tips for visiting Cappadocia
- The currency is the Turkish Lira or TL and the exchange rate is approximately US$1: 5-6 TL. There aren’t many official currency exchange places in Goreme or Uchisar, but many places especially restaurants and hotels do accept credit card.
- There are also very few places in town to buy a local Turkish SIM card. Instead, download the local map via wifi at your hotel for offline use. Read more on how to do that here.
- The Museum Pass Cappadocia is a great card to purchase if you are staying in the region for a few days. The pass is accepted at many of the tourist attractions including the Goreme Open Air Museum and Dark Church, Ihlara Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City and Zelve Archaeological Site. If you are traveling to other places in Turkey including Istanbul, Ephesus, Pamukkale or Fethiye you might want to purchase the Museum Pass Turkey instead.
- The best time to visit Cappadocia: The best time to visit Cappadocia is from March to June or September to November when the crowds are thinner and the weather is milder. June to August is the peak season so it can get crowded, and it can get bitterly cold during the winter months from November to late February.
- What to wear in Cappadocia: The temperature can fluctuate significantly over the course of just a couple of hours. Regarding the dress code in Cappadocia, most people in Turkey are Muslim, yet Cappadocia (and Turkey as a whole) is not extremely conservative. To be respectful, I recommend that you dress on the conservative side and avoid strapless or crop tops, very form-fitting clothes, short skirts and dresses or hot pants. The temperature can be bitterly cold in the mornings, even during the summer months, so bring a light jacket or coat.
Where to stay in Cappadocia
The main tourist towns in Cappadocia are Ürgüp, Göreme, Ihlara Valley, Selime, Guzelyurt, Uçhisar, Avanos and Zelve. Most hotels are located in Göreme, Ürgüp and Uçhisar, but the best place to stay in Cappadocia is in Göreme as the town has lots of tour companies, grocery stores, restaurants and hotels.
It is also centrally located which means you can venture out to the various Cappadocia landmarks easily, yet get around town easily on foot so you can pop out for meals.
One of the most unique things to do in Cappadocia is to stay in a cave hotel – rooms carved into mountainsides or rock pillars. There are many to choose from, and people tend to always flock to the “insta-famous” ones that cost an arm and a leg. We wanted to find a hidden gem in Cappadocia where we could experience Turkey away from the crowds, so stayed for 3 nights in Cappadocia at Hanzade Suites.
Hanzade Suites is located right off the main street in Goreme and is within a 5-minute walk from the Goreme Sunset Point. Our room was spacious, well-ventilated and cozy, and the rooftop is a great place to hang out for tea or coffee – you can also watch the balloons fly overhead in the mornings. Click here to check current rates at Hanzade Suites or head on over here to see other highly rated hotel options in Cappadocia!
Do not show up expecting to find last-minute accommodation in Cappadocia, especially during the peak season. Make sure you book ahead!
Important information about hotel booking in Turkey: You can not book hotels in Turkey using Booking.com when you are already in Turkey, as it has been blocked by the Turkish government. The government is also looking to extend the ban to other websites including AirBnB and Expedia. Instead, book hotels for your stay in Turkey before your trip, or use Hotels.com or HotelsCombined for any last-minute hotel bookings that you need to make when you are already in the country.
10 things to know before you go on a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey
Many people make the long journey to Cappadocia just for the opportunity to feel weightless in a basket and soar high up in the air. Here’s what you need to know about hot air ballooning in this incredible region in Turkey!
1. The first commercial balloon flight was only three decades ago
The first commercial passenger balloon in Turkey was operated by Lars-Eric Möre and Kaili Kidner in 1991. Since then, more than 25 companies and 200 hot air balloons have been registered for flight in the Cappadocia region. The hot air balloon industry in Cappadocia has only truly blossomed in recent years thanks to the extremely favorable conditions in the region, the proliferation of instant media and increased accessibility of travel.
2. The hot air balloon season is year-round
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is incredible not only because of the unique and rugged landscape, but also because the balloons fly approximately 250 days of the year, compared to about 60 days elsewhere in Europe. Not only can you soar above the terrain in summer and spring, you can explore the winter wonderland from above.
The best time of year to go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is from April to November as the most favorable weather conditions are during these months; because of strong winds most of the flight cancellations take place from December to March.
3. More than 100 balloons fly every morning
Cappadocia might be the only place in the world where hundreds of balloons fly nearly every single morning, giving over 2000 people a day the experience of a lifetime.
Up to 100 balloons are allowed to take off before sunrise, and another 50 are granted permission to take off half an hour after sunrise.
4. You need to book early
Hot air ballooning is THE most popular thing to do in Cappadocia, so you absolutely must book as early as possible, because balloons fill up months in advance. Just because 100-or so balloons fly every morning does not mean that you are guaranteed a spot. One of my biggest tips for traveling to Cappadocia is to stay at least two to three nights to maximize your chances of getting on a flight.
5. Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is not cheap
Depending on which company you go with and how many people are in the basket, a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia costs anywhere between 130-180 Euros (US$145-200) per person. We paid slightly more to go in a smaller basket that could fit 16 people, and it was much more comfortable as there were only 4 people per compartment and we were able to move around instead of being packed in like sardines. The flight time was slightly longer too – I recommend splurging for a “deluxe” flight for a more comfy hot air balloon flight experience.
Need some help planning your 2 week Turkey itinerary? Head on over here for an easy Turkey itinerary for first time visitors or check out even more Turkey travel tips and guides here!
6. Hot air balloon pilots undergo tons of flight training
Balloons, like airplanes, are registered with the aviation authority and subject to regular safety checks to ensure airworthiness. Pilots must also undergo examinations, have a prescribed number of flight hours under his or her belt, pass flight tests as well as medical checks.
Many hot air balloon pilots in Cappadocia have been flying for decades – ours with Voyager Balloons had more than 20 years’ flight experience! That being said, there has been a number of accidents in the past, some resulting in casualties and injuries; just like stepping into a 747 airplane, accidents can still happen even with the best pilots and ground crews, and the safest conditions.
According to this research report published in early 2019, “there were 12 accidents which occurred during the flight hours examined [81,112 flight hours undertaken between August 2013 and July 2017] (a rate of 14.8 accidents per 100,000 h). There were 33 individuals seriously injured, 3 fatally in all passengers (3.7 fatalities per 100,000 h in these flights). The majority of accidents that produced serious and fatal injuries occurred during the last year of the study. The most common cause of accidents was a hard landing (58.3%).”
So, is hot air ballooning safe in Cappadocia? Though there are a myriad of measures in place to ensure your safety, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia still involves some level of risk. Make sure you choose an experienced balloon company that values passenger safety above all else.
7. You might land on your back
If you, like me, have never hopped in a hot air balloon before, you’ll be surprised to see that this is a fairly common landing position, especially if the basket bounces or tips at an angle in strong winds. It is important to follow the pilot’s instructions to a T as fatal accidents have happened during landing.
Because hot air balloons go with the wind and the flight trajectory is almost entirely dependent on wind speed and direction, landings take place on any large, flat(ish) area including parks, empty fields, school grounds or roads. “Chase crews” follow the balloon via radio contact with the pilot so that they can meet you at the landing site with the balloon trailer.
Not to worry though, experienced pilots can often land the hot air balloon right onto the trailer – no bracing necessary.
8. The balloons can reach 3,000 feet above ground
If you are scared of heights, you need to know that the balloons can fly anywhere from about tree level to 3,000 feet above ground – on our hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia, we reached 800 metres! Experienced pilots can even take you right down into valleys full of “fairy chimney” rock formations and Goreme town. The balloons can also travel very fast depending on the wind, reaching speeds of anywhere from 2-22 KM per hour.
I am terrified of heights, but found that the take off and landing was smooth enough that it didn’t feel too terrifying. The balloon doesn’t rock or sway either, so you don’t really feel that you’re leaving the ground so to speak. Plus, the views are a great way to distract yourself from the fact that you’re hundreds of metres off the ground!
9. Flights do get cancelled occasionally
Yes, the hot air ballooning in Cappadocia runs all year long, but flights do get cancelled if the weather fails to cooperate. On average, flights take place on approximately 250 days of the year, but the Civil Aviation Authority can cancel flights for all balloons if there is rain, strong wind, fog, snow or thunderstorms.
In fact, our first scheduled flight in Cappadocia was cancelled due to high winds. We had even woken up at 4:30 AM, paid the balance at the hot air balloon company’s office, driven to the take-off site and watched the balloons fill up with hot air. There were no indications that the flight was going to be cancelled and there was no wind where we were standing…but that didn’t mean that there was no wind 800 metres off the ground!
As we watched the balloons slowly fill up with hot air, the excitement really kicked in…until all of the gigantic fans started to switch off, one by one. “Today’s flights are cancelled,” said our hot air balloon pilot. We thought he was kidding. As we looked around, every single other balloon around us was also being deflated and packed up.
We were all driven back to the office, given a refund and dropped off at our hotels. Because all the flights for the following day were fully booked, we ended up having to clamour for a spot with another hot air balloon company in Cappadocia. Some of our fellow passengers weren’t so lucky as they only planned to stay 1 night in Cappadocia, which meant that their only opportunity to go on a hot air balloon ride was shot.
What happens if your hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is cancelled? The very first thing you must do is try rescheduling with the same company you booked with. However, 99.9% of the time (especially during the peak season) they are already fully booked for the next day’s flights. E-mail and call EVERY SINGLE hot air balloon company in Cappadocia! Ask about spaces on their deluxe flights (more expensive), sunset flights, post-sunrise flights. Don’t rely solely on your hotel to book a flight for you, because they might only contact one or two balloon companies.
Here is a list of e-mails you can copy and paste into the BCC field: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Once you have e-mailed them, make sure you keep an eye on your email inbox as most places will only hold your spot for an hour before releasing it to the next person on the waitlist.
10. Hot air ballooning is only one of the many things to do in Cappadocia
If by some horrid stroke of misfortune your flight is cancelled and you’re not able to get on another hot air balloon during your stay, don’t fret. Cappadocia has way more to offer than hot air ballooning – it’s (very) disappointing but not the end of the world if you don’t get to go on one.
Make sure you read this if you’re visiting Cappadocia: 10 Mind-Blowing Things to Do in Cappadocia, Turkey (Because There’s More to the Region Than Hot Air Balloons!)
Watching the balloons from one of the viewpoints in Cappadocia is also a magical experience in and of itself, and don’t overlook what the region has to offer beyond ballooning: it is also home to sprawling underground cities, a plethora of viewpoints, open air museums and archaeological sites.
Ready to plan your trip to Cappadocia? I recommend staying at Hanzade Suites or head on over here to see other highly rated hotel options in Cappadocia!
I hope you found this guide to hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia helpful. If you enjoyed reading this, please share it with friends and family planning a trip to Turkey!
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