One of the coolest thing we did this year was hot air ballooning during our trip to Turkey. I always love aerial adventures, and when I had a look at pictures of Cappadocia while researching for our destination, I knew it that we had to do it there and then. There are a lot of other places on earth where you can do this, but I think none would be as special as Cappadocia.
Cappadocia is a region in Central Anatolia, seated in the heart of Turkey (not to be mistaken with the Italian Cappadocia). The area around the little village of Göreme where we stayed is surrounded by fantastic rock formations in all shapes and colours. While they are majestic in their own right viewed from the ground, being able to float around them from the air gives you a great vantage point on how the whole region was shaped.
There are many operators to shop around for the balloon trip in the area, but we chose Butterly Balloons and booked a trip before we left. They are not the cheapest, but they’ve got good reviews, and I believed this is not something you would want to scrimp on, especially in regard of safety and having a child with us. I also like that their webpage gave all the detailed information on how it worked and the ability to book right away (but pay later on the day of the flight).
Hot air balloon trips always take place early in the morning, around sunrise. Not being a morning person, it would have normally put me off, but we were really excited about it, and fortunately, being there late in October means sunrise was happening around 6:30 rather than even earlier in the summer months. We got picked up from our hotel at 6am, and was brought back to their office where we paid for the trip and was provided with breakfast. The Kid supposed to pay half the adult rate, but they actually waived hers and let her go for free because she’s the only child in our group of 5 (two of my cousins went along with the trip). Then the people was split in a smaller group of 20 people, each assigned to a balloon and a pilot. We were then driven to the location of our take off for the day (apparently, they chose different location everyday, depending on the wind direction). While we were driving to the location, we could already see several other balloons rose up in the peachy morning sky around us.
It was cold when we stepped out of the car, must have been around 1-2 degrees Celsius. The trade off of not having to get up at 4am for the sunrise in the summer is that it’s definitely colder closer to winter, despite the fact that we already put on the warmest clothes we got. But if you stand close enough to the basket while it’s inflating, you do get some ambient warmth from the flame (and it makes quite an impressive sight too). Once the balloon is fully inflated and we could climb into the basket under the fire, it gets warmer as well.
Once the balloon started to float, and we got to see a better view of the valleys, and all the other balloons in all different colours, AND the sun rising up from behind the hills, it was one of the most amazing sights I ever witnessed in my life. It was so exciting and relaxing at the same time. I got giddy from looking how higher up we got, but it was also so serene and peaceful being in such height surrounded by such views. Even the Kid was being quiet (which is rare!) and was mesmerised by what she’s experiencing. The tour took us by the wind along the valleys, and when possible the pilot lowered the altitude to let us get a better view of some of the rock formations.
The whole tour took an hour, and then it’s time for landing. We landed smoothly on a flat field while the pilot let the Kid helped with pulling ropes to open up the mouth of the envelope on the top to let out the hot air out and lower the altitude. Once back on the ground she even had more fun helping the crew deflating the balloon by stomping and generally attacking it.
It was not cheap, it cost us 150 Euro per person by the day conversion of Turkish Lira to Euro (which was cheaper than their advertised price of 165), but it was an experience that’s definitely worth more than that. Some tips if you’re considering it:
- Research around and do your own booking rather than doing it via a tour agency. You might end up being in a crowded gondola with more than 30 people that doesn’t go really far if you book via a tour agency that has a deal with one of the cheaper operators.
- Some operators limit the age of children that can come along to 6+, which is reasonable, not only because younger children might not have the attention span to stand on one spot for 1 full hour, but smaller children might not be able to see over the gondola. Furthermore, in case of a bumpy landing, it can be dangerous for smaller children. Wait up until your child is old/tall enough.
- Wear practical clothes. You need to climb onto the gondola, so a dress is not the best option, even if it’s in the warmer summer months. Bring extra layer/sweater anyway, because the temperature can drop off quite drastically between night and day.
- Make sure everybody went to the toilet before the lift off.
And enjoy the experience. It’s magical.