It was -4° when we were dropped off at the crack of dawn in a secluded valley. The sky was as dark as squid ink as we assembled towards a wrinkled canvas on the floor. I wasn’t scared of heights before, but upon glancing at the crumpled cloth on the ground, I couldn’t control my racing thoughts: “how will a balloon combined with an oversized picnic basket support the weight of 16 travellers at over 1,000ft?”
I’d never been so close to a hot air balloon before. We ventured nearer and heard the sudden roar of flames. A local staff member had lit a gas burner and we watched as the fire’s lambent light stole away the velvet-black shadows and ice-cold breeze. The fiery warmth flickered against our faces and the fabric billowed slowly off the ground just as the excitement grew for our first ever hot air balloon ride.
We were sorted into groups of ‘whatever hotel you booked from’. I quipped to Alice and stated “I think there are too many women in our group, what if we blow away? No-one has weighed us!”. The local staff called out the hotel names as we each individually climbed into the basket. It isn’t the most gracious of moves, there is a foot-hold, then a leg-swing, then a movement I can only describe as the ‘beached whale’ manoeuvre into the basket. There were approximately 16 of us in total and the basket was thankfully divided into compartments of 4, so you were not jostling with 16 people in one contained space.
The scariest part was the take-off. There isn’t a feeling of death like bungee jumping, nor is there the sensation of flying like sky-diving. It felt like a purposeful, driving sense as we floated rapidly yet still in a dream-like state away from the ground. It made me legs shake like jelly as I watched the ground disappear further and further away. We’re screaming, but elated at the same time “my mum would hate this!” said Alice within that moment.
After gaining the initial height, the warmth from the hot air balloon started to feel like hugging a hot-water bottle, it was almost like a comforter. It was still -4° and the roar of the flames provided a temporary relief to the freezing weather. As we drifted higher, we watched the horizon as the sun broke through. Gradually, like a cracked egg yolk, the sun and it’s molten-gold beams illuminated the world. We observed in awe and were dazzled as the golden light showcased one of the most distinctive landscapes in the world, Cappadocia!
Smooth surfaces on the rock face undulate like waves, whilst the pastel colours and unrepeatable landscapes of the fairytale rocks chimneys pierced the sky. It was a soul-swelling experience where I couldn’t help but take a thousand photos. I couldn’t comprehend what I was experiencing in that moment, as we both smiled from ear-to-ear from 1,000ft in the sky.
We watched as dawn progressed to a bright blue sky. The hot air balloon instructor manoeuvred the balloon towards an empty field, ready for our descent. When we were approximately 20M from the ground, there was a loud command of “DOWN!”. We practiced the movement that was taught previously and crouched in the basket whilst holding onto the sides. My mind played images of a balloon landing that would crush our knee-caps, in reality it was so gentle I didn’t even realize we had landed.
The staff from Air Kapadokya cracked open a bottle of champagne (which was actually fizzy strawberry Ribena!) The idea of anything alcoholic at 9am made my stomach churn as we all shouted cheers. There were jokes of making it back alive as we were transferred back to our accommodation in Uçhisar at Takaev Cave Hotel.
- We booked through our hotel as we weren’t sure which local provider to go with (safety wise). Google was a mind-field when we looked up hot air ballooning in Turkey. I would highly recommend the local company we went with, Air Kapadokya.
- The cost of the hot air balloon ride was €80 Euros per person payable in cash. Please note that this was a ‘covid impacted’ price and the general going rate is around €175 per person. The cost still makes it one of the most competitive hot air balloon rides in the world (We went in Nov 2021).
- You have to pay in cash, otherwise there is a card transaction fee of €10.
- Through working in Travel, I was always under the impression that hot air balloon providers had to weigh passengers. The excursion was conducted extremely safely and we were not weighed for the trip.
- The approximate pick up time from the hotel is 4:30am in the morning. Air Kapadokya provide a small breakfast pack with cake, an apple and juice.
- Transfers are included within the package price of the trip. Generally you return back to the hotel for 9:30am – 10:00am in time for breakfast.
- We combined Cappadocia with Istanbul and a flight between the 2 cities is only £35 one each way. Check out Alice’s blog-post here on how we arranged a one week trip with international flights, domestic flights, and accommodation for under £300 each.
- If you have any questions, please feel free to comment here and I will be happy to help.