A detailed travel guide to the Cappadocia hot air balloon experience in Turkey. Includes 11 things to know BEFORE you book your Cappadocia balloon!
It goes without saying, a Cappadocia hot air balloon ride is one of the most sought-after travel experiences you can have.
Imagine picture-perfect panoramic views as you float across one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. Look down and admire ancient cave dwellings, fairy chimneys, and unique rock formations scattering the volcanic landscape. Look up, and you’ll likely spot 100 other hot air balloons painting the sky with color!
Whether you’re surprising your significant other with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, or simply trying to tick off that long-lasting bucket list item for yourself, you’ll want to read this travel guide before booking your hot air balloon in Cappadocia.
What You Need to Know About The Cappadocia Balloon Experience
However, if you’ve spent a bit of time traveling through Turkey, you’ll likely realize that things don’t operate the same as in your home country. While things in Turkey can be a little difficult to organize, this is only compounded ten-fold by the fact that the sunrise Cappadocia balloons are the most famous and popular travel experience in the country!
That’s why, after dealing with all of the hassles myself, I’ve outlined 11 essential things you need to know BEFORE booking your Cappadocia hot air balloon ride!
#1 Multi-Day Turkey Tour
I traveled through Turkey for 12 days with TravelTalk Tours on their Turkey by Gulet package.
In my opinion, this is one of the best group tours, with a perfect itinerary combining the best of Turkey’s coastline with inland wonders like Cappadocia, including the iconic hot-air balloons!
1. Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia Sell Out Every Day
By far, the most important thing you need to know is that you CAN NOT leave securing your balloon to the last minute. In fact, I’d recommend booking at least 1-2 weeks in advance, as a bare minimum.
While there are 100s of hot-air balloons lifting off from Cappadocia daily, people fly here from all over the world to have this experience. And, when flights get canceled due to bad weather, balloon tour companies scramble to reschedule their clients’ flights for the following day.
As you could imagine, this issue can cascade, especially if cancellations occur over many consecutive days.
Luckily, it’s possible to avoid the chaos of bartering with touts in Cappadocia or Istanbul by booking your balloon online well in advance. I highly recommend booking your balloon tour with Get Your Guide on the first morning to avoid any potential issues in the event of cancelation!
Update: This booking platform also has the best prices you’ll find online.
2. Cappadocia Balloons Can be Cancelled
Yes, I’ve mentioned this already. However, being aware of cancellations is probably the most important thing to know planning the unforgettable experience of a Cappadocia your hot air balloon ride.
Unlike commercial airlines, hot air balloons are a very primitive form of aviation. In the event of bad weather, i.e strong winds or a particularly warm morning, balloons will not fly. That’s because even experienced pilots with years of expertise cannot control the flight path in unpredictable winds. And the hot air inside the balloons won’t lift the balloon basket if the ambient temperature is warmer.
When this happens, your tour operator will likely try to squeeze you onto a flight for the next day.
I’ve heard of travelers losing their money after booking Cappadocia balloon tours with a dodgy travel agent, so it’s a good idea to ensure you book with a reputable source like Get Your Guide who organizes the flight with Royal Balloons, Discover Balloons, and Voyager Balloons.
These tours also include hotel pickup and a light breakfast, so you’ll likely be informed of cancellations well in advance.
Unfortunately, there’s usually no way to tell whether balloons will fly or not until the early morning. While you can gauge wind speeds on weather forecast apps, it’s this official government website that will indicate whether it is safe to fly, and the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority bases the call off this information. As you can see, there are either red flags or green flags, indicating whether or not hot air balloon pilots can launch in each area of Cappadocia.
3. You’ll Want to Stay at Least a Few Days in Cappadocia
Look, my goal isn’t to stress you out or change your travel itinerary.
But, I want to be honest. It’s a good idea to spend at least a few days in Cappadocia. This is not just so that you can ensure you’ll get a clear weather window for a hot air balloon ride, but also because there is so much to see and do in this beautiful region.
Also, be prepared for a change of plans. The last thing you want is a rigid itinerary since you’ll only find out about cancelations in the early morning of your flight.
I would recommend that everybody spends at least 2-3 days in Cappadocia. This will result in enough time for a hot air balloon experience, see the balloons from the ground (more info below), and explore other highlights like the Göreme Open Air Museum, Uçhisar Castle, and the Derinkuyu Underground City.
4. The Cost of Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia Changes All the Time
Unfortunately, Turkey is undergoing an urger inflation crisis. This means that the Turkish Lira is losing value against foreign currencies like US Dollars and Euros– and fast!
The result is that the prices for hot air balloon rides change almost every week. The most reputable balloon companies have now started offering their flights in USD and EURO for stability.
Furthermore, prices also change based on the season. This year, I was told that the price would change from $175 USD to $250 USD during the week I was in Cappadocia due to us entering a busier season.
Luckily, the Turkish Government has started cracking down on balloon tour operators in Cappadocia to avoid any serious price fixing. They’ve also made it nearly impossible to register for a new balloon license in the region, ensuring that all hot air balloon companies have years of experience.
5. There is a “Black Market” For Hot Air Balloon Tickets
The combination of ticket scarcity and thousands of tourists leaving their booking to the last minute has resulted in a huge black market for balloon tickets.
While the tourism industry is trying to combat this, the sad truth is that many people buy up tickets, knowing they will sell out, and try to flip onto tourists 2-5 times as much as they paid for them.
Of course, since this is such a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience, a large percentage of travelers are willing to fork out close to $1000 for a last-minute ticket.
I recommend avoiding this like the plague, as scams are rampant, especially on online forums like Facebook.
Remember to Book Your Balloon in Advance!
Don’t be one of those tourists paying up to €950 for a black market ticket because they forgot to book their ticket in advance!
Click the link below to book a balloon with the top hot air balloon company in Cappadocia– which will secure the experience for you in advance & at a cheaper rate than the tour shops in Göreme or Istanbul.
6. Balloon Flight Times Are at Least One Hour in Duration
Another thing to note is that this incredible experience lasts for an entire hour– at a minimum! Not all tour companies plan the same flight path. Most of the cheaper basic hot air balloon tours usually float up to the highest point of around 3,000 feet (915 meters), then descend over one of the many Cappadocia valleys.
However, if you’re looking to extend the flight time and get a unique experience, it’s also possible to book a Royal King Flight with Royal Balloon. This is a longer-duration flight of around 75 minutes and also includes a luxury shuttle transfer and an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast.
7. Flight Paths Change Depending on Wind Direction
Next, it’s good to know that flight paths are also heavily dependent on wind direction and speed. While this isn’t something you really need to worry about as a balloon basket passenger, you should be aware of the launch site if you want to head there to take photos.
The main flight paths in Cappadocia are over its beautiful valleys, including Rose Valley, Red Valley, and Love Valley. This is great as you’ll get a very unique view of the Cappadocia fairy chimneys, volcanic rock formations, and cave dwellings.
Balloons also fly over Göreme town and Uçhisar– the two most popular tourist towns in Cappadocia.
8. Over 100 Balloons Fly in Cappadocia Every Morning
If you even google the term “hot air balloon”, the majority of articles and images that pop up will be from Cappadocia. That’s because this region is the world’s most famous ballooning destination, and host of the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival.
As you can expect, the main roads and dirt streets are chaotic in the early mornings with wedding photographers, ground crew, and tourists all trying to get out to the launch sites, where over 100 hot air balloons depart every day.
From the sky, sharing golden hour with 99 other hot air balloons as you float over the Mars-like landscape of Cappadocia is a truly magical experience and a reason why this region is so popular with tourists from all over the world.
9. Hot Air Balloon Tours Fly in Summer & Winter
Cappadocia balloons fly year-round, from its hot and dry summer months to the icy, snowy winter months.
The best time to visit Cappadocia for a hot air balloon flight is generally between March and June or September and November. This is considered the shoulder season and usually results in calm weather with few balloon cancellations.
The peak season for travel in Turkey is June to August. During this time, crowds are very common, and getting a ticket can be tricky if you don’t book in advance.
During the winter months (November to February), the weather in Cappadocia is bitterly cold. However, this could be one of the most beautiful times to fly balloons since the landscape is often covered in a blanket of snow! Additionally, fewer tourists visit during these months, so getting on a balloon is easier and likely cheaper.
10. Flying in a Hot Air Balloon is Very Safe in Turkey
If this is the first time you’re considering a hot air balloon ride, let me convince you that it is absolutely not as scary as it seems.
Unlike commercial airline flights, helicopters, or scenic flights, hot air balloons are very calming. I know that sounds weird considering you’ll be hovering three thousand feet above the ground. However, since balloons float with the atmosphere, they are not propelled against any forces, resulting in a strangle calm feeling of anti-gravity.
Furthermore, flying in a balloon basket is actually the safest form of aviation. The Turkish Civil Aviation Authority also keeps a close eye on balloon activity to ensure safety.
To put it frankly, you’re actually much more likely to be injured in the shuttle bus to the launch site than in a Cappadocia balloon ride!
11. There Are Many Hot Air Balloon Viewpoints From The Ground
Want to witness the amazing scene of a hundred floating balloons over Cappadocia’s valleys? I highly recommend heading over to one of the many viewpoints around Göreme and Uçhisar to see the balloons from the ground as well.
I spent every morning in Cappadocia visiting different balloon vantage points. My favorites are:
- Love Valley – a magical landscape with 100-feet tall phallic rock formations
- Pigeon Valley – one of the most beautiful valleys in Cappadocia famous for its pigeon houses
- Top of Uçhisar Castle – the highest point in the region and a great spot to view the sunrise balloons
- Lover’s Hill – an awesome sunset and sunrise viewpoint at the top of Göreme town
I recommend asking your hotel, hot air balloon company, or a local where they think the flight path will be before heading to any particular viewpoint as this will change day to day.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a large region with plenty of accommodation options spread across the area. However, the best area to stay to be close to the sunrise balloons, and the majority of attractions are around the town of Göreme.
I would highly recommend staying in a cave hotel for the most unique Cappadocia experience. Below are the top three with links to book.
- Kayakapi Premium Caves Cappadocia – Easily one of the top-rated cave hotels in Cappadocia– especially if you want an amazing hot air balloon view. Features beautiful cave rooms (some with a private pool), heated flooring, air-conditioning, and coffee machines. There’s an onsite spa, large outdoor swimming pool and a free shuttle bus to the city daily.
- Artemis Cave Suites & Spa – Conveniently located in Göreme and close to all the main attractions, this cave hotel and spa offers beautiful terrace views over the city and sunrise balloons. The Open Air Museum is just 1 km from the hotel and there are Turkish Bath services at the onsite spa.
- Divan Cave House – A more budget-friendly cave hotel run by a local family. Magnificent terrace views and a small Turkish restaurant on site. Additionally, guests get access to the hot tub and bike hire to explore the city and surrounding area.
Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia – What to Expect
Now that you know exactly what you need to know before flying in a Cappadocia balloon, let me break down what it’ll actually be like!
The Balloon Launch Site
Prepare for an early start! Your driver will pick you up from your hotel well before sunrise and take you to the launch site. Here, you’ll likely be treated to a light breakfast while the ground crew prepares your balloon.
Photographers will likely skip breakfast and take the opportunity to photograph the firing up of hundreds of balloons across the landscape instead. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful sights and very unique to Cappadocia due to the sheer volume of balloons.
Almost as soon as the balloon rises off the ground, you’ll board the basket along with the 10-20 other tourists who will be sharing the ride with you. Yes, it can get a little tight inside the balloon basket, but you’ll likely forget about all of that as soon as you float off the ground.
On standard flights, your balloon pilot usually likes to head straight up to the highest point, especially if you’ve booked a 1-hour hot air balloon ride.
This is a great opportunity to take some magical photos of the balloons inflating at ground level.
Floating over the valleys of Cappadocia
Floating over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon is by far one of the best ways to witness this amazing landscape. Whichever path your pilot takes on the day, you’ll witness towering stone pillars called fairy chimneys, unique cave dwellings, and magical volcanic patterns painted by mother nature through years of erosion.
Landing and a Champagne Toast
Landing in a hot air balloon is usually very calm. However, your pilot and ground staff will teach you how to assume the landing position in the event of a small bump. Usually, a touchdown is just as relaxing as taking off, but on some rare occasions, you can have hard landings.
Either way, after this magical experience you’ll be glad that you’ve ticked off one of the world’s most frequent bucket-list items. To celebrate, your balloon company will treat you with a glass of champagne and a commemorative flight certificate.
What to See in Cappadocia Turkey After Your Balloon Ride
And, that’s a wrap for this detailed breakdown of everything you need to know about Cappadocia balloons.
I sincerely hope that my advice and photographs have inspired you to book a Cappadocia hot air balloon tour for yourself– I guarantee that you will not regret it!
Check out the list of articles below for more Turkey and Cappadocia travel experiences after your balloon ride!