Last month we spent a week in Turkey, and the highlight of the trip was easily the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride. It’s been on my bucket list for ages, and it was such a special surprise that not only did we get to see them but we got to go up in one!
The Cappadocia region of Turkey brings tourists from all over the world. Not only do you see amazing landscapes and historic spots, but the weather is perfect for hot air ballooning. The air is so still that there are roughly 300 flyable days each year. On any given morning, you’ll see anywhere from 50-150 balloons fill the morning skies.
The Experience (3-4 Hours)
Once you’ve booked your flight, they give you a pickup time at your hotel. Let me warn you if you’re not a morning person, it’s earrrrrly! Lucky for us it was winter, so we were picked up at 6AM for a sunrise at 730AM, but yours may be earlier (or later) depending on the sunrise and time of year you visit. We were shuttled over to the Royal Balloon headquarters, where they split us into groups and had a breakfast spread waiting for us. Then they bused us over to our launching point. The launching point each day could be different based on the wind conditions.
When we arrived, the balloon was almost ready to go. We watched as they finished filling the balloon and then we hopped in once they flipped the basket into position. Each basket was broken up into 5 sections. The center was for the pilot, and each corner had a separate section that fit 3 people. The pilot went over the basic rules, and then we were off!
You start to slowly rise amongst a sea of balloons as the sun starts to pour over the mountain ranges. The pilot skillfully rises and lowers through canyons and viewpoints for the next hour.
The landing was also very impressive. They walkied to figure out a landing position and landed right in the bed of a trailer. SKILLZ. After hopping out, they treat you to some chocolate covered strawberries and a glass of champagne.
Afraid of Heights?
I get it. Many people I’ve talked to mentioned they’d be too scared to go up in a hot air balloon. I have a fear of heights, and before my first ride, I was concerned too. However, it doesn’t have the same sensation as standing on a high roof or ledge. They never go up in windy conditions, so the basket rarely rocks or sways. I never felt like I was going to fall and was more afraid of dropping my camera or my phone, so I had a death grip on both. It felt even smoother than riding up an elevator (and trust me, even those glass elevators sometimes have my knees shaking).
The experience is magical, but in terms of photography, I was somewhat disappointed. I had seen several photos before the trip where the skies were completely filled with balloons, so I came in with that expectation. I hadn’t realized that many of them had been photoshopped and the balloons were cloned. Keep in mind that there are 50-150 balloons each day, not thousands, and they do get spread out.
If you don’t want to photoshop in balloons, be ready to take your photos as soon as the balloons are launching. Many of them are launching from similar locations, and that’s when you’ll see them more densely together. They usually get more spread out over time since the pilots can only control the balloons vertically.
Camera Gear We Brought:
- Camera Body
- Wide lens to include more of the landscape.
- Long lens for tighter shots of the balloons.
- SONY RX100 Mark IV for video
- iPhones for snapchat and instastories
- Lowepro Whistler 350 Backpack
What to Wear
During our trip, it was cold in Cappadocia. It was 35 – 46 deg F (2 – 8 deg C). Since you’re up before the sun rises, it’s on the lower end and extremely chilly. During warmer weather, it’s still good to bring layers so you can adjust accordingly. The temperature drops roughly 6 degrees every 1000 feet, and you can fly up to 3000 feet. The heat from the hot air balloon helps balance out the cold, but I wouldn’t say it was warm. This is what we wore:
- Dry fit Tees (his + hers)
- Fleece Sharmbaa for her, Base Layers for him
- Nanostorm Jacket (both)
- Thermal Bottoms under pants (both)
- Anatomie Pants for her, Jeans for him
- Slouchie Beanie with Omni-heat for her, Beanie provided by Royal Balloon for him
- Comfy Shawlette as scarf for her
- Comfortable Shoes
- Gloves, Sunscreen, and Sunglasses would also have been nice!
It was truly an amazing experience that we hope to do again. We’ll be posting more about our experiences in Turkey in the next couple of months so stay tuned!
Check out some other posts by our new friends from the trip!
Special thanks to Inflow Travel, Turkish Airlines, and Royal Balloon for hosting this adventure and sponsoring our trip to Turkey. Check out the amazing video they did on Cappadocia. They will be hosting a Travel Summit in April 2017 (which is also a wonderful excuse to go back and explore more of Turkey!).
Have you been in a hot air balloon or would you try it? How was your experience? Have you been to Turkey or are you hoping to visit soon? Would hot air ballooning here be at the top of your list?