A Breathtaking Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey


The Balloons over Göreme, Turkey

The Balloons over Göreme, Turkey


In the earlier morning twilight, a glow of the impending sunrise begins to outline the mushroom shaped rocks of Gorëme in gold. As I stare out of the van window, my heart races with a combination of excitement and dread. Along the road, giant heaps of deflated balloons lie on their sides. As they begin to fill and expand, the globes flash with brilliant light across the landscape like giant fireflies. To the right and to the left of me, as far as the eye can seen, the balloons are flashing and expanding.

Our van stops at our balloon, which it the first in a line of other balloons. It is four o'clock in the morning. I have booked a balloon tour for me and my family with Urgüp Balloons. For many tourist visiting Cappadocia, the vast plains of central Turkey, a balloon ride is the main reason for the visit. I will admit, I too was drawn to Cappadocia after seeing beautiful photos of brightly colored balloons over the strange and surreal landscape of Cappadocia. However, unlike other tourists, I booked four days in Cappadocia and not just one in order to ride a balloon. For the past four days, I have fallen in love with this beautiful region of Turkey that is filled with history, natural beauty, delicious food and the nicest people on earth. At this point, the balloon ride is just the cherry on top.

We all squeeze into the wicker basket that hangs from out giant inflated balloon. Just over my head, I can hear the roar of the flame and feel the heat as our pilot sends the flames into the belly of the balloon. We begin the rise and my heart leaps as I feel out basket disengage from the ground. All around us, over 150 other balloons are slowly floating skyward all across the landscape. As the balloons ascend, the sunrise slowly turns the sky from indigo to pink to orange to blue. But for the occasional distance roar of a flame, the balloons are so quiet, like a swarm of jellyfish floating in a vast sea.

About 30 million years ago, volcanoes spewed ash over this landscape. Eventually, the ash solidified into rock, called tuff, tens of meters thick. In the millions of years that followed, wind and water eroded the tuff into odd shapes, including spires, cones and even a camel. The Central Anatolian Plateau was once largely covered by great lakes which dried up. The present Tuz Golü (Salt Lake) is a remnant. In more recent times, a different force went to work on the rocks of this region. The tuff was soft and easily worked, and people made this place home, hollowing out the rocks, and carving windows, doors, and curving stairways. Locals even carved churches into the rock. In 1985 Cappadocia’s Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As we rise, this landscape unfolds beneath us. Göreme is in a vast valley of fairy chimneys. My throats burns and my eyes tear up with the overwhelming beauty of the scene. The sun greets us as it rises over the flat plateau in the distance. As far as the eye can see, balloons fill the horizon in the quiet beauty of the morning sky. For an hour, I am mesmerized by the surreal and silent choreography of the balloons, descending and lifting, passing and circling, in the buoyant aerial ballet. At the end of our journey, we gently nestle our basket onto a truck bed. We climb out of the basket and drink a champagne toast.

A balloon ride over Göreme is a once in a life time experience. I booked our ride on line a month in advance with Ürgup Balloons. The classic flight cost 195 Euros for a one hour tour that included a shuttle pick up and drop off at our hotel. I would recommend booking well in advance if you want to ride a balloon. I also recommend that you book your ride for your first day in Cappadocia as the balloon companies will cancel if conditions are not absolutely safe. You will get a full refund if they cancel, but if you want to try again the next day, it may be hard to reschedule if you have limited time. A family staying at our hotel went home disappointed because their balloon ride was canceled and they only came for two days.

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia

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Written by AdventuresInFluency
Ten years ago, I decided that for every country I visited, I would learn its language before I traveled. My friends called me insane. My work colleagues wanted to know where I could find the time. It turns out that this new hobby opened up the world to me and my family in a wonderful way beyond anything that I could have ever hoped for. My goal is to encourage people to learn languages, travel, connect and communicate by bringing to you my stories, sharing some tips on travel and language learning and offering you some travel tools too. I am a mother of two, a public defender and a dancer who lives in San Francisco when I am not traveling. We... Read more

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