All I could hear was the gentle breeze softly whispering past the hot air balloon and the occasional whoosh of the flame filling the balloon, as we soared on smooth streams of air. The warm sun breached the nearby plateau casting a warm, encompassing glow over the insanely picturesque valley below. Holy cow!
The day started before the crack of dawn. In fact it was only 4:30am. That is way too early for me, but we persevered and got the kids ready and out the door on time.
As we excited our room the Muslim call to prayer echoed through the valley. It was a eerie sound in the darkening hills that we recorded and placed on Instagram.
Along with a handful of other guests from the Kayakapi Premium Caves, we jumped on board the mini bus and drove down the winding hillside into Goreme and to the Royal Balloon headquarters for an early breakfast and rendezvous with other ballooners. We were still all waking up and Caius was mid-way through a case of a nasty stomach virus which required frequent and urgent toilet breaks. I had crossed my fingers and toes that there would be no needed toilet breaks 300 metres above the ground in a small basket – and fortunately, we were safe in that department.
Flyers were grouped together based on the chosen ballooning package and assigned a minibus to take us to our balloon. We had ridden in a hot air balloon several years ago in Australia, without kids, so we assumed the process to be fairly similar. But this time was quite different. The balloon was already prepped and ready to go with several staff members filling the balloon with hot air and securing it ready for launch. We had just enough time to snap some beautiful photos of the surrounding area, spotted with brightly coloured balloons taking off, before we were ushered on board.
Once on board we met our friendly pilot, a Brit named Nigel. He had many years experience flying all over the world and was very informative about the region, flying procedures and also shared some fascinating stories.
There are around 200 registered balloons in the area, with up to 140 taking off each morning during the peak season. Our morning was relatively quieter with only around 70 balloons sharing the clear, azure sky with us. It was still a truly spectacular panorama combining the rugged landscape, crystal skies and bright balloons silently gliding, interrupted with occasional bursts of whooshing flame to control their ascent.
The photos we took were nothing short of breathtaking. Here’s a few:
Caius was strapped into our Manduca baby carrier most of the flight, and later progressed to sitting on the floor safely peeking out of the foot-hole in the side of the basket. He enjoyed the ride overall but wasn’t too keen on the loud sound made by the burner from time to time. Mia was enthralled with the natural beauty surrounding her, taking in all the sights, just managing to peek over the edge of the basket.
It’s worth noting that children under 7 are generally discouraged from participating due to safety risks and the fact that the basket is quite high not giving prime viewing, but both Mia and Caius loved the experience. It would be a perfect romantic excursion for parents if you were to find a local babysitter for the morning.
The countryside around Cappadocia has been carved out of the volcanic rock over the centuries by wind and melting snow to reveal amazing colours, textures and shapes unique to the region. The well-known “Love Valley” features vertical rock protrusions, which could be likened to particular part of the male anatomy. Erin had fun coming up with humorous names for this area. We also had a chuckle when an older lady on the balloon asked “why is this region called Love Valley?”. How exactly could we explain that gently?
As Nigel was looking for a spot to land the balloon, he announced that we would be landing on the back of a pick-up truck. We thought he was joking at first, but realized he was serious. How would this work? We recalled back to our Australian balloon ride, which ended with us roughly landing the basket with a thud and tipping over while gripping onto the internal handles with white knuckles. This time, there was a rope lowered down to a staff member waiting below and guided gently onto the back of a pick-up truck (Aussies would call them “utes”) with amazing grace and finesse. We were impressed!
We shouldn’t have been surprised since during our research of the balloon companies in the area, Royal Balloons consistently came out on top in both the blogging world and other resources.
After the riders disembarked, Mia helped the staff to flatten out the balloon by jumping on it – her favourite part of the whole ride. They also prepared a champagne and orange juice toast as part of a tradition associated with hot air ballooning. We were each endowed with a gold medal to commemorate our adventure. After a few more photos we farewelled the team and made our way back to Kayakapi Pemium Caves via shuttle, to rest for an hour before our next adventure began – a day tour around Cappadocia.
The "Queen" package with Royal Balloons is €175pp and tickets can be booked via their website.
This balloon ride would definitely be in our top 5 experiences since we started this journey in May 2012. It’s not the cheapest attraction when travelling on a tight budget, but it is money well spent. Nothing else quite compares. We can see why some folks travel to Turkey just for this experience. Flying high in Cappadocia is an experience of a lifetime.