You have to experience a hot air balloon in Cappadocia at least once in your life.
Soaring silently into the sunrise sky, merely metres above the jagged other-worldly landscape, golden sunbeams playfully poking between a sea of colourful balloons.
This is the stuff travel dreams are made of.
And if you want to experience a surreal hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Türkiye, then you’re in the right place. I’ve put together this super comprehensive guide from my first-hand experience, with everything you need to know, including choosing a tour operator, safety considerations, hotel locations, and the best photography spots.
I want to help make your dreams come true.
Basics About Cappadocia
Firstly, let’s get some location names and terms clarified because it can get a little confusing for a first-time visitor.
Cappadocia (spelled as “Kapadokya” in Turkish) is a semi-arid region in central Türkiye (changed from “Turkey” in May 2022). It’s not a city or province. This geographical region is spread across several provinces, with the most prominent being Nevşehir (the “s” is pronounced as “sh”), but also including parts of Kırşehir, Niğde, Aksaray and Kayseri. Not to be confusing, but each of those provinces also has a town/city with the same name.
Göreme is a town in Cappadocia (within Nevşehir province) which is the focus of the hot air balloon industry. The most popular balloon launch sites are spread around the outskirts of the town.
Göreme National Park is a protected area covering nearly 100 km2 (39 sq mi) included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, along with other historical sites that surround Göreme, like underground cities, ancient rock-carved homes, and iconic landscapes.
So far, so good.
Are Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Tours Worth the Price?
Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s start with the most common question I get asked when I tell people I’ve been on a hot air balloon in Cappadocia.
“Is it worth the price?”
This is a very valid question because hot air ballooning, when done properly, is not cheap. There are many costs: the pilot, fuel, launch/ground crew, hotel pick-up van, management, insurance, and licenses, not to mention the cost of buying and maintaining the actual “balloon” equipment.
My answer to this question is “yes”… if you can afford it.
And if you’re going to do it, you’d better spend a little extra and get a better experience (more basket space, better operator). This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t scrimp, Ebenezer.
I was blown away by hot air ballooning in Cappadocia so much, I’ve been 3 times on separate trips. And I’m sure I’ll go back again in the future. Now that’s a testimonial from a satisfied customer!
How to Book a Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon at the Best Price
Hot air balloon prices fluctuate throughout the year, being cheaper in winter when there’s less demand (as little as €190), and peaking in summer (upwards of €250).
Balloon rides usually sell out, especially during the busier seasons of spring to autumn. So, this is not the kind of activity you want to book at the last minute. 2-3 months in advance is advisable.
I recommend booking your flight through GetYourGuide. Don’t risk using a dodgy reseller or unreliable agent. GetYourGuide makes all the inclusions clear, presents reviews from other verified travellers, shows availability by date, and takes care of the secure online payment.
Money Tip: On my last trip to Türkiye I experienced problems with credit/debit card processing with several merchants. Even though I had sufficient funds available, the card was declined for no good reason, resulting in the merchant cancelling my travel reservation. The issue seems widespread across the country. So, using a reliable online agent like GetYourGuide avoids this pitfall.
The price for a hot air balloon trip in Cappadocia will depend on how many people you share the basket with.
The cheapest options have up to 28 people, which is too squishy for my liking. The most common option until 2022 was 16 people (made up of 4 people in 4 segmented compartments), however, that is shifting towards 20 people as the operators are trying to offset rising costs and inflation.
Got a bit more cash to splash? Deluxe flights have only 8 passengers and tend to last a bit longer (averaging around €450pp). Or if you’ve got money to burn, then a private flight would make for a great anniversary or birthday present (starting at €5,500).
Türkiye tip: Most operators will provide pricing to tourists in US Dollars or Euros because of the ongoing Turkish inflation crisis and currency instability.
Best Operators for Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Tours
Around 150 balloons lift off every morning around Göreme, so there’s no shortage of operators to choose from.
The most popular and larger operators are Royal Balloon, Discovery Balloons, Balloon Turca, Turquaz Balloons, Turkiye Balloons, Urgup Balloon, Noss Balloon, and Butterfly Balloon. It’s common for an operator to own multiple balloons.
The best operators stand out because they are willing to share important details on their GetYourGuide listing or own website, such as: where the balloons are made, the materials used, pilot training, insurance, and weather guarantees.
Tip: You can see the operator name at the top of each GetYourGuide listing, next to the review summary.
When choosing an operator, look at previous guest reviews. The majority of operators on GetYourGuide have outstanding reviews. Most major operators in Cappadocia are proud of their excellent safety track record, and ensure that pilots have undertaken extensive training to international standards.
What to Expect on a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia
You’re going to spend a lot of money, and take an international flight to get to Cappadocia, specifically for this balloon flight, so you want to know what to expect and how to prepare.
Here’s the outline of a typical hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia:
1) The night before: the operator will contact you via phone call, SMS or email to confirm your pick-up time the next morning. This is so they can arrange the pick-up schedule for all guests sprinkled around the area.
2) Early morning, around 4:30am: the operator picks you up from your hotel in a minivan. Make sure you’re ready on time, waiting in the lobby.
3) Breakfast: depending on the operator and selected flight package, it’s common to be transported to a central location (usually the operator’s office/restaurant) for a light buffet breakfast. This consists of fresh vegetables, bread and jam, pastries, cereal and fresh fruit. Cheaper operators will skip this step.
4) Transport: a minivan will take your group to the balloon launch site, which can move from day-to-day depending on the wind conditions. It’s still completely dark outside at this point.
5) Preparation: as you watch the “envelope” inflate (the technical name for the giant “balloon”), the pilot or ground crew will provide an introductory safety briefing which only takes a minute.
6) Board: climb into the “gondola” (the technical name for the “basket”), while the pilot fills the envelope with hot air from the propane burners above your head. Ground crew are holding the craft down with ropes.
7) Take-off: the ropes are released, and the gondola gently lifts off the ground, and you soar into the sky.
8) Flight: a typical flight lasts for 60 minutes, and the pilot will point out rock formations along the way and answer guest questions. The balloon drifts with the wind, so there’s no sound – other than the occasional flame burst from the burner or gentle chatter from other guests. Often, the pilot will take selfie portraits of the group using a remote-controlled camera. These can be optionally purchased later. Depending on the package you purchased and weather conditions, the hot air balloon will reach an altitude of around 3,000 feet (915 metres) before descending gradually. The best pilots can precisely manoeuvre the gondola within inches of rocks and trees for a big wow factor.
9) Landing: the pilot is in regular communication with the ground crew throughout the flight to identify the most likely landing location. They drive in a pickup truck beneath the balloon and prepare for landing. The pilot will instruct guests to get into a brace position (holding onto the gondola, with bent knees) for landing. The landing is usually very smooth – much softer than you’d expect. Top pilots can land directly on the back of the pickup truck with ease, while others will opt for the ground.
10) Post-landing: guests disembark by climbing out of the gondola, being helped by the ground crew. The pilot and crew offer a drink to guests and may provide a memento, such as a certificate, medal, or other gift to commemorate your journey.
11) Return: as the ground crew disassembles the hot air balloon and packs it away, guests are transported back to their hotel via minivan, and the trip is complete. Usually, this wraps up around 8am, leaving the rest of the day free for sightseeing.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Tours
Before you spend hundreds of dollars on a hot air balloon trip in Cappadocia, you’ll have some questions rattling through your mind. I feel ya.
Here are answers to the most common questions travellers like you ask:
Why are hot air balloons so popular in Cappadocia?
Several reasons: the weather in this part of the world is perfect, Cappadocia’s landscapes are absolutely gorgeous, there’s plenty of space, and around 260 days per year are suitable for flying (just over 70%).
Why are hot air balloon flights at sunrise?
The air is “smoother” at sunrise, which makes it the best time to fly. The earth is still cool from the night, and there are fewer strong updrafts caused by the sun heating the ground. This is why there are no flights available later in the day or at sunset.
How long is a hot air balloon ride?
Most standard flight packages are 60 minutes in length, but the exact duration will depend on the weather conditions, and the flight can be shortened or extended slightly at the pilot’s discretion. Deluxe and private trips can be up to 90 minutes.
Is it worth paying extra for a longer flight?
To be honest… no. The things you’ll see on a 60-minute flight are pretty much the same as 90 minutes. But the best photos are captured before landing, when the hot air balloon gets closer to the ground, as other balloons also descend. When you’re the last one in the sky on your “premium” flight, the rest of the sky will be empty, which makes for less-interesting pics. And I don’t know about you, but after an hour squished in a basket, I’m about ready to stretch my legs.
How frequently do hot air balloons fly?
Flights are scheduled in advance almost every day of the year. About an hour or so before the flight, pilots and the ballooning team, in coordination with Turkish Civil Aviation Authority, check the weather and decide if flights can happen or not. If flying is not permitted that day due to rain, storm, or strong winds, they will cancel all the flights, and guests will be notified.
What if my hot air balloon flight gets cancelled?
Most providers in Cappadocia offer a similar cancellation policy, although it’s best to check the details upfront. If your flight gets cancelled due to bad weather, you can choose to get a full refund or reschedule your flight for the next day (if there is availability). That is why it’s best to do the trip on your first morning in Cappadocia… so you have wiggle room to reschedule if the weather doesn’t play nicely.
When is the best season to visit Cappadocia?
Hot air balloons fly all year round, but the ideal times to fly are March - June and September - November. There are fewer cancellations because the weather is usually calmer. The most expensive tickets are during the peak summer season from June - August, and almost always sell out. If you don’t mind the cold, November - February can offer spectacular snowy landscape views.
Do I need to book in advance?
Yes. I recommend booking through GetYourGuide. If you come all the way to Cappadocia for a hot air balloon experience and miss out, you’ll kick yourself. And then cry. And then roll into a fetal position on the floor.
How many days are needed in Cappadocia?
Tip: For the best private tour guides in Cappadocia, contact Travel Atelier for a personalised quote.
What to wear on a hot air balloon in Cappadocia?
At higher elevations, the temperature cools significantly (dropping around 1.2°C or 3.5°F for every 1,000 feet). This effect is accentuated in drier climates, and Göreme is already elevated at 1,100 metres to start with. The best strategy for hot air ballooning is “layers and comfort”. No high-heeled shoes; sneakers are better. During peak summer, a long sleeve t-shirt might be fine, but bring a light jacket along just in case. During spring and autumn, a couple of layers are ideal – t-shirt, long sleeve shirt and a jacket. And bring gloves and a beanie just in case. In winter, full snow-ready gear is needed.
What to bring on a hot air balloon in Cappadocia?
Operators need to keep the weight of the gondola to a minimum. So only bring a camera (with a strap) or GoPro and nothing else. You’ll likely be cramped, and there’s not a lot of room anyway. Your belongings can be safely left in the minibus.
Can children ride in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia?
Yes, over a certain age – usually 4 years old. It depends on the operator’s policy, so check ahead of time.
What if I’m afraid of heights?
In the interest of safety, most operators won’t accept a guest under the following conditions: they have a phobia of heights, recent surgery, health issues affecting bone strength, and pregnant women.
Are hot air balloon tours in Cappadocia safe?
According to the FAA, hot air ballooning is the safest form of air travel. It’s far safer than driving in a car. Statistically, you’re more likely to get injured driving to the launch site in a minibus than due to the actual hot air balloon ride. Balloon pilots must take exams every two years to maintain their licenses. Aircraft also undergo regular rigorous safety inspections. The Turkish government have made it almost impossible to obtain a new balloon license in Cappadocia, so all operators have years of experience.
How does the pilot steer a hot air balloon?
There is no “steering wheel”, but the pilot observes the wind currents (which can go in different directions at different altitudes), and controls the ascent and descent by increasing or decreasing the amount of hot air in the envelope. There is no way to tell for sure where the landing spot will be, which is why the landing crew are in regular contact with the pilot via walkie-talkie to determine possible landing spots in advance.
Why do they traditionally drink champagne after landing?
The first manned hot air balloon ride dates back to 1783 in France. On one of the first successful flights, the passengers carried a bottle of champagne to enjoy during the flight, but instead of drinking it, it was used as an offering of goodwill to the farmers whose field their balloon had landed in. The champagne convinced the farmers that the balloon was of no threat and acted as a peace offering for disturbing the land and animals grazing in the field. The champagne smoothed things over, and a tradition was born.
Expert Tips for the Best Hot Air Balloon Experience in Cappadocia
Now that I’ve answered your pressing questions, here are my best tips on how to ensure your magical trip to Cappadocia goes off without a hitch.
Fly on your first day
This is the most important tip. If you’re flying in the cooler seasons, then there is a greater chance of a flight cancellation. So, schedule your flight on your first morning in Cappadocia. That way, in the unfortunate event of a cancellation due to weather, you’ve got a good chance of going up on your second or third day. Also, try to get the first/earlier launch time if possible. It looks better as more balloons rise up into the air. Slightly later flights might seem like a good idea when you press snooze on the alarm, but you’ll be late to the party. Literally.
Take note of the launch area
Some cheaper flight options are available on the outskirts of Göreme (such as Cat Valley or Soganli Valley), further away from the main “pack” of hot air balloons. The upside is that the airspace is less crowded, but you’re also further away from preferred attractions and the most beautiful landscapes on the ground. Not to mention, the best photos are when the balloons are closest.
Choose your season carefully
It gets cold at an altitude of over 1,000 feet – even on a sunny day. If you’re from a warmer climate, then be aware that you might freeze your tootsies, so dress accordingly. It’s better to bring too many layers of clothing than not enough.
Use satellite view
It’s easy to follow a route in a city with just the Google Maps default view. But in Cappadocia, understanding the terrain can make or break your hike. Turn on the “satellite” layer to view landscapes in more detail and work out the location of unmarked trails and viewpoints. In particular, look for defined ridgelines near rock formations that look like wrinkled paper, like this example:
Map tip: Look for long shadows cast by rock formations to determine how tall they are.
Alternatively, use Google Earth for a 360-degree perspective.
The best photos are usually from the ground
Do you want shots with the balloons AND landscapes AND the sunrise? The best spots are actually from the ground… which is entirely free. The advantage of keeping your feet planted on the ground is that you’re not in a moving aircraft, so motion blur is less of an issue. You can also capture a wider variety of perspectives from the ground.
Get up early to find the best photo spot
I woke up at least an hour before sunrise to hike to my preferred vantage points. If you want to chill out – do it during the day. Sunrise and sunset in Cappadocia require mandatory attendance. You’ll be caned if you don’t turn up.
Step up your photography game
You only get one chance to capture your Cappadocia hot air balloon experience, so if you’re a beginner or intermediate photographer, brush up on your skills beforehand. Once you’re in the moment, you’ll need to think on your feet. Some important photography topics to master:
- Shooting a moving subject (without motion blur)
- HDR/bracketed exposures (to capture a wider dynamic range – more bright and dark details in the same frame)
- Shooting in manual mode (the lighting conditions pre-dawn can be quite challenging, and change constantly as the sunlight increases)
- Using a telephoto zoom lens with image stabilisation (get up close to the balloons when you’re far away).
- Luminosity masks in Adobe Lightroom (for processing the images afterwards)
Be in the moment
After you’ve captured a few beautiful images, please put down the smartphone or camera, and just be present in the moment. Sunrise in Cappadocia is one of the most beautiful spectacles you’ll see in your life, so don’t observe it through a small pixelated screen. Your beautiful eyes are so much higher resolution!
Where to Take Photos of Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia
The real secret that you won’t find on any other blogs is… there is no one perfect place to take photos of hot air balloons in Cappadocia. It all depends on wind direction and strength, which can change from day to day.
My strategy was to carefully identify a handful of prospective locations ahead of time, and then pay attention to the weather report early in the morning so I could tell which way the balloons would drift, and position myself along the flight path.
Plan ahead and decide how you’ll get to your preferred spot - rent a car, private driver, or hike. I opted to hike where possible. Wear comfortable hiking boots or sturdy sneakers when venturing into the wilderness… especially before dawn. And don’t forget a headlamp flashlight. It’s dark out there!
Here are the 10 best sunrise photo spots for hot air balloons in Cappadocia (open my interactive map in a new window):
Note: The areas shaded in pink are the main balloon launch area where most balloons take off; however, a couple of smaller operators also take off from the southwest side of Göreme if there’s sufficient demand.
Here are all the details you need to know about each point on the map, along with Google Map links:
An elevated viewpoint to the west of Göreme, with unobstructed views eastward, facing the sunrise. Plenty of parking is available, and this is also walkable from the centre of town, allowing around 20 minutes.
Best for: easterly and north-easterly winds
Sunrise Point (also called Sunset Point or Sunset Hill or Aydin Kiraği)
This is probably the most popular spot and will be lined with hundreds of tourists early in the morning. Some balloons will fly so low, you can almost reach out and touch them. Once you reach the main viewpoint, if you follow the trail north a bit further, there are likely to be fewer crowds. It can be surprisingly tricky to find this location as signage is minimal. It’s only accessible by foot, and there’s a ticket booth at the bottom of the hill charging 5TL for entry. Allow at least 15 minutes to walk up the hill, although if you’re fit, you could do it faster.
Best for: northerly and north-easterly winds
Capture the stunning phallic-shaped rock formations combined with balloons silhouetted against the sunrise sky. It’s a 10-minute drive northwest of Göreme, and gets pretty busy, so make sure you allow enough travel time. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are trails down into the bottom of the valley that will produce the most spectacular shots, but please use caution.
Best for: south-easterly winds
This is probably the most photogenic location, but also one of the harder ones to get to. It’s really only doable via car. When the balloons rise from the primary launch site just west of here, the striking rock formations in front of you will create the perfect foreground. And once the golden rising sun strikes, you’ve found paradise. Depending on which direction you’re driving from, you can park here or here, and then walk the rest of the way.
Best for: southerly and south-westerly winds
If you want to get up close to the balloons before they take off, they are scattered around the valley near this point. It’s quite far from Göreme, so it’s safer to drive than walk, especially in the dark. Just look for the unmissable glow of butane burners lighting up. Give yourself at least 20 minutes to drive slowly along unpaved paths and find your preferred spot.
Best for: any winds
This elevated viewpoint is a 10-minute drive east from Göreme. I wouldn’t recommend walking to this point, especially in the dark. Once the sun rises behind you, the colours will be amazing. Although it’s one of the best vantage points for any condition, it’s rarely packed at sunrise.
Best for: any winds
Relatively close to the centre of Göreme, it’s around 20 minutes walk, but the elevation is 70 metres, so it can be exhausting for the unfit. Fortunately, there’s a road nearby and an unpaved parking area if you’ve got a car. Steps and an unpaved path lead to the bottom of the valley to get up close to the rock formations. If you’re lucky enough for a northerly wind, then the sun will rise behind you, and the colours of the hot air balloons will really pop.
Best for: northerly winds
A 15-minute drive east of Göreme will lead you to this stunning viewpoint with ample parking. It’s pretty far from the action, so you’ll only see the balloons up close if strong enough winds blow them your way.
Best for: westerly winds
Just east of the centre of Göreme is the unnamed, unsigned viewpoint. Easily accessible on foot within 15 minutes, but keep in mind that the route has an elevation of 55 metres. Very few tourists go here as it doesn’t exist on Google Maps.
Best for: easterly winds
This place has no name and does not exist on any map either. And it was my absolute favourite location out of all of them. There are relatively few tourists because the only people that know about it are local guides and photographers. I accessed this by hiking over rough terrain from the south, but if you’ve got a car, it can be reached by a narrow unpaved road from the west.
Best for: southerly and south-easterly winds
Another popular place to view hot air balloons in Cappadocia is one of the dozens of Instagram-friendly hotel rooftops. The perks? No driving or hiking is required. Some worth mentioning: Osmanli Cappadocia Hotel, Mithra Cave Hotel, Local Cave House, Koza Cave Hotel, Sultan Cave Suites, and Maccan Cave. Most hotels have a Turkish-style cushioned lounge or props which look great in photos. Just be aware, a lot of other people might be vying for space on the rooftop to capture their moment, so it can feel a bit pressure-y. I prefer the peacefulness of a remote location.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia?
If you’re only in Cappadocia for a couple of nights and it’s your first trip, I recommend staying in Göreme, which is the most central town for hot air ballooning. But if you are renting a car or using a private driver, it’s possible to find a broader range of accommodation (from budget to luxury) in the surrounding towns.
Cappadocia Elite Stone House – located north of the centre of town, it’s still close enough to the action to be walkable. Free breakfast is included. This hotel is the perfect balance between price and quality, plus the unobstructed rooftop views of the balloon launch site are gorgeous. I stayed here on my last trip to Göreme.
Sarnich Cave Suites – located in the middle of town, and has hundreds of glowing reviews.
Arif Cave Hotel – conveniently located along the path to Sunrise Point, so you don’t pay an entry fee.
Uçhisar (southwest of Göreme):
Mak's Cave House – incredible sunrise views with a buffet breakfast that caters for vegans and other dietary requirements.
Taşkonaklar Cave Hotel – I’ve stayed here on a previous trip, and the hospitality is amazing.
Çavuşin (north of Göreme):
Cappadocia Fairy Tale Suites – located a 15-minute walk north of the main balloon launch site.
Ortahisar Belediyesi (southest of Göreme):
Cappadocia Alba Cave – relaxing cave-like experience with outstanding hospitality.
Hezen Cave Hotel – spectacular views of Ortahisar Castle.
Ürgüp (east of Göreme):
Kayakapi Premium Caves – I stayed here on a previous visit, and you can’t beat it for luxury.
Pegas Cave Suites – Some rooms have a spa bath… inside a cave! Buffet breakfast caters for vegetarians and vegans too.
Sacred House – Award-winning boutique hotel created from a renovated 250-year-old Greek mansion.
How to Get to Cappadocia?
There are 2 small airports near Cappadocia, and their driving distance to Göreme is:
Nevşehir is newer and better organised, so that is my preference, although I’ve used both airports, and they’re fine. Flights from Istanbul run multiple times per day, and domestic flights in Türkiye are relatively cheap.
Check with your hotel if they offer an airport shuttle pick-up service. Often these will be a reasonable fixed price, and they’re not noticeably more expensive than booking a private taxi. So just make life easier for yourself and pre-arrange that through your hotel.
Buses are also available from major surrounding cities, including Ankara, Antalya, Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, Çanakkale, and Konya, but considering the length of the ride, it’s better to go by plane (unless you’re on a tight budget).
What Else to do in Cappadocia?
Make the most of your stay in Cappadocia and do a guided day tour around Göreme National Park. If your budget allows, I highly recommend a personalised private tour with Travel Atelier. I did a tour with them straight after a hot air balloon ride, starting around 9am, and loved every minute. Tell them Josh from travelwithbender.com sent you.
One thing is for sure... you’ll never run out of things to do in dreamy Cappadocia. The hot air balloon ride is just beginning.