Ballooning in Cappadocia
One of the most thrilling ways to appreciate Cappadocia’s incredible landscape is from above. Hot-air balloon flights take off around sunrise (when the air is calmest) and last about an hour or an hour and a half. A skilled pilot can take you right into a valley, sailing through so that rock cones loom on either side, then climb the edge of a tall fairy chimney. The trip usually ends with a traditional champagne toast. Cappadocia is an ideal place for ballooning not only because of its spectacular scenery, but because the region's microclimate—with clement weather and at least 300 flying days per year—makes it one of the world’s safest ballooning destinations. Flights are run year-round, but April through November sees balmier temperatures and a lower probability of cancellation due to weather conditions.
Balloon companies have mushroomed here in recent years, and competition is intense. Nonetheless, it’s recommended that you choose an outfit based on its reputation and safety record rather than price. The top-quality companies have the most experienced staff and also change their takeoff locations on a daily basis according to wind currents, to ensure passengers see as much as possible on their flight. Due to restrictions on the number of balloons that can be in the air at a time, some companies run flights in two shifts; try to get a booking for the first flight of the day, as the later flights have a greater chance of weather-related cancellation.
Hotel transfers are included, and most companies provide some sort of complimentary refreshments before taking off. Hotels and tour agencies in Cappadocia often make high commissions on bookings. You won’t necessarily save anything by making your own arrangements, but many operators do give a small discount if you pay in cash.
Butterfly Balloons. Small and personal, Butterfly Balloons has highly qualified pilots with American and European commercial pilot's licenses. Pilots have great rapport with passengers, who also benefit from generous legroom and outstanding service. Göreme, Nevsehir. 384/271–3010; www.butterflyballoons.com. Flights from $200.
Cappadocia Voyager Balloons. Run by experienced professionals, Cappadocia Voyager Balloons has certified pilots and newer balloons than some competitors. Three flight categories, based on capacity and duration, are available. Göreme, Nevsehir. 384/271–3030; www.voyagerballoons.com. Flights from $185.
Kapadokya Balloons. The oldest and largest balloon company in Cappadocia, Kapadokya Balloons has been in business since 1991 and prides itself on its experienced team and professionalism. Göreme, Nevsehir. 384/271–2442; www.kapadokyaballoons.com. Flights from $200.
Royal Balloon. Working with some of the most experienced Turkish and foreign pilots in Cappadocia, Royal Balloon emphasizes boutique service and gives passengers a hot buffet breakfast. Göreme, Nevsehir. 384/271–3300; www.royalballoon.com. Flights from $200.