When it comes to memorable travel experiences, the hot air balloons in Cappadocia are probably on everyone’s bucket list. Sometimes, these world-famous places are a bit overrated, but that’s definitely not the case for the Cappadocia balloons. On this basis, here is a complete guide to flying hot air balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey.
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Welcome to Cappadocia: an Otherworldly Location With Year-Round Balloon Tours
The region of Cappadocia is located right in the middle of Turkey in the Nevsehir Province.
Historically, Cappadocia was home to farmers and Christian refugees who were fleeing Roman persecution. Today, you can still find remnants of Cappadocia’s Christian heritage, notably cave churches in the Ihlara Valley and the Selime Monastery. The region was also a stop on the fabled Silk Road.
Tourism in Cappadocia started in the 1960-70s with visitors from the surrounding provinces. In the 1980s, the first balloons took off in Cappadocia, changing the region’s future.
Over the decades, more and more balloon companies started to offer flights in the towns of Göreme, Ürgüp, and Uçhisar, and Cappadocia slowly gained international acclaim.
In the 2010s, Cappadocia’s boom reached new heights with the advent of social media and strong marketing.
Today, the three primary tourist towns of Göreme, Uçhisar, and Ürgüp offer much more than ballooning, but the world-renowned sunrise flights are still the region’s main attraction.
How to Get to Cappadocia
To take the hot air balloons in Cappadocia, you’ll want to base yourself in one of the main tourist towns, Göreme, Uçhisar, or Ürgüp. All three are located a few kilometers from each other. Ürgüp and Uçhisar are a bit larger with more restaurants and shops while Göreme is the prettier town in my opinion.
There are two airports in this part of Turkey: Nevsehir (a small local airport around 20 minutes from Göreme) and Kayseri (a larger airport around 1.5 hours from Göreme). You can get cheap local flights from Istanbul to either.
As an alternative, you could take a bus to Göreme from Ankara or other larger cities with the company Kamil Koç (tied to Flixbus). From Ankara, the journey takes around four hours. From Istanbul, it would take between 11 and 12.
The easiest way to get to Cappadocia is to fly from Istanbul to Nevsehir. From there, you can take a local bus or taxi to Göreme.
Can you visit Cappadocia on a Day Trip from Istanbul or Ankara?
No. You could fly to Nevsehir from Istanbul in the morning and then fly back in the evening, but no chance you’ll arrive soon enough to go on a balloon ride, as they always start at sunrise. You’ll have to spend at least one night in Göreme.
From Ankara, it would be doable. If you have your own car and leave Ankara at around 1 am, you could arrive before sunrise. Not sure if anyone would be crazy enough to do this, but it’s theoretically possible, as the journey takes around four hours.
The Basics on Taking Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia
The hot air balloons in Cappadocia take off every day of the year at sunrise if the weather permits it. As such, if you’re visiting in autumn/winter (November – May), plan several days because there are lots of cancellations.
Many companies offer the trip, but they all take similar routes. Some start closer to Göreme while others take off close to Ürgüp, but in the end, they fly over the same breathtaking landscapes. The balloons are in the air at sunrise, and the trip takes around one hour.
Your Cappadocia hot air balloon price will differ considerably depending on three factors:
- The time of the year;
- The company; and
- When you book.
The Prices to Fly Hot Air Balloons in Turkey
In early 2021, I paid 50€ for a balloon ride. Mind you, it was during Covid – and in winter. Even locals told me that this was a bargain.
In ordinary circumstances, expect to pay between 75-100€. I can recommend this company who offers the tour for less than 90€ (100 USD). They will pick you up at your hotel in Göreme or Ürgüp at 4.30 am for the experience of a lifetime. You won’t find anything better online.
How to Book Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia
Should you book the hot air balloons in Turkey in advance?
Here is the thing: if you rock up in Göreme without an online reservation, chances are you’ll miss out on the flights because they are often sold out.
Worse still, if you’re there in winter, people whose tours got canceled will be added to the waiting list, and you’ll have an even lower chance of getting on a balloon.
Of course, you’ll also pay more if you try to haggle your way around local agencies. I’ve heard of people paying as much as 200-250€ for a balloon ride because they arrived without a reservation during high season and couldn’t bargain.
The Best Time For Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia
The balloons fly all year round, but there are some things to consider when choosing your travel dates:
- In winter (November – March), you’ll get the best deals and it won’t be overcrowded. There will, however, be more cancellations, and you could be stuck in a blizzard or rainy period.
- In summer (July – September), prices will be higher, and there will be a lot more tourists. It will be scorchingly hot, but you won’t have the cancellation fear.
As such, the best months are, in my view, May, June, late September, and October.
The shoulder season is often best when visiting world-famous locations, and the hot air balloons in Cappadocia are no different.
Other Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey
Most tour companies and hotels offer two tours: the Green Tour and the Red Tour. Both are recommendable, and they will take you to some of the coolest places to visit in Cappadocia.
Alternatively, you could rent a car. Many local agencies offer rentals for less than 50€ a day. Having your own transport will allow you to explore the region without the services of a guide.
Out of all the things to do in Cappadocia, here are my highlights:
- The Pigeon Valley Viewpoint: an incredible location with lots of birds and breathtaking views over fairy chimneys, pigeon houses, and otherworldly landscapes.
- The Selime Monastery: an ancient Christian rock monastery that became a rest stop on the Silk Road;
- The Underground City: churches and shelters in caves.
- The Ihlara Valley: one of the best hiking locations in Cappadocia with cave churches, canyons, and rivers.
- Horse Riding near Göreme: exploring the landscapes on horseback is one of the best experiences you can have in Cappadocia.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
You could stay in either Göreme, Uçhisar, or Ürgüp. All three are beautiful, but my personal favorite is Göreme. It’s smaller than the other two and has virtually no other buildings than cave hotels, restaurants, and shops. From every angle, the town looks stunning.
Göreme offers hotels for every budget and taste. You’ll find cheap rooms on Airbnb for as little as 20€ per night, but you can also splash 300€ per night on a luxurious cave.
Be aware that “cave rooms” and actual caves are not the same. Cave rooms are merely designed to resemble caves, but they are not built into fairy chimneys.
Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey: my Personal Experience and Opinion
I spent five days in Cappadocia in winter and didn’t regret it. I had to get some work done – and also needed to wait three days for the balloons to fly (they got canceled thrice because of the weather).
The landscapes are among the prettiest I’ve seen anywhere in the world, and the balloon ride is undoubtedly worth it.
The tour started at 4.30 am when the driver picked us up from the hotel. After that, we went to a field where we had to wait for clearance. The staff of the company was professional, courteous, and proficient in English.
At around 6 am, the tour began, and we flew for one hour over the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia.
At around 7.30 am, we landed, received some alcohol-free champagne, and the shuttle drove us back to the hotel.
All in all, the experience was incredible and far from overrated. As I mentioned before, I only paid 50€ thanks to winter and Covid. My hotel was also quite affordable (35€ per night), and I arrived in Göreme by taking a four-hour bus from Ankara for around 10€.
The bottom line is that you can easily organize everything yourself and have a fantastic time in Cappadocia. No need to go on an expensive all-inclusive tour. Book your flight or bus to Göreme, choose a hotel, and book a 100 USD tour online to avoid overpaying.