There is a fascinating area in Turkey called Anatolia and in the centre of there is a region called Cappadocia. The natural landscape in the area is more than postcard worthy. It’s book a flight and get there now worthy. The entire regional landscape is shockingly amazing. Ancient volcanos that erupted hundreds of years ago along with wind, rain and snow have moulded the earth creating picturesque hills and valleys. It is home to the fairy chimneys, largest underground city in the Tukey and one of the greatest places on earth to experience a hot air balloon ride.
With over 150 different balloon tours available in Cappadocia. I had the privilege to check a biggie of my bucket list and review the famous Royal Balloon tour during my stay. Here is my account of something I have wanted to do since I was a wee lasse. (And even more after seeing the movie Up)
After some fights with rain and high winds we set our sights on Thursday. It was supposed to be perfect. The morning began with the sound of an alarm chiming at 4:40am. Usually Waking up this early makes me physically ill but not today! We were in the shuttle bus and enroute to the Royal Balloon headquarters by 5:20.
After checking in we grabbed a plate and served ourselves from the Turkish style buffet breakfast. The standard continental in Turkey is bread, cheese, hard boiled eggs and slices cumber and tomato. We mowed breaky and it wasn’t long after 6am we again were in a shuttle taking us to the fields where the balloons departed from.
Driving along the trail, massive balloons the size of houses are being inflated all around. Huge bursts of orange flames spark in every direction as the night slowly became dawn. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. As we pulled up, our balloon was quickly inflating as the 5 foot flame was forcing hot air in.
In less than 10 minutes we are fully inflated and ready to get in. Our balloon has room for 16 people but today we are only taking up 11, Suat our pilot, informs us. He has been hot air flying for 25+ years, has flown at international festivals and is head pilot of the company. I felt in good hands.
We climbed up into the basket one by one, took a quick group photo on the ground and ta-da. we lifted off. Rising slowly at first, we noticed we had made good timing. Only us and a handful of others were airborne. It was feeling of awe as you hang your head out over the basket and watch the earth distance itself from you. The loud blow of the torch roared as we climbed higher and higher. As we began to ascend, more and more balloons hovered up from behind hills 360 degrees around us. The sun and balloons were rising simultaneously.
We reached a max altitude of over 100M. I’m not usually a baby about heights but I managed to freak myself out a little at this height. We quickly descended to a more comfortable altitude though and sailed through the amazing Cappadocia landscape. Up and down through valleys and over the hills we made our way around. At one point we dipped deep into a canyon. When it looked as though we might ram into the side of it, Suat quickly did some fancy piloting and we floated up and out of the gorge.
Suat was a great pilot. While in the air He told us stories of past flights. The day he saw another balloon crash.(extremely uncommon!) The time a man proposed but forgot the ring in the shuttle. He told us about the other countries he had flown in. The US, Kenya, and New Zealand.
After an hour we began our descent. And just in time. A massive fog rolled over the mountains out of nowhere. I have probably never taken more photos in an hour in my life. The view was just so stunning that I wanted to capture the entire experience. I didn’t feel so bad after because the record, we heard, was 2700 photos in an hour taken by a nation geographic photographer. The fog made the last of my photos appear as though we had been hovering over the clouds even though we were only 15-20 meters above the ground.
We landed with ease. Full of adrenaline we made our way out of the basket. The crew were busy right away setting up a table with flowers, champagne and medals. I felt like we had landed the Apollo. We all toasted a glass of champagne and received our medals for the flight experience. Great final touches to what was one of my top travel activities during the trip to Turkey.
It’s hard to image a better place to experience a balloon ride. Have you done one? Where? I’d love to hear about it.