Why Cappadocia should feature on your bucket list

Cappadocia goreme hot air balloon turkey

Cappadocia is a real life fairy-tale. At sunrise the sky of this desert town in Turkey comes alive, and it’s even more magical than you can imagine. Cappadocia is famous worldwide for the stunning photos, videos and social media posts of hot air balloons filling the skyline. There are over 100 hot air balloons in the sky every morning, and the visual is incredible. Photos and videos struggle to do this early morning spectacle justice.

We visited in early September, travelling down from Istanbul. We were initally hesitant to visit, worried that 1. Cappadocia may be a bit of a ‘tourist trap’ and not as good as the photos, and 2. it wasn’t easy to get to. Getting to Cappadocia from Istanbul requires around 5-6 hours of transit time if you fly (including transfers to/from airports, waiting in airports, flight time), so we were initially unsure if it was worth the effort. However, we are very glad we did! Our photos don’t do it justice, but the hot air balloon ride was a real tick for the bucket list.

Taking a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is the main reason to visit. The second reason to visit is watching the sky from the ground at sunrise. Everything in Cappadocia revolves around the sunrise hot air balloon rides. Whilst there are other attractions, including the cave houses, open air museums, hikes, horseback riding, quad bikes, tours and more.. the main event is definitely the hot air balloons. If watching the hot air balloons from the ground, the best view points are either from your hotel rooftop terrace (ours was amazing, see below), or walk up to the main view point at the edge of Goreme. This view was seriously impressive, and only a ~10minute walk from the heart of the town.

A hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

Have a read below for some some things to know before you visit Cappadocia and organise your hot air balloon ride. Be prepared for early mornings and expensive prices, but we think it was worth the effort!

Cost: 180-220 (EURO/USD) or $260-330 (AUD)

Yes, the hot air balloons are very expensive. This was for a shared balloon with 16-24 people. Private balloons are significantly more expensive. If you’re looking to visit Cappadocia for a hot air balloon ride, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it.

How to arrange: the easiest way to organize your hot air balloon ride is through your hotel (this is what we did). This way they can set things up with the company, and if anything falls through (e.g. weather), they can help you re-book. However, they will likely add a small commission on top. If you want to organize directly with a company, we would recommend Brothers Balloons Cappadocia. This is who our hotel booked with, and we were very impressed with them being on time and their service.

What to know:

  • Book a sunrise flight. You want to be up in the air at sunrise, when the majority of balloons are in the sky. A small percentage of flights take off after sunrise, however we would recommend the sunrise experience. The sunrise flights will take off around 6am in summer, but this may change depending on the sunrise time.
  • You will need to wake up early. We stayed in Goreme (see below) and had to wake up at 5am to get picked up at 5.10am. The flights take off close to Goreme, so this wasn’t that crazy of a wake up time. For those staying in towns outside of Goreme, you will likely need to wake up closer to 4am. However, this may change in different seasons.
  • The flights are weather dependent. If it is too windy, raining or storms, the balloons don’t go up. This is the scary part about visiting if you want to take a hot air balloon ride. We were lucky that our morning was perfect weather, however the last morning we were in Cappadocia, there were no balloons in the sky due to the winds (we were so thankful this wasn’t our morning).
  • Your flight will go for around 1 hour in duration. You will land in a different area than you take off, and likely have a glass of champagne before you are returned to your hotel by shuttle.
  • The direction of your flight depends on the wind. This was evident on all 3 of the mornings we witnessed hot air balloons, with the wind taking them in different areas.
  • Make sure you book your flight in advance. This is especially important during peak season, as the hot air balloon flights book out. We also know fellow travellers who missed out when they visited Cappadocia for this reason.

How long should you stay in Cappadocia:

We stayed for 4 nights, and found this slightly too long a stay. We recommend you stay at minimum 2 nights (possibly 3). Book your hot air balloon ride for the first morning, with this giving you some leeway if the weather is no good as mentioned above. The second (and/or third) mornings can be used to watch the balloons from the ground. Both of these experiences are completely different, but are a must when you visit Cappadocia. There are also numerous other tourist attractions for you to try during the day if you’re keen on keeping busy. Alternatively, you can spend your days relaxing at your accommodation terrace/pool (there’s lots of nice hotels!), wandering the town, and enjoying some good restaurants. We took a relaxed approach for the days, and enjoyed the incredible early mornings.

Where to stay in Cappadocia:

We would recommend you stay in Goreme, one of the multiple towns that make up Cappadocia. Goreme is the most central of the towns, and is the hub where the hot air balloons take off and fly over. There are many great accommodation options with wonderful rooftop terraces to enjoy the stunning sunrise views. We stayed at Lord of Cappadocia in the heart of Goreme and would recommend this to everyone.

If you are looking for alternative accommodation in Cappadocia, take a look here or check out the map below:


Some food & drink recommendations for Cappadocia

COFFEE: Head to Cafe Safak for the best coffee in Cappadocia. Don’t expect third wave cafe style, or Melbourne level of coffee.. but it’s not bad and better than the rest!

AUTHENTIC DINING: Check out Dibek for some authentic Turkish food. The meals at Dibek felt like something a Turkish grandmother would cook you. We particularly loved the hearty lentil soup. Dining is on the floor on Turkish rugs, which is a unique experience.

GREAT FOOD: The meal at Pumpkin Cafe was one of our favourites in Turkey. The grilled meats and slow cooked lamb shoulder were incredible! Even better was the positive and polite service of the lovely staff. A TOP PICK for Cappadocia. Consider booking, or arrive early.

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