Breathtaking Cappadocia from a Hot Air Balloon
After the madness of Morocco, we were headed to our next country – Turkey! We had a stopover in Geneva, Switzerland where Minh looked at the backside of a posted dial clock (looking at the hands backwards) at the airport and thought we were going to miss our connecting flight.
We rushed through the security line as fast as we could, and ran to our gate, to find out we were actually early! As we were standing there trying to catch our breath, and Minh all sweaty, we hear a familiar American accent asking if we’re American.
The couple on our flight saw our blue passport covers and it turns out they’re also on a Round The World trip! They’re Van and Justin from San Francisco and started traveling around the same time we have! We discuss where they’ve been and where they’re headed, and our paths seem to be planned out the same. As mentioned before, when meeting other travel couples, there seems to be an instant connection and bond over the unique situation of long term travel. We swap contact information, but unfortunately our schedules never quite matched up to meet again, but we have actually sent helpful travel tips back and forth since! (Thanks guys! 🙂 )
Our first night was in Kayseri which was just a transit town before we were to head to Goreme the next day. For our first meal after waking up, we headed to the nearest restaurant we could find. We ended up in a small shop that sells Kofte. We have no idea what it is and nobody speaks English there. A girl that’s eating there tells us whatever the lady is recommending is “very delicious!” Minh and I are super excited that we may have just stumbled upon a local spot that’s going to serve up some really delicious food.
We were expecting a nice hot meal to warm us up since it was quite chilly outside, but instead, she hands us some cold wrapped meat thing with yogurt cups on the side.
The wrap is spicy and the yogurt on the side seems like a major stomach ache waiting to happen. We’re not really feeling this dish, so we take a few bites, pay, and leave.
We walked further down and found a doner kebap place. It was SO good and exactly the type of food we were hoping for in Turkey.
As predicted, Minh had a major stomach ache from the cold wrapped meat thing later that night. (We later discovered it’s a specialty of southeastern Turkey, called Çiğ köfte Dürüm, which translates to “raw meatball” – something our stomachs and palates were not ready for!)
The next morning we made our way into Goreme. We were there in November and by the time we got into town, it was already getting dark by early afternoon. We had an early morning hot air balloon ride booked the next day, and we were awaiting our next visitor to join us. In the middle of the night we got a knock on our door, and Connie had arrived from New York! She basically had a few hours sleep before it was time for us to head out to our balloon ride (what a trooper!). We purposely scheduled the hot air balloon ride for the first morning we were there, as we’d read that chances are high that it may get canceled due to wind conditions, and didn’t want to chance not being able to go during our time there.
We booked our tour with Kapadokya Balloon through our hotel. I was very apprehensive about going up in a giant flying wicker basket, so after searching tons of companies and reviews online, decided to go with them.
They picked us up from our hotel and brought us to a holding room where we would find out if it wind conditions were safe enough for us to fly that day.
The lounge had a breakfast spread and was pretty nice, compared to the other hot air balloon company waiting rooms, I think we made a good choice going with this company!
One of the main coordinators working there spoke so many languages. We heard him speak Japanese, Korean, Chinese, English, and Turkish. It’s amazing when people can speak so many languages!
We waited for about 20 minutes in the lounge and we got the OK that we were clear to fly. We all hopped into our respective vans and sped over to the flight departure spot. When we pulled up to our balloon, we got placed with another Japanese guy in our group, and then a huge Korean group. They basically grouped all the Asians together in one balloon! We found that kind of odd but hilarious at the same time.
We all filed into the balloon, and we heard the fire go off at the top, and all of us immediately ducked out of reaction and fear. It’s a really loud and terrifying noise that none of us are used to, so that made me feel even more anxious!
We took off and the scenery was really beautiful. I was trying to best enjoy it without feeling too freaked out, since we were up so high. As long as I didn’t look directly down, I was OK, and with views like this, it made me forget about being too scared.
Flying above all the fairy chimneys and seeing the sun rise was so surreal and beautiful. I would even say it’s a bucket list thing to do, as the views and experience are truly unforgettable. It’s actually one of the activities where you want it to be filled with other tourists because that means the sky is filled with other colorful balloons in the sky!
After about 30 minutes, we started to descend, and we were told that wind conditions were picking up making it unsafe to fly. It was a little upsetting, as our full allotted time was for an hour, but I’m glad they put our safety first. The rest of the balloons around us also started to land, so it wasn’t just our balloon that had to cut their flight short. The pilots of the balloons are very skilled and somehow manage to steer and land the balloon directly on top of the back bed of a pickup truck!
We landed safely and got our flight certificates, complete with champagne and sweets to celebrate!
Happy to say that despite my concerns and fears of flying in a hot air balloon, it was a really great experience and I highly recommend you add it to your itinerary if you’re planning to visit Turkey. It’s most definitely worth the breathtaking views and experience!
Here’s a quick video recap of our breathtaking balloon ride!