Turkey is a culturally dynamic country, straddling two continents and brimming with otherworldly landscapes. We’ve all seen images of candle floss skies, full of colorful hot air balloons that hover above rugged lunarscapes, but where can you see hot air balloons in Turkey?
Hot air ballooning is high on many people’s bucket lists, and it’s not hard to see why. You’ll be pleased to know that Turkey is one of the world’s premier hot air ballooning destinations and there are several great spots to go for a ride around the country. Still, Cappadocia is one of the most famous on the globe. With the fairy chimneys, river valleys, and canyons, Cappadocia is a magical sight to behold from the sky and the annual flying festivals draw visitors from all around the world.
Our ultimate guide has everything you need to know about hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia from what to wear, when to go, and most importantly, which spots provide the best views. Let’s get into it.
Where can you see hot air balloons in Turkey?
Turkey is famous for a lot of reasons. What one traveler might know it for could be completely different to the next, and that’s why it lives rent-free on so many people’s bucket lists. Where southeast Europe meets Western Asia is a place of aromatic cuisine, bazaars, hammams and carpets, but it’s also peppered with ancient cities, Mediterranean resorts, and desert landscapes.
Turkey is transcontinental and has changed hands countless times over the years. You’ll find elements of the Ottoman Empire living in harmony with early Christian architecture, along with Greek and Roman ruins and 82,000 mosques. It’s hard to pin down Turkey’s culture, yet it’s undeniably distinct at the same time. Each region has its own emblems, but synonymous with central Turkey are the panoramic views of Cappadocia’s hot air balloon skies, balanced against far-reaching valleys of volcanic rock formations.
Cappadocia is the best-known region in Turkey for hot air ballooning, and actually the most popular location in the world for the activity. More than half of the world’s hot air balloon trips take place there, and almost 500,000 people take to the skies every year. In the high season, hundreds of balloons engulf the horizon, but Cappadocia is also one of the only places in the world where you can balloon nearly all year round.
Still, the historical region in Central Anatolia is vast and actually touches five Turkish provinces spreading out around hills, valleys, and mountains. Some areas of Cappadocia are better for hot air ballooning than others, but the Göreme valley is probably the most recognizable with its ancient rock caves, castles, cone-shaped fairy chimneys, and hot air balloon viewpoints.
How to get to Cappadocia
Despite many travelers’ assumptions, Cappadocia isn’t a city nor a town and is actually an expansive region in the center of Turkey. It extends from Kayseri to Aksaray, where most of the monuments are located. Cappadocia is situated around three hours southeast of Turkey’s capital of Ankara and much of the region is rural and barren. Still, it shouldn’t be hard to reach.
Cappadocia has become a popular tourist destination over the decades and there are two airports in the region for visitors to fly into. Kayseri Airport, also known as Erkilet International Airport (ASR), as well as Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV) both welcome daily domestic flights from Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, and Izmir, among other cities. Istanbul to Kayseri is one of the most popular routes and takes just over one hour. Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines both operate regular flights.
Which airport you choose won’t make a massive difference to your trip, since both are around 30 to 40 minutes away from Cappadocia’s main towns of Göreme and Uçhisar. Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport is the newer, arguably better-organized, and closer one to western Europe, but Kayseri is busier and receives more Turkish Airlines flights. Still, whichever offers you the best deal is the airport to go for.
Best places to see hot air balloons in Turkey
There aren’t many places outside of Cappadocia to see hot air balloons, but Cappadocia is very big and the tour you choose could make all the difference. For the best photography opportunities, you also might actually want to keep your feet on the ground because the only way you’ll capture a shot with hundreds of balloons in the frame is from one of the many spectacular viewpoints. Here are just a few:
Pamukkale is one of the only places not located in Central Turkey for hot air balloon rides. Meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, Pamukkale is one of the most beautiful sites of natural beauty in the country and unsurprisingly spectacular from above.
The town in western Turkey is best known for its mineral-rich thermal waters that flow down bleached travertine terraces. Pamukkale also neighbors Hierapolis, the ancient Roman spa city dating back to 190 BC. The well-preserved ruins include a roman theater, antique pool, roman columns, and a necropolis with sarcophagi that stretch for two kilometers. All of the wonders of these sites can be enjoyed from a hot air balloon.
You can organize tours from Antalya and Izmir, located around 240km from Pamukkale, or you can stay in the town itself. Although underrated, hot air balloon tours from Pamukkale are just as bucket-list-worthy as those in Cappadocia, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to beat the crowds.
By far the best-known spot for seeing hot air balloons, not only in Cappadocia, but all of Turkey, is Göreme Valley and the hill just above the town is popular for sunrise and sunset panoramas. This hill can be seen from all over Göreme and is recognizable by the red Turkish flag at the top.
You have to pay 3TL to enter and the viewpoint is the busiest one in Cappadocia, even at the break of dawn. Still, Göreme Valley is a great spot if you want to arrange a ride for yourself. The village is complete with cave churches, the open-air Göreme museum, Uçhisar Castle to the southwest which is carved into a rock face, and Paşabağ Valley to the north, known for its landscapes of fairy chimneys that rise up from the valley floor. All of these sights are spectacular from the air, but the colorful balloons are just as magical from the viewpoint or nearby hotel terraces.
The official viewpoint at Love Valley is one of the best spots to look out across the sea of hot air balloons that fill the candy floss skies at sunrise and sunset in Cappadocia, but also to get up close and personal with the fairy chimneys. A lot of hot air balloons also take off and/or land here, but you’ll still find fewer people on the hillside than at the Göreme Valley viewpoint.
Love Valley is situated in between Avanos and Göreme road and it gets its name from the curious shape of the rock formations and also because it has become quite a popular proposal spot.
The towering fairy chimneys that you can see from the hillside above this hidden valley, and from the skies, were formed some 60 million years ago from eroded volcanic ash. Some of them reach heights of 100 feet (30 meters), and the valley is a true highlight and emblem of Cappadocia.
It takes around 60 minutes on foot from Göreme if you’re up for an early morning walk, but it’s also reachable by car.
Located between Göreme and Çavuşin, Rose Valley is Cappadocia’s peak sunset viewpoint where tourists and quads flock to watch the sun disappear behind the horizon and the hundreds of hot air balloons in the air at the same time. It only takes around half an hour to walk to Rose Valley from Göreme and the late afternoon should provide the perfect conditions for a leisurely walk, without the pressure of the midday sun.
Rose Valley is also busy at sunrise even though the sun appears from behind the viewpoint. It is a take-off point for lots of balloons too for this reason. It gets its name from the pink hue that the sun casts across the rocks at various times in the day.
Best time to see hot air balloons in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is one of the only places in the world where hot air ballooning is a year-round affair. Still, the weather can vary greatly and you might be surprised to hear that this barren desert and its arid canyons are no stranger to snowfall.
Hot air ballooning is dependent on atmospheric conditions, but you can usually guarantee a ride if you visit from the end of April until November, with balloons still going up during winter, but less frequently. March to June and September to November are often considered the best times to go on a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia when the sun is less scorching and the summer crowds aren’t at their peak.
High winds at the beginning of April mean trips are often canceled. We recommend allowing at least two of three mornings for a potential hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia to accommodate cancellations. If taking to the skies is high on your agenda, the last thing you want to do is only free up one morning of your trip as you could be disappointed if the weather doesn’t pull through.
Unbeknownst to most, Cappadocia also becomes somewhat of a winter wonderland around Christmas time and snowfall is common from December through to March. This might make those sunrise mornings waiting for your hot air balloon ride to be that little bit more bone-chilling, but if you do get up, it will certainly be worth it because Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys and far-reaching valleys are a whole different level of magical under a blanket of snow.
However, if you’re hell-bent on hot air ballooning, only visit in winter if you have at least five spare mornings in Cappadocia just in case of unfavorable weather conditions for taking to the skies.
What to wear in Cappadocia
Cappadocia might be a sizzling summer destination, with a desert climate and average highs above 90 degrees from June to September, but that doesn’t mean you should underestimate the morning cold. With deserts come very cold nights, and if you want the best hot air balloon experience, you’ll have to set off while it is still dark in order to catch the sunrise. This means you could be standing around waiting to get the all-clear for your ride to go ahead in temperatures of less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and much lower in winter.
Be sure to back a light jacket and another warm layer like a jumper or cardigan, just in case, even if you’re visiting in summer. Your tour operator might provide blankets, but ask ahead, and bring one from your hotel if not if you want to be extra cozy. And if you’re heading to Cappadocia between December and March, we recommend wearing a big winter coat for your hot air balloon ride.
Turkey is also a majoritively Muslim country. Although Cappadocia isn’t particularly conservative, women should avoid very form-fitting clothes, short skirts, dresses, and hot pants, especially when visiting religious sites – of which there are many in the region.
7 Things to Know Before You Go to Cappadocia
- The currency is Turkish Lira – Although Turkey is partly located in Europe, Turkish Lira is the currency, not Euros, so you should make sure to get your hands on enough TL before visiting Cappadocia. There aren’t many official currency exchange places in Cappadocia, and for this reason, some tours will offer payment in Euro and even dollars, but you’re likely to get a better rate if you have Turkish Lira and pay in the local currency.
- There are few places to get a sim – There aren’t many places in town to get a sim either. All the hotels will have wifi, but make sure you download local maps before you venture out on a hike as you don’t want to get caught without service and not know where you are. Cappadocians might be very friendly and always willing to offer a hand, but a lot of the hiking region is sparse and uninhabited.
- The Museum Pass – This is a great card to purchase if you’re in Cappadocia for a few days. The pass is accepted at many of the main tourist attractions like Göreme’s open-air museum, the Dark Church, Derinkuyu Underground City, Zelve Archaeological Site, and Ihlara Valley. Better yet, purchase the Museum Pass Turkey if you’re visiting any other cities in the country for some big savings.
- It gets cold – No matter how hot the daily temperature is predicted to be, Cappadocia can feel freezing at night, especially when you set off for your hot air balloon ride. Make sure to pack warm clothes and wrap up before you step out.
- More than 100 balloons fly in the morning – To ensure that enough people get the chance to ride (as many as 2,000 a day), hundreds of balloons take to the skies every morning in Cappadocia. If you think this would make things feel crowded, think again. The number of balloons is actually part of Cappadocia’s unique appeal. Embrace the magic and give surrounding passengers a wave!
- Book in advance – Hot air ballooning is the thing to do here, so we recommend booking your trip months in advance. You might not be able to predict the weather, but this is even more of a reason to book. We recommend scheduling a trip for your first morning in Cappadocia, so if the conditions aren’t right, your operator can reschedule for the following days until they are.
- It’s not cheap – Different companies offer different prices, but as one of the most popular attractions in Turkey, a hot air balloon ride will go for anywhere between 200 Euros per person, to 2,500 Euros for a private basket. Prices are usually fixed, so don’t expect discounts. However, the experience will be worth it, so we recommend reserving a portion of your budget for your ride.
Do you need a car in Cappadocia?
You won’t need a car in Cappadocia, for the most part, with many of the attractions accessible by foot and public transport. That said, you will need private transport to get to most of the hot air balloon launch zones, but the tour operator that you book through should provide a pick-up and drop-off service from your hotel. You can avoid renting a car if you want, but you should be prepared to pay for a few taxis on your visit.
Are hot air balloons safe?
They may look daunting, but hot air balloons are, statistically, a very safe way to travel in the air, and are considered to be much safer than airplanes and helicopters. There are around 3,000 hot air balloon accidents per year, but thanks to the slow speed of travel, close proximity to the ground, and parachute design, fatalities are rare. Less than 30 people have died in the last two decades from hot air balloon crashes.
When was the first hot air balloon ride in Turkey?
The first commercial hot air balloon ride in Turkey was only three decades ago, even though thermal aircrafts have been used since the late 18th century. Lars-Eric Möre and Kaili Kidner started the craze in Cappadocia in 1991, and since then, more than 25 companies and 200 balloons have popped up over Cappadocia’s lands.