Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride: What to Expect

You’ve seen the pictures.  Dozens of hot air balloons floating around Cappadocia.  The perfect sunset lighting…or is it sunrise?  People perfectly posed with plates of Turkish food looking up at the balloons. Wondering how to take part? How about what happens if you drop your camera from the hot air balloon? Get ready for a fun story! This guide will give you more information than you ever thought you’d need about the Cappadocia hot air balloon experience as well as tips to help manage your expectations. 

Accessible Travel Note: The hot air balloons aren’t wheelchair accessible.  However, there’s a great lookout point in Göreme that will get you practically within arm’s reach of the floating balloons.  Read our post on 10 Amazing Accessible Things to do in Cappadocia for details.

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Is the hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia worth it?

This post will bring up some hard-to-swallow truths about the hot air balloons in Cappadocia.  Before we get into them, however, let’s start with the good.

Going to Cappadocia, whether to observe the hot air balloons from the ground or to ride in one, is very much worth it.

In fact, of all the experiences I’ve had in the fifty countries I’ve visited to date, Cappadocia ranks among my top five favorites.

Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons: Riding vs. Watching

There are two ways to soak in the Cappadocia hot air balloon experience- watching the balloons from the ground and/or riding in one. 

If the thought of riding in a hot air balloon makes you queasy, let me be the first to reassure you that you’ll have an incredible experience by watching the balloons from the ground. 

Thanks to a lookout point in Göreme, you’ll be high enough where the hot air balloons will float just feet away from you.

Hot air balloon flying over the Göreme lookout point in Cappadocia.

To get to the lookout point, you can either drive to the parking lot near the viewing area or hike up from Göreme town.  Traffic is standstill around the lookout point, so walking is ideal.  Be prepared to pay a small fee in cash (around 3 Lira) which will give you access to the road leading to the lookout point.

If you plan on riding in a hot air balloon, I’m going to give you more details about it here than you ever thought you’d need.  But for now, know that you must schedule your hot air balloon ride for your first morning in Cappadocia.  We’ll get into the “why” behind this soon.

Do the Cappadocia hot air balloons operate at sunrise or sunset?

The Cappadocia hot air balloons only run at sunrise.  The reason being is that the hot air balloons can’t fly if the wind is over 10 km/hour. Since the wind picks up as the day goes on, morning is your only chance.

The time of sunrise will vary significantly depending on what month you’re in Cappadocia.

If getting up early isn’t your thing, avoid traveling during the summer (June requires getting up at the earliest times).  You can view a chart of sunrise times according to date here.

Hot air balloons taking off before sunrise in Cappadocia.

Start time of the hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia

We’ve established that you’ll be taking your hot air balloon ride in the morning.  But, just how early is early?

I took my hot air balloon ride on August 1st and was picked up from my hotel at 4:15am.

Yikes.

Doesn’t this give you a better appreciation for all those perfectly put together Cappadocia goers on your Instagram feed?

As a reference to help you calculate your potential pickup time based on the time of year you’ll be traveling, on August 1st my hot air balloon took off around 5:30am and the sun rose at 5:41am.

Important: When to book your Cappadocia hot air balloon ride

Of all the topics we’ll discuss in this post, the one in this section is the most important.

Book your Cappadocia hot air balloon in advance and for the first morning you’ll be there.

Let’s first talk about booking in advance.

It’s important to book your Cappadocia hot air balloon in advance because all 150 hot air balloons can (and do) sell out. 

In fact, this happened to me because I waited to book my ride until I arrived in Cappadocia.  With a stroke of luck, availability opened on the waiting list and I was able to take the hot air balloon ride my first full day in Cappadocia.

Why book the hot air balloon for your first morning?

Since you’ll do better than me and book your hot air balloon ride in advance, you’re probably wondering why you need to book the ride for your first morning in Cappadocia.

It’s because the hot air balloon rides get canceled if the wind is over 10 km/hour.  This happens more frequently than any photo online would lead you to believe.

Booking a hot air balloon ride for your first full day in Cappadocia circles back around to the importance of securing your spot in advance; when the rides are canceled, there can literally be hundreds of people trying to book the same ride for the next day.

Now, let’s look at this situation in reverse.

By booking the hot air balloon ride for your first morning in Cappadocia, you would have the chance to try to reschedule for the next day, should the ride get canceled.

A hot air balloon with a blue sky backdrop.

How frequently do the hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia get canceled?

Very frequently. 

However, the most frequent hot air balloon cancellations happen December – March since these are the windiest months in Cappadocia. Nonetheless, it’s far from guaranteed that you’ll be able to take your hot air balloon tour if you travel outside these months.

I recommend reading our SOS guide on Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Cancellations in advance so you’re prepared with how to handle weather-related cancellations before you travel.

Let me give you two examples to help set your expectations:

Example #1

I traveled in the summer, which is typically the best condition for hot air balloon rides.  Upon my arrival, I was told that all three mornings were “iffy” about whether or not the hot air balloons would run, since each morning showed a wind speed of 9 km/hour. 

To everyone’s pleasant surprise, the weather cooperated so that the balloons operated all three mornings that I was in Cappadocia.

Example #2: 

A couple traveled to Capadoccia a few years ago, and the hot air balloon rides were canceled for the two mornings they were there.  The same couple returned to Cappadocia shortly before my arrival, and again, the hot air balloons were canceled all the mornings they were there. 

Hot air balloons flying over a scenic Cappadocia countryside landscape.

How much time to spend in Cappadocia

Given the examples above, you’ve probably gathered by now that it’s important to build in a few mornings in Cappadocia as buffers, should there be cancellations.

I personally recommend spending three nights, which will give you three mornings in Cappadocia. 

The good news is that there are plenty of things to do around Cappadocia. In fact, you could even spend four nights there, especially if you enjoy hiking.

Because it can’t be reiterated enough, let’s put this in a travel tip box.

Travel Tip: Book your hot air balloon ride for your first morning in Cappadocia. Stay at least a few mornings in Cappadocia, should weather cause cancellations.

A peek into the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride experience

Now that you know the ins and outs of booking your hot air balloon ride, let me walk you through the experience.

Your hot air balloon agency will pick you up from your hotel at a designated…ahem, somewhat flexible…time.  You’ll then weave through the streets of Göreme, picking up your fellow hot air balloon companions.

The streets in Göreme will be filled with white vans at this hour doing the same. It’s quite a sight.

You’ll be driven to a countryside spot a short drive from Göreme where you’ll get to watch your hot air balloon being filled while munching on some complimentary snacks, coffee, and tea that you can grab from the breakfast table that your agency will have set up. This is the same drill, regardless of the agency you choose.

For me, watching my balloon fill, and the surrounding balloons scattered about come to life with fire, was just as amazing as the ride itself.

Hot air balloons filling up before takeoff.

Confession: I was on edge about whether or not they’d get us up in the air before sunrise.  They did, as did most balloons. However, based on all three mornings I was in Cappadocia, I can comfortably say that there are stragglers who miss being in the air for sunrise. 

It’s easy to see how missing sunrise can happen- someone being late to come out of their hotel, issues with blowing up the balloon, late employees, etc.  Until we got in the air, there was a sense of urgency for timing among the staff in the (metaphorical) air.

Getting in the basket

A hot air balloon with fire ignited waiting for people to get in the basket.

At last, the moment will come- the hot air balloon staff will motion your group to get into the balloon.

People got a little crazy trying to be the first ones in the basket, but their effort ended up being unnecessary.

The hot air balloon basket is divided into sections, with holes in the basket to put your feet in so that you can climb into it.  In my particular balloon, the basket could hold 28 people plus two crew members.  

The section division keeps both the balloon in balance and guarantees a spot along the edge without 27 other people crowding around you.

The best place to be in the basket

As mentioned above, you don’t have to worry about being stuck in the middle of the basket without an edge to peer over.

However, I loved having a corner spot because it gave me the advantage of having a greater range of unobstructed views.

Nonetheless, my recommendation is to not worry about what section you end up climbing into. The hot air balloon drivers do an amazing job of slowly spinning the basket to make sure that everyone gets 360-degree views.

A basket of a hot air balloon in Cappadocia.

Length of the balloon ride

Most hot air balloon rides last one hour.  They’ll get you up in the air shortly before sunrise.  By the time you land, it will be entirely light out. 

That being said, you can book a hot air balloon ride that lasts longer.  In fact, by the time you’re dropped off at your hotel for the standard one hour ride, there will likely be a few balloons still in the air.  Nonetheless, they all stop flying by around two hours after sunrise.

The jolted landing

Before you take off, your hot air balloon driver will run you through a demonstration of how to prepare for landing. 

You’ll need to grab the two handles inside the basket, squat down, and lean firmly against the side of the basket.  You’ll literally be bracing for the landing. They told us it could be a rough one. 

I can only speak for my landing, but it ended up being a tiny bump that left everyone in the basket saying “that was it?”

Upon landing, they’ll have champagne waiting for you.  You’ll then have a bit of free time to roam around whatever countryside area you landed in.  It’s a great opportunity to take photos of the balloons still in the air as well as photos of your own balloon in the daylight.

A table with champagne which greeted us after the hot air balloon ride.
Champagne will be offered to you after your hot air balloon ride.

Q & A

Now that we’ve run through the experience of taking the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, I would imagine you still have questions.  Below is a little Q & A I’ve put together for you. That being said, if you have a question I haven’t addressed here, leave it in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.  You’ll be helping others, too!

What happens if I drop my phone/camera/whatever from the hot air balloon?

I promised you an answer to this question in the introduction and it was worth the wait, for the answer is a fun one.  If you drop a valuable out of the hot air balloon, there’s a good chance you’ll get it back. 

Our hot air balloon guide told us that a woman dropped her cell phone from 450 meters in the air. Thanks to the balloon’s GPS tracking system, he sent a staff member on the ground to find it.  Even more miraculous than the staff member finding it?  The cell phone was still working!

How high up do the hot air balloons in Cappadocia go?

The hot air balloons go up to 750 meters.  The balloons usually go up to this height around sunrise.  Your driver will then gradually drop your balloon down so that you float between the fairy chimneys.

What’s the best time of year to take a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia?

In terms of having the highest chance for the hot air balloon rides to run, the best time of year to travel to Cappadocia is in the summer.  This corresponds with the high season for tourism.

During the spring, you’ll encounter the highest chance of hot air balloon cancellations. However, you’ll also get to enjoy fewer crowds. If you travel during the winter, there’s the possibility that you could float over a snow-kissed Cappadocia.

Will I get hot from the fire the balloon produces?

The fire isn’t on the entire time.  However, when it is on, your back can get quite warm.  More likely than not, the warmth will be welcome.  I was surprised that even in the summer, despite days in the 100-degree range, the morning was chilly.

A hot air balloon floating near passersby.

What’s the price of the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride?

Pricing varies greatly.  You’re at the mercy of these agencies, and they know it, especially during high season and/or periods when there are multiple days of canceled flights. 

Factors that go into pricing include the number of people in the balloon (smaller group sizes are more expensive), how long a ride you’d like (one hour is the standard, but there are longer options), and high season/low season.  As a rough estimate, you can expect to spend between $120 – $250 USD per person for a one hour ride with a large group.

Note that if you book your hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, almost all pricing is given in Euro.

Don’t miss my guide on 11 Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Price Hacks for tips on getting the best deal.

Short on time? Click on the video below for a 2-minute rundown of these price hacks instead.

Do I get my money back if the hot air balloon ride gets canceled?

Yes.  Make sure to talk with your agency about how they go about offering a refund and/or rescheduling your flight for the next day, according to your preference.

How far in advance should I book my Cappadocia hot air balloon ride?

If you’re traveling during the summer, you should aim to book at least a month in advance.  Remember, book your ride for the very first morning that you’ll be in Cappadocia so that you have buffer mornings, should your flight be canceled.

Where can I book my Cappadocia hot air balloon ride? 

There are quite possibly more hot air balloon agencies for Cappadocia than there are locals in Göreme. 

Oftentimes, hotels will offer the option to book Cappadocia hot air balloon rides when you make your reservation.  You can also book your hot air balloon ride in person in Göreme, as I did, but remember, you run the risk of spaces being sold out.

What about the Cappadocia scams I’ve heard about?

If you’ll be elsewhere in Turkey before traveling to Cappadocia, particularly in Istanbul and Pamukkale, chances are you’ll come across people trying to sell you hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia.  Be careful.  If you wish to book your hot air balloon ride while in Turkey, you should only do so at an agency’s office.  Otherwise, you could arrive in Cappadocia with a lighter wallet and no balloon booking.

How should I dress for the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia?

For starters, wear something that allows for ease of climbing into and out of the basket without sporting your underwear to your fellow hot air balloon riders (I went in a dress, so I may be speaking from experience here…). 

It’s chilly on summer mornings and downright cold the rest of the year.  Pants and long sleeve shirts/jackets are best.  That being said, you may want to dress in layers, in case you get warm when the fire is on in the balloon.

Photo Essay

Because it was so pretty, below are some other photos I took during my three mornings in Cappadocia.

A balloon preparing for takeoff.
A balloon preparing for takeoff.
Hot air balloons flying in Cappadocia just before sunrise.
Balloons flying just before sunrise.
A view of the sunrise from close to 750 meters in the air.
Our first glimpse of sunrise from around 750 meters in the sky.
A balloon floating among Cappadocia's fairy chimneys.
A balloon floating among Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys.
A view of Göreme town from the hot air balloon.
A view of Göreme town from the hot air balloon.
The hot air balloon I was in, which they started to deflate after our ride.
The hot air balloon I was in, which they started to deflate after our ride.
A view of hot air balloons still floating after my balloon landed in a beautiful countryside area.
A view of hot air balloons still floating after my balloon landed in a beautiful countryside area.
Hot air balloons filling with air before takeoff.
Hot air balloons filling with air before takeoff.
I took this photo from my hot air balloon.
I took this photo from my hot air balloon.
Many of the balloons float over the Göreme viewpoint.
Many of the balloons, like this one, float over the Göreme viewpoint.
Balloons floating among fairy chimneys.
Balloons floating among fairy chimneys above a horse farm.
The beautiful town of Göreme.
The beautiful town of Göreme.
Balloons deflating after sunrise.
Balloons deflating after sunrise.

Conclusion

I was really looking forward to writing this post since I enjoyed my hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia so very much.  Have you ever been on a hot air balloon ride?  How was your experience?  If you have any lingering questions about hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help.

Don’t forget! Secure the best hot air balloon price using this guide: 11 Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Price Hacks. And make sure to prepare yourself with our SOS guide on Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Cancellations

P.S.- Will you be traveling to Pamukkale before or after your trip to Cappadocia? If so, head over to our post on How to Take the Bus from Pamukkale to Cappadocia.