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.
Are you wondering how to take part? How about what happens if you drop your camera from your hot air balloon?
Harnessing my less-than-perfect (yet wonderful) time in Cappadocia, I’ll share more information than you ever thought you’d need to know about the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride.
Spoiler alert: This post contains tips to help you manage your expectations. Yes, expectations often need to be in check to avoid a heartbreaking Cappadocia hot air balloon experience.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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 50+ 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 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.
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 I recommend walking if your abilities allow. Be prepared to pay the locals a small fee in cash, giving you access to the road leading to the lookout point.
If you plan on riding in a hot air balloon, you’re in the right place. But for now, know that you must schedule your hot air balloon ride for your first morning in Cappadocia. I’ll get into the “why” behind this shortly.
Do the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons Operate at Sunrise or Sunset?
The Cappadocia hot air balloons only operate 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 time). You can view this chart to determine what time the sun will rise in Cappadocia according to your travel date.
Start Time of the Hot Air Balloon rides in Cappadocia
Now you know you’ll take 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 4:15 am.
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 5:30 am and the sun rose at 5:41 am.
Important: When to Book Your Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride
Of all the topics I’m sharing in this post, this is the most important.
Book your Cappadocia hot air balloon in advance and schedule it 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.
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 on my first full day in Cappadocia. But it was a close call, and I wouldn’t want the same to happen to you.
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.
That’s because the hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia get canceled if the wind is over 10 km/hour.
Cancellations happen more often than any photo online would lead you to believe.
Booking a hot air balloon ride for your first full day in Cappadocia circles back to the importance of securing your spot in advance. When the rides are canceled, there can be over 100 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.
How Frequently Do the Hot Air Balloon Rides in Cappadocia Get Canceled?
The hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia get canceled very frequently.
However, the most frequent hot air balloon cancellations happen from December to March since these are the windiest months in Cappadocia. Nonetheless, it isn’t guaranteed that you’ll be able to take your hot air balloon tour if you travel outside these months.
I recommend reading my SOS guide on Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Cancellations 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:
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.
I met a couple who had traveled to Capadoccia a few years prior, 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.
2023 Update: I met someone during my travels recently who said he traveled to Cappadocia in the winter. He met people who had already been waiting one week for the hot air balloons to fly without luck. By the time he left, the flights were still getting canceled daily due to poor weather conditions.
How Much Time to Spend in Cappadocia
Given the examples above, you’ve probably gathered that it’s important to build in a few mornings in Cappadocia as buffers in case the hot air balloon rides are canceled due to the weather.
I recommend spending at least 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 easily 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 bad 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 during a designated timeframe. 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 other vans at this hour doing the same. It’s quite a sight.
They’ll drive you to a countryside spot a short drive from Göreme, where you’ll get to watch your hot air balloon being filled with air while munching on some complimentary snacks, coffee, and tea 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 hot air balloon fill, and the surrounding balloons scattered about come to life with fire, was just as amazing as the ride itself.
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 leave 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 lingering in the (metaphorical) air.
Getting Into the Basket
Eventually, the moment will come when 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 the balloon balanced and guarantees a spot along the edge without 27 other people crowding around you.
The Best Place To Be in the Basket
As mentioned before, 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, I recommend not worrying about what section of the Cappadocia balloon you climb into. The hot air balloon drivers do an amazing job of slowly spinning the basket to ensure everyone gets 360-degree views.
Length of the Cappadocia Balloon Ride
Most Cappadocia 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 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 some 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 and photos of your own balloon in the daylight.
FAQs About the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride
Now that I’ve introduced you to 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 said, if you have a question I haven’t addressed here, leave it in the comments section and I’ll be happy to get back to you.
What happens if I drop my phone/camera/whatever from the hot air balloon?
If you drop a valuable out of your hot air balloon in Cappadocia, there’s a good chance you’ll get it back.
Our hot air balloon guide told us that a woman once dropped her cell phone from 450 meters in the air. Thanks to the balloon’s GPS tracking system, he sent a staff member 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 in Cappadocia 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 low season, 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 that the balloon produces?
The fire in the hot air balloon isn’t on the entire time. However, when it’s 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.
What’s the price of the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride?
Pricing for the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride varies greatly. You’re at the mercy of the tour agencies, and they know it. That’s especially the case during high season and 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 whether it’s the high season/low season.
As a rough estimate, you can expect to spend between $150 – $250+ USD per person for a one-hour Cappadocia 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. If you’re short on time, watch the video below for a 2-minute rundown of these price hacks.
Do I get my money back if the hot air balloon ride gets canceled?
You should get your money back if the Cappadocia hot air balloon ride gets canceled. Make sure to talk with your agency about how they go about offering a refund 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 your Cappadocia balloon ride 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 that you run the risk of spaces being sold out.
What about the Cappadocia scams I’ve heard about?
If you’re traveling elsewhere in Turkey before arriving in 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 with this.
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 a fake balloon booking.
How should I dress for the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia?
You should dress for your Cappadocia balloon ride with clothes that allow 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’m speaking from experience here).
Cappadocia is chilly on summer mornings and downright cold the rest of the year. Pants and long sleeve shirts/jackets are best.
That being said, dressing in layers is wise in case you get warm when the fire is on in the balloon.
Because it was so pretty, below are some photos I took during my three mornings in Cappadocia.
Get Ready for an Amazing Experience
I was excited about writing this post since I enjoyed my hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia so much, and I hope it’s been useful for you.
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 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 for a trip hiccup with my SOS guide on Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Cancellations