My Turkish Adventure - Part 1

A group villa holiday to Kalkan was always our summer 2023 plan; adding on a few extra nights to tick off the highest thing on our bucket list was only a dream… However, we should have known that planning holidays in the deepest, darkest, dampest of January’s can result in the occasional spontaneous decision. Fast forward to July, I was embarking on a girls only, once-in-a-lifetime trip to the magical land of Cappadocia, Turkey! 

There’s no direct way to reach Cappadocia or even Keyseri, the entry point for this region; it’s pretty much in the centre of Turkey, which may put some people off, but not us – we love an adventure! There were plenty of airfares with good connections that would get us to balloon-land and then onto our final destination of Kalkan; London > Istanbul (3.5 hours) > Kayseri (1 hour) with a 3.5 hour connection in Istanbul airport, which isn’t a bad place to have some free time to kill. In fact, we’d recommend a minimum connection time of 2 hours – it’s a pretty big airport and you may have a distance to travel between your terminals and gates.

Day 1 - The Journey

Not that Cappadocia needed any more reasons to be appealing, but another advantage is that it has two airport gateways – Kayseri (90 minutes) and Nevsehir (60 minutes); the latter is a little closer in distance to the spot everyone aims for. Turkish Airlines are known for having the best and most routes in the world; recently, we had a great experience flying with them all the way to South Africa, so I knew they would serve us well for this trip, too. 

The journey was seamless! Our domestic flight arrived into Kayseri around 4pm, where we were met by our private transfer and driver. Sidenote, but all of our transfers within Turkey were extremely comfortable and of a very high standard – USB charging points, WiFi, bottles of water and cold towels, bluetooth speakers and more space than we needed. Once we left the high-rise city of Kayseri behind, the landscape soon changed and became much more scenic and ‘lunar like’ the closer we got to the picturesque valleys we’d until now, only seen in images. 

Once we arrived in the small town of Uchisar, we checked into our hotel. Whilst I love a modern property, we chose to stay in an authentic cave hotel, as this is part of the charm with any trip to Cappadocia. We yearned for the famous orange-tinged rooftop views and traditional cave-in-the-rocks facing out towards the sunrise skies, and that’s exactly what we got. A room upgrade to a king suite with private whirlpool, viewing patio and delicious local red wine with olives on arrival was of course a bonus. It didn’t take us long to realise we had made a great decision in adding Cappadocia to our Turkey itinerary! 

I wasn’t sure if the towns and villages of Cappadocia would live up to very much, wondering if the focus would solely be on the hot air ballooning element. I was very wrong. Uchisar was small and compact, yet after a little research we found a highly-rated restaurant within walking distance, serving all the traditional Turkish food we’d been talking (drooling) about since our day of travelling began at 4am! Unfortunately, the first evening wasn’t the night to explore the streets of Uchisar any further, as our alarm was set for an early morning adventure.

Day 2 - The Flight

Balloon morning. Pick up: 03:45am

The day began with being taken to a spot in town to check-in for our ‘flight’. The process was easy and we got to enjoy a light breakfast with tea and coffee before transferring to the airfield, for around 04:45am. The air temperature was around 15-16ºC – cool, but not freezing (this of course alters throughout the year) – fortunately we were dressed accordingly, knowing it would feel cooler in the air but then much warmer by the time we landed and the sun was high in the sky.

Once we arrived at the airfield, excitement kicked in; the conditions were perfect. We had been briefed by a lovely lady who informed us of the history of Cappadocia ballooning, what to expect from our flight and the rough route we would take. This can never be exact as it’s very much determined by the wind directions and speed; the only thing the pilots can control is how high the balloons will climb. Our pilot was very experienced and knowledgeable, as he informed us of how to prepare for take-off and landing. All of the safety procedures were thorough with lots of hands-on-deck preparing the balloon itself. Before take-off we were allowed to actually step inside the balloon and walk around, which was rather cool!

Watching the balloons prepare for flight on the ground, firing up, then slowly floating up around us one by one was the most fascinating sight. With dawn breaking, it added to the magic of the moment, yet it was very peaceful and calm. Balloons were appearing from every angel, popping up over the hills and rocks. There were 16 people in total in our basket, split into parties of 4, across 4 compartments with the pilot & co-pilot in the centre. There was space to move around a little and rotate who was positioned on the outside edge etc. This is the average number; some take more, some take less which is reflected in the cost of the experience. 

Take off: 05:30am – It was our turn to take flight and drift up amongst the scattered clouds and hundreds of other balloons. We were waved off by the helpful team on the ground; perfectly timed in that as soon as we were in the air, the glowing red sun creeped over the horizon. Having experienced a hot air balloon flight twice before – once in South Africa and once in Kenya – I instantly knew that Cappadocia was my favourite and I probably wouldn’t need to do any more… but never say never!

This place is special because of its landscape – the fairy chimneys, craters, pink-tinted rock formations, deep valleys and unique towns adorned with caves, all created a spectacular sight from the air. We drifted and floated through the sky for around an hour – soaring high, then low, then high again – balloons above and below us, continuously rotating 360º to take in all the views and capturing as many pictures as our cameras would allow! Every angel was breathtaking and even better than I imagined.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, it was time to gradually make our descent towards a similar area to where others were landing. Geographically, we had no idea how near (or far) we were to our original spot! It’s impressive to witness all the vans on the ground follow the balloons to their landing locations. Ours was incredibly sleek & skillfull, landing directly onto the trailer with the same team of men supporting the basket and escorting us safely back to the ground. This was followed by fizz and a little more breakfast. As the team gathered the balloon together like a giant parachute, we were presented with a ‘flying’ certificate and medal as a souvenir. A wonderful bucket-list experience from start to finish, one you simple must add to your own.

Cappadocia Facts;

  • Hot air ballooning is all year round, May to October being the peak season
  • The average cost of a hot air balloon flight is £200-300 depending on the amount of people 
  • There are over 25 balloon companies in Cappadocia
  • There are 100-150 balloons in the air every morning

Day 3 - The View

One thing that’s not certain before you travel to Cappadocia is the exact time the balloons will float up into the sky. We set our alarm in-line with the previous day; seeing as sunrise was at 05:30am, we assumed a 05:15am alarm would be about right… I’ve never jumped out of bed at that time in the morning as quickly! At 05:20am we opened the curtains to an already glowing red sky dotted with balloon shaped silhouettes. Despite the quick burst & panic, it was a magical and beautiful sight to witness, made better by experiencing it with those closest to me. We headed up onto the hotel’s rooftop terrace to witness in real life what we’d seen in reels and travel blogs. The terrace was exclusive to hotel guests only, which is the case for all the luxury cave hotels. We were in awe of the terracotta rooftops, balloons that you can almost touch and Uchisar castle as a backdrop. Watching the colourful balloons grace the air from the ground was just as mesmerising as being at 2,000ft.

Depending on how much time you have in Cappadocia there are plenty of other things to do besides ballooning. Popular activities include;

  • Horseback riding through Rose Valley
  • Hiking
  • Quad biking
  • Exploring the town of Göreme, getting lost in a maze of rugs and bazaars

Göreme is the biggest Cappadocia hot spot – much bigger than Uchisar – and are only 5 minutes drive apart. It features lots of popular cave hotels, with very cool rooftops boasting stunning city views for cocktails and balloon viewing, as well as fantastic cuisine spots that were recommended by the locals. 

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia was certainly worth travelling over 3,000km for; it was worth waking up in the middle of the night for (three days in a row) and exploring a more untouched area of Turkey. It was worth the ‘hype’ – a truly magical land which since we shared our trip, we’ve already been fortunate to plan similar itineraries for our clients. Of course, we travel for our own adventures too, but this is exactly why we make these trips; to inspire others to do the same. So for any more information about this incredible destination, get in touch to start planning your adventure.

Where to stay in Cappadocia?

Doors of cappadocia

Family run, located in the National Park of Göreme. An authentic structure with an open-air pool offering unobstructed views of sunrise and sunset. All the rooms are carved into the rocks and come with modern furniture, air conditioning and spa baths.  

Museum Hotel

Panoramic valley views make this Relais & Châteaux hotel special and historic. With antique furnishings, a heated outdoor pool and wine taps in some of the rooms, this hotel guarantees a unique cave stay and is a firm favourite in Uchisar for a touch of luxury.

Ariana Luxury Lodge

A sublime eco-boutique hideaway in the hills of ancient Cappadocia; Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge is a golden-hued, contemporary hotel immersed in an ancient landscape. Feast on fresh, seasonal menus in The Plum Restaurant, accompanied by spectacular views.

Book with us today

Now is always the best time to book your next holiday and we’re here to take all of your stress away. Simply get in touch with our travel experts for an initial consultation and whether you need a little inspiration or know exactly what you want – with a little help from us – you’ll soon be jetting off to your next destination.