Cappadocia. The magical region in Turkey famous for its dreamy multitudes of hot air balloons floating over picturesque valleys and unique rock formations. It almost seems unreal. How can there possibly be such an amazing place on this planet?
Scared of heights? Don’t want to spend the (rather expensive) amount to actually have a hot air balloon ride? Don’t worry! Not everyone who goes to Cappadocia wants an actual ride on a hot air balloon. It’s also amazing just to wake up at sunrise and wait to see the hundreds of balloons fill the skies. (If you DO want to book an actual ride here is a post I found super informative.)
Disclaimer: VERY unfortunately we came at just about the only time that the hot air balloons were not taking off. Because of Coronavirus they cancelled the hot air balloons flights for a few months in 2020 (They’ll be starting again in September 2020). Fortunately there were still a few training pilots taking off as usual so I got to see some balloons (4). Better than none!
Cappadocia, often confused as being synonymous with Goreme, are actually two separate entities. Goreme is a city in the Cappadocia region and is one of many cave cities in the region.
Cappadocia has a long, ancient history, appearing in ancient Persian inscriptions, the New Testament, and the Talmud. It was even once a kingdom!
The area is famous for its beautifully colored valleys, incredible rocks eroded into a plethora of shapes, and endless underground cities and cave dwellings. Lovers of history, geology, and nature will certainly find endless amazing sites.
The hot air balloon rides which arguably made this region famous world wide actually only began in 1989! Now there are up to 100 hot air balloons that take off every morning at sunrise (and a few more joining after).
Where to Stay
The region of Cappadocia is filled with many historical cities; Urgup, Goreme, Selime, and more. The most popular among them being Goreme. It’s the hot air balloon hub and is easily accessible to most of the desired touristic activities in the area.
This region is famous for its authentic and unique cave hotels. People have been living in caves for thousands of years in Cappadocia (you can go hiking to cave churches, cave house, and a whole array of cave dwellings). They keep the authenticity by still offering beautiful hotels built inside of caves. Natural cooling system and amazing views, it is quite the experience.
We stayed at Elite Cave Suites, a beautiful hotel built inside the mountainside. Climbing all the way to the top of the cave, was our room with a small balcony and an incredible view.
Although there are a plethora of other amazing cave hotels, we really enjoyed our time there. The rooms were beautiful and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful.
Places to Watch the Balloons
My first question when I got to Goreme was WHERE CAN I SEE THE BALLOONS. I always saw the famous Instagram pictures with the surreal views and I wanted to make sure I could get the perfect shot as well. I even made a dress just for this beautiful place (Check out the post here) Despite the lack of balloons (Corona ruined the plans), I still was hoping to see at least a couple of balloons. I was in luck!!
1. Hotel Window – if you’re lucky enough to have a hotel with an amazing view (like we did) and you don’t want to wake up super early, you could just wake up, go to your window, and look out. Voila! Balloons! We went up to the Sunset Viewpoint to see the sunrise as well but still got a good look of the balloons when we went back to our hotel room.
2. Lookout Point at the Cave Hotels – Most of the cave hotels know how popular the famous photo shoot of the Hot air balloons at Cappadocia is and sooooo they have set up little corners where you can look out, have tea, and take pictures. During peak season however there will certainly be MANY people waiting in line to take their pictures.
3. Sunset Viewpoint – Since we went in major off-season, we decided to go to the Sunset Viewpoint (a 10 minute walk from our hotel) to get a birds eye view of the balloons taking off at sunrise. Since there weren’t too many guests at the hotel (Corona restrictions) they even let us borrow some traditional pillows and blankets to take with us to the hilltop. Make the picture super beautiful! Fun Fact: A couple was taking their wedding photos right next to us on the hilltop and even asked us to use our set up for their pictures!
To see the full post of this dress that I made SPECIFICALLY for Cappadocia click here: THE 3 OUTFITS I DESIGNED AND CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR MY TRIP TO TURKEY
When to Visit
The hot air balloons can be seen all year round! Even in the winter, with snow covering the rocks, you can still gaze upon the hot air balloons. However, the best time to visit Cappadocia is the summertime-from beginning of May to September. The weather is mild and comfortable, making it unlikely to have to worry about canceling balloon rides due rain, snow, or wind. The weather can get hot in the summer (around 32 degrees), but at night it’s still cool and comfortable.
When to see the balloons? Bad news for those who hate to wake up early! The balloons in Cappadocia take over every morning at sunrise (generally around 5:00-5:30) because that is when the wind conditions are the best. We climbed up to the viewpoint around 4:30 AM so we could set up our blanket and pillows and watch as the balloons set up at their take off points in the valley. By the time we decided to climb back down to the hotel room, they were still out, so if early sunrise isn’t your thing, they’ll still be floating around for a bit after!
How to Get There
Cappadocia is in the heartland of Turkey. About a 9 hour drive from Istanbul, there is always the option of a road trip or a bus ride (10-11 hours). However, as domestic flights are very cheap, I would recommend a flight. It is about 1 hour and is far more convenient in my opinion.
You can fly into Nevsehir or Kayseri airport. Nevsehir is much closer to Goreme, but the flights tend to be fewer and more expensive. Kayseri is about a one hour drive away. The taxi ride is a bit expensive (400 TL), so consider shuttles that run often (or can be arranged by your hotel) and are as cheap as 45 TL per person.
WEATHER – It can get chilly in the morning even in the summer. Even though it is super hot once the sun comes up, if you are going early morning before sunrise consider bringing a blanket or sweater.
EXPLORE -There are soooooooooooo many other amazing things to do in the area. Horse back riding, hiking, pink lakes, and more. Cappadocia is AMAZING. Check out this post for more ideas!
FOOD – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE eat at the best restaurant in the whole entire world! I’m really not kidding. The best meal I’ve ever had in my whole life was a cute little mom and pop on the way to the Sunset Lookout. Homemade, fresh food from the garden. Homemade wines. Fresh, tender meat. I never go back to the same restaurant twice while traveling, but here we really couldn’t resist. It’s right along the way to the lookout point, the husband and wife who run it are the sweetest, and as I have mentioned before, the food was OUT OF THIS WORLD.
CANCELLATIONS – Be aware that sometimes the balloon rides can be canceled due to bad weather. So plan to see the balloons on one of your first days in case the flights happen to be canceled! The worst would be to wait until the last day of your trip and then happen to miss it because of poor weather!
Lots of love and safe travels,
xoxoxoxo Danielle and Brooke, Colorful Sisters