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Exploring Turkey from a hot air balloon

So, I decided to travel to the other end of Asia to find out if the rumour is true – that Cappadocia is Turkey’s most beautiful asset.

cappadocia, landscape, rock formations
Admire the rocky landscape in “the land of the fairy chimneys”

Turkey is my “country crush”. It all started some years ago when I booked myself a one-way ticket to Fethiye in Southern Turkey to complete my Divemaster qualification.

Naively, I thought I would complete my training and leave, continuing on to my dream career of diving around the world. But Turkey had a different idea – it captured me on the first day and I have since spent years going back and forth, each time the love affair deepening.

Despite this, I always knew the best was yet to come after being told of a magical place called Cappadocia, described as “the land of the fairy chimneys” (for its stunning rock formations) where hot air balloons cover the sky from 5am each day.

It was only when I arrived there myself and held my camera up to the view from my hotel that I could confirm that Cappadocia was, in fact, even more beautiful in the flesh. The pictures did it absolutely no justice.

room, hotel, cappadocia
A lovely room at the Aydinli Cave Hotel

Ballooning at breakfast

There’s no denying that my main reason for visiting this part of Turkey was to take my first ride in a hot air balloon. While the balloon companies try to fly every day, flights are cancelled if weather conditions aren’t right – so it’s as hit-and-miss as the domestic flights. With only three mornings available, I had very limited time, but high hopes. I set my alarm for 4am, wondering if it was worth even going to bed; but this sleepy town has a way of relaxing you, and the cosy rooms of Aydinli Cave Hotel lulled me into at least a few hours slumber.

Once up, we were whisked away via minibus to ButterFly Balloons HQ, and given a light breakfast and coffee as we patiently waited to learn whether conditions were safe enough for ballooning. Happily, the pilot nodded his head in agreement – all systems go – and we piled back into the vans to head out to the valley from where we would lift off.

hot air balloon, holiday, turkey
Getting the hot air balloon ready for flight

Our balloon carried 10 people – small compared with the vessels that hold up to 40, and one of the reasons I chose ButterFly Balloons over other companies. The pilot took the middle portion of the basket and the guests stood around the edges. He fired up the gas and our balloon started to rise; it was incredible to think that we were floating in a basket held up by just a canopy powered by heat. We floated above the Cappadocian valleys, along with the pigeons and in line with the sun.

We flew for around an hour, reaching dizzying heights above the clouds, until it was time to return to earth. As if the experience could be any more perfect, a table of chocolate, strawberries and champagne awaited us at the bottom to “cheers” the awakening of a new day.

cappadocia, hot air balloons, sunset
Travel into the sunset on hot air balloons

Paths less travelled

While seeing Cappadocia from a hot air balloon is a must, there are so many other things to do on sturdier ground. The town of Goreme itself is stunning, home to the “fairy chimneys”, cave hotels and an open-air museum; four days was just not enough time.

On another day, we took a private tour organised through the hotel, as it was the same price as the over-crowded group tours and we got to set our own itinerary. Our private guide took us to Derinkuyu, a 5,000-year-old underground city that was once home to 20,000 people.

Fact File

Where to stay

Aydinli Cave Hotel
+90 384 271 2263

What to do

ButterFly Balloons
+90 384 271 3010

How to get there

Turkish Airlines and Singapore Airlines both fly to Istanbul once a day from Singapore (11 hours). Connecting flights (as many as 18 per day) take you from Istanbul to Kayseri in 75 minutes.

This is an extract from an article that first appeared in the September 2016 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy for the full article, or Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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