Floating in a hot air balloon has always been on my travel bucket list. That doesn’t mean I was thrilled to check it off. Those that have been in a hot air balloon clearly know that this is crazy talk however I am sure there are some, like my girlfriend, that don’t love to fly and can relate. Let me clarify. I love to fly. I grew up in small bush planes flying around northern Canada. Turbulence and rough landings are nothing new to me. Being in a wicker basket held by a sack of hot air and at the mercy of the wind is another story. So when the opportunity came up to float high above Cappadocia with Voyager Balloons, I had my hesitations.
Still, daring pilots have floated in the skies for over 200 years and hot air ballooning is THE thing to do in Cappadocia. The latter, of course, peaked my fear of missing out. The more I read into it and the more pictures I saw online the more excited I got. I spoke with people who have gone and they had all said what an incredible experience it is. Even Erin’s own mother whose basket tipped while landing said how peaceful it was – before falling out of course. When the day finally arrived I was pumped. Taking to the skies with Voyager Balloons, one of the best operators in all of Cappadocia only amplified this excitement.
The Voyager Balloons Experience
Pick up was bright and early from our hotel. We made our way to the Voyager Balloon shop where we were fed a light breakfast. Never float on an empty stomach? The friendly staff went over various waiver forms while we watched incredibly high-definition footage of what we were about to experience. Seriously, their time-lapse video is spectacular…and available on their website. I will wait here while you check it out…
I have never been so excited to squeeze into a small basket with 10 strangers.
With that, we signed our waivers and headed to the takeoff site. We passed countless other vehicles hauling baskets and vans shuttling passengers about to do the same thing as we were. This really brought home how popular hot air ballooning in Cappadocia has become. With so many tour companies taking to the sky how do you know your experience is going to stand out? With so many operators in Cappadocia, I had to ask,
What makes Voyager Balloons different?
You would think 16 years of experience and is one of TripAdvisor’s top-rated activities in Cappadocia would say it all. To fill in any gaps or uncertainties I went up for a closer look.
We arrived at the take off-site to find organized chaos – ground crews from several companies rushing to get their balloons in the air all at once. The scene was frantic although it could have been the Turkish coffee. We were somewhat hurried to get off the ground which is a shame as watching the swarm of balloons lifting off at sunrise was spectacular. Of course, I was free to return any morning to capture the moment from the ground and I briefly lied to myself saying I would do just that.
We Shot up like a Balloon.
Before we knew it we were high above Cappadocia – and I mean high. Much higher than expected which gave us an incredibly peaceful view of the entire valley. I think Erin opened her eyes long enough to get a glimpse of it. There we were magically floating in an unreal setting with only the “oohs” and “aahs” of a group of Koreans to break the serenity that is hot air ballooning. That and the sudden bursts of flame, which is actually quite rhythmic and oddly fitting with our surroundings. Oh, and warm. So very warm. The heat was welcomed though as it cut through the cool spring air making the extra layers I added completely unnecessary.
It was the perfect day for a flight – clear blue skies and uncharacteristically warm winter weather which resulted in amazing views. We drifted high above Cappadocia and its odd rock formations. We got unobstructed views of the Göreme open air museum as well as caves carved out of hills, pigeon mansions, and Mt. Erciyes – the highest peak in Cappadocia. Seeing this wild landscape dotted with hot air balloons is a wonderful thing. Words really cannot describe how amazing this moment was. Thankfully I took lots of pictures:
Voyager Balloons – Professionalism Above Cappadocia
You could see in the pilots faces and smiles that they genuinely loved flying these balloons. This is pretty impressive if you think about it – the company operates year round, almost every day. Tip of the hat for keeping the love burning. Not only was it clear that the pilots love their jobs, (a key factor when placing your safety in someone’s hands!) it was clear that they know what they are doing.
Halis and his co-pilot maneuvered the massive balloon with ridiculous precision, in ways I didn’t think were possible while being pushed around by the wind. Any hot air balloon fears were put to rest when we navigated the peaks and valleys of Cappadocia with ease. We were up and over rock formations as if we were bouncing on a trampoline and were so close to the Fairy Chimneys that you could reach out and touch them. Impressive to say the least.
While all the other balloons were landing we were still flying high above Cappadocia and the Rose Valley for one last peak. Then the wind stopped. The result? An extra 30 minutes or so waiting for the right conditions to bring us down. This meant 30 more minutes to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Obviously, no one was complaining.
When we finally did come down we were presented with a flute (or two depending on your nerves) of celebratory champagne – which is just that. A toast has become a tradition after hot air balloon flights as a playful way to say “you made it.” Jokes or not it was a welcomed drink and was the perfect way to cap an amazing experience. Nothing like a little alcohol to boost that already spiking adrenaline!
After being handed a flight certificate and pre-flight photo that really captured the fear in some of the passenger’s eyes, it was time to head back to our hotel. Halis was kind enough to personally drop us off. This allowed me to get a better idea of what makes Voyager Balloons the best of the best. Again his passion for being the safest and top operator in town was evident and even inspiring. He explained how he was working towards regulations in a surprisingly unregulated industry.
An example of this is his help in implementing communication systems between balloons. This is not only with his balloons, but all balloons in the air. This has allowed pilots to share weather conditions, current location, and planned routes – or as much as you can plan when the wind suddenly changes direction. Halis also explain the history of hot air ballooning in Cappadocia and gave the background on how it became so popular, and he should know. Halis has not only been flying balloons for over a decade, but teaching others as well. His knowledge and love of the area he was born and raised in only reaffirmed my conclusion that this is the safest and best hot air balloon company in Cappadocia.
Overall it was an amazing experience and I can not think of a better way to see Cappadocia. I would NEVER HESITATE again to go hot air ballooning…at least not above Cappadocia…with Voyager Balloons. If you are heading to Cappadocia obviously make a hot air balloon ride part of your trip. For their professionalism, love of their craft, and commitment to making the air above Cappadocia safer for all, consider flying with Voyager Balloons. They truly are the best way to float above Cappadocia.
Although I was provided a complimentary ride above Cappadocia from Voyager Balloons,
the hesitation busting experience, opinions, and words are my own.