55 Luftballoons took off before the sun came up over the stunning landscape of Cappadocia Turkey. The landscape was beautiful to see from above, however I think I was more in awe of a sky full of balloons which felt like such a unique experience.

More Recommendations

Up up and away in Cappadocia Turkey

55 Luftballoons took off before the sun came up over the stunning landscape of Cappadocia Turkey. The landscape was beautiful to see from above, however I think I was more in awe of a sky full of balloons which felt like such a unique experience.

Taking a Break in Cappadocia

We had been hiking through the red and rose valley of Cappadocia with our guide, Suat, when we happened upon a cafe serving coffee, tea and fresh juice in the middle of nowhere. I sat and played a game of backgammon with Suat while looking out over the valley and enjoying tea....and a victory.

The Best Way to See the Fairy Chimneys

Certainly the highlight of an amazing two weeks in Turkey. Cappadocia is a magical place and we heard the best way to experience it is in a hot air balloon. It starts around 4:30am, before the first call prayer, when the company picks you up from your hotel and drives to you the lift-off spot. We arrived half awake as they were just starting to fill the balloons with the initial helping of hot air. Right before the balloon is full, they call you over one by one to the basket and position you to balance the load. And then you’re off. We started behind a hill that borders a major valley and our first goal was to clear the hill. In a hot air balloon, the pilot can only control the height of the balloon--he has no control over lateral direction. A skilled navigator understands the wind patterns and is so familiar with the territory that they know just how the air blows. Lucky our pilot was such a navigator. We crested the hill right at sunrise. The sight of a sea of fairy chimneys and balloons was surreal. A few moments later I took this shot. We spent the next 45 minutes or so moving around the valley--descending in and out of small canyons to get a closer look at the odd geological formations. The trip ended with a soft landing and a toast on a successful ride.

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia Turkey

This is the perfect place to go for a hot air balloon ride.

Strange and wonderful landscapes

The area of Cappadocia in Turkey that is the most famous in the Goreme National Park, which encompasses several towns, Goreme, Urgup, Nevsehir, and Ortahisar. On hikes in the park you will come across several cave churches built during the Byzantine era, and at every turn, very beautiful and strange formations created by erosion in the volcanic tuff. In these little towns there are cave hotels and wonderful places to eat that serve traditional Turkish food. In the markets vendors peddle the dried fruits and nuts that Turkey is so famous for.

Hiking the Ihlara Valley

During a hike through the Ihlara Valley in a region of Turkey called Cappadocia, we had the chance to see several ancient Christian churches that were carved into the volcanic rocks. Early Christians had to worship in secrecy in order to avoid persecution by the Romans and later by raiding Muslims. As a result, they lived and worshiped in caves like the one seen here. The Ihlara Valley is lush and beautiful, and it’s not to be missed when in Cappadocia!

Morning Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Turkey

It began almost silently, just a whoosh as the pilot filled the balloon with more hot air. Gently the basket we stood in lifted up off the ground. We floated higher with each turn of the propane valve. Up, up, up.....soon the cars we had left behind looked like toys, so small in the landscape. As we climbed higher, more and more strange rock formations came into view. Cappadocia is a land of volcanic rock, worn and weathered by nature into surreal formations of cream colored stone. We floated over fairy chimneys, deep canyons, horizontally stacked undulations of the ground, rocks shaped as mushrooms capped with darker stone, sharp soaring pinnacles, and creamy homes and cities carved deep into the rock, some ancient, some new, all lit by the rising morning sun. In the distance stood the volcano that created Cappadocia, a silent sentinel and constant reminder of nature’s awesome power. We floated on, cameras clicking as each revealed view seemed more beautiful than the last, all highlighted by dozens of other balloons glowing in the morning sun. Truly breathtaking. Too soon the pilot was releasing the hot air from the balloon and we drifted ever lower. We watched the balloon’s shadow passing over the rocks, getting closer to the ground. Soon we gently bumped onto the landing trailer, guided by men on the ground using our ropes. I cannot remember a more beautiful hour that I have spent than the hour I floated over Cappadocia. It is certainly one I will never forget.

Ballon Flight over Cappadocia

Flying high over one of the beautiful valleys of Cappadocia. I used Kapadokya Balloon company for this once in a lifetime treat. The staff payed special attention to us from the time they picked us up from our hotel, to the time we landed safely on the ground after flight!

Selime Monastery

After spending the day exploring Cappadocia from every possible angle - underground in Derinkuyu followed by a hike through Ihlara Valley - we visited this monastery where early Christian devotees worshiped in caves in order to escape persecution. We climbed up the monastery (no railings) to explore the interior rooms and to get a panoramic view of Cappadocia below. Like all of the rock formations in the region, this monastery looks otherworldly.

More From AFAR