When visiting Cappadocia, a ride in a hot air balloon is a must-do.
I had been up in a hot air balloon once before and was very hesitant to do it again. However, we felt strongly that we would deeply regret passing on such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sometimes, it is the fear of missing out (#FOMO) that pushes your hand!
As we began to search for which of the many balloon companies to fly with, Jimmy reached out to the American Express concierge service that is offered to us via our American Express Platinum credit card. They came back not only with a recommendation for Royal Balloons Cappadocia but also with an included a 15% discount for a 90-minute Royal King balloon tour (champagne included!)
This post is in no way sponsored. As always, I like to bring you the best of our travels with honest reviews. This is our personal experience with Royal Balloons, whom we booked independently. So you know it’s for real!
Highlights & Inclusions
Hotel Pick Up & Return
Mid-Sized Basket (Capacity 12)
Super Knowledgable & Humorous Pilot
Low-Flying through Geological Formations
Rule #1 for scheduling your balloon ride in Cappadocia: Book it for your first morning!!
Even though Cappadocia has some of the most flight days of any other location in the world, there are still mornings when weather conditions keep the balloons grounded. We booked our flight only one month in advance, and there was only one day available for us and it was, unfortunately, on our final morning. (Rule #2: Book in advance) Jimmy had asked the Royal Balloons office to let us know if any other spots opened up and we were stunned to find that by the time we arrived at our hotel in Cappadocia, they had called and rebooked us for the following morning! This was very fortunate because the next morning, there were no balloons.
On the morning of our flight, we were picked up from the Museum Hotel in Uchisar promptly at 5am. After one more stop to fill up our van, we made our way to the company headquarters in Goreme. We were sorted into breakfast tables with the rest of our balloon’s passengers. The breakfast spread included local yogurts, juices, coffee, fruit and some mediocre pastries. It wasn’t the best breakfast, but suitable to get a bit of much-needed coffee and something small to tide over a nervous stomach. (Plus, the breakfast at our hotel was incredible and would still be on when we returned, and we looked forward to that).
After breakfast, our pilot corralled us into a van, where we finished signing waivers, etc, before making a short drive to the launch zone. All the while, our pilot was joking with us and making the whole crew very friendly.
Approaching the launching zone was something incredible. As we turned off the road, we were greeted by dozens of intermittently glowing, colorful balloons, puffing up for their morning in the air.
The basket carried 12 people. According to our pilot Suat, who is Royal Balloon’s chief pilot, some companies have baskets that hold over 40 people. My previous ballooning experience was in a balloon for 5 and it was very small and felt very unstable (even though it was perfectly safe). This mid-sized basket seems like the perfect, “just right” porridge of options. It wasn’t enormous. Every person had an edge and incredible view, there was no jostling, but also it felt sturdy.
We took off, viewed by scores of people photographing on the hills, and climbed up up up for a view of the sunrise cresting over the distant volcano.
Then our tour commenced. For the next hour, we bobbed up and down through the geological formations that make this valley so famous. Suat was so skilled that we brushed trees, skimmed over hoodoos, and were brought close to the ancient dwellings carved into the hills. All the while, he educated us about settlements in the area, the geography, the people, the farmlands that we saw, and about ballooning in the region and in general.
Aside from his 15+ years of flight experience, teaching and extensive flight hours (thanks to the nearly 300 days a year that you can fly in Cappadocia) Suat also holds a degree in History, which greatly enhanced our experience. His quick wit and cunning sense of humor were also welcome! He regales his passengers with great stories from his world travels, flights with celebrities such as Martha Stewart, and experiences as a pilot and safety official.
At the end of our tour, Suat landed our basket directly on top of the trailer, to the applause of his entire tour! We were offloaded and able to mill about and get to know the other passengers a bit better. We actually ended up running into a few of them again when they switched to spend a night in the same hotel we were in! We have kept in touch on social media since then.
When all the heavy lifting was done, Suat gave a short speech and popped a bottle of local sparkling wine, bottled especially for Royal Balloons. Instead of awarding us with flight certificates- which typically landed in the trash- we were each given a medal and a polo shirt along with our bubbly! Royal Balloons thought out every last detail, which was apparent in from start to finish!
I could not recommend Royal Balloons more highly to anyone looking to have a Bucket List kind of morning while visiting Cappadocia – one of the most magical places in the world!
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