Cappadocia, Turkey, famous around the world for visions of hot air ballooning over ethereal, out of this world landscapes.
In 2018 alone, over half of the world’s hot air balloon rides took places in Cappadocia, with almost a half million people soaring through the skies.
Once you arrive in Cappadocia, you quickly realize why the region is such a hot air balloon epicenter.
The landscape is unreal, it’s as if you’re on another planet.
Most people visit Cappadocia with the hope of going on one of the balloons, or watching dozens of them float through the air at sunrise.
When we decided to visit Istanbul in early December, we carved out three days to visit Cappadocia.
We knew only allowing two mornings was a gamble, especially in the off-season when weather can be unpredictable. But, we rationalized, even if we didn’t see a beautiful sunrise, the jaunt would still be worth it to experience another part of Turkey.
The five days before our visit, it rained throughout Cappadocia, and was so windy, no balloons flew.
When we checked into our hotel, we were told our timing may be perfect- there was a good chance the balloons would fly the next morning.
To tout our experience as lucky would be an understatement.
We stayed at the Insta-famous, Sultan Cave Suites in Goreme.
Our room was €80 a night, and included breakfast for two. Given our modest travel budget, this was a splurge, but one we couldn’t imagine passing up.
The hotel’s terrace offers an insane view of Goreme, and the surrounding valley- one of the best in town.
It’s absolutely epic at sunrise, and sunset is pretty beautiful as well.
Our rate was an off-season travel perk. It’s my understanding prices increase by 2-3x as much in summer when the hotel is in high demand.
There are plenty of cheaper places to stay in Goreme, but since we weren’t renting a car, having a good view of the balloons (if they flew) was important to us.
On our second day in Goreme, we awoke before the sun rose.
Making our way to the lobby of the hotel, we were keen for news of whether the balloons would fly. About 20 minutes before sunrise, we were given a thumbs up, and told the first balloons would be in the air shortly.
Another perk to off-season travel?
Sunrise was near 8 am in December, so we didn’t have to wake super early, and were able to catch all phases of sunset, from first light, without losing sleep.
On this particularly frosty winter morning, we were blessed with a truly gorgeous sunrise.
Even the hotel photographer said it was one of the best he’d seen all year.
In total, we spent nearly two hours on the roof, enjoying all of it.
Each moment was magic- from a glowing, fiery sun cresting over the horizon, to soft purples and pinks illuminating our surroundings, to a rising sun casting soft morning light across clear blue skies.
The hotel staff kept bringing us coffee and tea to help us stay warm, but we didn’t start to feel cold until the very end, even though it was about 30 degrees Farenheit the entire time.
The whole experience was incredible.
We couldn’t believe how close some of the balloons flew to town, or how beautiful the colours of the terrace pillows and rugs looked against the changing morning sky.
A staged breakfast may seem silly, but the colours and the movement of the softly sailing balloons in the background was mesmerising.
It was a bit funny to watch people pose with the staged breakfast, but whatever makes you happy in life, you know?
Because the balloons hadn’t flown for a few days, there were way more than usual for this time of the year. The hotel staff estimated there were between 125-150 in the skies around Goreme on that morning.
Another off season travel perk?
There were times we had the entire terrace to ourselves.
The terrace is closed to guests only at sunrise, but in the summer, when the hotel is fully booked, you’ll normally have 60-80 people on the roof, vying for photos and views.
Shots I was able to grab easily, and without even thinking about it, would require queueing to do so in summer.
As the sun continued climbing in the sky, balloons began to disappear. We headed inside for a Turkish breakfast, followed by hot showers and a leisurely nap in our cozy, cave suite.
When I planned two days in Cappadocia, I thought we’d have two chances to see sunrise, but didn’t factor in transit time to the airport for a 10 am flight.
We flew in and out of Kayseri, which is 45-60 minutes from Goreme.
On our second day, we were able to catch the first half of sunrise before we left, which also looked like it was going to be a beautiful one.
My best advice for visiting Cappadocia?
If you’re set on seeing the balloons fly, or taking a ride yourself, allow for some flexibility. Even in peak season, a storm or wind may delay your prospects.
And, whether you rent a car or not, I’d stay at a hotel with a great terrace. The off-season rates made our cave suite all the more attractive, but the entire experience was so comfortable and incredible, I’d recommend it to anyone.
A once in a lifetime sunrise in a once in a lifetime destination. One for the record books, that’s for sure.
Have you ever visited Cappadocia? Is it on your list of places to travel to someday?
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