July 2015 • Canon 60D camera
UNESCO World Heritage site
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is one of the best places in the world to take a flight on a hot air balloon. There are images all over social media of skies filled with hot air balloons at sunrise in Cappadocia. Today, I would get to experience my first flight on a hot air balloon. As part of the package, all balloon operators you book with, will arrange to pick you up before dawn at your hotel and take you to the balloon launch site.
All balloon flights take place at dawn and when we arrived we saw some balloons already taking off. The launch area was filled with deflated balloons waiting to be inflated. The balloon staff slowly got our balloon ready while we eagerly awaited to get into the basket. After all the safety checks are complete, we hopped into the basket and slowly and gently lifted up.
I was surprised how light and airy it felt as we slowly lifted higher and higher. It was a strange experience at first but I soon forgot about it as we floated up.
By now the sun was rising behind the mountains in the distance. The dark blue skies were warming to the orange glow of the sun.
It was pretty cool to see the sky filled with so many hot air balloons. I could imagine it would be nice to see this sight from below sitting outside having breakfast.
As the sun was lighting the sky, we could start to see the interesting rock formations below.
In the distance we could see the inactive volcano Mount Erciyes.
At 3916m, it is a large stratovolcano, built up of alternate layers of lava and ash.
It is believed that the word Cappadocia is derived from an ancient Persian word Katpatuka, which means “the land of beautiful horses.”
It was now possible to see clearly the ground below. Our balloon tour would first fly over the Red & Rose Valleys. These valleys have a distinctive red/rose colour on the unique rock formations.
You can also see some cave houses cut out of the rocks. These valleys are also a popular hiking route to get close up to the cave dwellings.
Next up we floated over the famous “Fairy Chimneys” in Love Valley. These unique geological features resembles a man's manhood, but are in no way man-made.
They have been natural eroded over time to that shape. You can also hike this valley if you are interested in a closer look.
We were now towards the end of our flight and hovered over Uçhisar Castle in the town of Uçhisar. You get a wonderful panoramic view of the town and the surrounding valleys in the stunning morning light. I was surprised how quickly our flight was over. We were in the air for around 1 hour 20 minutes.
We landed just outside the town in an open area with all the other hot air balloons. Everyone was given a medal and a glass of champagne was on offer. A minibus was waiting for us to take us back to the hotel.
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the experience of floating up in the air on a balloon. It was much better than I had expected. It also helped that we had perfect weather and the surrounding areas were impressive to view from above. Don't forget to bring your camera as you will have lot's of opportunities to take photos.
Due to the balloon's slow pace, you greatly reduce the amount of blur that can occur from you being in a moving object. If you don't want to be changing lenses, opt for a zoom lens so you can capture the panoramic views along with the rock formations below. This experience was the highlight of my trip to Cappadocia and something I will remember for the rest of my life. I highly recommend if you visit Cappadocia to try out hot air ballooning. There are many tour companies that provide the service that you can choose from.
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