A recent discussion with a friend planning her next overseas trip with her three boys brought up one of my favorite places visited with my own boys — Cappadocia, Turkey. The topography here is like no place I’ve ever been before with it’s strange rock formations called “fairy chimneys”. It looks as if fairies do indeed live inside these structures because many have cave homes with doors and windows carved into them.
You’ll notice from my photos that some look a bit… um… phallic, to put it bluntly. It is because of this that the area is nicknamed “Love Valley.”
These bizarre formations are products of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and subsequent erosion of the soft lava rock through wind and rain.
My boys LOVED exploring the multitude of caves in Cappadocia — the Byzantine-era cave churches, ancient underground cave cities that protected 20,000 people during war times, even a cave hotel — Gamirasu — where we stayed for a few days. My youngest enjoyed pretending to be Indiana Jones as we investigated these grottos.
Still, hands-down, every family member’s favorite experience in this archaic area of Turkey would be our early-morning balloon ride over the dreamy terrain.
Those who know me well, know I am prone to silently suffer in panic on some boats or small planes. However, I agreed to this balloon ride with reluctant excitement… I guess in a bucket-list frame of mind. It helped calm my nerves to watch a video of Martha Stewart’s ballon ride over Cappadocia — it didn’t look so terrifying, somehow, with her informative chats along the way.
I booked with the same balloon company that Martha used — Royal Ballon — figuring she would have done her research. Sure enough — they are a highly trusted company with extremely adept pilots.
The day begins early. We were picked up at our hotel by Royal Balloon at 5:00 a.m. They drove us to their headquarters where we fill up on coffee and breakfast while we waited for all the riders to arrive. From there, we broke into groups according to the package purchased and proceeded by van to the launch site.
We opted for the “Royal King Flight” which allowed for fewer passengers (2-12) and a longer ride (90 minutes.) The ride is not cheap — ours was 240 Euros. Children 6-12 pay half of that. The other price option (the “Royal Queen Flight”) is 170 Euros for a 60 minute ride and up to 18 passengers. We did not regret our decision at all — there were a total of 8 passengers in our balloon, and the longer ride was perfect. In fact, our ride was almost 2 glorious hours long, thanks to our amiable pilot.
My nerves calmed soon after take-off. It almost seems effortless, as the basket rises slowly and gently. The serenity and silence is remarkable.
Cameras soon came out, and the photographers on board commenced their seemingly endless shooting of the landscape below.
No words necessary for the sunrise with silhouetted balloons that surrounded us.
After a few exhilarating minutes, I looked down, and felt some panic due to height we had now reached. But a couple deep breaths followed by an inner pep-talk in which I decided that if I had to go, this was worth it. I was fine the rest of the flight.
Our pilot brought us close to the ground a couple times in order to take a closer glimpse of the fairy chimneys, as well as to pick walnuts off a tree. He was incredibly talented, and I felt we were in good hands.
We floated by this group (below) on a cliff; they waved enthusiastically, and seemed as excited to see us as we to them. Initially, I thought they were locals, but looking at this photo now, I realize they were probably tourists as well, wanting to get some photos of themselves with the balloons in the background.
We passed over a village where we could see all the apricots and other fruits drying on the rooftops. I love photos taken from high spaces — I think I might need a drone… hint, hint to anyone wandering what to get me for Christmas. 😉
Passing over the waves of curvy white cliffs, followed by several wine vineyards was not too shabby, either.
Happy smiles all around… this was a truly special experience that I think all four of us will always remember.
Our pilot managed to actually land the balloon in the back of a truck. I had no idea since I was facing backwards looking at the men helping us to land — it was not as easy as the take-off, but still not as violent as I feared.
Upon our exodus, we were given medals for what I’m not sure — our bravery? Followed by glasses of oj or champagne… nothing like a sip of bubbly paired with the high from the intoxicating flight.
Click here for the balloon company we used — Royal Balloon. I HIGHLY recommend them.
Click here for the hotel where we stayed — Gamirasu Cave Hotel. Excellent hotel, though it’s location has no shops or restaurants near-by. Luckily the food here was quite good; and only a 10 minute drive to other decent eateries.
Finally, click here to see Martha Stewart’s beautiful flight. She gives quite good information about the landscape and the area.