Central Anatolia Feature
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Ballooning in Cappadocia
One of the best ways to appreciate the expansive, diverse landscape of Cappadocia's landscape is from above, in a hot-air balloon. The flights begin just after 5 am, the safest time to fly because of the calm air, and usually last a little over an hour. A skilled pilot can take you right into a valley, sail through it so the rock cones loom on either side, then climb the edge of a tall fairy chimney. The trip usually ends with a champagne toast, a ballooning tradition. Cappadocia is an ideal place to experience ballooning not only because of its spectacular scenery, but also because the region's microclimate, with calm weather and a high number of flying days per year, makes it one of the best and safest places in the world for ballooning. Balloon trips are offered from April through November.
The oldest and most respected of the Cappadocia balloon companies is Kapadokya Balloons, run by a Swedish-British couple who have been in business since 1991. Göreme Balloons is also very reputable. Ballooning prices are inflated in Cappadocia because hotels and tour agencies make high commissions for booking flights, but booking a flight on your own will not necessarily be cheaper. A typical ride with Kapadokya Balloons will be $315 for a 1½-hour ride and $220 for a 1-hour ride, per person, while Göreme Balloons charges $290 and $200, respectively. Both companies give a small discount if you pay in cash. While other companies may offer cheaper flights, ballooning is not the sort of thing where you really want to be cutting corners.
Kapadokya Balloons. The first balloon company to be established in Cappadocia, highly regarded Kapadokya Balloons has been in business since 1991 and prides itself on its experienced team and professionalism. 384/271-2442 in Göreme. www.kapadokyaballoons.com.
Butterfly Balloons. Owned by Turkish Heritage Travel, Butterfly Balloons keeps things personal by flying with fewer passengers than some of its competitors do. The friendly, well-qualified pilots have American and European commercial pilot's licenses. 384/271-3010 in Göreme. www.butterflyballoons.com.
Royal Balloon. Though relatively new, Royal Balloon works with some of the most experienced Turkish and foreign pilots in Cappadocia. The company emphasizes boutique service and is the only outfit to offer passengers a hot buffet breakfast. 384/271-3300 in Göreme. www.royalballoon.com.
Cihangiroglu Balloons. The folks at Cihangiroglu Balloons run a professional outfit with local staff and groundcrew. The eponymous pilot, Cihangir Cihangiroglu, is a pro at navigating to the best spots. 384/219-2665. www.cihangirogluballoons.com.
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