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Itinerary Insight: The Hot Air Ballooning Experience

It doesn’t take more than a picture for the rocky landscapes of Cappadocia to crawl their way up to the top of any bucket list. And if you’re dreaming of soaring above the horizons in a Hot Air Balloon, we have just what you need.

The Hot Air Ballooning Experience is a 4-night adventure, taking you from the vibrant Istanbul to the heights of Cappadocia. Experience the melting pot of this cultural capital, and pamper your tastebuds with all the delicious food. We’re talking juicy kebabs, strong coffee, sweet Turkish delights and so much more. Then explore the caves of Goreme Valley and witness the fairy chimneys soak up the sunlight. All from the viewpoint of your Hot Air Balloon.

Hooked yet? Read below to see what you can expect from the Hot Air Ballooning Experience.

Day 1: Istanbul

Today is the start of your adventure. As soon as you land in Istanbul, you will be picked up and transferred to your boutique accommodation in the heart of the city. The rest of the day will be yours to do as you wish. Here are our suggestions:

Lunch – Sultanhamet Kebap House

As you will most likely arrive around lunchtime, the best way to delve into the culture is the cuisine. Sink into one of their succulent kebabs, getting a first taste of Turkey’s flavour. Literally. And no lunch in Turkey is complete without dessert. Make your way over to Hazif Mustafa 1864 to get your sweet tooth fix. Choosing from their wide array of Turkish delight in all shapes and flavours won’t be easy, but it’s well worth it.

Afternoon – Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia

After you’ve filled your belly with all the delicacies, it’s time to fill your mind with the culture Istanbul has on offer. Start off with Hagia Sophia, the once-cathedral turned mosque. With a mismatch of Christian mosaics and Islamic religious scripts, it will leave you spellbound. Recently, Hagia Sophia has turned into a place of worship once again. While this might not mean putting an end to visiting, there might be other restrictions in place. Nonetheless, we recommend visiting Hagia Sophia as early as you can to avoid crowds. If not possible, you can buy a Museum Pass beforehand.

The Blue Mosque is a stone’s throw away from Hagia Sophia. The blue-hued minarets and dome offer only a glimpse of what awaits inside. The blue mosaics sparkle all around, making you feel as if you’ve stepped inside a sapphire. As the Blue Mosque is still a place of worship, entrance is free, but do dress modestly and show respect.

Evening – Harab ‘be Cafe

In the evening, it’s time to wind down with a hookah. With plenty of flavours to choose from, it’s easily one of the best puffing places in town. Add in excellent service and beautiful food, and you’ll have a winning evening experience.

Day 2: Cappadocia

Today you will trade the hustle and bustle of Istanbul with the outer-worldly landscapes of Cappadocia. We’ll drop you off at the airport in Istanbul just in time for your flight. After a short flight and a shuttle bus ride away, you will reach your cave accommodation in Cappadocia. Then, it’s time at your leisure to explore the rocky landscapes.

Afternoon + Lunch/Dinner – Cappadocia Cooking Class

By now, you have become acquainted with the exotic taste of Turkish cuisine. Take it a step further and learn the ins and outs of Ottoman cookery.

Your local host will show you around their organic garden and vegetable patch which will provide the ingredients you need for the dishes you will learn. And then it’s off to work! You will make a full-course meal from scratch, including the soup, starters, main course, and dessert. All your hard work will then be rewarded with a plentiful dinner.

The experience roughly lasts for about three hours and costs around 50 Euros per person, including the return transfers. Your Untravelled Paths representative on the ground can get this booked up for you.

Day 3: Cappadocia

The big day – This is what you came to Cappadocia for. It will be an early start, but it’s all well worth it.

Morning – The Hot Air Ballooning Experience

You will be collected from your hotel well before the sunrise. At the meet-up point, you will be able to tuck in a buffet breakfast before getting dropped off at the launch site.

You will witness the balloons being inflated, and so will your eagerness to hop on and fly away. Once all is ready, you’ll be invited onboard and given a short safety brief. Just as the dawn makes an appearance, you will soar above the horizon alongside hundreds of other balloons. There are few sights more magical than this, so breathe in and take in your surroundings.

The flight lasts for about one hour. Upon your landing, celebrate with a glass of champagne and make sure you collect your flight certificate. You’ve just experienced a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Afternoon + Lunch – Goreme Valley Tour

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure. We recommend opting for a day tour of the Goreme Valley to make the most of your trip.

Visit the rock formations of Devrent Imagination Valley and marvel at the rock-carved dwellings at Zelve Open-Air Museum. Let the Pasabaglari fairy chimneys enchant you and watch a pottery demonstration at Avanos. Top it all off with incredible panoramic views of the entire valley.

The tour runs from 9 am to 5 pm and includes pick-up, drop-off, lunch, and the services of the guide, at roughly 185 TL per person.

Dinner – Ziggy’s Cafe & Shoppe

Celebrate this day of magic at this cosy cafe located inside a restored stone house. We love it all, from the friendly atmosphere, the cocktails and the meze menu full of Turkish delicacies. Don’t forget to check out the handmade boutique shop before you leave!

Day 4: Istanbul

Depending on the time of your flight, you might have a bit more time to explore the rocky surroundings. Then it’s off to the airport for your flight back to Istanbul. Once you land, you will be transferred to your boutique accommodation in the heart of Istanbul for your final night.

Afternoon – Galata Tower

The beauty of Istanbul is that you can tick off two continents while visiting. Make your way onto Asia by foot on the Galata Bridge. Stroll across the bridge for some great atmosphere with fishermen hooking bait onto their rods and boats ferrying passengers down the Bosphorous. Munch on a sesame-seed pretzel bought from a local vendor while you’re at it then reward yourself with panoramic views at the top of the 67-metre Byzantine Galata Tower (TL20, open daily 9am to 8pm).

Dinner – Karakoy Lokantasi

Karakoy has become an Istanbul hotspot for restaurants, bars, and cafes. One of our favourite spots is Karakoy Lokantasi, an elegant, family-run eatery offering consistently delicious Turkish cuisine at reasonable prices. Tuck into a range of delicious hot and cold meze options that change daily – the artichoke heart, grilled octopus, and thick yogurt are excellent – and enjoy the bustling atmosphere of a typical meyhane (Turkish tavern). Leave room for some traditional Ottoman desserts! Book in advance to avoid disappointment. There are plenty of bohemian cafes and bars sprinkled throughout the neighbourhood to explore beforehand or afterwards.

Day 5 – Istanbul

Today it’s time to say goodbye. But before you leave, you cannot leave Istanbul without experiencing the Grand Bazaar. Here you will find an amalgam of colours, stalls with trinkets of all sorts, from soft fabrics, crafts, jewelry, and pottery. Join the hustle and bustle, marvel at all is on offer, and try your hand at haggling. And if you fell in love with the Turkish flavours, you must not miss out on the Spice Market.

Before you leave, it’s worth taking a detour to Koska to pick up your favourite flavours of Turkish delight to bring a bit of the magic home with you.

If you want to experience this all yourself, our Hot Air Ballooning Experience runs from April to October. Check it out here.

Written by Oana Moldovan, Untravelled Paths