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How I Saw The Hot Air Balloons For Free In Cappadocia

By Daisy Li

Hot air balloon rides are a popular tourist attraction in Cappadocia, Turkey. The multi-colored balloons are released into the sky every morning, just when the sun begins to rise.

There are no two hot air balloons alike. The rides are many, the view is simply magnificent.

Nevşehir, a province located in central Turkey, is famous for its sightseeing activities. From valleys with strange looking stone formations to cave hotels and open-air museums, the region of Cappadocia houses some of the most interesting geological phenomena.

Cappadocia geoformation

Look close and keep ya mind outta the gutter

Going to Cappadocia was a rather spontaneous choice on my part.

While in Antalya, Turkey, my friend came up with a list of famous cities I should visit. I wrote the suggestions down on a piece of napkin and set to travel without any prior knowledge of these places.

How to get to Cappadocia

Research is so important y’all! It wasn’t until I arrived in Nevşehir that I realized Cappadocia, as a region, was not a city. In fact, there are no buses that go directly to Cappadocia! 

I was left stranded in the Nevşehir bus terminal for a good hour while trying to hand-signal a conversation with locals who spoke no English. It wasn’t until a businessman came over to help that I understood I had to take a shuttle towards Göreme, where my Couchsurfing host was waiting.

My host lived in Ürgüp, a small town around 15 minutes away by car from the tourist district of Göreme. He drove myself and several other surfers around during my 4-day stay and showed me the best of what Cappadocia had to offer.

Despite the beauty of the different valleys in the region, my #1 priority was to see the hot air balloon rides that occupied the Cappadocian sky. In fact, this was the sole reason that pushed me to come to Nevşehir, which was way out of my other destinations along the Mediterranean coast.

Nevertheless, prices of hot air balloon rides, for a budget traveler like me, were quite high. Instead of looking for coupons and discount codes online, I decided to ask my Couchsurfing host to help me find a way to see the balloons for free.

5 am


At 4 am the next morning, my host woke me up and told me that a shuttle was there to pick me up for the area for hot air balloon rides.

Disoriented and barely awake, I grabbed my iPad and dragged myself towards the van. (Note: Please, for the love of God, wear a few sweaters. Even the mid-August sun was no match against the temperature drop in the mountain ranges).

Tip: If you want to catch a free view of the hot air balloons, go to a hotel that has already organized a trip for other tourists and ask for a ride on the tour bus! 

Two hours later, we arrived alongside a few other loaded shuttles as the pumping of balloons started. With a cup of tea in hand, I headed up a hill to get a better view.

It is impossible to describe this in words.

5:30 am

Amid the sunrise, a hundred or so balloons started rising up around me. Rays of newly emerged sunshine bounced off all these different, magnificent colors, projecting a layer of orange on miles and miles of endless hills.

cappadocia sunrise

(I wanna add more pictures, but my shitty phone quality really doesn’t do this justice) 

I met some people who thought the hot air balloon rides were overhyped due to the crowded balloons. I can understand, as each balloon was flooded with dozens of tourists hoping to squeeze into a spot along the side of the basket to get a view of the mountains.

But I was by myself, drunk in awe. Surrounded by the floating objects amid the rising sun, I felt incredibly small,
yet, at peace.
So I ran around the hills like a madman, with my shitty Samsung 3 in hand, for the first time regretting not investing in a decent camera.

hot air balloon cappadocia

But since traveling with me is never a smooth process, I completely forgot about the shuttle that brought me to this place. After the balloons slowly glided away, I headed down the hill.

Long and behold, the buses were gone. I was stranded in the middle of nowhere.

7:00 am

Since it was hard to find a ride back to town, I had to hitch a ride to Zelve Open Air Museum. Then, I waited at the gates until someone came along for their morning shift. A minibus was nice enough to ship me back to the city.

bike ride around cappadocia

The rest of the days in Cappadocia were the usual unexpected. My friend owned a bike tour company. These four-wheeler bikes are best taken around the mountains, especially for sunsets at Rose Valley.

For my lady friends out there, remember to hide yo face hide yo hair. Combined with the speed and the natural sandy environment, my hair was crazier than a mucky lion mane. I ended up chopping my locks after some months cause I could barely brush my fingers through my non-dread dreads.

Total Cost

I stayed in Göreme / Ürgüp for three days. Since my host provided transportation, I spent nothing on accommodation and public transit.

  • My bus from Alanya to Nevşehir was a 9-hour long nightmare around TL 65 (US 17).
  • The rest of the cost was food and entrance fees. This amounted to around TL 30 (US 8) for fees to the various museums and TL 50 lire for outings to different restaurants (US 13).

All in all, it was around US 50 for my 4-day stay here.

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Loretta Widen August 19, 2017 - 10:16 pm

I’ve always wanted to see the hot air balloons! Thanks for capturing sharing!

Caroline August 19, 2017 - 6:14 pm

This is so high up my bucket list!! It looks like such an amazing experience, so magical! You got some great photos, even on your phone!

Daisy Li August 20, 2017 - 3:33 pm

It really was!! Definitely worth a visit

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner August 19, 2017 - 2:07 pm

I’ve always wanted to go and see this. One day! 🙂

Roxanne Reid August 19, 2017 - 1:13 pm

Looks like a very special experience, both flying or watching the balloons fly. I’ve done ballooning in the Namibian desert and the views were just over-the-top gorgeous.

Daisy Li August 20, 2017 - 3:37 pm

That sounds absolutely amazing!

Diana August 19, 2017 - 10:27 am

I love your tips as well as the style of writing. I always look for ways how to save money and this is super handy! Its definitely not my last time on your blog! Go girl! I found you through a fb group 🙂

Daisy Li August 20, 2017 - 3:34 pm

Thanks Diana! Budget travelling is just too much fun!

Lucy August 18, 2017 - 11:10 pm

Your trip looks amazing, even though you had lost moments! I cannot believe you only spent $50, I wish I could do that when I travel! Love your photos, the hot air balloons are beautiful.

Daisy Li August 20, 2017 - 3:39 pm

It may not be the most comfortable form of travel, but it definitely is an experience!

Brooke August 18, 2017 - 10:55 pm

I have to say that even with your phone camera you got some amazing photos. And a 9-hour bus ride and hitchhiking back, what an adventure. Props to you!


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