The Hair-Raising Tourist Activity In Turkey Rick Steves Was Afraid Of But Ended Up Loving

Rick Steves has seen and done a lot during his travels. From Russia to Portugal and Ireland to Bulgaria, the travel expert, TV-show host, and author has made a living out of scouring Europe for some of the continent's best and most exciting destinations — and teaching you how to make the most of your travels there. So whether it's putting together the perfect itinerary, finding the best places to eat, or knowing where and when to sign up for an unforgettable local tour, Steves' expert knowledge is just what you need.

However, there's one particular activity that almost made him balk: riding a hot-air balloon over Cappadocia, in Turkey. Per his blog, Steves admitted that he's never been much into ballooning. "It's expensive, you need to get up really early, and I'm a little bit afraid of the whole thing," he wrote. However, after beating his initial reluctance, the writer finally caved and took the flight — only to end up loving it, and going as far as to call it the "travel experience of a lifetime."

What's the deal with the hot air balloons in Cappadocia?

Steves isn't the only traveler who's had a high time while soaring above Cappadocia's storybook-worthy landscape — a product of erosion, weather, and volcanic activity millions of years ago. In fact, around 100 balloons take flight every day, with anywhere between 10 to 30 people onboard in each balloon, depending on the flight package each traveler purchased.

The tradition isn't anything new, though. In fact, hot-air balloon trips in Cappadocia date all the way back to the late 1980s, after a local hotel brought two balloons to the region in order to advertise their accommodation. In the years that followed, more and more hot-air balloon companies started to pop up in Cappadocia, specifically in the town of Göreme, where the flights take place. Only this time, operators focused on offering trips above the region's valleys and spectacular rock formations.

In 2024, there are around 25 different companies in Cappadocia with a fleet of roughly 220 registered hot-air balloons to choose from in order to take in the view — and face your fear of heights.

Planning your hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

When it comes to planning your hot-air balloon ride, there are two main things you need to ask yourself: How large of a travel group are you looking for, and how long do you want your ride to be? From there, you can start looking into the more reputable companies and whether or not they're equipped to meet your needs. Some of the most popular operators include Royal Balloon, Voyager Balloons, and Hot Air Ballooning Cappadocia — all three of which have been flying for more than a decade.

In terms of pricing, Voyager Balloons offers a "standard flight" — a one-hour trip with 20 people per basket — that starts from $175, as well as a "Comfort Flight" — a 75- to 90-minute trip with 16 people per basket — that's currently priced at $393. Oh, and you'll even get to enjoy a champagne toast after you land. Meanwhile, Hot Air Ballooning Cappadocia has group balloon rides starting from $305 (with a maximum of 28 passengers), as well as private flights that'll set you back around $7,600.

Keep in mind that, in most cases, hot-air balloon rides over Cappadocia take off really early in the morning — sometimes before 5:30 a.m. — in order to get ahead of the weather. Don't worry about getting anywhere on your own at that hour, though: Most companies will pick you up from your hotel, and some even offer a breakfast service before take-off.