Dancing with Fairy Chimneys

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
The oohs and aahs started early.

We had barely left the small town of GΓΆreme and were driving the windy ascent out of the valley. After cresting a small hill, the billowing canvas of multiple balloons poked into sight. They were in various stages of inflation and ground crews swarmed them, awakening their colorful folds with shots of heat from canisters within the attached baskets.

We were a lively bunch for having been picked up at our hotels before five a.m., excited chatter filled the van. Stuffed with a generous breakfast and then sent on our way, we drove for a quarter of an hour before reaching our take off point.

The wait was short upon arrival. After circling the baskets to get new angles on the inflation process, we were shepherded to either side of the balloon’s basket to be distributed evenly – three people in each partitioned corner.

It was so peaceful. Serene. We were flying!
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Pete, whose nerves tend to fray when boarding a jet, was remarkably calm. His palms were dry (claminess being the telltale sign of his fear) and he comfortably stood in the corner, fingers ready on the shutter button and a massive grin on his face.

It was my turn to be nervous.

It was awfully early to be coaxing me into something brand new, especially one that would send me soaring above valleys at the mercy of the skills of one stranger.

I had no time to rethink the butterflies in my stomach and the rapid pace of my heart. After being shown the braced stance required if making a bumpy landing (that’s always comforting), we were soon making swift distance between ourselves and the land, members of the ground crew guided us forward, and then waved as they successfully sent us floating.

It was so unexpectedly quiet.

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Near silent, in fact. All that could be heard were morning birds chirping in the distance. The group of boisterous strangers with whom we were sharing the experience felt cause to calm their talking as well.

It was so peaceful. Serene. We were flying!

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Archie, our pilot, was an excitable character.

“Can you smell the flowers?” he asked as we drifted close to the ground, then up, and then down again. We grazed a treetop as we began an ascent, Archie commented that if we were to come back in a couple of months, we’d be able to reach down and pick apricots right off the tree.

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Remnants of the tree we grazed.

“My father was a kamikaze balloon pilot,” he teased us again, as we moved steadily closer to a fairy chimney that loomed larger the closer we got. Silence befell as we all caught our breath again, my own knuckles turned white as I tightly gripped the basket’s edge. With seconds to spare, Archie had pulled us up and away from the immense rock, unleashing his trademark raucous giggle as he did.

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In hot air ballooning, the name of the game is precision. An interior temperature of 85 degrees holds the balloon at a steady level, one degree change either way causes it to lift or fall. Carefully released blasts of flame from the propane tanks changed our direction, while warming the tops of our heads against the morning chill.

I relaxed at the realization of Archie’s skill. We dipped in and out of valleys as easy as our toes in a bathtub. I turned my attention to the view around us, and was captivated not as much by the landscapes we had hiked over in the prior days but by the sheer number of balloons we shared the thin air with. I stopped counting at about 70, Archie confirmed that there can be up to 105.

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After dancing with the fairy chimneys in the valleys, Archie took us as high as he could, up to 2,400 feet, first creeping within mere feet of one chimney before whooshing us up dramatically.

If we thought it was incredible before, the awe and inspiration we felt as we towered over the beauty of Cappadocia was nothing short of spectacular. (Made all the better by Archie’s most artistic choice of music, the Chariots of Fire theme song.)

The music faded and we began our slow descent, soaking in each last moment as Archie brought us back to ground.

The landing, of course, was as stylish as the trip we had enjoyed throughout. Forget the brace stance we prepared, or even touching down in an open field. Instead, Archie surprised us all, and landed our basket directly on the trailer attached to the truck.

And then, after being dazzled for almost two hours, our dance number was over.

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**While our most excellent balloon adventure was made possible by Royal Balloon, all opinions, as always, remain our own.*
0 Comments... Be the first to comment
  • June 1 2012

    Breathtaking shots! I was there in 2011 and never did the balloon rides, now that I’ve seen these photos I feel as though I have.

    Safe travels and keep killing it, love the site.

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      Cheers Rob. After hiking around the region for the first couple days I didn’t think I would enjoy the balloon trip as much as I did. It gave a whole new perspective of the area. Thanks so much for the comment πŸ™‚

  • Cat
    June 1 2012

    The one thing I wanted to do in Turkey and time and (Other people’s) budget didn’t allow for. Such great shots!

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      I hope you can experience at some point Cat. It really is remarkable.

  • Caro
    June 1 2012

    Stunning! We’ll be doing the same. However, it’s funny since I’m the one insisting on this but I am deathly afraid of heights. Like, a ladder is too high for me. And yet, I just started realizing a bit a go that hey, this is HIGH! Hopefully we have as good an experience as yours! : )

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      I have a fear of heights also, but for some reason I was totally fine in the balloon. It was so very peaceful when we were up. Even at 2400ft. Hope you have a wonderful time when you go!

  • I seriously almost have tears in my eyes the beauty in these photos is THAT moving! This is SUCH a dream destination for me.

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      Perfect, we love to make people cry with our photography πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, thank you. It was a pretty special moment for us too just floating up above the chimneys.

  • June 1 2012

    These photos take my breath away. They are simply stunning. What a magical way to spend a few hours. I couldnt imagine the awe you felt while riding in the hot air balloons – I am so stunned by the photos alone. Beautiful once again.
    Chrystal McKay recently posted..Photo Diary: Inspiring Colours of the Jardin Majorelle

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      Even though there were 12 of us in the balloon, we just felt like it was the 2 of us. It was so quiet and peaceful. You are right, a magical experience. Despite taking photos, we took a lot of time just admiring the beauty.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    June 1 2012

    What an amazing adventure! I’m glad you took so many pictures, because really there are no words for this type of thing! This is the second blog I’ve seen that has done a hot air balloon ride in Turkey, and it really seems like the PERFECT place to do this kind of thing. If we can afford to do this while we’re there, I really really want to!

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      Thank you, and I’ll tell Dalene you enjoyed her writing πŸ˜‰

      It was definitely one of our highlights when we were there. It was expensive, but the experience made it worth it. If you have any questions about it, let us know πŸ™‚

  • Oh my goodness! Stunning pictures to say the least. You’ve convinced me to do this on our next trip. Looks like it was a fantastic adventure!

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      You won’t be disappointed with your decision to do it πŸ™‚

  • Keph Senett
    June 1 2012

    Excellent, excellent photography, Pete! Well done!

  • Marie @ A Montrealer Abroad
    June 1 2012

    What an amazing way to spend a morning. I have rarely seen such beautiful scenery and photography, hats up to you guys πŸ™‚

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      Cheers Marie. That morning was truly magical.

  • Jeff Dobbins
    June 1 2012

    Truly stunning. I’m seething with envy. Thanks for the vicarious adventure.

    • Pete
      June 2 2012

      Thanks Jeff, glad you enjoyed.

  • Mom
    June 1 2012

    One word….ENVIOUS !!!!!

  • June 2 2012

    Oh wow. That looks absolutely fantastic. What an incredible experience! My shutter button finger is twitching in jealousy πŸ˜‰

    • June 3 2012

      So was mine! I need my own camera. Even a toy one, just to feel like I’m taking part in that. πŸ™‚

  • June 3 2012

    WOW talk about breathtaking! I never, ever tire of seeing photos from ballooning over Cappadocia. It looks amazing. And lucky you that you got such a good pilot!
    Amanda recently posted..Go Wild on an Urban Safari

    • June 3 2012

      Archie was amazing, and hilarious! We had such a great time.

  • June 3 2012

    With that many balloons in the air at once, I’d be a little less concerned about Archie’s skills and a little more concerned about everybody else’s. Absolutely amazing pictures. Is it cold up high, or is it hot from the flame? Always wondered that.
    Steve recently posted..Western Room in Fantasyland Hotel

    • June 3 2012

      It’s cold (well, it’s cold that early in the morning anyways!) but there were constant little bursts of warm air so it was fine. I just had a sweater on over a long sleeved shirt and I survived!

  • Ali
    June 3 2012

    One of our favorite things in Turkey! It was so gorgeous to be up in those balloons. Luckily Andy did ok with the balloons too.
    Ali recently posted..Weekly Photo – Perugia, Italy

    • June 3 2012

      Glad that Andy was able to enjoy it – it’s quite an incredible experience!

  • June 3 2012

    This too is one of my dreams, hot air ballooning anywhere but especially in Turkey.

    Beautiful photos and so glad you enjoyed your experience! πŸ™‚

  • Wow! Amazing photos! I’ve never been in a hot air balloon, but would love to do it one day…
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..The Holy Grail of Hokey: Inside The Holy Land Experience (Part Two)

  • June 3 2012

    Stunning photos! Visiting Cappadocia is one of my dream trips but I’m worried that my fear of heights would get the best of me and that I wouldn’t be able to do the hot air balloon ride. Chances are if my kids are with me that they won’t let me back down though!

    • June 5 2012

      Oh no, I’m sure the kids would force you into it! And a good thing, because it is incredible!

  • June 3 2012

    I really liked the balloons. Despite freaking ou t the hour or so up to take off, it ended up being the favorite part of our trip for me.

    Your pictures are indeed beautiful. Looks like you ended up in a different valley from us.
    Andrew recently posted..Eurovision – Guide for the Ignorant Expat

    • June 5 2012

      SO GLAD you were able to conquer your fear and do it Andy! Next up: paragliding? πŸ™‚

  • June 3 2012

    These pictures are soooo amazing. Thank you for sharing. We love Turkey, but never have made it that far south.

    Cheers!

  • Alouise
    June 3 2012

    This looks incredible. I’ve done a hot air balloon ride over Edmonton, but I think going over Cappodocia wins.

    • June 5 2012

      Hmmm…I’d probably pick Cappadocia too. Although maybe if you did it over Drumheller, it would kind of have the same effect!

  • June 4 2012

    Absolutely gorgeous photos. Seems like a magical experience and hot air balloon ride through Cappadocia is definitely on my bucket list!
    Vicky recently posted..Will Travel Force Me to Face my Fear of Technology?

  • Tiffany
    June 4 2012

    ahh I LOVE this post! I cannot wait to experience that one day you guys have truly inspired me again to try something a little different. I’m shocked at how many other balloons were up there with you that must have been one hell of an experience!

  • June 5 2012

    I was romancing an American guy when I was there in 2004, who decided to do the hot air balloon, but I opted out. Guess I should have now!

    Great photos, as usual my peeps. πŸ™‚
    Nomadic Chick recently posted..Talk Radio Europe to Interview Me Live!

    • June 5 2012

      Oh boy, yes you should have chica! You have a reason to go back! πŸ™‚

  • June 5 2012

    I did this in Luxor, Egypt and was equally surprised by the quiet up there. With the exception of the firing of the hot air into the balloon, just silence. I loved the effect!

    These pictures are amazing! I am hoping to make it to Turkey next year and you are only encouraging me πŸ˜‰

    • June 5 2012

      Thanks Nicole! The silence really was surprising, and so amazingly peaceful, I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve done in my life. I hope you get to Turkey!

  • I never get tired of seeing photos of hot air balloons in Cappadocia. I think riding one would be kind of scary (all that noisy fire near your head!), but if we were there I’d definitely go for it. What an experience!

    • June 7 2012

      It is not near as scary as you would think (except for when he played “kamikaze balloon pilot” – haha! You would LOVE it, I am sure.

  • June 6 2012

    You photos of stunning. Hot air ballooning was one of the highlights of my trip to Myanmar a few years ago.

    • June 7 2012

      Thank you! That is another place we would love to try ballooning.

  • Suat Ulusoy
    June 6 2012

    Hi Dalene&Peter,
    Thank for the great article&photos of Royal Balloon&Balloon Rides over Cappadocia. Glad you enjoyed your flight ride with us. Hope to catch you sometime in the future:) Warmly

    • June 7 2012

      Suat – we were SO thrilled with our ride! We’re glad you are happy with the article and pictures, it was absolutely our pleasure!

  • June 8 2012

    They’re by far the best ballooning photos I’ve ever seen over Cappadocia. Got to say you were brave to do the trip. I chickened out. Maybe if we go again I’d give it a go…or not. πŸ™‚
    Julia

    • June 8 2012

      Wow, thanks Julia! YOU SHOULD GO! πŸ™‚

  • sam kelly
    June 9 2012

    CHILLS down my spine. I love that you guys saw Cappadoccia from the ground and the sky!

  • June 13 2012

    Beautifully chronicled in words and images. I virtually shared the experience with you…now I want to do it for real. Simply lovely reading πŸ™‚

  • More great photos guys! You got some fantastic morning light.
    Cam @ Traveling Canucks recently posted..Floating high above Cappadocia in a Hot Air Balloon

  • June 21 2012

    I have never seen so many balloons in the sky at once before!

    I absolutely live hot air balloons. There used to be a festival near my house in Pennsylvania and we’d go look at them all.

    Then my husband and I were married in a hot air balloon, but it was too windy that day to actually fly. That was in 2002. I finally, after many attempts, got my first ever hot air balloon ride in Napa Valley last month.

    Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t with me. So 10 years later we are still waiting to take that very special first hot air balloon ride together. Oh where in the world shall we take it?!

    • June 22 2012

      Ohhh….Cappadocia would be an amazing place for your first trip! Next, I want to do one over the Serengeti during a migration… πŸ™‚

  • This seems to be such a popular thing to do in Cappadocia. I think I would be too scared to do it though

  • July 4 2012

    This looks amazing! Definitely one for the bucket list. We’ve always wanted to go in a hot air balloon. our site design kind of gives that away! thanks for sharing.
    Victoria recently posted..Whale watching in Puerto Madryn: a photo story

    • July 4 2012

      Oh, then you can’t miss Cappadocia! πŸ™‚

  • Amazing! I’ve always wanted to go hot air ballooning. Although, I never imagined an experience like yours with flying very close to fairy chimneys. Wow, talk about adding some extra excitement!

  • December 9 2016

    How wonderful! What an amazing experience. We loved the Cappadocia area and stayed in the quiet town of Mustafapasa at an incredible hotel. We loved the traditional cave hotel rooms and had really wonderful foods during our stay.

    We always travel with the kids and this time we chose not to do the very common (and wonderful looking) hot air balloon ride. We were worried about the safety of the kids as they can be so impulsive and might have wanted to get too close to the edge to look over. We know we’ll be back one day and we’ll do it then!!! Looks amazing to get such a view looking down on all the fairy chimneys.
    Natalie recently posted..5 tips for Christmas holiday travel – with KIDS

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