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Hot air balloon in Cappadocia.
Hot air balloon in Cappadocia.
Inside the hot air balloon.
Landing safely in Cappadocia.

Cappadocia Balloons

Thursday, August 26, 2004
Golden Getaway: We have discovered a truly magnificent way of viewing Cappadocia, one of Turkey's most visited areas: by hot air balloon.

Cappadocia is best seen in the early morning and from high in the air, most particularly from a balloon. Kaili and Lars-Eric More have around 6000 hours of ballooning experience gained all over the world, and they run Kapadokya Balloons.

Their crew collects people from their hotels, and the first stop is their office in Goreme, where they release a small helium balloon to decide which launch site to use. There are about 30 different departure points, and the site of the day is chosen depending on weather and wind direction. With you are two jeeps pulling two baskets, and one or two minibuses for the passengers.

Once at the site, it takes about 20 minutes to prepare the equipment, and most times the passengers enjoy pitching in. While the balloons are filling with air the passengers have a briefing to give them the dos and don'ts while in the air and to get rid of any pre-flight nervousness.

When the balloon is full, the burners are turned up, flame roars inside the balloon, and the whole thing starts to rise. The passengers hop in and it's up, up and away for just over an hour.

The balloon skims low over the trees — so low that when apricots are in season, passengers can actually lean out and pick them. They can even shake hands with people in the villages.

They blast the burners about every 30 seconds to keep the balloon afloat. Contact is maintained with the ground crew, who chase the balloons and are there on landing to provide a champagne breakfast.

You will fly over ancient caves where the first Christians hid from Roman persecution, and where the Virgin Mary and some of the disciples reputedly spent their final days.

People still live in the caves, and there is also a 14-room hotel built into them. The rooms of the Urgup Evleri are cool in summer and warm in winter. They are decorated in a rustic style, but have modern bathrooms. There are beautiful Turkish carpets everywhere, handwoven bedspreads, and even though the rooms are sculpted into the rocks, they are light and spacious.

The hotel is about five minutes from a village with good restaurants and great views over the rock formations which are part of the reason Cappadocia is one of Turkey's most visited areas.

The strange geographical formations are thought to be more than 10 million years old. It's believed they were formed when two or three volcanoes erupted, and ash and mud spewed out, then hardened to become a layer of soft, porous stone.

Thousands of years of wind, rain, snow and sand erosion have worn the stone, or tufa, into intricate conical shapes. Big, hard rocks have protected the soft rock underneath, resulting in countless "fairy chimneys".

Early inhabitants learned that the tufa was easy to manipulate and carve, and they built houses and churches in the fairy chimneys, as well as in the sides of mountains and underground. There are probably around 60,000 people living in the underground cities.

While the area has quite a barren appearance, the volcanic soil is very fertile, and there are many vineyards and orchards in the region.

Location

Cappadocia, in central Turkey.

Cost

Exotic Destinations has seven day Turkish Highlights Tour packages including return airfares, transfers, twin-share accommodation, meals and balloon flights starting at $3499 from the east coast, Adelaide and Perth.
Kapadokya Balloons operates flights starting at about $230 per person for 45 minutes.
Qantas flies daily to Bangkok with Turkish Airlines connections to Istanbul.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Exotic Destinations
Ph: 03 9886 4955 F: 03 9886 3644
www.exoticdestinations.com.au
turkey@exoticdestinations.com.au

Kapadokya Balloons
Ph: 0011 90 384 271 2442

Qantas: 13 13 13

It is recommended travellers to Turkey see their doctor at least six weeks before departure. Prior to travel, they should be up-to-date with vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Diphtheria. However, depending on time of year and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions are recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. It is recommended travellers to Turkey see their doctor at least six weeks before departure. Prior to travel, they should be up-to-date with vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Diphtheria. However, depending on time of year and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions are recommended and are best discussed with your doctor.
For further information speak to your doctor or e-mail The Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Aborad at masta@masta.edu.cu or visit The Travel Doctor at www.tmvc.com.au

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