There’s no finer way to see the tourist-friendly moonscapes of Cappadocia than by hot air balloon. ELISE RANA climbs aboard.

Tea and biscuits can only do so much. Roused pre-dawn, darkness still shrouds the town of Göreme as we munch our breakfast in zombified silence, waiting to find out if today it’ll happen – or if, like yesterday, the winds just aren’t in our favour. The go-ahead is given, we trundle off half-asleep to the fields and there we see the balloons. The sun is just beginning to rise, reality has hit and finally we’re wide awake.

A moonscaped, magical region at the heart of Turkey, Cappadocia is also one of the country’s prime tourist draws, with independent travellers in particular finding an excuse to extend their stay and explore the villages and valleys. No matter how humble your budget, however, Cappadocia as seen from the basket of a hot air balloon is the one sight that’s roundly considered essential viewing.

While the other balloons at ‘Cappadocia International Airport’ billow slowly into life, our own magnificent vehicle is pumped and ready to fly. Geert, our pilot, has us practise the landing position and outlines the basics: rule number one, he says, is that no one leaves the basket without his permission. Giddy smiles break out all round as with a roar of flame we begin to drift upwards.

When the ground below has become a distant patchwork and we’re eye-level with the orange orb of the sun rising over the mountains, a reverent silence reigns in the basket. We’re flying high yet feel completely motionless – it is only the wind that allows the balloon to travel, we learn, and the lack of the slightest turbulence is because the basket is at one with the air in which it is suspended. This also means that technically, these airborne giants are impossible to steer. So when Geert announces it’s playtime”, the glint in his eye has me a little worried.

It may not be steering but it certainly looks like it. Geert’s control is ultra-precise but seemingly effortless as he ascends and descends to tap into air currents moving in the direction he wants to go. Cappadocia’s calm weather conditions and gentle winds make it a balloon pilot’s dream – Geert, who has flown all over Europe, tells us he can fly 330 days a year here, compared to 150 in his native Belgium.

It’s also hard to imagine a more balloon-friendly landscape to explore as we float over rocky bluffs, snake along valley floors, skim inches away from fairy chimneys and peek into trogolodyte dwellings carved into the volcanic tuff. The treetops we’re drifting over are snowy with blossom right now but come autumn, the pilots can pick apricots right from their basket.

I can see how you could get obsessed with this,” comments my other half, dreamily. Geert confirms this with a grin. “I’ve been flying here for three years now and I never get bored,” he says. “I see something new every day. Plus, I don’t like walking.”
An exhilarating hour and a half later, it’s true that returning to life on the ground seems like an unbearably humdrum option … but land we must. We’re welcomed back to earth with glasses of fizzy orange pop containing enough E numbers to keep the buzz going at least until lunchtime. Red-eye departure, standing room only and now no champers? This is one airline I could fly with forever.

• Balloon flights with Kapadokya Balloons (+90 384 271 2442; www.kapadokya cost €230 per person. Elise Rana travelled in Turkey with Fez Travel (+90 212 516 9024; Tours start at £199 including transport, guide and three-star accommodation with breakfast.”