8. Cappadocia, Turkey
Jonesing for some legendary thrills? Drift above Cappadocia’s mystical landscape in a hot air balloon as the sun slinks above the horizon. The valley is punctuated by crooked, swirling spires of rock called “fairy chimneys.” Its layers of volcanic ash, lava, and basalt have been sculpted over the years by earthquakes and erosion. You can book a standard, deluxe, or private hot air balloon tour, or explore this World Heritage Site on horseback. Turkey is full of hidden wonders, so if you want to feel like a true explorer, mosey through its underground cities and caves.
Where to stay: Go the extra mile and book a stay in the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul. Situated in the Dolmabahçe district, the hotel is right in the middle of Turkey’s top restaurants, historical attractions, and buzzing nightlife. You can enjoy sparkling morning views of the Bosphorus Strait waterway, and melt away the day’s activities in the spa’s Turkish Hamam. The Ritz-Carlton can even assist in booking a hot air balloon tour. Or, stay at Terra Cave. The travel-friendly hotel is affordable and even boasts home-cooked breakfast. There are four original carved cave rooms and two stone rooms.
Best time to go: The best flying weather is from April through October when the skies are clearest and wind is light, though some companies fly in wintertime, too, according to Turkey Travel Planner.
Expert tip: Book in advance as hot air ballooning is a major tourist attraction, and read reviews of the many booking companies. For example, Butterfly Balloons doesn’t fill its baskets to full capacity so you’re free to move about (max is typically 16 passengers). They also choose the take-off location depending on the conditions, and take off around sunrise for the most favorable experience.
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