Is the balloon ride a definite part of the tour, or maybe an option?
It is an optional activity, not a definite part of the tour. It is a fantastic experience, I’m glad I did it. About half of our tour group participated - It was an exciting adventure. It cost $200, a good value!
Thank You Judy for the info.
Another question - Is the Blue Mosque still under renovation & if so does it diminish the experience?
Lastly, when will it be completely open again?
I’ve taken the balloon ride in Cappadocia twice. It’s not to be missed!
I was there in October 2018 and the Blue Mosque was being renovated then. I would check online or call the RS office. They are very helpful. Are you considering this tour?
An internet search found that the Blue Mosque will be under renovation through 2020. However, it is now open to tourists. The renovation may alter what you are able to see.
Although the Blue Mosque gets a lot of tourist attention, there are many, many other interesting mosques in Istanbul. The Rüstem Pasha Mosque has amazing tiles, for example. The Süleymaniye Mosque is also amazing. There are many others. Just know the etiquette when entering.
I agree with Agnes's good suggestions. As for the Blue Mosque renovations, they may or may not end. I spoke with a local guide when I was in Istanbul last summer about the scaffolding inside Hagia Sophia - he said to expect to see it forever. It takes years to complete renovations/restorations/cleaning and by the time they finish it, it's necessary to start over.
Do take the balloon ride. Most of the folks on my tour did it and no one regretted it afterward.
I was in Istanbul and Cappadocia a few weeks ago. The hot air balloon flights were cancelled due to weather (a little wind is all it takes to cancel) three of our four days there. Our last day the balloons went up. We thought we wouldn’t get to go since there were many ppl waiting due to balloon flights being cancelled for a few days in a row. I guess some of those tourists had to leave, per their itinerary. The balloon companies pick up passengers at their hotels very early... around 5:00 am.
The Blue Mosque is still under restoration. It will be for a couple of years. I agree with Agnes that you should see the Süleymaniye Mosque, it is 200 years older than the Blue Mosque and more beautiful. The Süleymaniye Mosque was restored a couple of years ago, so it if especially gorgeous right now. It is about a 25 minute walk from the Sultanahmet area, Also, the Süleymaniye Mosque is at the top of a hill and has a very pretty view from up there. Nice to enjoy the garden behind the Mosque and the view. Also, tons of restaurants near that Mosque, which are not as touristy as the ones in Sultanahmet area.
**** Agnes, you and I should talk sometime! We have similar travel experiences and interests!! ******
The hot air balloon ride is extra, but everyone in our group did it......we were squealing like a bunch of kindergarteners...SO MUCH FUN.... Most of the ladies on my tour also took a Turkish bath together......😉 We would talk each other into doing the extra things.....such a great memories!
It is optional as others have said. Do this! I started saving money just for this experience several months before my tour. You do have to get quite early to do this......totally worth the loss of sleep!
The silence after the burners are turned off....is deafening! Such peace!
My pilot landed the balloon directly on the trailer behind the pickup.....AMAZING!
I didn’t do the balloon ride because of insurance purposes. I’m not sure travel insurance would cover any injuries. I am less willing to take the risks I used to take when I was a young thing!
I didn't opt for the hot air balloon ride and didn't feel like that decision detracted in any way from my enjoyment of the Turkey tour. However, everyone on my tour that did go on the ride raved about it upon their return. It's simply a matter of personal choice.
Optional. Do it! Priceless experience!