Are you embarking on a journey to Turkey in December? It is not the most common “best time|” don’t let the cooler weather conditions stop you. Let me share some insider tips from my 12+ years living and working in Turkey.
Contrary to popular belief, Turkey isn’t always bathed in sunshine; December here is quite different from the scorching summer months. While you won’t find locals lounging by the pool with a daiquiri, visiting Istanbul during this winter month has its perks.
Expect fewer tourists, making it a perfect time to explore iconic landmarks like Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque.
The city, which has sunny days with an average cool temperature, might even surprise you with a magical dusting of snow.
Early December in Turkey is about experiencing the rich culture in a tranquil setting – no heated pools are needed, but perhaps a warm Turkish bath could be delightful. This guide will be your one-stop source for navigating Turkey in December, showing you the country’s enchanting winter wonderland side.
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December In Turkey Pros And Cons
Visiting Turkey in December comes with its unique advantages and a few drawbacks:
Weather For Turkey In December
December isn’t the coldest month of the year; that’s January when it very rarely gets over 10 degrees Celcius anywhere and often dips below freezing in mountainous areas. But December can be freezing indeed, depending on where you go, and you are likely to experience heavy rain and possibly even snow.
For instance, if you enjoy winter sports like skiing, then head to Uludag near the city of Bursa. This is a high-quality ski resort, and you’ll see plenty of the white stuff at this time of year. Very festive! However, you’ll need warm clothes as it dips well below freezing during the night.
If skiing isn’t what you’re looking for, there are countless other spots to visit in December. Istanbul is always popular during the winter season; if you do get snow, it’s a truly magical picture.
However, it’s less likely than in January. You will see grey and cold, but it’s the ideal time to explore because cooler temperatures make everything so much easier – exploring Istanbul in the summer when it’s hot is NOT fun.
You can expect temperatures somewhere around 10 degrees during December, although there are the odd days when it’s a bit warmer. You’ll also have a mixture of rain and bright days, so it’s a real mixed bag. It doesn’t make packing easy, but layers will see you through.
If you head to the south coastal resorts, which are usually packed during peak season, you’ll see a totally different picture. Here, the winter months, including December, are quite mild; sometimes, you can experience temperatures in the mid-teens.
It can rain, and the odd storm will pass through, leaving the whole place pretty soggy. But these situations are usually relatively short-lived. You’re very unlikely to see snow in early winter unless you visit Antalya and look up at the high mountains that are generally snow-capped at this time. It’s very scenic, that’s for sure.
Izmir is a pretty similar picture, and if you visit Ankara, you can expect weather identical to Istanbul, although with a higher chance of snow and slightly colder temperatures.
|Winter low & high temperatures (Dec – Feb)
|Mediterranean Coast Areas
|10°C / 50°F – 15°C / 59°F
|-10°C / 14°F – 0°C / 32°F
|Black Sea Coast
|5°C / 41°F – 10°C / 50°F
|-5°C / 23°F – 5°C / 41°F
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Where To Go & What To Do In Turkey In December
For me, it’s Istanbul. Nothing is better than visiting this culture-packed city during the winter months; December has that festive feel. While Christmas isn’t celebrated (this being a Muslim country), you will see Santa everywhere, a Christmas tree or two, and sparkling lights – but this isn’t for Christmas; it’s all for New Year, or Yılbaşı when everyone goes all out celebrating, eating a large meal, and giving presents.
The southern coast resorts, including Antalya city, are great places to visit at this time if you want to see a more chilled-out way of life and try authentic food.
Izmir is also great at any time of the year, and you can explore in lower temperatures, making walking so much easier.
It is not just Istanbul; visiting Turkey in December offers a variety of things to do:
- Skiing: Enjoy skiing at popular resorts like Uludag, Palandoken, and Kartalkaya
- Thermal Spas: Relax in the thermal baths at Pamukkale or Yalova
- Cultural Festivals: Experience local festivals and cultural events, especially in regions like Cappadocia and Konya
- Shopping: Explore vibrant bazaars and modern shopping malls for unique souvenirs and gifts
- Culinary Delights: Savor Turkish cuisine, including warm street foods and traditional dishes
- Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Rides: Although weather-dependent, a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys can be magical
- Historical Anatolian Towns: Visit Anatolian towns for a glimpse into Turkey’s rich history and architecture
December in Turkey is a blend of winter activities, cultural explorations, and culinary delights.
Can You Swim In December In Turkey?
If you like the icy sea, then yes, but generally, no!
Sea temperatures are very cold at this time of year, so keep your swimming confined to indoor pools unless you want to catch a chill!
Major Festivals & Events In Turkey In December
December isn’t the busiest month in terms of festivals and events across the country. The reason is that everyone is gearing up for the biggest one of the year – the New Year!
Santa Claus Festival
Around 6th December every year, the Santa Claus Festival occurs in Demre, Antalya. This is where a man dubbed Santa Claus lived, and he’s known locally as Noel Baba, or Father Christmas to translate.
Head to the 4th century Saint Nicholas Church in Demre on 6th December and enjoy festivities.
The biggest event of them all happens on 31st December – Yılbaşı! There are parties, huge banquets, families coming together, huge shopping sales, concerts, fireworks – you name it, you’ll find it!
If you want to attend a particular bar or restaurant on this day, you must book well ahead of time, especially for New Year’s Eve in Istanbul. You’ll also find large hotels have massive parties which you can book and pay for ahead of time, usually including a show of some kind and a huge meal to enjoy.
Whirling Dervishes Festival
Celebrated in mid-December in Konya, this festival commemorates the death anniversary of the Sufi saint Rumi. It features the famous Sema ceremony, where Whirling Dervishes perform their mystical dance.
Although Turkey is predominantly Muslim, Christmas markets can be found, particularly in expat communities and major cities.
Turkey In December – What To Pack & Wear
Whether you’re going to the south coast, Istanbul, or anywhere in between, it’s best to pack an oversized coat, an umbrella, and some boots. That way, you’re covered for all bases!
Other than that, layers are a good idea. Some days are warmer than others, and you might find that sweaters under a coat make you too hot. So, if you layer up, you can always take off what you need and find a happy medium.
In Istanbul especially, you’ll need warm clothes for the evenings when temperatures drop. If you’re heading to this huge city during New Year, dress up with all your sparkling attire, as you’ll find that people don their party clothes for this special night! But again, you’ll need a coat!
Is Turkey In December A Good Idea?
Yes, why not?! As long as you know that you’re not going to get the summer vibe, you’re good to go. Instead, view this as the best opportunity to see a different side of Turkey, no matter where you choose to go.
However, remember that in the tourist resorts, you’ll find most bars and restaurants are closed for the season. Antalya City is the exception there.
You’ll find cheaper prices in December (and all through the low season), although you’ll see them rise dramatically for the New Year celebrations. You’ll also be able to explore without crowds and in much more comfort.
Turkey’s major tourist attractions, such as the ancient city of Ephesus, the thermal waters of Pamukkale, Cappadocia, all of Istanbul, and the like, are open during the cold winters, and it’s much easier to explore when crowd levels are low.
Thinking about a winter holiday in Turkey? Here’s why it’s a brilliant idea:
Winter in Turkey means quieter streets, especially outside Istanbul. You’ll have the historic sites primarily to yourself, making sightseeing more relaxed and enjoyable.
Cost-Effective Travel: Prices for flights and hotels drop significantly in the off-season. You get to explore more while spending less.
Summer can feel pretty international in Turkey, but winter offers a more traditional vibe. It’s the real Turkish experience, no matter where you go.
Sure, some places in Turkey get cold, but overall, the average temperature is milder and drier compared to much of Europe.
Imagine capturing those perfect, snow-laden Instagram shots! Winter transforms Turkey into a picturesque wonderland, perfect for your photo collection. Hello, hot air balloons rising over snow-capped mountains.
So yes, grab some layers of a thick coat and head off to explore Turkey in December!