Here is what to do in Turkey in winter. Plus reasons why you should travel to Türkiye in winter.
Many people assume that Turkey is only a summer destination. It’s true that during the summer months, the sun shines endlessly, the rain stays away (mostly), and temperatures soar, making the beaches and the islands incredible destinations.
There is more than enough to do during the summer, but have you ever considered visiting Türkiye in the winter season?
Yes, Turkey is a winter destination, too!
There’s something magical about Türkiye in winter. Maybe it’s how the snow dusts the ancient buildings and streets or how the cold air makes the colors more vivid. Perhaps it is how the hot air balloons glide over Cappadocia or the warmth of taking a Turkish Bath. Either way, winter getaways in Turkey are ideal as there are fewer tourists and winter festivals. So bundle up and prepare for some serious wanderlust because we’re taking you on a virtual tour of Turkey in winter!
We’ll start in Istanbul, with its soaring minarets and labyrinthine streets. Then, we’ll head south to Antalya, where you can explore Roman ruins amidst Mediterranean blue skies. Finally, we’ll head east to Ankara and Cappadocia for a taste of traditional Turkish culture and some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.
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Reasons Why A Winter Holiday In Turkey Is A Good Idea
I could give you infinite reasons, but let’s keep it brief about why you should book a winter vacation in Turkey.
Istanbul is busy no matter the month, but the country’s rest tends to be quieter during winter. That means you can explore without feeling hot and sticky and picking your way through the crowds. Türkiye has a vast amount of history to appreciate, and fewer crowds give you a better chance of enjoying it. Of course, it also makes traveling from A to B much more effortless.
A Different Experience
You’ll get a more traditional feel to your stay during the winter months. During the summer, Türkiye is a very international place, and the holiday resorts on the south coast feel barely Turkish sometimes. However, no matter where you go during the winter, you’ll be able to have an authentic experience.
Great Weather (Mostly)
I’m not going to lie and say that Turkey doesn’t have cold winters because, in some places, it really does; however, for the most part, it’s far milder and drier than much of Europe. I’ll get onto the weather shortly because the sheer size of Türkiye means that you can’t lump the entire country into one weather zone.
Fewer crowds, great weather, and plenty to see and do means you can fill up your phone with Insta-worthy snaps. When it snows (occasionally it does), those photos will go from wow to winter wonderland wow in seconds.
Weather In Turkey During Winter
The weather varies wildly according to where you go and when you go. Winter officially starts in the middle of December, although you might get the odd chilly day towards the end of November. The winter lasts until the middle of March, but February days can be enjoyable in some places, particularly on the south coast.
The coldest place in Türkiye is Erzurum during winter, located in Eastern Turkey; however, Ankara is also an icy spot, sometimes heading into minus numbers. Snow here is possible much of the time. If you’re visiting
Istanbul (highly recommended), be ready for a mixed bag of weather. It can be warm with sunny days, then boom, cold and rainy another, and then it randomly snows. However, during March, you’ll start to see the start of spring appearing.
If you’re heading to the south coast, perhaps to Bodrum, Izmir, Marmaris, or Antalya, you can expect the temperature in the mid-20s through February and March with very little rain. However, December and January will require an umbrella on hand for winter storms.
Visiting Turkey during the winter months means packing for every eventuality and knowing that you probably won’t have a total washout, no matter when you visit.
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Things To See & Do In Turkey During The Winter Months
Let’s get down to the good stuff now. What can you see and do during the winter in Türkiye? It’s impossible to give you an exhaustive list, so let’s pick out some definite highlights.
The Streets Of Istanbul – Endless History & Shopping
There is more history in Istanbul than most entire countries can boast. Formerly known as Constantinople, Istanbul has fantastically preserved mosques, churches, palaces, and stately buildings that will take your breath away.
Dolmabahce Palace is a must-do, along with the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace.
If you want to do a spot of Christmas or souvenir shopping while you’re away, you won’t struggle to spend your cash in Istanbul! If you wish to haggle in the Grand Bazaar, buy from one of the street markets, or head to one of the many huge shopping malls, such as the Mall of Istanbul or Cevihir, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Oh, and did I mention the food!?
Cappadocia And Its Stunning Views
Cappadocia is a year-round deal, and the out-of-this-world landscapes like the fairy chimneys make are something you must see to believe during the winter months. A hot air balloon ride over the Goreme National Park is a must-do, along with a stay in a cave hotel and a traditional Turkish breakfast with a potentially snowy backdrop.
A Chilled Out Vibe In Fethiye
During the summer months, the south coast of Turkey has nightlife and sunshine central. Fethiye is a town on the south coast, around two hours from another popular spot – Marmaris. Fethiye usually has a laidback feel, but you get an authentic sense of life in this Mediterranean region of Türkiye during winter.
If you want to, you can go parasailing in nearby Olu Deniz, a famed spot for the sport.
Bursa is a city located in northwestern Turkey. It is the fourth most populous city in Türkiye and one of its historical and cultural centers. The city is known for its thermal baths, which make it a popular tourist destination.
In winter, the temperatures in Bursa can drop to 0°C (32°F), so visitors should dress appropriately. However, the cold weather doesn’t stop people from enjoying the city’s sights and sounds. There are plenty of things to do in Bursa, from visiting the Grand Mosque to exploring the Ulu Cami. And, of course, no visit to Bursa would be complete without indulging in some of the city’s delicious kebabs!
Skiing In Uludag
Located a very short distance from vibrant Bursa, you’ll find a snowy wonderland with scenery to make your jaw drop. The ski resorts open, along with all of the winter activities, in mid-December, and the best season runs until the middle of March.
You can expect a busy experience here when winter sports enthusiasts take their winter break, but never fear; there is more than enough space for everyone to have a good time.
Accommodation is also fantastic; you can choose to stay in Uludag itself or stay in Bursa and use the regular transportation that heads to and from the mountains daily.
History In Canakkale
Everyone knows the story of Troy, but did you know that it’s located in modern-day Turkey and not Greece? Of course, the area belonged to Greece at the time, but everything changed not long afterward.
Canakkale is a charming seaside town with plenty to see and do, but it’s also a very short distance away from the site of Troy and a must-visit for history buffs. You can also see the Trojan horse used in the 2004 film located in Canakkale
Amazing Sunsets In Pamukkale
During the summer, visiting Pamukkale without feeling stressed is not particularly easy. Sure, it’s a must-visit, but it’s bustling. Divine! You’ll have a far calmer and more enjoyable experience if you visit during the winter and the sunsets.
If you pick a warm and pleasant day, you’ll be able to soak your aching limbs in the hot springs and then go for a walk around the fantastic ruins of the former Greek city of Hierapolis.
There’s something about a sunset that makes everything feel right in the world. And when you add in a stunning location like Pamukkale, Türkiye, you have the recipe for an unforgettable experience. As the sun begins to dip below the horizon, the sky turns a beautiful hue of orange and red. The waterfalls at Pamukkale reflect these colors, creating an incredible scene. It’s honestly hard to believe that something so beautiful is real. Standing there watching the sunset, you can’t help but feel a sense of peace and wonder. It’s a moment that you’ll remember forever.
A Step Back In Time At Ephesus
Without a doubt, visiting Ephesus is far better and far easier than during the summer. Not only is there zero shade as you walk around the massive site of Ephesus (a former Greek city back in the day) but it’s also jam-packed from June to September.
When you visit out of season, you’ll have the place almost to yourself, and you’ll be able to take photos without everyone photobombing them accidentally.
The ancient city is full of incredible ruins, and even though the wind is cold, the sun shines on you! While Ephesus can be cold during winter, there is nothing a warm travel jacket and cap can’t fix. The best way to explore the ruins is by taking a guided tour as we did, and you can also visit the famous Ephesus Museum at the end to get out of the cold. Just do not forget to bundle up!
Snowy Architecture In Ankara
Ankara experiences a fair amount of snowfall during the winter months, and if you’re looking for reliable snowfall during a city break, this is the spot for you. It’s also an excellent place for history and architecture lovers, with examples of Ottoman Empire buildings everywhere. Ankara Castle is also a top place to visit.
Of course, Ankara is Turkey’s capital city, not Istanbul!
Winter Beaches In Antalya
Antalya is a city in itself but has several beach resorts not far away. Some awe-inspiring five-star hotels stay open year-round round and have all-inclusive packages to enjoy. If you like spas, Antalya is also the place for you.
However, if you want to sit and sip a glass of Türkiye tea (cay) with a beachfront view, Antalya is the best spot to do it, with fantastic weather for most of the year. This is the sunniest place in Turkey.
The Best Of Nature In Yedigoller National Park
Halfway between Ankara and Istanbul, you’ll find a natural wonder ideal for winter tourism. Yedigoller National Park is named after the seven lakes in the park created by a colossal landslide many years ago. The park is in fragrant woodland, with waterfalls, hiking trails, and plentiful wildlife.
If you adore outdoor activities and camping, a winter visit to Yedigoller National Park will be a scenic, albeit chilly, spot.
New Year’s Eve In Izmir
Many people like to visit Istanbul for New Year’s Eve, but it’s so unbelievably busy that you probably won’t be able to move. In my opinion, a better spot is Izmir. This is a modern and historic city with a stylish flair.
Izmir is a great choice if you’re looking for an exciting and fun-filled winter vacation – we loved it last winter.
This beautiful city is located on the Aegean Sea and is known for its stunning beaches, lively nightlife, and delicious food. And what’s more, Izmir is an incredibly affordable destination. So whether you’re looking to relax or party the night away, Izmir is the perfect place to be in winter.
There is shopping on par with Istanbul, and if you want more to see, you can travel less than one hour to Kusadasi, a beautiful and vibrant beach town with a historic castle.
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A Whirling Dervish performance is a fantastic sight to behold. The dancers, clad in traditional robes, spin around in a trance-like state, their arms outstretched and their heads tilted back. The effect is both mesmerizing and ethereal.
When witnessing a whirling dervish performance in Türkiye, you’re in for a treat – and because it’s held indoors, you escape the cold outside. The performances are often held in historic venues, which only adds to the magical atmosphere. Whether you’re a fan of traditional dance or simply looking for an unforgettable experience, a whirling dervish performance is not to be missed.
Underground cities, panoramic views, the Mediterranean Sea, the Taurus Mountains, and historical sites all await you in the colder months of this year!
Ha! And you thought Turkey was just for the summer!