Where To Go During December In Turkey
December offers plenty to do in Turkey. While lounging on beaches and swimming leaves tourists with chills, December presents a different face of one of world’s top-visited destinations. Granted, weather conditions and temperatures change. Do not expect sunny days and temperatures of 40 degrees, because many people are surprised some places even receive snowfall. However, that does not hamper travel plans because many places still open for business. Added benefits of visiting during December, winter’s first month, are cheaper deals on hotel and flight prices, and when exploring, fewer crowds. So, let us look at where to go during December in Turkey.
Where To Go During December In Turkey
1: Istanbul City Break
Visiting Turkey and bypassing Istanbul is unforgiveable since this vast city perfectly displays Turkey’s history and how the urban landscape evolved into a marvellous and intriguing destination. Although fully exploring this vast urban landscape would take months, four nights gives a fully informed introduction to Turkey’s most fantastic city. Moreover, in December, tourists beat queues at all major attractions.
Start in Sultanahmet, a district housing prominent UNESCO World Heritage sites, like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Then, walk a short distance to the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s largest and oldest shopping places. Next, wander around Istiklal Avenue, known as new Istanbul and take a Bosphorus cruise to view landmark mosques, castles, and millionaire Yali mansions. (More about what to see and things to do in Istanbul, Turkey.)
2: Cappadocia Winter Wonderland
During winter, the central Anatolian Cappadocia region becomes magical. This vast landscape with lunar-like rock formations formed by wind erosion over thousands of years hosts millions of visitors all year round. Additionally, Cappadocia’s intriguing history captivates everyone since the region eagerly embraced early Christianity. Learn about this era in Goreme Open Air Museum, home to many 14th and 15th century churches with ancient Biblical frescoes. The top recommended activity, a hot air balloon trip during sunrise is pricey, but worth it. Additionally, we hire a car or join local tours to see all attractions spread out over a vast area. Be sure to book an authentic cave hotel for an authentic Cappadocia experience.
3: Visit Mediterranean Antalya
Antalya, Turkey’s warmest regions on the southern coast during December, operates all year round. Granted, there might be a few days of rain, but weather conditions do not usually hamper travel plans. Start at Kaleici, Antalya’s old part and where it all began. Wander cobbled streets to admire old Ottoman houses and mosques. Antalya Museum and Aquarium, both offer fascinating insights into Antalya’s history and marine wildlife. For a picture-postcard scene, walk to Duden Waterfalls that tumble into the Mediterranean Sea. Meanwhile, Aspendos and Perge, two famous historical sites close by, deserve admiration, or travel further to Mount Tahtali cable car that gives off amazing coastline views over Kemer. (What is Antalya in Turkey like?)
4: Ephesus and The Virgin Mary’s House
During a good year, Ephesus ancient ruins host millions of visitors. Every day, hundreds arrive to view old landmarks of this city that nearly rivalled Rome. However, in December cruise ships and tourist buses lessen, so visitors avoid those crowds. Following a walk down Agora Street, past ancient statues, and Hadrian’s temple, arrive at the Roman terrace houses, with their intricate mosaics. Nearby public latrines display where wealthy Ephesus citizens got slaves to warm up toilet seats for them, and the magnificent Celsius library stands out as a photography opportunity. Finally, see the grand amphitheatre, scene of the Bible’s famous Artemis riots. We also recommend visiting the Virgin Mary’s house nearby, where she ascended.
5: Go Skiing in Turkey
Many people are surprised to learn Turkey has roughly ten ski resorts, and late December, presents a good amount of snowfall for skiers to enjoy the slopes. Whether beginner or experienced, places like Mount Erciyes offer excellent skiing utilities through their slopes and ski schools. Additionally, places like this are Turkey’s top snowboarding places. Newbie skiers should check resorts beforehand for rental shops hiring out equipment. Book overnight accommodation since a day skiing takes up more energy than people realise.
6: Bursa’s Urban and Nature Vibes
Speaking of ideal cities to visit, Bursa should be on your list simply because this trip combines an urban landscape with Mother Nature. Bursa city centre consists of many Ottoman landmarks that are now UNESCO World Heritage sites thanks to their ancient architecture. In addition, Bursa was where the famous Iskender doner kebab dish was invented, so take your tastebuds on a culinary journey. Otherwise, Bursa, nicknamed green Bursa, a reflection of green spaces, offers the best of both worlds. After exploring city landmarks, head out to Mount Uludag, another top skiing spot, or hop on a snowmobile to explore countryside landscapes with a guide.
7: Eastern Express Train Trip
Instagram gave birth to a new domestic travel trend in Turkey about five years ago. The Eastern Express train route, known as Dogu Express, travels from Ankara to Kars, taking in amazing views. Foreign tourists rarely head buy tickets, yet Turkish travellers are all over it, so book tickets well in advance. Book a private or shared cabin, for the 24-hour journey. Expect to see ragged landscapes covered with a thin layer of snow and meet many Turkish people, young and old.
8: Explore Kars
After completing the Eastern Express, stay overnight in Kars to enjoy regional delights. Start by exploring Kars old town district known for Russian architecture, from when they ruled in the early 20th century. Also, take a short taxi ride to Ani city, known as the city of 1001 churches. Explore old churches and mosques from the marvellous ancient Armenian kingdom that mainstream tourism publications rarely feature. Also nearby, Lake Cilder, freezes over for visitors to enjoy a horse ridden carriage ride before sampling delicious fish dinners caught from ice lake fishing.
9: Lake Abant
Bolu offers another domestic Turkish travel trend. Lake Abant, typically highlighted for autumn colours, receives a blanket of snow during winter, and photographers get excited at the natural beauty site. Families set up a lakeside BBQ, while couples enjoy horse carriage rides, otherwise walk 1 kilometre around the lake. Twin this with nearby Lake Goluk to embrace Mother Nature’s beauty during December. Lake Abant offers a few hotels or book one in nearby Bolu city. Additionally, many Istanbul and Ankara tour agencies sell daytime trips.
10: Southern Coast Historical Sites
Turkey’s southern coast is home to the famous Lycian Way, a 500-kilometre trekking route covering Turkey’s best historical sites. While December is not a good month to trek, tourists can cheat and see all historical sites on a D400 highway road trip. Although not part of the Lycian way, Alanya, home to the famous red castle, is an excellent place to start. Next, enjoy historical delights of Side, a small town built around old city ruins. UNESCO World Heritage Xanthos and Letton near Patara formerly belonged to the Ancient Lycian league, a collection of influential cities from that era. Also, put Phaselis, sitting within a national park and near stunning beaches, on your list. Ideally, complete the trip over one to two weeks and book overnight accommodation as you go.
Also About Turkey
Our Blog: To know more about things to do in Turkey during December, or other aspects like food, history, travel, culture, and living here, our blog about Turkey will be of use. We took our teams combined local knowledge and experience to form a one-stop helpful resources guide for anyone looking to travel or invest in Turkey.