Winter in Turkey
At the turn of this century, Turkey embarked on a major tourism project to market themselves as one of the top destinations in the world for travel. They succeeded as well, by achieving sixth position for the most visited country in the world in 2014. Despite adverse events in 2016, Turkey still features highly for many people seeking the summer sun, gorgeous beaches, an abundance of historical sites, alfresco dining and lazy days swimming. So, the country obviously knows how to host its summer tourists and travellers but is it worth visiting in the winter? We think so and for many reasons.
Reasons to visit Turkey in the Winter
Travel agents class November to April as off-season, and this is good news because prices are lower, especially for hotels and guided tours. So often, a winter holiday in Turkey can be quite cheap if you source good deals and discounts. However, another worthy benefit of visiting during this season is fewer crowds.
During summer, large tour groups often hold up ticket booths and places like Ephesus on the Aegean coast are crowded as hordes descend from cruise ships docking into nearby Kusadasi. The lower amount of tourists also lends weight to a slow paced and relaxed atmosphere because tour guides and locals have more time and energy to give a personalised one to one service. So that is our reasons to visit Turkey in winter but what is the weather like?
The Winter Climate
Much like summer, the Turkish weather varies depending on which region you visit. Coastal beach resorts of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts generally close down because it is slightly chilly for swimming and sunbathing. From October to April, everyone wears jackets or light jumpers for after dark hours, since the temperature drops.
Snow appears from December to March but only in the northern parts of the country like Istanbul and also ski resorts and high altitude communities like Cappadocia. January and February are rainy months, but one thing we have learned from living in Turkey is that sometimes, winter weather is unpredictable. During one year, in December, the sun shined gloriously, and we walked around in t-shirts, but the following year, we had to fetch out our jackets and umbrellas. Any good weather app should keep you up to date with what to pack.
Places to Visit in Turkey during Winter
Glorious Istanbul operates all year round, and as the former capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, it is often first on most people’s list of places to visit. Landmarks in the Sultanahmet district, i.e. the old part of the city include the Topkapi Palace, the first home of the Ottomans, the famous six minarets Blue Mosque, Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the Hagia Sophia.
Cappadocia in central Anatolian Turkey receives a thin blanket of snow in winter and combined with rock fairy chimneys, cave hotels and ancient churches as well as deep gorges, it becomes a surreal fairy-tale landscape,. Otherwise, shopping and a vibrant nightlife scene of Antalya city centre attract younger travellers. However, other lesser-known and visited spots of Turkey are equally as exciting.
Skiing is taking off in Turkey, and the winter resort of Uludag in the Bursa province is one place receiving rave reviews from travel magazines and publications. This mountain resort with two main skiing areas, 14 lifts and a separate designated area for snowboarders is particularly favoured for a weekend break out of Istanbul. An active nightlife and party scene also attracts highflying, professional thirtysomethings who enjoy the lively atmosphere in among a generous covering of snow-filled mountains.
Istanbul locals flock to Abant Yedigöller (Seven Lakes National Park), near Bolu. Also being a top destination for novice and experienced photographers, scenic landscapes including waterfalls and wooden bridges are labelled as one of the most romantic spots in the Black Sea region.
Another destination near Istanbul is Lake Sapanca that is not only popular for holidays but also for investors cashing in on the growing popularity of the area. Surrounded by mountains to the north and hills to the south, hotels on the edge of the 45-kilometre lake offer spa and wellness treatments attracting holidaymakers looking to rejuvenate and relax. Clean air and Sapanca’s renowned winter atmosphere is the perfect antidote to anyone looking for inspiration of nature.
Combine a trip to Cappadocia with a visit to Sarikamis Ski centre near Kayseri, the neighbouring province. Making a roaring trade from December to April, Sarikamis attracts hard-core skiers especially those interested in cross-country. Twelve-kilometre ski runs and the state of the art facilities appeal to professional skiers in particular although schools offering lessons to wannabe adventure seekers attract beginners and novices.
No matter where you go in Turkey during winter, locals of each region adapt to the climate change and as such, the breaking in of a new season means food and drink trends change as well. Whereas in summer, alcoholic Raki, beer or fresh juices such as pomegranate are favoured beverages, drinks specially made to warm you up on a cold winters day include Salep and Boza.
Salep and Boza: Winter Drinks of Turkey
Often sold from street vendors in Istanbul or restaurants in other regions, Salep is a heart-warming beverage that although seems weird to foreigners at first, later becomes a tasty drink that they keep going back for. The original version, made from wild orchid flowers and topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon, is a body warming, creamy like mixture that also boasts of medicinal benefits to help fight common ailments such as a chesty cough accompanying a winter cold.
Made from fermented grains, Boza is an old Turkish drink dating from the 10th century. Its thick texture often gets rid of hunger feelings, so it does not appear at meal times but instead is an alternative to keep you going in between. Once again, this drink has become popular because of its nutritious values needed during winter such as protein, iron, and zinc.
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Our blog about Turkey talks about the diverse history, cuisine trends, and places that make the country a beautiful place to visit. Whether you are looking for inspiration or want to travel from your armchair, our informative articles are a great read for people of all ages. See them here.