Turkey

Visiting Turkey in December – Places to Visit & Things to Do

Last Updated September, 2021

For some reason, Turkey is considered to be exclusively a seaside resort. That’s not surprising, considering a fact that the country has four seas with gorgeous beaches and rather loyal prices. However, visiting Turkey in December will be no less interesting for any type of traveler.

Snow-capped Anatolian mountains, empty tourists sights, lower prices are just a few reasons why to spend holidays in Turkey during the first month of winter. 

But for you to understand more of what to expect, I invite you to read this post. I included detailed information about the weather, what to pack, what to do in Turkey in December, and other tips.

If you have more questions, ask them in the comments. I am living in Turkey for part of the year (in winter too) and will do my best to help. 

Turkey Weather in December 

Istanbul in December

The air temperature in Turkey in December differs in different parts of the country. It is much colder in the center and north than in the south. Even at the beginning of winter, Antalya and Kemer delight tourists with green grassy lawns and foliage. However, coastal parks do not have any flowers, and leaves on many trees turn yellow.

Overall, December in most of Turkey is the warmest winter month, although many places get rainfall and others snow. The weather is very mild without too much slush, big snowdrifts and severe frosts as most of Europe is used to. But it is also quite changeable. The sun gives way to clouds and despite the fact that it is warm during the daytime, at night the temperature drops to +5 + 10С. Interestingly, the sea is still warmer than the air. 

The water temperature in Turkey in December does not exceed +19.5С and in the Aegean Sea, it is lower by 2-3С. The Marmara Sea and the Black Sea are in December stormy on the coast, and no one swims.

The Mediterranean coast on the contrary can be still warm during the day, so some people even swim, just not too long. We don’t because for us it is too cold. But sunbathing is definitely possible and not just in the south. Last winter it was so warm in December all over Turkey that Mark and I were even sunbathing in Burgaz Island near Istanbul. Maybe this year will be the same, yet I wouldn’t count on that. Because Istanbul in December is usually chilly and windy.

Since the temperature is higher during the day, you can wear light clothes. But evenings become windy and cold, so you may need a hat, warm jacket, and a scarf. Also, warm clothes are needed when going for long walks along the coast and for excursions. 

As for the temperature on winter resorts in Turkey, during the day it is usually around 0 -1С, and at night the thermometer drops to −12С. The ski season is just beginning but skiing is already possible. 

Prices in Turkey in December 

Due to the cool weather in December, not many tourists travel to Turkey as they do in late spring, summer or early autumn. For this reason, prices drop and tour companies together with hotels offer excellent deals. This also applies to expensive luxurious hotels. So when visiting Turkey in winter, you can afford more for less.

Another thing – you will definitely enjoy the absence of long queues and the opportunity to relax in seclusion.

Where to Go in Turkey in December

Turkey weather in December
Merdin anyone? While it can be windy and rather cold in South-East Turkey in December, it is a good time to have the city to yourself.

There are really many places to visit in Turkey in December. Where to go and what to skip will depend on your preferences and style of vacation. But you need to keep in mind one thing – in order to have a great December vacation, it is important to find out in advance what will be closed and what not and choose the right place where to stay.

Also, make sure to pack the right clothes. Nothing can be worse than arriving in a place and realizing that it’s too cold. And not because it’s really cold but because you took the wrong wardrobe. 

Here is a list of some of the best places to visit in Turkey in December:

Istanbul

Of course, it was going to make a list. Istanbul is an amazing city to visit during any time of the year, seriously. But among all winter months, December for Istanbul is probably the best. 

This city has a rich history, ancient beautiful streets, lots of museums, colorful squares, pedestrian promenades, and colorful bazaars. Oh, did I mention palaces, temples, mosques, and vibrant restaurants? That’s right, so many of them.

And the best part, you can explore Istanbul at your own pace without crowds and no heat, just locals and their kingdom of cats. The only time when you see crowds may be during Catholic Christmas. A lot of people flock to touristy areas to find the Christmas atmosphere.

As for the weather, it is so unpredictable. The following 2 photos were taken in December one week apart. At first it was warm and sunny and felt like autumn but then the rain came and suddenly brought cold. 

Istanbul in December
Istanbul in December

Among must-do things in Istanbul in December I recommend you not to miss:

  • A good Bosphorus tour to see the city from the water and listen to its history from your onboard guide.  
  • Shopping. When I need to buy clothes and I am outside Turkey, I always wait when I return and go shopping in Istanbul. That’s the best place to shop and find anything you need at reasonable prices. In December, there are many sales and extra holiday discounts.
  • An extensive food tour. I always recommend everyone to go on a food tour in Istanbul. I tell my friends, my family, and anyone I know. Why? Because there are too many Turkish foods to try that you may be lost. With the tour, you get to try delicacies and discover Istanbul’s must-try dishes.
  • Private Turkish Bath Experience 

And for more Istanbul inspiration, see my other posts:

Turkish Seaside

Most of the hotels on the coast of Turkey are closing for the winter season and open up again in spring. However, that’s the case for small hotels and guesthouses. Large hotels stay open all year round. Especially popular are all-inclusive 5* resorts that have spa centers and swimming pools with heated (often salted) water.

The most popular area with all-inclusive vacations is on the stretch between Kemer and Alanya. Staying anywhere there in December means that you have access to all well-developed infrastructure and can do many activities besides hanging out in the hotel only.

Antalya and Alanya as the largest cities have many beautiful parks, oceanarium, zoo, and an amusement park. While most of the days are cloudy, you can still enjoy those places to the fullest. There are also several interesting museums for history buffs and shopping malls offer an exciting shopping experience.

If you base yourself in Antalya in December, you can rent a car and drive to Pamukkale, Konya, Cappadocia, Mersin, Adana and all the way to Antakya which are also good places to visit in Turkey in December if you love history and ancient cities. 

Turkey in December
Surprise, surprise! It can be actually pretty sunny on the coast of Turkey in December too. Although the sun can be followed by clouds and rain. Here is the second week of December in Cesme, Izmir province. 

NOTE: Aegean coast of Turkey doesn’t have a lot of activities in December. Many towns become very quiet since everything closes for the season. However, visiting the Aegean coast is still amazing for other reasons.

First of all, you can join one of many excursions in the area and visit ancient Pergamon or Ephesus without any people. Second, you can go to wineries (there are many in Izmir province and Sirince is just one of them) and explore a bit of village life.

Among the best tours to join along the Turkish coast during the first winter month are:

December is a good month to walk around Antalya when it is cool and breezy. So definitely do not miss a tour there! 

Ski Resorts in Turkey

Among all the things to do in Turkey in December, skiing and snowboarding are the most popular ones.

At the beginning of winter, Turkish ski resorts open their doors to visitors. They are located at an altitude of 1700-3000 m in the mountains and in December (especially in the second part) already have enough snow on the slopes for skiing.

The most popular ski resorts are Uludag (near Bursa not far from Istanbul), Palandoken (in Erzurum in Eastern Turkey), and Kayseri (near Cappadocia, so you can combine a visit to both of them). They are in great demand among tourists, especially among families with children since the tracks are designed for beginners.

But what is particularly cool is that hotels in those ski towns offer all-inclusive stays.

Even if you are visiting Antalya province, you can experience some snow too. While it is relatively warm near the sea, Saklikent National Park (less than 2 hours drive) has a lot of snow. We loved driving there on occasion just to experience real winter and spend a few hours in the snow. But many people love to go skiing. 

Pros & Cons of Visiting Turkey in December

Pros

december in Turkey
Turkey in December

1. Prices for tours, excursions, and vacation packages to Turkey in December are significantly lower than during the summer season or New Year.

2. There are no crowds of tourists on the coast and there are no queues at the ticket offices.

3. In December, Turkey has many opportunities for a varied holiday that will include wellness, shopping, and skiing.

4. It is not hot (you can’t imagine how hot it gets in summer), so it is convenient to go on excursions and walks.

5. There is a big variety of different fruits and vegetables that have very reasonable prices.

Cons

1. In December, Turkish resorts are not suitable for a beach holiday, so you won’t be able to swim in the sea.

2. The weather in most of Turkey is pretty changeable in December. In Istanbul and on the coast, the day can start with a pleasantly cool morning but then end with cloudy skies and rain. I personally love this type of weather but many people don’t.

3. The choice of hotels is partly limited because some of them are closed until spring.

My Top Travel Tips For December Travel in Turkey

Cappadocia in December
And yes, visiting Cappadocia in December is well worth it!

– Due to the winds in Istanbul, on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, the humidity is up to 80%. To stay warm, do not forget about warm clothes, a windbreaker, raincoat, and hat.

– For vacation on the Mediterranean coast in December (as any other time in winter), choose comfortable hotels with a sauna and indoor heated pools. If staying in the apartment, book only accommodation with heat (not AC type of heat but radiators). You don’t want to stay anywhere without the heat because it is going to be damp and cold. 

– Cold weather is conducive to dining. Spend some time tasting delicious traditional Turkish cuisine and joining a food tour. If you will be in Istanbul, follow my guide to the best food to try in Istanbul and where to find it.

Resources I Use When Traveling in Turkey

If you will be renting a car, I recommend MyRentaCar company. It partners with local agents in every large city in Turkey, so you will be able to find a car anywhere you go. Second, prices are often much lower than the big-name rental companies. Most vehicles have no deposit, no mileage limit, and come with comprehensive insurance included for no extra charge.

To find out more about driving in Turkey, read my posts about car hire and driving in Antalya and how to rent a car in Turkey on a budget

For hotel stays, I always use Booking (but in Turkey with VPN), Trip.com, and Hotels.com.

For more Turkey posts, check my Turkey page here. I have a ton of information! 

Guide to Turkey in December
 
 

Anya is originally from Ukraine but in heart she is a citizen of the world. She is working online and that’s why has an opportunity to travel slowly and live in different countries around the world. At present time, she is living between Lviv, Ukraine and Istanbul, Turkey. On this blog, her main goal is to inspire others to travel to under-the-radar-places and discover the world while working remotely.

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