Visiting Turkey in January – What Is It Like & Should You Visit?
Last updated on May 21st, 2023
Holidays in Turkey in January are simply created for lovers of excursions and connoisseurs of history! This is the best time to wander around the historical sites that keep many secrets to this day. And then, pop into a shop with oriental sweets and traditional Turkish food, or simply go to a colorful Turkish bazaar.
However, those are not the only activities you can do. There are many more. See this guide below to find out about them as well as about the weather in different regions, what to do, what to wear in Turkey in January, and my best tips for travel during this month!
And if you are traveling to Turkey in December, don’t miss my other post about it.
Turkey Weather in January
The weather in Turkey in January is a real gift for everyone who does not like winter slush and bitter frosts. The Mediterranean, Black, and Aegean Seas make the region’s climate very mild. There are no severe cold weather and heavy snowfalls here except for only a few regions in the northeast.
Yet, the middle of winter in Turkey is considered the coldest time of the year. The average air temperature in January is +10+14С degrees. In the north of the country, in the mountains, and in the central part (like Cappadocia, Ankara, Konya) it is much colder than in the cities and towns of the Turkish Riviera. Favorite tourist towns and villages on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea stand without snow and are full of green colors.
I personally like that in January, the weather in Turkey is ever-changing. On the coast, for example, it can change several times during the day reminding of different seasons. In the morning the sun can shine, in the daytime it gets warm, and in the evening the sky becomes overcast and it starts to rain. Or it can be all the way around – the day starts with rain and heavy skies, then it clears up and becomes warm, sometimes even hot, just like in the spring somewhere in Europe.
Seawater heated over the summer cools down slowly, so its temperature is still higher than the air temperature. The warmest sea in Turkey in January is the Mediterranean where the water temperature is about +18°C. Turks do not swim in any of the seas in January (or pretty much any other time in winter) and when seeing someone swimming, they know precisely those are tourists.
Weather in January at ski resorts of Turkey is comfortable for skiing. The average temperature during the day is -4°+2°С and at night −10° −12°С. Since ski resorts are located in the midlands, there is always a solid snow cover and the thickness of snow often reaches a minimum of 3 meters.
For a comfortable stay anywhere in Turkey in January, dress warmly! If you plan to spend a vacation by the sea or in Istanbul, consider protection from the rain – bring waterproof shoes, a raincoat or umbrella.
Weather in Istanbul in January
January weather in Istanbul is usually very capricious – you never know what to expect from it.
Although the winter in Istanbul is mild, it is still cold. But probably not that cold as just nasty. It often rains (more so with wet snow together), is windy, and many days are overcast. If I could compare Istanbul in January to any other place in the US or Europe, I’d say that it is very similar to London in November or Portland in Oregon in November too.
Since Istanbul is gigantic, the weather can differ very much depending on the city’s neighborhood. For example, in the north, it may snow (snowfalls in Istanbul are quite rare, but they still happen) and at the same time, the sun is shining in the Golden Horn area.
Also, it can be raining on one side while being very windy or sunny on another. So many times we witnessed heavy rain and thunderstorms on the Asian side while sitting on the rooftop of a cafe under the sun in Sultanahmet or Karakoy.
And vice versa. We can be just leaving our home in Kadikoy on a sunny morning just to get to a ferry terminal and see that it’s pretty stormy across the Bosphorus. And it may stay like that for the entire day. So if you look outside your hotel window and notice rain outside, do not get discouraged. Just hop on a boat to transfer to another part of Istanbul where it doesn’t rain, ha, or wait for the rain to end. There are not many days in January when it rains non-stop for the entire day.
Starting with the third week of January, the temperature in Istanbul remains stably cold (on average +4+6°C during the day and may drop below 0 at night). Every day towards the end of the month becomes colder and colder. In fact, the end of January (beginning of February) is considered the coldest of the month. And this cold is caused not necessarily by low temperature but by the dampness due to rain and stronger winds.
If you plan to visit Istanbul in January, do not leave without a warm jacket, hat and waterproof (or at least water repellant) boots with good insulation inside. It will hardly be warm during this period.
But don’t let the weather cancel your trip! Some days in January in Istanbul still see the sun. Plus this month is simply perfect for indoor activities!
Weather in Antalya in January
Like in Instanbul, January weather in Antalya is unpredictable too. However, Antalya in January is much warmer and… somewhat drier. If in Istanbul on average there are only 9 sunny days (and others are rainy), in Antalya, there are only 9 rainy days and others are for the most part (more or less) sunny.
Also, what is common in Antalya, a clear sunny day gives way to rain and clouds but then the sun shows up again, and vice versa. January weather may change dozens of times but overall, it is warm and sunny. The average daytime temperature is about +15°C and the nighttime temperature is about +10°C. In winter, the sun not only shines over the Mediterranean coast but also gives some pleasant warmth.
The temperature of the sea is only about +18°C so swimming is hard, but no one cancels sunbathing! Going to the beach is not very convenient (since you can be caught by rain) but staying in the hotel with a pool area or rooftop terrace where to sunbathe is the best.
If I was sharing solely my experience, I’d say that Antalya in January is one of my favorite places where to escape winter. Together with Alanya and nearby Cyprus, this is the warmest and sunniest place in Europe in winter. I can be just spending all days long in the city or can rent a car and go on a road trip around the province.
Even though January is also one of the most humid months with strong winds which periodically turn into storms, creating big waves at the shore, it is also that time of the year when the city gets filled with green vegetation and flower beds. You can’t even tell January in Antalya is winter!
Weather in Bodrum in January
January in Bodrum is considered the coldest and wettest month of the year. And weather during this month is defined by winds.
The sky there is often covered with gloomy gray clouds, it rains occasionally, a lot of attractions are not available (besides those in Bodrum city and hotels) and a rather strong, unpleasant wind blows from the sea. At this time, the sea is cold with an average temperature of +16°C.
In fact, the wind is something that Bodrum is famous for. But if in summer it helps not to melt, in winter it can be quite harsh.
Yet warm, sunny days are not uncommon in Bodrum at this time of the year too. They allow to enjoy walks along deserted beaches and go on tours around the city. Bodrum peninsula stays rather quiet with very few tourists and many hotels being closed for the season.
Is it worth going to Bodrum in January? Honestly? No. Unless everything you plan to do is just to be in the hotel with the big territory, heated pools, spa, and nice winter animation.
If you still plan to come to spend winter in Bodrum, make sure the apartment you rent has heat. Most summer houses or apartment complexes don’t have any heat, walls are thin and it gets very damp and cold inside.
Cappadocia Weather in January
Cappadocia is a fantastic destination all year around. But Cappadocia in January is a truly unique place for those who like astonishing, a bit otherworldly winter!
January is that month when it snows often (although it also rains), sometimes to the point of knee-deep. At the same time, there are often days when the snow melts quickly and it gets pretty warm during the day (up to +10°C degrees).
The average January temperature in Cappadocia is +2+4°C during the daytime and -1-2°C at night. On some nights though, the temperature can drop down to -20°C. Precipitation becomes more abundant in comparison with December and autumn, but the number of rainy days is not too great.
In general, you need to look at the forecast before your trip to know what to pack. But overall, have clothes ready for light coolness and sun during the day and heavy snowfall with the wind in the early morning and early evening.
If you are thinking of either visiting Cappadocia in January or not, just remember that it is a good winter month when to go. Cappadocia hotels are accepting visitors as usual but prices are lower. Transport works as usual. Most popular attractions such as Pasabag, Goreme Open Museum, Zelve museum, etc. are open. The roads are constantly cleaned. And hot air balloons fly as well!
Hot air balloons in Cappadocia in January operate on a normal schedule as during the whole winter. Just like any other month, rides are canceled only in case of strong winds. But in January, there are plenty of days with good weather conditions.
The only thing that you probably shouldn’t do is to go hiking in the valleys since wolves sometimes come there in winter. However, Red, Rose Zemi, and Pigeon valleys are all open and are must-visit places in Cappadocia in January.
What to Do in Turkey in January?
Plan an Organized Tour or Excursion
During your holidays in Turkey in January, I advise you to check offers from local travel agencies and tour guides. At this time of the year, prices are the lowest for some sightseeing tours and occupancy is low.
January is a good month to go on a trip to snowy Cappadocia (as mentioned above), take a bus and walking tour to Myra and Demre, ancient city of Hierapolis or Side, and do sightseeing trips in Antalya and Alanya.
Oh, it’s also a fantastic time of the year to travel to Karadeniz to the mountainous region Ayder.
Enjoy a Spa & Wellness Trip
Fans of spa centers and wellness treatment will definitely enjoy a holiday in Turkey in January. Because with a huge number of hammam spas, hotels with open-air heated pools, and hot springs it is easy to plan a spa escape.
Various spa centers and thermal resorts around the country welcome tourists all year round. You can plan your trip around Turkish hot springs and thermal pools or stay in a 5-star full-service hotel in Belek, Side, or Kemer.
A number of hotels of this level have their own spas and specialize in treatments and a wide range of services. After spending a vacation in such a hotel, you will return not only refreshed but also healthier. Examples of these spa hotels are as follows:
- Alva Donna Exclusive Hotel & Spa – in Serik
- Ali Bey Resort Sorgun – in Side
- Adam & Eve adult only – in Belek
- Nirvana Dolce Vita – in Tekirova near Kemer
In the middle of winter, Turkish shopping centers and bazaars have a season of big sales. So this is a great opportunity to purchase quality clothes and items from different brands. There are very few tourists and locals don’t tend to make big purchases in January, so sellers are more willing to decrease the price.
You can visit any shopping mall in any city and find anything you need at a good price. Turkey makes its own high-quality beautiful clothes, shoes, home textile products, and the choice is big. Also, make sure to visit the craft rows of artisans where you’ll find some nice souvenirs.
Istanbul is the number one city for shopping, but the idea of January discounts applies to the entire country. Whether you find yourself in Antalya, Ankara, or anywhere else, there are always many shops and malls. Many people fly to Turkey in January for the sole purpose of shopping.
Take a Scenic Eastern Express Train From Ankara to Kars
This is my favorite! I haven’t done it myself yet (corona just ruined all our plans) but I hope to finally go on a ride this winter.
Orient Express train from Ankara to Kars follows a scenic route between these two cities and is among the most beautiful train routes in the world. At first, it was running as a regular public train but in recent years it became so popular among tourists that authorities decided to open another train on the same route but specifically for tourism purposes.
The trip lasts 24 hours on a public train and 30 hours on a tourist one. Train departs from Ankara around 18:00 and arrives in Kars on the next day. On the way to Kars, train stops in Ilic, Erzincan and Erzurum. And on the way to Ankara – in Divrigi (Sivas) and at the Bostankaya station.
During the day of travel, passengers have the opportunity to visit a real winter wonderland, enjoy the magnificent landscapes, spend time on board a luxury train (there are also budget types of compartments), and taste the delicious cuisine of the eastern regions of Turkey.
Also, a tourist train makes longer stops in cities for passengers to admire the wonderful scenery and get acquainted with the local sights.
You can really go on this ride any time of the year. But it is particularly popular and beautiful during the foliage and in the middle of winter with guaranteed snow on the ground.
Ticket prices for a tourist train are much higher than the public one but you pay for the train itinerary which was specially created in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Turkey. It will allow you to familiarize yourself with all the attractions along the train route.
To see the schedule and ticket prices, visit the website for Turkish railways. You can also purchase tickets online through agents but they will be more expensive.
Visit an Interesting Colorful Festival of Wrestling Camels
January is that time of the year when you can attend the camels wrestling festival on the third weekend of the month. Competitions and smaller events start earlier and continue until the end of March when one camel will be chosen as the winner, which is a great honor for its owner who prepares him for the fight all year long.
But the most prominent one happens in the small town of Selcuk (near Sirince) in Izmir province. This is really an exclusive event that is common for Turkey and a few other countries in the Middle East. I know that it’s also quite popular in some emirates of the UAE.
Camel Wrestling is all about camel competitions at the hippodrome (when two male camels fight for the female) and fairs all over the city. Mosques get illuminated with bright lights and specialty baked goodies appear in shops and cafes.
Unlike some other festivals in Europe where animals are exploited, camel wrestling in Turkey is safe for camels and based solely on their instincts. During the wrestling, the staff watches animals closely and the fights stop before camels can do harm to each other.
At this festival, your family can see beautifully groomed camels wearing jewelry, beads, ornaments, bright talismans-amulets, and semi-precious stones. They walk on woven carpets and pose for photos. For the purpose of entertainment, owners name their camels after famous politicians and celebrities, so it is more fun to watch.
Skiing in Turkey is actually a thing. And since January is the coldest month of the year, that also makes it the best month for winter activities, considering a fact how many nice resorts are there to choose from. Here is a quick list of the best ski resorts in Turkey:
- Uludag: Uludag Ski Resort is the oldest and most popular alpine village in Turkey, situated 36 km away from Bursa city. The ski area lies between 1800-2500m.
- Erciyes: Located 25 km away from Kayseri and 80 km away from Cappadocia. It is one of Turkey’s oldest ski resorts which you can combine with a trip to Cappadocia. The altitude of the skiing area there is 2200 -3100 m.
- Palandoken: Palandoken Ski Resort in Erzurum is one of Turkey’s largest ski areas and considered by many as the best resort. It has good hotels, excellent conditions and infrastructure, great facilities, and a Colorado-type layer of snow.
- Sarikamis: Sarikamis Ski Resort is 50 km away from Kars. A bit far for a first-time visitor, but if you are returning to Turkey on another visit and want to plan something completely different, look into Kars. The track length there is 1200 m, height is 2100 m. The snow is wonderful, but hotels are few and fairly basic.
- Kartalkaya: Kartalkaya Ski Resort is 40 km away from Bolu in the Black Sea region. The ski area is at an altitude of 1850-2200 m and is another close spot for skiing near Istanbul.
- Saklikent: Saklikent Ski Resort is 50 km west of Antalya city, in the Beydag mountain range, with an altitude of 2550 m. It is one of a few places in Antalya where you can find snow.
What to Wear in Turkey in January?
The weather forecast for Turkey during January is variable and different in different regions. Depending on how long you plan to travel and where exactly to go, the number of items you pack may change. However, these are the items to pack:
- thermal underwear set
- something nice for going out (like for a night out at the hotel or city)
- warm pants
- several pairs of shoes and warm socks (have waterproof boots too)
- umbrella and raincoat, you’ll definitely need them
- beanie hat, thick scarf and gloves
- light winter jacket if traveling to the South and warmer jacket if going to Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Cappadocia
Pros & Cons of Visiting Turkey in January
1. Hotels, apartments, vacation packages, and car rental prices in Turkey in January are the lowest.
2. Entrance to some attractions and sites is free (when in summer you have to pay to get in).
3. The resorts are half empty, the service staff is not overworked, therefore the quality of service is often higher.
4. January weather works great for group or private excursions. Bus tour prices are low, there is no heat, and there are no crowds of tourists at the attractions.
5. In January as in December, Turkish bazaars offer many inexpensive oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, avocados, kiwis, persimmons, pears, apples, herbs, and greens.
6. Most shops and malls offer discounts and seasonal sales.
1. In winter it is too cold to sunbathe and swim in the sea.
2. You can never be 100% sure about the weather. Knowing average temperatures and seeing forecast doesn’t mean that this is how it is going to be. Sometimes, the weather may be abnormal.
It may show one thing but then it can be raining for the entire length of your trip or be sunny and really warm. This is why you have to pack clothes for different types of weather and be ready to adjust if it changes not in your favor.
3. About half of the hotels do not accept guests until the warm weather.
4. Holidays in Turkey in January will not be suitable for fans of active nightlife as most of the bars and clubs are closed in smaller beach towns as well as some big cities like Bodrum for example. Antalya and Istanbul are exceptions since they are large cities.
My Top Travel Tips For January Travel in Turkey
– Strong winds from the sea increase the humidity on the coast, and it feels much colder than it really is. To stay warm, wear a windproof jacket with a hood and/or a warm hat. Also, try Turkish drink salep which has warming properties.
– This rather applied to the entire off-seasonal time, but life in small resort villages in Turkey stops until spring. You should probably choose larger cities for more entertainment.
– In Mediterranean resorts (and some on the Aegean coast), choose hotels that have spas and heated pools. The sea is going to be too cold to swim unless you’re into that kind of thrill.