Last Updated September, 2021
I know, I know, many people think that Turkey is exclusively a summer destination. This is probably why they dream to go to Turkey specifically from June to August to enjoy warm (hot) weather, go on boat trips, drive along the Turquoise Coast, and stay in a villa by the sea. But I am trying to understand if everyone has it wrong because Turkey in winter is also amazing.
In fact, to tell you the truth, for many people winter might be just the best season of all to visit Turkey. And that’s for many reasons – to enjoy cool breezy weather, relax in an all-inclusive hotel for little money, breathe in the fresh sea air without crowds of people nearby, bask in the spa and thermal baths, hike the Lycian Way, go on one of many amazing road trips, or join an excursion without flocks of tourists.
After spending 2 winters in Turkey in two completely different cities and traveling all around the country during this season, I’ve learned a thing or two about Turkish winter.
Now, personally, I think winter is actually one of those times when some regions of Turkey are at their best (sorry summer), but it can also be a bit of a tricky season for travel if you’re not properly prepared.
So this is why I thought to write down these tips and let you know what to expect. And I think you’ll want to book yourself some flights!
What is the Weather in Turkey in Winter Like?
Turkey as a country is huge and winter weather depends on the region. On one trip you can experience all 5 types of weather if you are traveling around and not staying in just one region.
The information I am sharing below is about weather and climate in Turkish popular destinations. If you need a more detailed weather report for a lesser-visited city or town, refer to the weather forecast but with no more than 2 weeks in advance.
Turkey in December
December is the warmest winter month in Turkey, although of course, it depends on the part of the country where you go. The popular Mediterranean coast is free from slush and frosts and it is still a good time to visit for winter sun in Europe. During the days when the sun is too strong, you can even wear light clothes and definitely sunbathe.
The Aegean coast of Turkey is already colder with more heavy skies and winds. Everywhere on the Turkish Riviera, it is cold, windy, and rather damp in the morning and evening. So for those times of the day you’ll need a hat, jacket or warm sweater.
Most tourists who choose Turkey for their December travel usually choose the warm resorts of the Turkish Riviera such as Antalya, Kemer, Alanya, and Side. The weather at different resorts is slightly different, but for the most part during the day the temperature is +13+18С.
Istanbul can be windy, damp, and rainy with the temperate +10+12С during the day. However, the weather depends on the year. Last year, for example, December in Istanbul reminded more of a beautiful warm fall rather than slushy winter.
See my separate post with more information about the weather and things to do in Turkey in December.
Turkey in January
January is the coldest and wettest month for entire Turkey. In North and East Turkey as well as Cappadocia, it snows and the temperature drops below 0. Mountainous regions have a lot of snow and are great for ski trips and snowy escapes.
Southern Turkey on the contrary is green (due to lots of rain) and sees sunny days. Although the average daily number of hours of sunshine is one of the minima in the year – only 6.5 hours of sun every day. Yet, compared to many countries in Europe, where many days in a row can be grey and damp, the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey is generous in terms of the sun.
There are few tourists in Antalya in January, especially in the second half of the month. The first decade is still characterized by increased demand since many travelers from Eastern Europe choose Turkish resorts as a place for recreation and New Year’s holidays. During this period, accommodation prices increase, falling only after the 8th of January, the end of Orthodox Christmas.
Another fantastic place to visit in Turkey in January is Karadeniz and its capital Trabzon. It turns into a real winter wonderland with cozy cabins in the mountains and snowy forests.
Turkey in February
The weather in Turkey in February is quite changeable as in previous winter months. Although in February the amount of precipitation gradually decreases and the increased humidity is easier to tolerate as the wind becomes warmer than in January.
For people from most countries in Europe, who are accustomed to the strong February frosts and piercing winds, a holiday in Turkey in February is almost paradise. The level of precipitation is decreasing and with each day you feel the breath of spring. However, it is still worth packing a jacket and boots. In Istanbul, you may even need a hat on some days since rain can be followed by wet snow and strong gusts of wind.
In the resorts of the Turkish Riviera on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the temperature warms up to +18С. Thanks to the greenery and warmth, the weather resembles the second half of April in Central and Eastern Europe. So it is really pleasant to stay outside and go on tours.
Ankara in February is a cold slushy place. So chances are high you won’t be enjoying the capital during this time of the year.
The second part of February is also a good time for excursions to ancient sites along the Aegean Coast.
Does It Snow in Turkey in Winter?
Turkey is located in more than 5 climatic zones. So the amount (or possibility) of snow will depend on where you are.
One of the most popular regions among foreign visitors, the Mediterranean region (with such cities as Antalya, Alania, Kemer, Kas, Side, etc.) is considered the mildest and warmest. This means that in summer it gets very hot there and in winter never too cold.
The temperature does not drop below zero anywhere in the Mediterranean except for the mountains nearby where mountain peaks have huge snowcaps until April-May.
So if you are wondering where to find snow places in Southern Turkey in winter because you actually love cold and want a bit of winter wonderland, then you will find it in the ski resort Saklikent near Antalya.
From Istanbul, the best snowy places in winter are Golcuk Nature Park in Bolu, Seven Lakes NP north of Bolu, Sapanca Lake area, and Uludag National Park near Bursa. You can also find snow on the stretch in the North between Izmit and Amasya.
Karadeniz region in the North-East is the coldest region in Turkey with more than 80% of the territory seeing snow during the wintertime. In Erzurum city, for example, the average winter temperature is -10C.
The Aegean Coast of Turkey is rather rainy and slushy than snowy. Once in a while it can snow in Manisa or Izmir but that’s more of a rarity. If snow falls, it usually melts as soon as it touches the ground.
Overall, if I have to summarize, if you are looking for places with snow in Turkey for your holidays, it is better to consider traveling to Central Turkey (including Cappadocia and Ankara), to the North-East or to the mountain resorts.
Warmest Cities in Turkey in Winter
Among all Turkish cities, the warmest city in winter is Alanya, a resort town located at the southernmost point of the country.
On the one hand, it is surrounded by the Taurus Mountains and on the other by the Mediterranean Sea which creates a unique microclimate that provides warm and comfortable winters for living and visiting. For the whole winter, it rains for only 30-35 days, and the rest of the time the sun shines brightly.
But even with the rain, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to pour all day long. Yes, you can wake up in the morning to the sound of rain but soon after the sun will surely peep through the window until lunchtime or even longer. Overall, there are 325 sunny days a year in Alanya. So even with the rain, you’ll still have a lot of the sun too!
And the temperature during the winter months does not drop below 9 degrees Celsius. Therefore, it is comfortable to walk, go biking, join excursions, enjoy the sea air, and spend time outdoors.
My Top 3 Places to Visit in Turkey in Winter
Pamukkale is truly one of the best places to visit in Turley in winter. Why? Because this is not a sea with the beach where you depend on the weather. Yes, it’s windy and yes, the temperature fluctuates between +10+15C. Just pack the right clothes to stay warm and you’ll be able to enjoy the entire region.
In fact, if you want to experience Pamukkale to the fullest and splash in hot springs, you want to visit this destination when the weather is cold. From the end of May to September (the busiest touristy season), it is unbearably hot.
It is so pleasant to take a dip in hot springs and climb the ancient ruins of Hierapolis without languishing in the heat. And as a bonus, there are several times fewer tourists and prices in hotels are lower in winter too.
If you have time and rent a car, go on a loop road trip from Pamukkale to Ephesus, Izmir, and Bergama with ancient Pergamon. We visited Bergama in winter too and it was incredible. Read my post about it to get inspired.
Few people have an idea how cool Cappadocia gets in winter, giving preference to summer travel to the region when the weather there is just unbearably hot. If you have been thinking of going to Cappadocia during the winter season, I want to encourage you to stop thinking and actually go. And that is why…
Cappadocia with its unique cave hotels looks like another beautiful planet, absolutely different from the rest of the world.
In fact, this fascinating region of Turkey can (and should!) be visited every season because each season has a lot to offer. But traveling in winter has its own advantages. The most prominent ones are fewer tourists, lower prices, and even more romantic landscapes. With snow on the top of cave cities and heavy clouds hanging over them, Cappadocia reminds more of an unreal fairytale destination where magic lives.
And most of the activities and tours in Cappadocia happen all year round! Hot air balloon flights take place on a daily basis too since most days are nice with light frost around zero and sunny weather.
Side is one of the favorite Mediterranean sea towns where to go in Turkey in winter for a resort vacation and excursions. It’s usually warm and rainy in winter there, but dry days are not uncommon.
The air temperature on average is +15C degrees, it rains quite often and the sea is stormy but the sun is often showing up. It is unlikely that it will be possible to sunbathe and swim. But winter in Side is perfect for pool days and visiting excursions as the most interesting ancient sights are located not far from it.
More than that, with all the frequent rain, Side in winter is not as cold as it may seem to be. This is a very nice time for trips to restaurants to try local Turkish food or enjoy your favorite seafood. Prices for seafood by the way are much lower than in the high season.
Winter is also one of the best times to visit Side ruins, Temple of Apollo, and Historical Museum. You shouldn’t also miss visiting the Manavgat Waterfall, in winter it is very pretty. And if you wish, you can rush to the nearest ski resorts to ski or enjoy the snow.
If you go to Side for your winter holidays in Turkey, you will not only be able to save on vacation in the low season but also see all the beauty that you cannot see in the summer.
And when you go, do not forget your swimwear. The majority of hotels have great Spa treatments, hammams, and heated pools (often with seawater).
Top 3 Ideas For Things to Do in Turkey in Winter
1) Come to Turkey Turquise Coast to Celebrate New Year
Turkey as a country doesn’t celebrate New Year but a few destinations such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Turquise coast offer the brightest New Year celebrations for locals and guests alike.
In Antalya, many hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs offer New Year celebration programs. Cities shine with illumination, hotels put up Christmas trees and prepare show programs for guests.
In Alanya, the holiday atmosphere is already up in December. A large Christmas tree is placed on the boardwalk near the sea and expats arrange a Christmas market. On New Year’s Eve itself, the municipality holds fireworks and the fun in local cafes and bars continues until the morning.
Belek offers the most unique and sophisticated hotels where you can relax. And Antalya prepares concert programs near the Migros shopping centers and on the square of the singing fountains.
Turkey can be a unique place where to celebrate New Year for sure!
Hotels Where to Celebrate New Year in Turkey
If you are planning to go to Turkey for the New Year then seek to leave not later than December 25-28. Everything after that date is much more expensive.
And when choosing a hotel for a winter stay, look for the availability of New Year’s gala dinners and animation programs, pool with heated water, good varied quality food, large territory, high level of service, and good value for money.
Some of my favorite hotels on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey for New Year celebrations are:
- Kaya Palazzo Golf Resort & Spa 5* – an all-inclusive elite family hotel on the first line of Belek. There are 2 indoor heated pools for children and adults, as well as an outdoor heated seawater pool.
- The Land of Legends Kingdom Hotel – an interesting hotel with a completely unique concept. Belongs to the Rixos chain, it is analogous to the famous Disneyland. Already at the entrance to the hotel, you get the feeling that you have entered a fairy-tale world. Everything is stylized with cartoon characters, including bright, beautiful, and clean rooms.
- Trendy Lara Hotel 5* – a family hotel in Antalya with high-quality rooms, outstanding service, and varied food. The hotel has a spa and outdoor/indoor pools with heated water.
- Delphin Imperial Lara – another hotel in Antalya for couples and families with kids. They have 3 pools and varied animation.
- Barut Hemera – ultra all-inclusive in Side for family vacations. It has 4 outdoor pools, 2 indoor pools, and water slides.
2) Visit Turkish Holidays Celebrations & Festivals
In winter, Turkey has a lot of holidays and festivals that are worth visiting. Here are just some of the most popular and old events:
• The Whirling Dervishes Festival
The Sheb-i-Aruz dance of the dervishes traditionally takes place in December in the town of Konya. Dancers perform in high caps and white robes. And it is believed that during this time the dancers communicate with Allah. During the religious performance, the participants begin to spin very fast what they say makes stress and anxiety go away.
It is definitely a very interesting festival that consists of amazing shows and performances. And Konya is the place to see it with your own eyes.
Speaking of Konya. In winter it gets cold and occasionally snows. But winter is a very nice season to visit this city since there are many architectural wonders and museums, and for the most part you will be inside.
• Camel Wrestling
Every year at the end of January, thousands of people gather in the area of Selcuk (near fruit wine village Sirince) to watch the big tournament, which includes camel wrestling. It takes part on the third Sunday of the month. Several dozen more similar competitions are held in other cities throughout the year but Selcuk has the most famous one.
This festival takes place in 2 stages and lasts 2 days. The first day includes a beautiful ceremony and the 2nd day is devoted only to battles. About a hundred camels, decorated with beads and braided pendants, take part in the battles where they fight for the attention of a female camel.
In the center of this festival is not so much the fight between the camels as the traditional decorations they wear and the proud owners of the animals themselves. Most fights end in a draw. Moreover, the owners do their best to prevent injury to their pets and, in case of danger, quickly separate the animals. To find out more about this event, see this post.
• International Istanbul Gastronomy Festival
Usually in February (dates differ each year), Istanbul hosts a very tasty event – the International Istanbul Gastronomic Festival which is also called “Days of Turkish Cuisine”.
The festival is initiated by the Federation of Chefs of Turkey where more than 2000 chefs from Turkey and 25 other countries take part in competitions and culinary shows.
So, if you are visiting Istanbul in February, want to get to know Turkish cuisine better, try many new delicious dishes and just take part in this culinary feast – don’t miss an opportunity to attend the Gastronomy festival! Also, don’t miss some incredible restaurants in Istanbul where you can taste Ottoman cuisine.
3) Explore Turkey by Car
I am absolutely convinced that Turkey is an amazing country for road trips. And winter is a good season to travel in Turkey by car.
Of course, you won’t be able to go everywhere but why not build your Turkey winter itinerary in that way when you can travel between 2-3 different regions, visit ancient sites, stop for a day or two in cities, check out Turkey’s best mineral springs (best for winter travel!), possibly visit old Turkish villages and natural landmarks.
A completely different face of the country will open to you if you decide to rent a car and explore unexplored, non-touristy Turkey. To find out about driving in Turkey and where and how to rent a car, my guide here will come in handy.
More Turkey Inspiration
I don’t know if you have seen my other posts about Turkey (I have lots of them!) but here are some more to help you plan your trip:
- 41 Best Places to Visit in Istanbul – Tips For Every Taste & Budget
- 10 Mistakes NOT to Make on Your Turkey Holidays
- 15 Facts About Turkish Culture That You Need to Know Before Visiting
- See All My Turkey Post Here
Are you planning a trip to Turkey this coming winter? Anything else you’d like to ask? Don’t be shy and ask your question in the comment section. I’ll do my best to help!
More Winter Travel Guides For Europe
- Visiting Spain in Winter – what is it like?
- Montenegro in Winter Travel Tips – where to go & what to do
- Cyprus in Winter – 8 Fabulous Things to Do + Winter Travel Tips
- Kyiv, Ukraine in Winter – why it’s a good season to vist
- 12 Cheapest Places Where to Travel in Europe in Winter – best for budget travelers