The Ultimate Guide to Traveling to Turkey in Winter: Where to go, What to see + More


From snow-capped valleys in Cappadocia to a wintery wonderland in Istanbul, cozy cabins along the Black Sea region, and budget-friendly ski opportunities, traveling to Turkey during winter reveals a magical atmosphere that often goes overlooked by tourists… Which is why we wrote this blog post!

After spending a few winters traveling all around Turkey, we believe that this season has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a cozy cabin retreat or an active vacation shredding down perfectly powdered snow on a snowboard, we’ve listed it all here!

This guide goes into everything you need to know, including the typical winter weather in Turkey, helpful travel tips, the best places to visit in Turkey in winter, and much more. 

Grab your scarf and embrace the chill – Turkey’s winter season awaits!

Snow in Istanbul? It’s possible!

Winter Weather in Turkey: What to Know Before Your Trip 

If you’re traveling to Turkey during the winter, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make your trip as fun and stress-free as possible. Here are some of our top winter travel tips:

How cold does it get in Turkey? 

If you look at Türkiye on a map, you’ll notice that it stretches about 1,650 km (1,000 miles) from west to east — which also means that there’s a lot of variation in the weather from city to city!

For example, let’s pretend you decide to visit Izmir in February. You can expect the temperature to be a pleasant 7 to 15 C (45 to 60 F) when you’re exploring the city. If you take a flight to the far east and visit the city of Kars, for example, the temperature drops to a chilly -15 to -2 C (5 to 28 F)!  

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Turkey was -46.4 C (-51.5 F), which happened on January 9, 1990 in Çaldıran (Van province). However, that’s an outlier and definitely doesn’t happen every year! Likewise, the five coldest cities in Turkey are Ardahan, Kars, Ağrı, Erzurum and Sivas, respectively.

If you’re visiting any of the popular cities (Istanbul, Izmir, Cappadocia, etc) you can scroll down to Weather in Turkey by Month, where we added a helpful temperature chart. 


Does it snow in Turkey? 

This is one of our favorite questions 🙂 

Yes, it snows in Turkey: the areas with the most snow include Eastern Anatolia (near the border with Georgia, Armenia, and Iran) and the Black Sea region. 

However, it can snow practically anywhere in Turkey as long as the temperature is right. In fact, it even snowed in some parts of Antalya and Muğla back in 2022! 

If you’re wondering, does it snow in Istanbul? — then the answer is also yes! You can expect snow between December through February, although we witnessed a snowstorm as far as in March! 

However, the snow in Istanbul isn’t as ‘heavy’ as other countries, and temperatures rarely dip below -3 C (26 F). If you want to experience light snow yet still have the atmosphere of a winter wonderland, Istanbul is the perfect destination. 🙂


Weather in Turkey by Month

This table shows the average weather in Turkey during winter in various cities.
There are three numbers, which mean:
Daily minimum
Daily average
Daily maximum

DecemberJanuaryFebruary
Istanbul5.5 C (42 F)
7.8 C (46 F)
10.4 C (50.7 F)
3.5 C (38.3 F)
5.8 C (42.4 F)
8.5 C (47.3 F)
2.9 C (37.2 F)
5.5 C (41.9 F)
8.7 C (47.7 F)
Cappadocia-3.6 C (25.5 F)
0.8 C (33.4 F)
6.5 C (43.7 F)
-5.4 C (22.3 F)
-1.0 C (30.2 F)
4.6 C (40.2 F)
-4.5 C (24 F)
0.5 C (33 F)
6.6 C (44 F)
Antalya7.5 C (45.5 F)
11.4 C (52.5 F)
16.7 C (62.1 F)
5.9 C (42.6 F)
9.8 C (49.6 F)
15 C (59 F)
6.5 C (43.7 F)
10.8 C (51.4 F)
15.9 C (60.6 F)
Izmir7.7 C (45.8 F)
10.5 C (51 F)
14 C (57 F)
6 C (43 F)
9 C (48.2 F)
12.7 C (55 F)
8.6 C (47.5 F)
9.9 C (50 F)
14 C (57.2 F)

Do you dream of taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia while it’s snowing? Now you can!

Pros & Cons of Visiting Turkey in the Winter

If you’re wondering why visit Turkey in the winter, we’ve come up with a convenient list of pros and cons to help you decide 🙂 

PROSCONS

Fewer crowds: Since the tourist seasons ends around October, you’ll enjoy shorter lines and less crowds around popular attractions

Lower prices: Hotel and airfare drop by up to 40% during the winter, which means you’ll find plenty of excellent deals!

See Turkey in a new way: Wouldn’t it be lovely to see Istanbul under a blanket of snow or take a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia with snowflakes gently falling around you?

Winter is an excellent time if you want to enjoy a budget-friendly ski trip

You can spend Christmas in Istanbul (there are beautiful decorations and winter markets!) or ring in the New Year with fireworks in Izmir.

There are plenty of awesome things to do! Check out our Turkey Winter Bucket list post here or our Winter in Istanbul guide here.  

The weather may be unpredictable: Some years Istanbul barely has any snow, while other years we get a snowstorm. That’s half of the fun though 🙂

 Shorter daylight hours: The shortest day of the year in Turkey is on December 21. The sun sets around 17:15 in the evening and there is only about 9.5 hours of daylight. However, there are plenty of night tours!

Not suitable if you’re looking for a beach holiday: While large cities like Antalya are still open, the waters are a bit chilly 

Practical Winter Travel Tips for Turkey

📍 Note that in very rare cases, flights may be canceled — I remember when we were coming home to Istanbul in March one year, and despite an absolute blizzard outside our airplane’s window, we still landed normally at SAW Airport… But the next day, more than 300 flights were canceled to IST and SAW airports due to harsh weather conditions. 😅

📍 Same for ferries in Istanbul — Again, in very rare cases, harsh weather can affect ferry trips in Istanbul. To double check if your ferry is working, visit the Şehir Hatları website and use a translator to read the announcements under ‘DUYURULAR’.

📍 It gets dark earlier — Around the winter months, you can expect around 9 hours of sunlight (although this depends on the city as well!) and it usually gets dark around 5:40 pm in winter in Turkey. We recommend taking this into account when planning your trip, especially if you want to see certain attractions during the daytime (i.e. a Bosphorus cruise or a visit to the Galata Tower). 

However, don’t worry if you can’t fit everything in your itinerary during the day— there are plenty of night tours and activities in Istanbul

📍 What to pack — Besides the usual, we recommend packing a really good pair of waterproof boots or shoes. Turkish winters tend to be very wet and rainy, and in rare cases, you might even need to step in snow that’s about ankle-height. Likewise, be sure to pack light clothing and use them as layers when necessary — we particularly like 32 Degrees and their tops/bottoms. 

📍 Always check for heating in hotels — when we research hotels for our blog posts, we often notice a trend where many budget hotels don’t have adequate heating. Before booking your accommodations, be sure to carefully read the reviews and check other travelers’ experiences during winter. 

Best Places to visit in Turkey in Winter

Now it’s time for the fun part where we answer the question, Where should I go in Turkey during winter?

If you’re looking for things to do in Turkey in the winter, you’re in luck, as each region offers something unique. For example, the Big Three cities (Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara) always have something going on, while parts of the Mediterranean (i.e. Antalya and Fethiye) are warm enough to escape the winter blues. 

If you prefer to embrace the snow, then you can enjoy skiing in Turkey’s far east (Palandöken) or cozy up in a cabin along the Black Sea. No matter what your plan is, we’ve come up with a list of where to spend winter in Turkey. Let’s check it out! 

Must-Visit Turkish Cities in Winter 

❄️ Istanbul — Of course, Istanbul is a city that can be visited in any season — including winter! In fact, every month has something special. In December, the city comes alive with beautiful winter displays, while January has legendary winter sales (Kış İndirimleri) and low crowds. Finally, visitors can expect a snowy winter wonderland in February. If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul during winter, be sure to check out our Ultimate Winter in Istanbul guide here.

❄️ Bursa — When readers ask us about must-visit cities during winter, we recommend adding Bursa to their Turkey winter itinerary. The city is the perfect mix of cultural attractions and snow resorts: you can walk around the center of Bursa and explore its many museums, landmarks, and restaurants, or head up to Mt. Uludağ and enjoy skiing or snowboarding. The cable car up the mountain has some of the best views!

❄️ Cappadocia — The region of Cappadocia is especially beautiful during wintertime: the valleys are covered under a blanket of snow, and a trip on a hot air balloon makes the experience particularly magical! Most of Cappadocia still works during winter, including the ‘main’ cities of Nevşehir, Göreme, and Uçhisar. Hot air balloons run practically year-round, except on days when there are fast winds. If you’re planning a longer vacation, you can also visit the nearby Erciyes Ski Resort (which we’ve written about below!) 


Fresh snow at Palandöken

Where to go Skiing in Turkey

⛷️ Palandöken — One of the most popular ski resorts in Turkey is none other than Palandöken, which is located in Turkey’s far east province of Erzurum. The ski resort is especially famous for its snow quality and variety of ski runs, and includes nearly 30 km of slopes.

⛷️ Uludag — Another legendary ski resort is Mt. Uludag, which is located in the city of Bursa. The resort is particularly popular because of its proximity to Istanbul — it’s only a 1.5 hour (155 km) drive from the city! There are 25 lifts and 28 km of slopes between 1,700 to 2,300 meters. Besides skiing, the city of Bursa makes for an excellent city to explore.

⛷️ Erciyes — Erciyes is located in central Anatolia (just an hour from Cappadocia!) and is a hidden gem among Turkish ski resorts. It’s not as popular as Palandöken or Uludag, which means there are much fewer crowds and more space to ski. The ski resort has about 55 km of ski slopes, with about 35 km of those reserved for intermediate and advanced skiers.

⛷️ Kartalkaya — Another popular weekend getaway from Istanbul, Kartalkaya is located in the black Sea region and offers 40 km of tracks. It’s also home to the famous Snowfest, which is a winter festival filled with concerts, ice sculptures, and food stalls. 


Best Nature Destinations in Winter

🌲 Trabzon — One of the most popular cities on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, Trabzon is a cozy city that doubles as an excellent base if you want to explore nearby natural landmarks. One of the closest tourist attractions is Sumela Monastery, which is famous because it’s an ancient monastery built into the side of a mountain.

🌲 Rize — Known as Turkey’s tea capital, Rize’s tea plantations take on a special atmosphere in the winter. The surrounding area is known for its high plateaus, and cozy cabins/bungalows — just imagine watching the snow fall from your in-suite jacuzzi! We recommend Ayder Villa de Pelit Hotel (with direct views of the plateau) or Çathan Art Hotel

🌲 Uzungol — Uzungol was one of our first winter destinations in Turkey when we moved here, and we still have cozy memories of drinking salep in a local family restaurant while watching the snow fall. 🙂 This small town makes for a nice staycation-style trip. 

🌲 Sapanca — Located less than a 1.5-hour drive from Istanbul, Sapanca is famous for its clean air, beautiful nature, and large lake — which makes it a popular winter destination in Turkey. The most popular thing to do is rent a cozy cabin, stroll around the lake, and visit the hobbit homes in Maşukiye.


Meanwhile in Bodrum…

Warm Destinations in Turkey During Winter

🏖️ Antalya — Even after the calendar turns to December, Antalya doesn’t give up — it’s one of the few Turkish resort cities that doesn’t close for the season. 🙂 We recommend basing yourself in Antalya’s center and exploring the old town (Kaleiçi), visiting Duden Waterfalls, checking out the museums, or renting a car and visiting the nearby cities along the coast.

🏖️ Fethiye — For something a little more calmer, Fethiye is an excellent choice. The city is much quieter and calm compared to its summer season, giving you the chance to live like a local. Visit the local bazaars, stroll through the harbor, or take a hike (when it’s not raining!) around Kayaköy.

🏖️ Bodrum — Similar to Fethiye, Bodrum is another lovely destination that calms down around wintertime. You can easily spend two to three days in the city, including a half day visit to Bodrum Castle and a trip to Kos island in Greece (a 1-hour ride via the ferry!)

🏖️ Izmir — Lovingly referred to as the ‘Miami of Turkey,’ Izmir is one of the most westernized cities in Turkey located along the Aegean Sea. The city has a very laid back vibe, with plenty of cafes, parks and promenades, and a beautiful seaside. It’s also famous for its legendary New Years Eve fireworks along the seaside promenade. 🙂 

What to do in Turkey in Winter 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Go on a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia — As we mentioned, hot air balloons in Cappadocia operate whether it’s raining, sunny, or snowy — just as long as there’s no strong winds! Imagine flying up nearly a kilometer while the fairytale landscapes below you are slowly covered in a blanket of snow.

Watch New Year’s Eve celebrations on a Bosphorus cruise — While cruising around the Bosphorus is a must-do activity at any time of the year, it’s especially a must-do on New Year’s Eve, where the skyline comes alive with vibrant fireworks and creates an unforgettable celebration as you welcome in the new year. There are tons of companies that put on special New Year’s Eve Bosphorus cruises, which typically include an all-inclusive menu, drinks, transportation, and entertainment.

Go on the adventure of a lifetime on the Dogu Express Train — If your idea of a winter trip involves adventure and far-flung lands, then the Dogu Express (Eastern Express) is exactly what you need! This epic 30+ hour trip starts in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, and finishes in the eastern city of Kar. Along the way, you’ll travel across the vast plains of Turkey and have a few short stops to explore cities on the route.

Relax at a thermal spa — Besides Pamukkale, Turkey is home to a number of famous thermal spas and resorts. Just imagine warming up in a bath full of nutrient-rich minerals and soothing your senses — doesn’t that sound relaxing? The most popular thermal spas in Turkey include Termal (Yalova), Bursa, and Afyon.

See the winter displays in Istanbul  — Of course, no winter bucket list is complete without a trip to Istanbul. 😉 Once the beginning of December rolls around, Istanbul transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with twinkling street lights above Istiklal, beautiful winter-themed displays in shop front windows, and, depending on the weather, a flurry of snow. If you want to see our full list of places to see these displays, check out the Winter in Istanbul guide!

Gaffuluk (left) and Loca Sapanca (right)

Rent a cozy cabin — There’s nothing cozier than sitting by the fireplace and watching the snow fall outside — and there are plenty of amazing bungalows, chalets, and cabins you can rent in Turkey! Some of our favorites include Loca Sapanca BungalovGaffuluk Bungalov, and Royal Bungalov.

Try salep or boza — Two of Turkey’s most beloved winter drinks are salep (a milk-like drink made from orchids and topped with cinnamon) and boza (a thick drink made from fermenting grains – it’s tastier than it sounds!). Come wintertime, most cafes sell either drinks — or both if you’re lucky!  

FAQsWinter in Turkey

How cold is winter in Turkey?
— This depends where you go 🙂 For example, the temperatures in Istanbul during the winter rarely go below 5 C (41 F), and it snows for a maximum of two weeks (if we’re lucky!).

Meanwhile in Antalya, which is located on the Mediterranean and famous for its pleasant climate, the temperatures range from 10 to 17 C (50 to 63 F). Izmir, on the Aegean Sea, is slightly colder with temperatures around 8 to 15 degrees C (46 to 60 F). 

Moving onto central Turkey, winter temperatures in Cappadocia can be quite cold. Daytime temperatures typically range from 0 to 10 degrees Celsius (32 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit), and nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.

Finally, Kars, located in the northeastern part of Turkey, experiences harsh and cold winters due to its inland location and high elevation. Daytime temperatures often range from -5 to -10 degrees Celsius (23 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit), and nighttime temperatures can plummet even further. 

Which part of Turkey is warmest in winter?
The warmest part of Turkey during winter is typically the southern and southwestern coastal areas, which include regions like the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Cities such as Antalya, Alanya, and Marmaris experience milder and more pleasant winter temperatures compared to other parts of the country.

The famous winters of Erzurum!

Which part of Turkey is the coldest in winter?
The northeast and far east parts of Turkey are the coldest. This includes places like Kars, Erzurum, Ardahan, Ağrı, and Sivas. According to the official Turkish meteorology agency, the lowest temperature ever measured in Turkey was in Ağrı with a bone-chilling -45.6 C (-50 F) back in January 1972! 

What is the winter capital of Turkey?
Bursa is the winter capital of Turkey for many reasons. First, it offers a ski to hot spring in 1 hour, meaning you can go from skiing on Mt. Uludağ to soaking in a hot spring in less than one hour. Besides the snow resorts, you can explore the city of Bursa (it’s a lovely place!) — be sure to try the famous Iskender kebab while you’re there. 🙂 

How long is winter in Turkey?
Turkish winter spans 3 months and includes the months of December, January, and February. Typically, snow will start around the middle of winter (i.e. late January), although we’ve personally seen a snowstorm in Istanbul in March!

Of course, this also depends on the region — places in Turkey’s eastern region, like Kars, Erzurum, Artvin, and Van typically have longer winters and harsher climates.

Is there skiing in Turkey?
Of course! There are almost a dozen winter resorts in Turkey, making it an excellent ski and snowboard destination. The most popular ski resorts in Turkey are Mt. Uludağ (Bursa), Palandöken (Erzurum), and Erciyes (near Cappadocia). 

«
»
Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.