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16.11.2019

Top 10 Winter Destinations in Turkey

Turkey is not generally considered a winter holiday destination as it’s most famous for the magical turquoise coast. However, Turkey experiences all seasons and certain parts of the country look even better covered with snow, not to mention the opportunity to avoid the tourist crowds. Depending on where you go, the temperature in Turkey during the winter months can be between 17° and -17°. 

Snow in Turkey is definitely worth seeing in places like Bolu, Cappadocia, Kars and Van where nature’s white blanket covers the incredible landscapes. If you are after a relaxing stay; spa and wellness centres in Turkey with thermal pools are also available to you at affordable prices. 

So, if you are after either a relaxing or an adventurous winter holiday in Turkey, continue reading! We’ll answer your questions about what temperatures to expect, where to go and what to do in winter in Turkey. 

Cappadocia 

Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys look so beautiful under the white snow in the winter months. It also makes for a great honeymoon destination in winter, as newlyweds can take a romantic hot air balloon ride over the nature-made magical rock formations. 

You can stay at a cave hotel, enjoy delicious Turkish meals and visit the underground cities of Cappadocia. You would be avoiding the tourist crowds and high season, but make sure to pack your warm clothes and winter boots. To get a taster of the scenery, you can watch Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d'Or winning film Winter Sleep

Find out more about honeymoon destinations in Turkey 

İstanbul 

This incredible animated big city is always welcoming tourists, no matter what season. In winter months, it usually rains heavily in Istanbul and around January and February it snows. However, the temperature usually doesn’t fall under 0° and the city is accessible with public transportation, especially the ferry. We recommend having simit and çay, whilst you watch the misty view of the Bosphorus, crossing from Europe to Asia. 

Find out about where locals spend time in Istanbul on our Istanbul local guide

Uludağ, Bursa 

Bursa is one of the most popular winter destinations in Turkey with its well-known ski resorts and amazing scenery. From December to March, Uludağ is crowded with tourists who come to enjoy skiing and music festivals. Uludağ’s peak Kartaltepe is at 2543 metres high, and the ascent takes 22 minutes. 

You can get to Uludağ by bus or ferry boats from İstanbul, it only takes around 2 hours. 

Eskişehir 

Another great city to see in winter months is Eskişehir, which is not too far from İstanbul. A round-trip with the train costs about £14, and the trip takes only around 4 hours. Eskişehir is an old city with a young student population, which means there is always exciting and hip places to see. 

In late 2019, Japanese architecture firm Kengo Kuma & Associates built Eskişehir’s first modern art museum: Odunpazarı Modern Museum, which is also a must-see. 

Ephesus, Selçuk 

For those who are looking for a cultural holiday with autumn-like weather, we recommend going to see the well preserved Greco-Roman ruins in Selçuk. Winter is the low-season when you can have the place almost completely to yourself. You can see the Temple of Artemis, Library of Celsus, Basilica of St John and Church of Mary here and even take the train to go to Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) for a day-trip. 

Kars 

Kars is one of the coldest regions in Turkey, but also one of the best winter destinations. It’s well known for the Sarikamis Ski Centre, and the Eastern Express. In fact, taking the touristic Eastern Express from Istanbul to Kars is one of the most amazing train trips and travel experiences you can ever have. 

The overnight journey takes about 24 hours and passes through many stunning nature views. When you arrive in Kars, you can visit the ruins of Ani, which was the former capital of the Bagratid Armenian Kingdom, known as the ‘City of 1001 Churches’. 

You can fly directly to Ankara and get the Eastern Express to Kars. 

Bolu 

Bolu is the culinary hotspot of Turkey, known for traditional Turkish dishes as well as its beautiful nature. It snows heavily in winter in Bolu and it adds another layer of beauty to this lake district. Yedigöller and Abant are especially popular, as well as the Kartalkaya Ski Resort. You can also visit the ancient Ottoman towns Göynük and Mudurnu - where the Silk Road used to pass - nearby. 

Bolu is only 4 hours bus ride from İstanbul, and a round trip costs about £10. 

Van 

Another destination famous for its Lake is Van, in the southeast of Turkey. It’s home to Turkey’s biggest lake: Lake Van. Although the temperatures are very low in this region, the lake doesn’t freeze even in winter because it’s incredibly salty. So you can take the ferry to Akdamar Island and visit the 10th century Church of the Holy Cross, which was a royal church of the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan. Van is truly gorgeous and has many ancient castles, churches, mosques, and tombs on its shores. 

Yalova 

Yalova is most well known for its spa and wellness centres as it’s a region rich in thermal springs. Only about an hour and a half away from Istanbul by ferry or bus, Yalova makes for a great two-day trip destination when visiting Turkey in winter. You can spend one night at a spa and wellness hotel in Yalova, and enjoy the relaxing, luxurious facilities after a long day discovering nature sites in Çınarcık, Aqsa Memorial Forest, Harmankaya Nature Park. 

Antalya 

I know what you are thinking: Antalya in winter? Who goes there in winter! However, you really get to see much more in Antalya during the low-season if you are a culture and history buff. You can enjoy the empty ancient Greco-Roman sites of Termessos, Aspendos and Perge. If you are a true Santa Claus fanatic, you can visit the St. Nicholas Church in Demre, the real St. Nick and every year on December 6th, Greek Orthodox visit Demre’s 1,500-year-old basilica to pay him tribute. 

For the more adventurous, Antalya region boasts many trekking and hiking routes including St. Paul Trail, Lycian Way (offering incredible views over the coast of Kaş and Kalkan and passing through 25 historical sites) - which are impossible hikes to do under the Turkish sun in summer. 

Equally, you can still relax at a golf or spa resort if you are looking for an affordable but luxurious getaway during low season. 

Bonus recommendations: 

Turkish Food to Try in Turkey in Winter 

Tarhana Soup: This soup is made by a dried mixture of spices and fermented grain and yoghurt, traditionally served with butter and chilli sauce. 

Kuymak: This dish is made in the Black Sea region of Turkey, it’s a delicious mixture of cornmeal, butter and cheese. 

Mantı: The most popular mantı in Turkey comes from Kayseri but all versions of this dish are delicious. Mantı is Turkish dumplings filled with minced meat and herbs, served with garlic yoghurt and melted butter with chilli on top. 

Soğan Kebabı (onion kebab): Made in the capital of traditional Turkish food, Gaziantep, this dish is perfect for cold winter evenings. 

Turkish Drinks to Try in Turkey in Winter 

Sahlep: When in Turkey, don’t drink hot chocolate! Drink Sahlep. It’s a mix of hot mastic milk, sugar, and flour made from orchid tubers, served with cinnamon. 

Boza: Traditionally made by street vendors, Boza is a cold, thick, fermented beverage made with millets. Its distinctive sweet and sour taste will not be similar to anything you’ve tasted before. Top it up with cinnamon and roasted chickpeas. 

Turkish coffee: It doesn’t even need an introduction, this delicious unfiltered, bitter coffee is stronger than espresso but it’s usually drunk in a slower fashion and is accompanied by something very sweet like chocolate or Turkish delight. 

Çay: No Turkish drinks list is complete without çay, drink çay everyday like the Turks. Before, during or after meals. Then you are truly becoming one of them. 

Turkish Desserts to Try in Turkey in Winter 

Aşure: A celebratory dessert, aşure is said to have made first to commemorate Noah’s return to land after the great flood. It’s made in large quantities by Turks and distributed amongst friends, family and neighbours. The main ingredients of aşure are grains, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, beans, chickpeas, and sugar. 

Quince (Ayva) or Squash (Kabak): Another very special winter dessert is made by either quince or squash, boiling the fruit in a pot with water, sugar and cloves until it gets tender. This dessert is served with a generous portion of clotted cream. 

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Top 10 Travel Destinations in Turkey 

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Top 10 Holiday Ideas for Turkey