by Santorini Dave • Updated: August 22, 2019
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When is the best time to go to Turkey?
Because Turkey experiences hot summers and cold winters, the spring and fall seasons (April, May, and mid-September through mid-November) are the best time to visit. During these times, the skies are likely to be sunny and temperatures pleasant, it’s unlikely to be too crowded, and visitors also have a better chance at discounted airfare and accommodation.
- Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for sightseeing in Turkey is when temperatures are warm but not too hot, outside of the peak tourist season when lines are often long, and crowds tend to get in the way. Spring may be the very best, especially April before the mercury climbs too high and the flowers have burst into bloom. No matter what the season, with the exception of winter, plan to visit sights early in the morning, right at opening, or late in the day, for the best experience.
- Best Time for a Bosphorus Cruise: One of the highlights for a visit to Turkey is the opportunity to take a Bosphorus Cruise. May is a good time to come for warm temperatures out on the water and to watch for the dolphins in the river. Early to mid-September is also a good time with crowds beginning to dwindle and the chilly winter gusts are still weeks away. If you visit during the winter months, prepare for possible cancellations and plan to go early in the morning for the best chance for decent weather.
- Best Time for Shopping: Istanbul, in particular, is a popular shopping destination with its open-air markets, chic boutiques, and bazaars, including the incredible maze of stalls in the Spice Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar covers 60 streets with some 5,000 shops known for its carpets, hand-painted ceramics, antiques, jewelry and spices. Autumn is the best time for bargains when vendors don’t have as many customers as they did in the summer. Shopping early in the morning or just before closing is usually the best way to get a good bargain. Stores, in general, tend to have both winter and summer sales, with winter sales starting in the period just before Christmas through early January, continuing until inventory is depleted. Summer sales usually start around the first week of July.
- Best Time for Beaches: The best time to go to Turkey for enjoying the beaches is summer, especially in July, August and September when the weather is usually hot and dry (temperatures typically reach the mid-30s along the south coast), while sea temperatures are warm but ideal for cooling off.
- Best Time for Snow: While Turkey doesn’t always experience much snow in the winter, in more northern places like Kartalkaya in the Koroglu Mountains, skiing is usually possible between December and March when snow depth can reach nearly 10 feet.
Turkey Travel Seasons
- High Season (May through September): The hot and dry months are high season, falling mostly in summer, though part of late spring as well. July and August are the peak of the hot season. This is when the weather temperatures are often in the 30s°C and can even reach 40°C or highe r. While it’s a wonderful time for enjoying alfresco meals and taking advantage of the beaches, the crowds will be thick and lines the longest of the year. Accommodation rates and airfare are at their highest too.
- Shoulder Season (April, October through mid-November): The shoulder season in Turkey is a great time to be here, with April perhaps the best month during this period with the tulips in bloom. While tourists visit throughout the year, crowds won’t be overwhelming and temperatures, especially in April and the first half of October, are likely to be comfortable. It can also be a good time to find discounts on airfare.
- Low Season (Mid-November through March): Winter is low season in Turkey, which unofficially begins in November when the weather takes a significant turn, bringing chilly temperatures and a good possibility of rain or snow. It’s a great time to avoid big crowds and long lines while enjoying a more budget-friendly trip with cheaper airfare and discounted accommodation rates. Just be sure to pack appropriately for cold, wet weather by bringing a warm, waterproof coat, waterproof boots, hat, and the like.
Turkey Weather by Month
- Turkey Weather in January: January in Turkey is typically cold and dark, although it won’t be as brutally cold as what you might expect to find in the dead of winter in many other places. While the temperature depends on your destination, the afternoon high averages 8°C and nighttime temperatures dip to 4°C or below. Snow isn’t uncommon, but rainfall is. The average amount of precipitation is 100mm over 14 days, which means visitors should plan for chilly, damp weather by packing winter gear like a heavy coat, sweaters, gloves, a hat and ideally, waterproof boots. It’s a good time to visit the indoor sights, with relatively few visitors in the city. (Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
- Turkey Weather in February: February is similar to January, but the low temperature decreases a degree to 3°C, and in many areas of Turkey snow is more common now, especially in the interior areas like Cappadocia, although precipitation is reduced on average to 70mm on 12 days this month. Lake-effect snow from the Black Sea may occur in Istanbul and coastal areas, and it can be rather heavy. You’ll want to come prepared for winter by packing that cold weather attire and concentrate your visitors on more of the indoor sights. (Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
- Turkey Weather in March: While March can bring a mixed bag and is usually quite cold and wet early in the month, as it progresses a noticeable change usually occurs with temperatures warming, including afternoon highs around 11°C. The wet weather subsides too, with the average precipitation now 50mm over 13 days in March. Now is a good time to bring a warm, waterproof coat but you probably won’t need to bundle up with scarves, wool socks and the like. The days are not only getting longer, there’s usually quite a bit more sun too, making it feel warmer than the temperature belies. (Average Max Temperature: 11°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
- Turkey Weather in April: Now that spring is here, you can expect more pleasant temperatures with afternoons in the mid or even upper teens. There may be some light rain – precipitation averages 60mm over 11 days, but it usually comes in the form of light showers when it falls. There are likely to be quite a few lovely sunny days now, along with blooming flowers. When it comes to packing, bring a mix of clothing for both warmer and cooler days, and perhaps a light rain jacket. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
- Turkey Weather in May: When May arrives it’s likely to feel like summer, or at least the best part of it with afternoon highs around 20°C. The odds of rainfall decrease significantly too with only 40mm over 9 days in May, making this one of the best times to visit Turkey, with the peak tourist crowds not arriving for another month or so. This is the time of year you’ll need to pack mostly clothing for warm summer weather, including sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen, but you may want to bring a mix of items as it can be cool one day and hot the next. (Average Max Temperature: 20°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
- Turkey Weather in June: June brings the crowds and the heat, with the days long and often hot and dry. While the afternoon high is 26°C, temperatures frequently reach 30°C or higher. Visiting Turkey now means bringing lightweight summer clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat, short-sleeved tops, skirts, dresses, shorts and the like. If you plan to be out late at night, a sweater might be a good idea with the low temperature around 17°C. Chances of rain diminish significantly with an average of 30mm of precipitation. Expect the Mediterranean coast to be wetter than inland areas, but a rain jacket isn’t really a necessity now. (Average Max Temperature: 26°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
- Turkey Weather in July: The skies are almost always blue, the weather is hot, and the sea has warmed enough for swimming now at 21°C. In the afternoon, the mercury climbs to 28°C and it’s not unheard of for it to reach as high as 40°C. If swimming during the day, alfresco dinners and hot summer nights at the beach are what you’re after, this is a great time to be in Turkey. Inland areas may get a bit cool in the evening, requiring a sweater or sweatshirt, in general, visiting during this peak summer month means bringing attire for warm weather, including a couple of bathing suits and plenty of sunscreen. Do keep in mind that unless you’re at the beach or the pool, more conservative clothing is advised. Think loose, light and comfortable rather than skimpy. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
- Turkey Weather in August: Like July, August brings lots of sunshine and hot, dry weather with the average high remaining at 28°C, although there will probably be quite a few days where it stretches well into the 30s. Chances for rain have diminished even further now to just 20mm over four days, so don’t expect much in the way of precipitation to cool things off. It’s all about spending time at the beach now with the sea temperature at 22°C, along with afternoon naps indoors out of the searing heat. Pack as you would for July with your summer attire, focusing on lightweight, loose clothing, and don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: 20mm.)
- Turkey Weather in September: While September brings the end of summer, the first half of the month is usually still quite hot and dry, but as it progresses it will start to cool a bit, with the average high dipping back down a degree to 27°C. Expect pleasantly warm temperatures if you come during the latter half of September, and slightly higher odds for some precipitation now with the average increasing to 50mm over 8 days, usually not enough to get in the way of outdoor sightseeing. With the low temperature averaging 16°C it might be a good idea to bring a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings. (Average Max Temperature: 27°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
- Turkey Weather in October: Autumn has arrived and it is beginning to noticeably cool across Turkey. Precipitation increases quite a bit, especially in areas along the Black Sea, with 60mm on average falling over 10 days – the odds of rain are higher as the month progresses. The average high temperature is just 19°C now so you can expect crisp, cool days along with warmer, sunnier ones. Bring a mix of clothing, such as both short- and long-sleeved shirts, as well as some sweaters and perhaps a rain jacket. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
- Turkey Weather in November: With winter approaching the weather takes a more dramatic turn now, with the average high temperature just 14°C. If you’re hoping to experience warmer, sunnier days, come as early in the month as you can. As it moves forward, it’s likely to feel more like winter: wet and chilly. The average amount of precipitation increases to 100mm over 13 days now. Bring a warm, waterproof coat, boots, and clothing that can be layered so that it can be removed easily should the sun come out, or for heated indoor areas. (Average Max Temperature: 14°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
- Turkey Weather in December: One of the coldest months of the year in Turkey, icy, blustery winds are common now. From Anatolia to eastern Turkey, landscapes are often dusted in a blanket of white. While snow is less likely in Istanbul, it will feel rather chilly with the average high at around 10°C. There’s an average of 100mm of precipitation over 17 days now so be sure to bring clothing to help ward off the damp and the cold, including a warm waterproof coat, waterproof boots, a hat, scarves and gloves. (Average Max Temperature: 10°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
Turkey Events and Festivals
Turkey in January
- New Year’s Day – January 1st, New Year’s Day, is a public holiday in Turkey with most businesses, banks, schools and post offices closed and public transport running on limited hours. Most people use the day to rest and recover from the previous night’s festivities.
- Orthodox Christmas – Most Orthodox churches in Turkey use the Julian calendar, with January 6th marking Christmas Eve and Christmas celebrated the following day. Locals head to church while Armenian and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs make their rounds, blessing their flocks.
- Camel Wrestling Festival – This three-month-long event in Selcuk starts in early January running through the end of March when one camel will be chosen as the winner, a great honor for its owner who spends the entire year ensuring his camel will be ready for wrestling. As the animals are more aggressive during the winter when temperatures are chilly, it provides them with a bit of tension release too.
Turkey in February
- International Istanbul Gastronomy Festival – February doesn’t typically host many festivals or other events with one of the biggest, the International Istanbul Gastronomy Festival taken off the calendar in 2019, but it can be a wonderful time to come and enjoy snow-covered landscapes and indoor attractions.
- Valentine’s Day – Valentine’s Day isn’t a Turkish tradition, in fact, it’s referred to as Sevgililer Günü which translates to Lover’s Day here, popularized by a men’s magazine just a few decades ago. It will be visible in restaurants, malls and shop windows where gifts and special dinners are on offer. Street vendors will be selling flowers, balloons and a variety of heart-shaped items.
- !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival – This event that takes place for 10 days during the second half of February and was founded in 2002. It brings celebrated filmmakers and some 80,000 film enthusiasts from across the globe to enjoy the best in contemporary film curated and based on thematic selections. Its future is in doubt after its founding directors did not have their contract renewed for 2019.
Turkey in March
- Canakkale Victory and Martyrs’ Day – March 18 is an important day in Turkey, commemorating the heroes of Canakkale who fought against numerous challenges to protect their country. Memorials in the southern peninsula of Gallipoli can be filled with visitors.
- Nevruz Spring Festival – This event typically celebrated on the first day of spring to welcome in the season, is associated with various local traditions, most notably singing, folk dancing, and bonfires. Children decorate hard-boiled eggs and there are often family and/or public feasts.
- Mesir Macunu Festival – This huge festival has been a long tradition, dating back to the Ottoman era. It’s held in the Aegean Manisa province, known for its mesir macunu paste, a traditional sweet containing many different herbs. The paste was used to treat the ill, and due to increased public demand, the sultan ordered that it be distributed to the public by scattering them from the minarets and domes of the Sultan Mosque. Typically held during the week of March 21st, tens of thousands of people gather in front of the mosque to celebrate the arrival of spring and the beginning of the period of abundance with various sports and cultural activities which include the mesir paste distribution ceremony.
Turkey in April
- International Istanbul Tulip Festival – One of the biggest tulip festivals in the world is hosted in Istanbul, running for most of April and into early May for three weeks with the exact dates determined by the flowers bloom. Many do not know that tulips originally grew wild on the Asian steppes and were later cultivated by the Ottoman Empire. Today, millions of tulips are planted around the city, and during the festival, they’re all busting with color. The Emirgan Park authorities put on concerts, performances, and exhibitions for you to enjoy as you wander the gardens in full bloom.
- International Film Festival – The leading international film festival in Turkey is hosted in Istanbul during the first half of April. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy the top new art-house films in the capital city that has a booming film industry. Screenings primarily take place in and around the entertainment quarter of Beyoğlu. The event brings screen actors and filmmakers from around the world.
- Alacati Herb Festival – The Cesme Municipality hosts its most popular festival over four days in early April, April 4 through April 7 in 2019. It brings thousands to enjoy this horticulturist tradition that includes competitions in herb collection and herb inoculation. Visitors can collect herbs, learn about local flavors, attend workshops, enjoy foods prepared with the herbs, and more.
- TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open – The biggest international tennis tournament in Turkey takes place over a week starting April 22 in 2019.
- National Sovereignty and Children’s Day – April 23 is a public holiday in Turkey, bringing business closures as well as parades. Many people lay wreaths on the monuments of the Turkish Republic founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The largest ceremony is held in Ankara at the Ataturk Mausoleum. As Ataturk dedicated the Turkish Republic to children, schoolchildren sit in Parliament for the day, symbolically governing in the country. Children’s festivals are held throughout Turkey. In Istanbul, there will also be short performances by groups in national costume accompanied by traditional music, culminating with a more elaborate performance at the national soccer stadium.
Turkey in May
- Labor Day – May 1 is Labor Day as it is in many countries. In Istanbul, Taksim Square has long-been been the scene of major demonstrations. It also has important symbolic meeting as on May 1, 1977, 37 people were killed following unidentified fire on demonstrators. While rallies and protests here have been banned ever since, thousands of protestors attempt to take it over every year resulting in clashes with police which is why it’s a good idea for visitors to avoid the area throughout the day.
- Ephesus Festival of Culture and Art – This annual festival is typically held during the first week of May to celebrate Turkish heritage and culture. There will be theater performances, concerts and folk shows with traditional dancing throughout the week, some performed at Ephesus’ Great Theatre.
- Hidrellez Festival – This festival celebrates the first day of the “early summer,” with May typically ushering in warm, dry weather. In Istanbul, there will be street parties throughout the night of May 5th and into the morning of the 6th, including gypsy music bands. Wishes are believed to be granted this day and locals may jump over a fire while making a wish or they may write or draw the wish, tying it to a tree branch or burying it underneath a plant. The most famous celebration is in Sarayici which ends with the tradition of visiting the neighboring Tunca River for rituals like washing one’s face in the water and sending handwritten notes of wishes out on the water in hopes of them being granted.
Turkey in June
- Istanbul Music Festival – This festival takes place across Istanbul with events at cultural venues, historical sites, concert halls, parks and gardens throughout much of June. In 2019 it will be hosted from June 11 – June 30. There will be some 600 local and international artists, including well-known names in classical music, opera, and ballet.
- Cappadox Festival – Thousands flock to the other-worldly landscapes of Cappadocia for this not-to-be-missed event that focuses on culture, music, and food, hosting over 140 events that take place over about a week in mid-June. There are plans to hold the event biennially starting in 2020.
- Bozcaada Wine Festival – Held annually on Bozcaada Island over the last four days of June, this festival offers tastings, wine tours, vineyard trips, winery visits and live music.
- Istanbul Jazz Festival – Running from late June through mid-July, this festival brings jazz and a whole lot more, including rock, pop, new age, and Reggae to Istanbul.
Turkey in July
- Turkish Maritime and Cabotage Day – Cabotage Day is an annual maritime festival held on July 1 to celebrate the establishment of Turkey’s sea borders. The day begins with an official ceremony at Ataturk’s statue followed by events and competitions at marinas with major ports.
- Democracy and National Unity Day – July 15 is a relatively new public holiday that commemorates the murderous coup attempt on July 15, 2016, bringing closures as well as a series of events throughout the country.
- Chill-Out Festival – Chill-Out Festival is held every summer at locations in Istanbul, Bodrum, and Cesme, showcasing house, lounge, and minimal music. A variety of food, beverages, workshops, and other activities are available as you take in the sounds. 2020 dates have yet to be announced.
- Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim – Late July brings the unique thrill of watching over 2,000 global competitors take to the open waters in this cross-continental swim of the Bosphorus Straight (closed to shipping traffic for the event). Past participants include nine-time Olympic champion Mark Spitz and gold-medalist Ian Thorpe. A large festival with food, music, and entertainment takes place in Kurucesme to end the event.
Turkey in August
- International Troy Folk Dance Festival – At the end of August Canakkale hosts the International Troy Folk Dance Festival. Folk Dancers from around the world are invited to participate. Although traditional folk dances are the focus, it also features plays, musicals, cultural events, exhibitions, and panels.
- International Ballet Festival – Held in the historic setting of Bodrum Castle over the second half of August, this event brings top international ballet companies and ballet stars from around the world.
- Victory Day (Zafer Bayrami) – August 30 is a public holiday that commemorates the 1922 victory over the invading Greek armies during the War of Independence. There will be military parades in major cities around the country along with business closures although most supermarkets and major shops will be open. Some businesses will be closed on this day, though tourist attractions and most major shops are open.
Turkey in September
- Bozcaada Vintage Festival – This traditional grape festival on the island of Bozcaada takes place in early September to celebrate the harvesting of the four varieties. Grapes are picked in the vineyards that cover one-third of the island’s surface and brought to the center of the city, welcomed with drums and horns to kick off the event. Wines made from these varieties are available for sale at the event as well as varieties from other regions as well.
- Phaselis Art and Cultural Festival – This week-long event features famous international and Turkish artists in the 2,400-year-old trading center of Phaselis in early September. Turkish jazz, folk, and other genres can be heard in concerts held at the ancient theater.
- International Istanbul Biennial – Hosted every other year starting in mid-September, with the next event beginning on September 14, 2019. This contemporary art exhibition is considered one of the most prestigious biennials alongside Sydney, Sao Paolo, and Venice. It is focused around a current philosophical or political theme from which artists are selected from around the world to produce exhibitions which are displayed throughout Istanbul.
- Goreme Local Food Contest – Goreme hosts this food festival over the last week of September, September 24-30 in 2019. The festival seeks to educate younger generations to the traditional flavors of Cappadocian cooking and organic farming. A great way to get insight into the local culture.
- Contemporary Istanbul – Turkey’s largest international art fair takes place for four days each September. There will be over 100 international exhibitors at the Istanbul Congress Center and Convention and Exhibition Centre in Istanbul.
Turkey in October
- Akbank International Jazz Festival – This two-week-long festival brings the blues and jazz to Ankara, Izmir, and Istanbul, including world-renowned performers who take the stage in some of the most atmospheric venues.
- International Bodrum Sailing Cup – Held over a week in late October, October 21-26 in 2019, this event seeks to educate sea-loving enthusiasts in the art of sailing as well as showcasing the yachts production of the region. This unique regatta allows guests onboard yachts during the race. Surrounding activities include concerts as well as cooking and photography contests.
- Republic Day – October 29 is Republic Day, officially known as Cumhurivet Bayrami. It celebrates the 1923 proclamation of the Republic of Turkey with public speeches, parades, fireworks, and more. Schools and most businesses are closed.
- Antalya Golden Orange International Film Festival – This prestigious week-long event, held in autumn months (October 26 to November 1 2019), is focused on documentaries and narrative fiction of both short and feature-length and is one of the longest-running film festivals in Turkey.
Turkey in November
- Istanbul Intercontinental Marathon – The only marathon in the world run across two continents, this event travels from the Asian shoreline to the European side of the Bosphorus on November 3. It began when a group of German tourists indicated they run marathons in all of the places they visit. As Istanbul had no marathon, a unique opportunity was born to link the continents.
- Ataturk Remembrance Day – November 10 is not a public holiday, but it commemorates the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father and founder of the Republic. There is a moment of silence to honor his memory and at exactly 9:05 a.m. sirens, car horns, and foghorns are sounded. In Istanbul and in cities throughout the country there are usually various activities like concerts, speeches, and exhibitions.
Turkey in December
- Rumi Festival – In Konya, the Rumi Festival, December 7-17 in 2019, brings the opportunity to watch the dance of whirling dervishes, a form of active meditation that’s widely practiced in many countries, especially Turkey, with roots in the Mevlevi order. It is said the whirling represents the universe, the right hand pointing up to heaven to take in goodness and the left hand pointing down to earth to disperse it. There will be sporadic performances throughout the streets of Istanbul, with the most elaborate inside the mosques.
- Istanbul International Short Film Festival – This festival in Istanbul takes place over a week in mid-December, December 13 to 20. The oldest international short film festival in the country, some 200 are presented from Turkey and around the world. Screenings are presented with Turkish subtitles often followed by a Q&A with the director.
- Christmas Markets – Christmas isn’t celebrated in Turkey as a Muslim country, but Christmas Markets are hosted in many places for foreign visitors, often including traditional holiday items rarely seen in this country.
- New Year’s Eve – There will be lots of parties on December 31 to celebrate the New Year. Restaurants and major hotels offer special menus and events, and there will be fireworks in many cities across the country. One of the most popular ways to spend it is out on a cruise in the Bosphorus, the perfect spot to take in the fireworks show.
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