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Don’t Underestimate Turkey in Winter

Turkey winter destination

One of the most frequent questions I get asked nowadays is what’s my favorite country.

Um, is it just me or is that the hardest question in the world?! Don’t ask me that – it’s like picking a favorite child…out of around 30….

I guess I’ve been busy!

Turkey winter destination

You don’t get this shot of Ephesus in the summer

Turkey winter destination

Places stand out for me for many different reasons, and there’s rarely been I place that I seriously didn’t enjoy. But it’s like comparing apples to oranges, and I hate to exclude anyone so I usually answer, well, “I loved Iceland, but Spain has my heart, and OMG Italy you just can’t beat, but Jordan is absolutely incredible…” the list goes on and on as I evade the question.

I love everything, ok?! What can I say?

But there is one country that’s always in the back of my mind, a place I don’t think always gets the attention it deserves, and depending on how hungry I am when asked the dreaded “favorite country” questions, it usually is the first one out of my mouth.

Turkey.

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

I can hardly believe that 10 months have gone by since I traveled to Turkey on what would become the beginning of my journey to becoming a professional travel blogger – whatever THAT means.

Turkey has gotten a lot of shit this past year in the media, but you know what? It is STILL one of my all-time favorite countries. Now I know I just completely undermined my own authority in offering advice about favorite countries, but let me just say, I love Turkey.

And a solid 70% of my love of this east-meets-west country is rooted in food. Turkish food is phe-NOM-e-nal – see what I did there?

Noms.

Turkey winter destination

I might get a lot of hate for this, but I feel confident shouting out loud that Turkey is generally considered to be a summer destination, or at least “warm weather” destination. From the sexy coastline to hiking activities, at least for me, I usually thought of going to Turkey when it was warm enough to swim somewhere pretty and get a tan.

Boy was I wrong.

Not only is Turkey fucking stunning in winter, I would even argue that it’s BETTER visited in the colder months.

I know, I know, I know. Hear me out.

While the same can be said for places around the world, here are my thoughts on why Turkey shouldn’t be overlooked in winter. 

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

1. It’s significantly cheaper

Prepare to have your mind blown. Are you ready?

The reason I decided to head to Turkey in February was because I was searching for cheap getaways on Skyscanner, and it popped up.

Washington D.C. – Istanbul, round-trip on Lufthansa, Friday afternoon to the following Sunday afternoon

$391

ROUND-TRIP!!

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

Holy crap! Those are 2008 prices! When you see a deal that good, there is only one thing you do, click buy and don’t look back!

And it only gets better from there.

Traveling in Turkey in February is incredibly cheap because it’s the major off-season. This means that hotels are discounted significantly – in fact, most hotels offer a winter-summer price list. The same goes for tours, restaurants and activities. There is usually a discount for booking in the winter.

I’m not talking about a measly $20-$30 off, I mean like a 75% reduction.

And I don’t know about you guys, but I love a discount!

Turkey winter destination

2. It’s empty

If there is one thing I hate when traveling, it’s crowds. Not a fan.

Large groups of people make me anxious. Large groups of idiot cruise ship tourists (which is pretty much all of western Turkey in the summer) make me want to go hide somewhere and never come out again.

But in winter? No cruises! No idiots! Turkey is empty except for Turkish people and some brave foreigners.

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

Empty bazaar in Istanbul

The perks of visiting a popular destination in off-season are endless. Less crowds means no waiting in line. For example, to visit the famous Hagia Sofia even in winter has a line, but I went early and waited about 5 minutes. I can ONLY imagine how lovely that gets in the summertime.

I loved getting lost in the back streets of Istanbul with only a few mangy cats for company. I loved hiking all over Cappadocia and not seeing a single soul. I loved exploring the ancient city of Ephesus with about 10 other people.

For me, you can’t beat traveling halfway across the world to a gorgeous historic and fabulous country AND feel like you have the place to yourself. It was as if I rented Turkey for a week and it was all for me.

Turkey winter destination

3. It’s easier to meet locals

Because you aren’t fighting tooth and nail to get around large crowds of tourists, this means you are much more likely to have a more local and authentic experience, if that’s your jam – I know it is for me!

The natives are friendlier because they aren’t jaded from listening to hundreds of tourists ask where they can buy good carpets and thus are much more likely to talk to you.

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

Learning to cook Turkish food with Turkish Flavours in Istanbul

Maybe because I was traveling alone, but I found Turks to be some of the most inviting and hospitable people I’ve ever encountered on the road. I made friends everywhere I went, and I really enjoyed learning about the culture and history from complete strangers and people I just happened to meet on the road.

I make a point of trying to do this wherever I travel, and I can tell you firsthand, it is much more difficult to do in places crowded with tourists and visitors.

From getting my fortune read in the famous coffee dregs in Turkish to learning to cook traditional dishes in the home of the owner Turkish Flavours to making pottery with local artisans in Cappadocia to learning to weave near Ephesus, I felt like I really got to experience some truly local moments, and that makes all the difference for me.

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

4. It’s absolutely gorgeous

Again, when I envisioned Turkey over the past few years, my mind was plastered with images of rocky beaches, crystalline waters, and endless sunshine.

It’s so much more than that.

My first day in Cappadocia, I was touring around with Middle Earth Travel, and I was completely knackered because I got up at the crack of dawn to go hot air ballooning but it was cancelled because of the winds. It was a blustery cloudy day outside, nothing special, and I fell asleep with my face smooshed against the glass window of the van as we drove to the next site.

When I woke up, the world had gone white. Apparently I had died and gone to Narnia.

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

The landscape was covered in crisp, fresh snow, and boy, if I didn’t think Cappadocia was magical before, I did now.

Being me, I immediately blurted out, “STOP THE VAN,” so we could get out and take photos.

Seeing this ancient land, completely bereft of people and covered in a soft layer of snow was not something I’d likely soon forget.

Absolutely silent and peaceful, standing there in that vast white countryside, I realized  how happy I was with choosing Turkey to travel to in winter.

And it only got better over the next two days where I spent outside exploring Cappadocia in the snow, especially seeing it from the skies hot air ballooning at dawn. Somehow getting to see it covered in snow made it all the more special and memorable, knowing it was an occurrence that few got to witness.

Turkey winter destination

Turkey winter destination

Visiting Turkey in February was eye-opening in many respects, but perhaps the biggest take-away I left with was having my eyes opened to visiting a place outside of the standard tourist calendar. Have you ever been surprised by a place like that?

Have you ever been to Turkey? Would you consider going in winter? Have you ever to a popular tourist destination way outside of the off season? What did you think? Spill!

Turkey winter destination

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100 Responses to Don’t Underestimate Turkey in Winter

  1. Emma December 8, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Hi Liz!

    I LOVE this post! I’m currently living and working in Dubai, U.A.E. and Turkey and Jordan are seriously the next two destinations I am dyyying to visit! I also really love winter (I’m from the Canadian prairies), so travelling to Turkey in the winter looks like it would be a lot of fun!

    On another note, I found your blog when I was researching Luxor, Egypt and I’m now addicted to your blog! Your Luxor posts were very helpful, so thank you 🙂

    I went to Luxor for 4 days last weekend, and it was fantastic. Egypt has also received tons of negative press lately, and Luxor is seriously hurting from the lack of tourism. For example, my group and I (4 ladies plus our guide) were the ONLY people in attendance at the Karnak Sound and Light Show, whereas there used to be 300-400 tourists in attendance. We were totally safe the entire trip and I wish more people would go!

    You should come visit the U.A.E. or Oman next on your quest to conquer the Middle East!

    – Emma 🙂

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      I WILL def come visit! I really love the middle east, though I had mixed feelings about Luxor – how did you deal with the touts? In spite of all that you are 100% right, tourism is dead in Egypt right now and it’s so sad!

      I have a lot of posts about Jordan and Turkey on here, be sure to check them out!

      • rana December 17, 2016 at 1:11 am #

        why so bad ?

  2. Megan December 8, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I visited Andalusian Spain over the week of Thanksgiving and it was perfect. My apartment and rental car were cheaper and the tourist sites were much less crowded than they would have been in high season. The weather was even perfect! I totally agree with you on traveling at “off-peak” times in order to be able to better enjoy yourself.

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      I love Andalucia! Where did you go?

      • Annu December 24, 2014 at 4:03 am #

        Hi there

        I am planning a trip to turkey in feb next year. I’m just a little nervous about the weather. I am from south africa and never really experienced snow or really low temperatures before. I have no clue how to prepare my self and pack for a winter holiday . Do you have any advice or tips for me…

        Thank you
        Annu

  3. Trevor Huxham December 8, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Off-season travel pretty much comes with the territory of being a language assistant here in Spain, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I initially experienced Córdoba and Granada in the winter (brrrrrrrrr) but even though the skies were gray and it was a bit rainy, it was refreshing to explore those cities for the first time without the massive hordes of tourists they’re known for.

    Turkey looks beautiful, and it keeps moving up my to-visit list! ^_^

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      Yup, I love Andalucia in winter, I have great memories traveling around there!

  4. Huseyin December 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    Have you been to northeast of Turkey? If you haven’t you should see the magnificent nature and the plateaus of Kackar Mountains. I have been to Rize and Artvin province last year and there were totally different local culture, an amazing nature and the plateaus. Every season is amazing in Rize and Artvin, here are some keywords on Google,

    https://www.google.com/search?q=rize+camlihemsin&safe=off&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=RKCkUp7tEMqz4ASdt4Fw&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1920&bih=978

    https://www.google.com/search?q=rize+plateaus&safe=off&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=nKCkUr_yI8im4gSIzIDgAg&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1920&bih=978

    https://www.google.com/search?q=rize+pokut&safe=off&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=EaGkUor7C8uN4gSyuYGQAg&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1920&bih=978

    Huseyin

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      Thanks for the tips! I really wanted to head to that part of Turkey but I didn’t have time on this trip – I will DEFINITELY be coming back!

  5. Amanda December 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    I’m a big fan of off-season travel. I’ve been to places like Ottawa, Chicago, New Zealand, and Iceland in the winter months and have always had a great time. Next I need to hit up Europe in the winter – I’m sure it’s VERY different than in the busy summer months!

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      yeah I backpacked in central Europe in the dead of winter in college and it was awesome but freezing!

  6. Rachel @ Hippie in Heels December 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    great post it looks amazing and i am so shocked at that skyscanner deal. awesome, i’m on their site now to see where i can go 🙂 I live in goa year round and during off-season it’s DEAD and I love it. it’s monsoon. the rain is strong, the flowers are in bloom, the monkeys are crazzzy and there are no people in sight… now it’s season time and it’s packed and hot!

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      Ah cool! How do you like Goa? Yeah I had heard about skyscanner, downloaded their app and would waste a lot of time on it at work last year when this deal finally popped up

  7. Erica December 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    I had to laugh at your post title — I’m typing this from Fethiye on the south western coast of Turkey. It is definitely off-season right now; I both love it and find it somewhat frustrating. The lack of crowds is a huge (huge) plus. But a few spots are either totally closed off (Mount Nemrut) or operating on such a limited schedule (ferry to Rhodes from Turkey) that I can’t get there during my visit. But you are spot-on about off-season prices and how it’s easier to meet locals this time of year. My only wish is that I arrived two weeks earlier to access some of the spots that have just shut down. The tail end of the shoulder season would be perfect! LOVE this country.

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      Ah that’s frustrating! Why’s Mount Nemrut closed? Yeah shoulder seasons are also fab times to visit places like Turkey

  8. Kirsten December 8, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Love this post btw. I’ve been to Turkey twice – both times in the summer – and as much as I loved it the crowds could get a little much to be honest. I have every intention of going back one of these days though so I guess I’ll have to try it during one the more wintery months next time around.

    I was in Egypt during the May 2012 elections fiasco when tourism to the country was down and besides the Pyramids & St. Catherine’s Monastery everything was pretty dead – so nice and empty! Karnak & Luxor temples were almost completely void of other tourists as well as Abu Simbel. The antiquities museum in Cairo was fairly dead too aside from locals. Makes it so much easier and nicer to just stand there and be able to take in everything that you’re seeing & experiencing. It also made taking the copious amount of pictures I always seem to take easier too 😉

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      yeah I really enjoyed Egypt when it was empty. Such a fascinating country. I can’t deal with crowds, it really stresses me out, that’s why I loved Turkey in February, I had the place to myself!

  9. Holger December 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    I like your Article much. I would like mention the Lycian Coast in Turkey is a very interesting place to visit Ancient cities and more POIs in off season. If you are interested please visit our Lykia Guide Webpage or become a follower on Facebook.

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

      thanks! I am really hoping to get back to Turkey to do the Lycian way one day!

  10. Christin December 8, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Hey Liz,

    great post! 🙂 Fits my travel plans perfectly. I`m going to start studying in Turkey in Februrary but before uni starts I`m going to Istanbul for a few days. I hope to see as much of Turkey as possible during the Semester, even in winter. Do you have any tips particulary for Istanbul?
    Best wishes from cold Germany,
    Christin

    • Liz December 9, 2013 at 3:56 am #

      If you like to eat then I recommend Selin’s food tour or cooking classes with Turkish Flavours, it was the best part of my time in Istanbul!

  11. Shaz December 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Ooooh… Turkey had never been high on my list but I think it just moved up a few notches. I love visiting countries in the off-season! It means you can take photos of popular attractions without a billion heads in the view 🙂

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      EXACTLY! Turkey is just beautiful! I love it there!

  12. Whitney December 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    I’ve been to Turkey several times, twice on a cruise–don’t judge me! 😉

    But most recently I ventured to Istanbul from my then home of Bulgaria on an overnight bus last January. Along with 2 friends, I explored the city by foot for 5 days. The city in January was drastically different than when I visited previously in the summer.

    We waltzed right in to Hagia Sophia, no line whatsoever! The Cisterns were uncrowded as were the Grand bazaar and spice market.

    I completely agree that Turkey is not to be missed overall, and a trip in winter is more than worthwhile. (I can say the same for Bulgaria, but I am a bit biased being married to a Bulgarian and having had the opportunity to live in the country).

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      yay that’s awesome, I’m so happy to hear you loved Istanbul in January!

  13. Ashley of Ashley Abroad December 8, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    Great post! I traveled to Turkey in January and had an absolutely incredible time… my cousin lives there and has a Turkish boyfriend so I got to see (and eat!) a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

      That’s the best! I love visiting places and staying with people who live there, you take away so much more. And the food. OMG!!

  14. SnarkyNomad December 9, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    I did the exact same thing, and it was just fine. Down jackets, kids. They’re awesome.

    This one girl in the hostel had not-waterproof shoes and walked around in the snow all day, water leaked in, and soaked her foot and basically froze to it. She had to put her feet by the heater for hours. So yeah. Waterproof shoes. Probably a good idea.

    • Liz December 9, 2013 at 3:57 am #

      wow that sucks. Who doesn’t travel without waterproof shoes in winter?

  15. Natalie December 9, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    I agree, Turkey is just as great in the winter if you are sticking to places like Istanbul or Cappadocia. However much of the Med and Aegean coasts will disappoint, at this time of year. Bars, tour shops, and restaurants generally shut shop for six months and some resorts are ghost towns. I am in Didim at the moment, and went out Saturday night. Just one bar was open and we were the only people in it all night. I can’t even take a winter walk along the beach because the council has stopped cleaning it and the local street dogs use it as a toilet!

    However, there are also a lot of ski resorts that are enjoying a booming trend at the moment, but i think to see Cappadocia under snow is awesome! I have been there twice but going back for the third time, so I can get snow pictures like above!

    • Liz December 9, 2013 at 4:02 am #

      It’s so pretty in the snow, yeah I know the resort towns would be dead, but luckily Turkey has so much to offer besides beaches! That being said, I do want to get there at some point when the weather’s nice haha

  16. Sarah Palin December 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Okay, I don’t know much about Turkey, as I’ve never been, but do you know why it is called Turkey? Is it named after the animal? I’ve always wondered that.

    Also, why didn’t I consider a career in travel blogging instead of politics eh?

    • Liz December 10, 2013 at 2:39 am #

      OMG WHO ARE YOU?

  17. Heather December 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    I hate traveling during the summer because I loathe crowds (though I have more patience for them after two years in China.) But I’m also not a fan of cold weather so that complicates things. I’ve found that late September is an ideal time to visit Europe. The temps are still lovely and the tourists have thinned out enough to give you some elbow room at the major sites.

    • Liz December 10, 2013 at 2:39 am #

      Yep, September is a great time in Europe, even October can still be nice.

  18. Sam Anthony December 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Normally I’m all about off-season travel too but after going Ibiza at the end of November I think I’ll rethink winter island travel. It was great for seeing places like the beautiful Old Town and hiking without the masses, but otherwise it was pretty strange just because of how dead it was. It was like they were preparing for the apocalypse or something – everything was shuttered up and closed, and I’m not just talking the clubs but normal restaurants and stores too. Plus it was just torture not being able to swim in the beautiful water!! Thinking I’ll try to head back in May before the tourist hoards truly descend haha. But I still don’t regret going in November because of how ridiculously cheap everything was!

    • Liz December 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      Yeah I hear you, was it not warm enough in Ibiza in November? I went once in October to Mallorca and I could still swim

  19. Pauline December 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    You may have just convinced me to book a flight to Turkey this upcoming February. OH MY GOODNESS.

    • Liz December 10, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      OMG you’re going to love it, and I’m sure you’ll get a good deal on the flight!!

  20. Anna-Claire Gibson December 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I did the exact same thing and went to Turkey exactly a year ago. It was perfect. Granted I’ve wanted to go there forever and a day, but it was so wonderful in winter. Ephesus was almost empty (still can’t image it in summer), we had the Grand Bazaar pretty much all to ourselves, could spend as long as we wanted anywhere, mingled with the locals much easier because they were the only other people around…I could go on forever. I love Turkey. Everyone should love Turkey.

    • Liz December 11, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      totally agree! Turkey is amazing!

  21. Daniel Santos December 11, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    I also totally considered Turkey a more summer-y destination, but after seeing many pictures of the snow in Istanbul this week all over instagram, and then reading this post, I want to see both sides of Turkey, the warm and cold. Thanks for sharing!

    Daniel

    • Liz December 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

      I hope you get there someday and don’t be afraid of going in winter, it’s lovely!

  22. Alyson December 20, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    I was lucky enough to live in Turkey, and you’re right, especially in Istanbul, it’s so much easier to get around to the sites in the winter! But, in the beach towns, like many have said, all will be quiet. I’ve found that even in the summer, if you get away from the beach itself, you can get some sites all to yourself still!! We were in Oludeniz in July, and while the Blue Lagoon was teaming, we went out to Kayakoy (ghost city) with nearly no one there, and at Amynthas Tombs we were the only people.

    Even after all my travels, I still have to say, Turkey is one of my favourite places, not that I’m biased!! 🙂

    • suraksha December 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      Ashley
      I want to visit Istanbul in February (mid -late)2014. I know from what has been written in this post , its not a bad idea to visit then. Does it rain or snow during that time( I mean too much ??).I would like some information on where I could stay so that I am near sites of tourist interest(safe, clean and nominally priced accommodations). I am a woman in mid 50s living in USA , but am hesitant to travel there ( although I have done many international travels alone). Your reply is very much appreciated. It would be great to get in touch with you when I am there.

      • Liz January 3, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

        I am not in Turkey anymore but look through my Turkey posts, I have lots of tips in them. I stayed at the Hotel Empress Zoe in Istanbul and the Kelebek Cave Hotel in Cappadocia, both amazing places! It didn’t snow or rain too much when I was there, but it’s good to pack layers just in case. It really was the coolest place I’ve been!

    • suraksha December 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Alyson
      I wrote my email to “Ashley”(by mistake, when it was meant to be for you)
      Here is the same email addressed to you
      Alyson
      I want to visit Istanbul in February (mid -late)2014. I know from what has been written in this post , its not a bad idea to visit then. Does it rain or snow during that time( I mean too much ??).I would like some information on where I could stay so that I am near sites of tourist interest(safe, clean and nominally priced accommodations). I am a woman in mid 50s living in USA , but am hesitant to travel there ( although I have done many international travels alone). Your reply is very much appreciated. It would be great to get in touch with you when I am there.
      Reply

  23. Shanghai Ronin January 14, 2014 at 6:26 am #

    Wow, $391 round trip? Did that include everything? I can’t even fly to New York from Salt Lake City on such a price!

    I know how you feel about avoiding the crowds. Even the most beautiful place in the world can turn ugly and sinister once it’s crawling with swarms of tour buses, littered in packaging and blinded by the flash of hundreds of cameras. Here in China, the great wall and yellow mountain (the most spectacular mountain in all of China) turn into a sea of people on the weekends. It completely destroys the entire experience, avoiding the hawked loogies while trying to find your thoughts through the throngs of Chinese tourists screaming in your ear.

    I think you did a great job on this post–I’m completely sold on a winter Turkey trip!

    How much is it to hot air balloon by the way? Is it quite affordable?

  24. Gizem January 28, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Hi

    For a turkish person who lives in Netherland and misses her country so much, it was very nice to see this post. If you want to visit ankara one day just e-mail me. I can be your tourist guide ! 🙂

    • Liz January 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

      I definitely want to visit Ankara, thank you!

  25. Meg February 6, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    A lot of Aussies go over there for ANZAC day during the winter months, I hope to go one day for the ceremony.. Its only a dawn service but its still something! 🙂

  26. Kemkem February 16, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    Hi,
    I found your blog through buzzfeed. We visited Istanbul the end if January. It was sensational. Your pictures are fantastic. The weather was great, even though it rained 2 out of the 7 days. It was less crowded. How nice to be able to meet the locals and eat the most wonderful foods. I can’t wait to go back, and have l check Skyscanner every day for another sale. It’s only a 2 hour flight for us from Malta. I really really really love Istanbul and can’t wait to discover other parts of it….

  27. Properties in Turkey April 3, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    Winter should be spent in Turkey!!

  28. Ashwin April 25, 2014 at 3:17 am #

    Wow..loved he Cappadocia pictures..

  29. Nilufer Yilmaz Ozdemir July 4, 2014 at 3:27 am #

    Hey Liz, at first sight, thanks a lot for carrying Turkey on top of many people’s travel list;) Turkey could never get its deserved place in people’s mind…
    Istanbul is number one at 2014 Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice list 🙂
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Destinations-g1
    and of course Cappadocia a natural heritage isn’t it 🙂 I loved to read your story because I am Turkish, living in Istanbul and my relatives are both at Cappadocia, I passed my childhood at Cappadocia at my grandma and grandpa house:)
    if you did not eat Testi Kebabi and did not visit Haci Bektas-i Veli (philosopher) then it doesn’t mean you visit totally;)) joking apart, I will be really happy if you will be my guest when your way again falls down to Istanbul 😉 Travel is a passion for me too…enjoy my new travel blog…www.mapkini.com

  30. Anon July 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    Hi. Can you suggest some must do’s in Turkey? I am interested in active and cultural stuff. I see hot air ballooning is something to do. How much is a ride? I am thinking of going in March of next year. I am probably staying for 10 days. Thank you.

  31. Gabby z July 25, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    Hi! I loved the post, you gave me some great ideas as to where i should visit as i am planning on visiting turkey this coming january. Any advice on attire, especially shoes? Thanks in advance!

  32. Alex October 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    I spent a month in Turkey this summer and loved it so much that I’m considering going back. Problem is that I’m a total beach bum and hater of cold weather so I’m dreading being there and not being able to sit on the beach and swim and walk around without a jacket. Buuut your post is definitely making me take a second thought about it. What else did you do there in terms of outdoors-y type things other than Ephesus and Cappadocia in the winter?

  33. Polat October 22, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    Wow !

    This is so cool, seeing someone from a different country to actually like Turkey this much 😀
    Well, I am glad you actually enjoyed it in our country 😉 I agree with travelling in the winter as well, well, since I live in Canada now, “winter” in the western part of Turkey is not really winter for me, but it’s not crowded and it’s nice 😀
    Of course, if you’re looking for more of a challenge with the freezing Turkish Winter, you can always go to Palandoken Mountain in Erzurum..brrrrr.. maybe -40 degrees, even lower in the winter…

  34. jyl from @momitforward November 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    This sounds amazing! I visited both Ireland and France in January a couple of years ago and it was AMAZING. The weather in Ireland was super clear every single day (cold, but clear). And we had Mont St. Michel all to ourselves. Again, it was cold, but we bundled up and were able to experience it all in only a couple of hours without any lines or gobs of tourists.

    And while not completely off season, just this year we visited Portugal, Spain, and Italy in March/April and besides ending up at the Vatican during Holy Week (oh! my!), the trip was fabulous. No traffic anywhere. No lines. LOVED it!

    I definitely think there is something to traveling off season.

    Turkey is on our list, so thanks for sharing. Awesome pics too. I’m dying especially to see Cappadocca.

  35. Emyauli November 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Hi..
    great post
    i’ve been considering to visit turkey on february but still have doubt about it because of the weather i’m afraid will be a problem for me to enjoy it. I’m planning to try the hot air baloon, is it very possible to do that on winter?
    thanks for your sharing

  36. Zohaib Kazi November 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    Hey Liz,
    I’m going to Turkey tomorrow. While I have Istanbul figured a bit, can you possibly tell me what all should I do? I really want to do Cappadocia and the hot air balloon ride but what besides that?

    Loved your blog by the way. Out of everything I have read, this is definitely one of the best.

  37. Zohaib Kazi November 23, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Also Liz,
    how did you commute once you were inside Turkey?

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:11 am #

      mostly domestic flights

  38. Meredith November 29, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for your blog post! My husband suggested we go to Turkey and I was a little leery because I wasn’t sure how it would be in winter. But your blog post makes me feel a lot more confident we are making the right call 🙂

    We are heading to Turkey Dec. 19th. Do you remember your packing list? What were the few things you were most glad you brought, and what do you wish you left out? We always travel very light (one regular hiking pack, one regular backpack).

    Thanks so much!

  39. Manoj Menon December 20, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    Liz, Thank u for sharing your experiences. I plan to do a trip to turkey last week of feb on my trip back to the US from Dubai. I was skeptical coz of the season, but your blog post has certainly motivated me to make this trip.
    I plan to do 6 days in Turkey, can you please recommend an itinerary for a 6-7 day trip.
    Thank u

  40. Kathy February 20, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Liz, thank you so much for writing this post. I’m traveling Istanbul for the first time in March, and this was a last-minute, impulse decision because of the ridiculously cheap roundtrip flight from my airport. I had been feeling anxious about the weather in Turkey in March, but after reading this post, I’m not only relived but also thrilled to go to Turkey and catch a glimpse of winter passing! Also, thank you for dropping suggestions on what to do in Istanbul and Cappadocia.

  41. Leo February 26, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Yes the reason you are so “fancy” and think turkey is #1 is because you got attracted by some turkish man some-/everytime you got there. Your mind always remember the “satisfactions” by sex and remember where and happend to get that. Turkish men are different, but at no means better… You are attracted cause they are different and you could “escape” your world to a turkish one.

  42. Lauren June 7, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    I’ve been considering a trip to Turkey in January, so I’m glad to hear you had such a great time in the middle of winter. I’m somewhat limited with funds and time, but I think your other post about Cappadocia may have sold me on visiting that city in addition to Istanbul. The hot air balloon views look amazing!

    I’m a single, female American service member stationed in England and I’m trying to take full advantage of my 2-year tour here, but there are just so many places to see and not enough time! A few of your other posts have kind of validated some places I’ve been prioritizing on my list, e.g. I’ve been wanting to go to Lake Bled.

    I find your blog to be pretty inspirational, because basically you’re out there making the dream happen. I would consider myself to also be an introvert, and pretty independent, but I still have to push myself to not let any social anxieties hold me back from traveling. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m planning my trips and if I have companions to come with then great, but if not then I’m still goin! One thing I’m still trying to work up some courage for though is to drive from the UK to southwestern Germany, which is nearly 900 miles each way. I’ll have some training in Germany this summer (darn!) and would love to see more along the way to/from. I think I’d be fine as long as I continue to research; I already know there’s a special kit I’d have to buy. Anyway, I’m kind of rambling at this point, but I seriously love the blog – it’s provided useful info and given me some food for thought. 🙂

  43. Neha June 12, 2015 at 6:00 am #

    Hi Liz, just loved ur blog.
    M planning to visit Turkey in first week of November for my honeymoon . I have never been Dere before. But m totally a beach lover… So u think I won’t be able to enjoy beaches and nightlife dat time?

  44. shubhangi July 9, 2015 at 3:06 am #

    Hi Liz,

    I am living in the UAE and visited Turkey last week and while researching more on Turkey came a cross your blog. I do agree your views about Turkey and it has become my favourite destination too. Please do come to Dubai when you have time I can show you around also try to visit Oman as I stayed for a decade there. I will visit Turkey again and again its such a wonderful place.

  45. Otel kapadokya August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am #

    I just read your article about Turkey. It is very nice.I try to write a blog about Cappadocia. http://kapadokyarehberi.info it is about my home town Cappadocia.

  46. Romina August 19, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    Oh Liz, this is amazing! Thank you so much to share this. I know it’s an old post, but I’m heading to Turkey for the first time in my life next January. So this is helping me a lot 🙂 Everybody told me that I shouldn’t go in Winter, but I knew they were all wrong.

    Come to visit me in Ushuaia, Argentina.

    Hugs,
    Romi

  47. Kai August 28, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

    Hello. I am planning to travel to turkey but i am not sure how to plan for it. Can you guide me who was ur travel agent or how did you manage on your own?

    • Romina November 9, 2015 at 6:18 am #

      Hey, I always plan my trips. I use kayak.com for flights, or skyscanner as well, and then for accomodation I use booking.com

      you can find out what to do in each of the places and how long you wanna stay there.
      if you have your budget in mind, it’s easier!

  48. Hashim November 20, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    I loved reading this review.
    I am leaving for Turkey in a week and was getting very nervous about going in late fall (early winters) but reading this has given me confidence ! 😀
    I am hoping to do a ten day trip of turkey.

  49. Ian November 25, 2015 at 1:49 am #

    Hi Liz,

    Goodness! Your blog was very entertaining! Love it… I’m already a fan 🙂 I was searching for Turkey winter travel blog and thank God I found yours. You made my day. We are travelling to Turkey next week and was glad I read your blog. We are wondering what clothes to bring and what to expect during winter season. I so agree with what you wrote here, winter is fun especially with the off peak rates you get from the airline and the and super low hotel rates. Looking forward to less crowded tourist areas during our stay 🙂
    Thanks again for sharing your Turkey winter trip with us. Cheers!

  50. David January 27, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

    Hey Liz, I was planning on going with a friend to Spain and Portugal but he was denied for a visa which forced us to changed the ticket to Istanbul. I will be in Turkey for 3 weeks starting this Saturday January 30th. I’m really concerned because I’ve only known of two places to go which is Istanbul and Cappadocia. Can you recommend other places to go ? I’ve been told that the coast will be deserted and not worth our time. Any information will help.

    Thanks,

    David

    • Robin September 23, 2016 at 10:24 am #

      Oh where to start!

      You can still get in some coast in January by visiting Izmir, a big coastal city. I was there last December and it was 24deg C and is generally mild. So certainly not deserted with plenty to do.

      From there take a day trip out to little Eski Foca, by taking the shiny new Izban metro around the north of the bay to nearly the end of the line, then take a bus from outside the station for maybe a half hour ride. Eski Foça (Old Eski) – NOT Yeni Foça (New Eski). The interchange station is shown on the Izban train map in the carriages. Dead easy and dead cheap. The little bay of Eski Foça is lovely and full of boats and nice places to eat.

      Izmir itself is buzzy and vibrant all year round and has a big bazaar. You can take the ferry across the bay to the shopping street on the other side for a few lira too, or take the Izban.

      Definitely visit Cappodicia, but rather than grind away the long journey by bus take the sleeper train from Izmir (Alsançac station) to Konya and get a bus from there for the final 4 hours. The first bit of the journey is through dramatic mountains, with sheer drops and over those big iron bridges straight out of an old western movie.

      From Izmir you can easily make a side trip to the incredible Pammukale, but will be best to book a night there as its a bit far for a day trip in my opinion.

      In Cappadocia stay in Goreme, and take a trip to the underground city – a labrynth of passages and rooms where literally an entire community hid for years, its amazing. Just ask in Goreme bus station how to get there or buy a tour.

      Whilst in Istanbul take a day to see one of the Princes islands, which have no motor vehicles, only horse & carts. You can take a ferry from Eminonu near the sultanhamet old town (just down the hill or a few tram stops) – the ferries like everything else in winter in Turkey are toasty warm inside, and they come round with chai (tea) for a few lira. Takes about 1 1/2 hours and costs very little (less than 5 lira with a rechargeable Istanbul (transit) card. The big old yellow funnel ferries are far better than the little private boats, cheaper and just lovely.

      If you’ve never been, be assured that getting around Turkey is a breeze. You can turn up at the Otogar (bus station) annoyingly always located on the edge of town, and be on a bus within the hour. Because of stiff competition, buses are increasingly just 3 seats across so they are far more roomy than planes, and have seat back Turkish TV so you can catch up on your Turkish soaps! There are plenty of refreshment/smoke stops too.

      Or there are plenty of cheap internal flights (but book those in advance), but then you will miss all of the great scenery.

      Another recommended city is Eskeshir, that is vibrant and lively with a good few sights.

      If you can find an old copy of the Lonely Planet Turkey guide cheaply on Amazon I’d recommend buying it, as its far more detailed and much better written than the lousy new edition which seems more interested in giving you an endless history lesson than providing the useful and practical here and now information you will actually need! The Bradt Eastern Turkey guide covers everything west of Ankara, and is by far the most detailed and practical guide available.

      Have a great trip – you will love it!

      • Robin September 23, 2016 at 10:40 am #

        Sorry Bradt Guide = east of Ankara not West DUH

  51. Robin September 23, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    Hey great Blog. Yes I went again to Turkey last Christmas principally because they don’t have it!!! Istanbul rush hour on the 25th December was bliss!
    And like you I had a fabulous time. I headed down to Izmir, then took the fabulous overnight train to Konya (if you’ve never been on a Turkish sleeper train in your own private little room for VERY little money then I highly recommend it! From a 24degree Izmir on Boxing day, I woke up in a subzero Konya covered in snow – amazing.

    Cappadocia like you say is even better in the snow! (4 hours by bus from Konya BTW).
    I also recently (September) travelled right across to Van, on the blissful 21 hour train journey from Kayseri (1 hour from Goreme) which was just incredible. The scenery is fabulous, and best of all the train doesn’t arrive until the afternoon so you also get a big long lie in! All for £25 in my own private room!!

    Van was interesting and is a really buzzy city because of its huge University. Lots of people from Iran to which makes it even more vibrant, and THE BEST breakfasts in Turkey, complete with honey and clotted cream. I know, I know what you’re thinking but really it is THE best thing, if a bit decadent!

    The lake is just vast (2 1/2 hours round the southern road from Tatvan (where the train comes in) to Van, and not an English voice anywhere! You can take a ferry but thats over 4 hours. And the backdrop of mountains is stunning.
    We cheated and flew back to Istanbul, but got to see the lake from the air which was worth the airport hassles any day of the week.

    This year I’m planning to escape the (UK) Christmas hype by flying off again to escape the hysteria. This time I’m heading across to Kars to see the north east. And another fabulous long long train ride in my own little cabin.

    For the uninitiated, Turkish trains can be booked online and your ticket either downloaded into the TCDD app, and/or print your own ticket at home. The website http://www.billet.tcdd.gov.tr works in English too (click EN top right), and Pulman means seated in big comfy seats, Yatakli, means sleeper, and Kuseti means couchette (up to 4 in a single sex room).

    If you book an Yatakli sleeper bed on your own the system automatically allocates the entire room to you personally. The only way to share is if you book two beds at the same time. SO if you and a friend are travelling together, and can’t agree who will have the top bunk, pay a few lira extra and have a room each, but to do so you’ll need to make two separate bookings.

    The trains all have a nice roomy buffet coach where you can sit and read and drink endless cheap chai, or buy the Turkish staple ‘test’, or sandwiches, and even a hot meal, though you’ll probably need a bit of Turkish to order that as there haven’t been any menus around since they downgraded from full restaurant cars recently (sadly).

    Sorry to evangelise, but I can’t recommend Turkish sleeper trains enough, where you can enjoy Turkey from your bed!!. The fab turkeytravelplanner website tells you all you need to know.

    One final note – did you notice how toasty warm everywhere was indoors (OK boiling hot)! Everywhere I went thermostats were set at 30deg C, as against our usual (UK) 21deg norm! Same in the hotel, on the bus, on the metro, in shops – everywhere! They like their warmth in Turkey!

    In the hotel I reset the temperature down to a more manageable 21deg C, only to return to find the ‘helpful’ cleaner had reset it to 30deg C. Same on the sleeper, I set my room stat down to 21deg, went for a coffee in the dining car, and returned to find the helpful attendant had reset it back to 30deg!! I completely get why, its just very noticeable to someone from the chilly UK north west!

  52. Nancy September 23, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

    absolutely loved reading this piece. Any details for the pottery and carpet making? would love to do that when we go. thanks again

  53. ann October 6, 2016 at 10:01 pm #

    hi. What about if Ill do it in March? will that be a crowded month?? My second option is November. Me too I dont like traveling on crowded season. But I like it when my pics still has clear skies behind it.

  54. B January 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Nice

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