Turkey is a fascinating country, stretching from the ancient city of Istanbul on the Bosporus Strait down to the stunning Turquoise Coast, and across to central Cappadocia and the mountainous eastern regions. Deciding on the best time to visit Turkey depends a great deal on what you’re looking to get out of your trip and the types of activities you want to do, so let’s dive in…
The weather in Turkey
Turkey borders the Black Sea in the north and the Mediterranean in the south, with a central plateau that rises up to the mountains in the east, so the weather can vary significantly between different parts of the country at different times of the year.
In general the summer months are hot and reliably sunny, with good weather continuing into September and even October, but the winter season can be extremely cold.
Istanbul and the North Coastal regions
The best time to visit Istanbul if you’re planning on hitting as many sites as possible during your trip is in the fall or spring months, when the temperatures are mild but the days are still sunny and you’re unlikely to see much rain – perfect sightseeing weather.
During the hot summers the heat builds and due to the humidity it can feel extremely hot, with highs of 90°F. The winters come with significantly cooler temperatures, averaging around 40°F, and with a higher chance of rain, although it rarely snows here.
Photo credit: Taylan Tasbani
South Western Turkey and the Mediterranean coast
The Mediterranean sea makes the southern coast and western Turkey consistently warm compared to the north, with average temperatures in the 80’s in the summer and high 50’s in the winter.
The south coast especially sees mild weather (although it can rain quite a bit) in the winter so it’s a great year round destination, but the summer is the best time for visiting Turkey if you want to spend long sunny days on the beach.
Once you get away from the coast, the center of Turkey is very dry, meaning it gets much hotter in the summer months and colder in the winter.
Expect very chilly temperatures averaging around 35°F in the winter months and up to 100°F in the summer. The best time to visit this region is either in the spring or fall season when you will not experience these extreme temperatures.
In general eastern Turkey is subject to more extreme changes in climate across the year. The northern mountainous region is the coldest part of the country but there are lots of winter sports available and Turkey has a ski season.
The southeastern semi-desert region is significantly hotter during the summer months, regularly reaching highs of 110°F. Given the large variations in temperature, humidity and rainfall across eastern Turkey, it’s a good idea to look closely at the weather conditions for the area you want to explore before deciding when the best time to visit is.
What to expect from Turkey’s seasons
While Turkey is a very large country with regional variations, in general you can have similar expectations from the seasons wherever you go.
Summer in Turkey
The summer months of June, July and August in Turkey are peak season for anywhere near the coast. You can expect large summer crowds and higher prices at all the popular beach spots, especially along the Turquoise coast.
If you can handle the summer heat and high humidity, it can be a good time to visit Istanbul as there are fewer tourists visiting the major sights. Cappadocia is also a little quieter in the summer.
Photo credit: Taylan Tasbasi
Fall in Turkey
In September and October the summer heat starts to ease but the weather is still beautiful. Especially in early fall, the days are pleasantly warm and there is little rain, so you can relax at the beach but it’s also cool enough that spending your days exploring Turkey’s rich cultural heritage and historical sites is very comfortable.
This is classed as peak season for top tourist destinations like Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia as people have realized that it is a better time to visit Turkey for sightseeing with mild temperatures, so don’t be surprised to find it busy in these popular locations.
Winter in Turkey
The winter months of November through March can be an appealing time to visit Turkey despite the low temperatures. As the weather begins to get colder, the coastal resorts tend to close for the low season but life continues as normal in the cities, ancient sites stay open year round and you won’t have any shortage of things to do.
As long as you bring warm clothing and are prepared for some rain, the fairly cold months can be an excellent time for visiting Turkey with fewer crowds.
Of course, winter is the best time to visit Turkey for winter sports enthusiasts.
Spring in Turkey
While you can expect occasional rain showers in the spring months, this is still one of the best times of year for visiting Turkey. The pleasant weather and improving temperatures combined with spring flowers being in full bloom and days getting longer make spring in Turkey a wonderful experience.
This side of the shoulder season is also becoming a busier tourist season, but there is so much to see in this gorgeous country that it remains a great time of year for travel.
High season vs low season
Winter is low season across Turkey except for at the ski resorts, so you can expect to find that accommodation and flights cost less than in peak season. The cheaper prices and fewer crowds can make it a good time to visit Turkey if you’re prepared to find some places closed.
The summer high season period means flights and accommodation costs are higher for the entire country, even if the inland areas can be unappealingly hot. Book your travel well in advance if you plan to visit Turkey this time of year to ensure you get the best deals possible.
The shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October are generally thought of as the best time to visit Turkey, so you will not be alone if you travel at these times, and prices remain higher. Plan your trip for early April or late October for the most reasonable prices and availability.
Photo credit: Taylan Tasbasi
How much time should you spend visiting Turkey?
Part of deciding when to visit Turkey is thinking about what you want to do while there, and how much you want to see.
You could easily spend weeks and weeks traveling all around the country, but from our experiences in Turkey, here are our suggestions:
Most people will spend some time in Istanbul. To see the major religious sites of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, as well as the Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace and the other important sights, you need at least 3-4 days in this iconic city to do it well.
If you want to head inland to see the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia and take a hot air balloon ride above the unique structures, remember to set aside time to reach the region. It is around a 10 hour drive from Istanbul, or you can fly internally, so you need to account for at least a couple of days in your itinerary.
Photo credit: Taylan Tasbasi
Similarly, if you plan to head to Ephesus, the UNESCO World Heritage site on the west coast, allow a couple of days to travel there and then see the site. From here, you can easily travel down to the Turquoise coast where you could then spend a week simply visiting the many sights on offer, not including time relaxing on the beach.
Our Turkey tours last ten days, but these are focused on a particular region, so if you want to travel around more, make sure you are giving yourself enough time to see everything you want.
A land where east melts into west, Turkey’s Turquoise Coastline…
This is where cultures of the Middle East and West melts into a whole new lifestyle. Discover the ancient world of Lycians, Carians and Romans around the turquoise coasts of Turkey. We’ll trace the life of a Roman merchant in the lagoons of Caunos and the greatest city of the Romans, Ephesus the sacred port city dedicated to fertility for many ages. Experience the daily life of the eastern Aegean villages while comparing the grapes of ancient vineyards where wine was first fermented and traded all around the old world from Greece to Egypt.
Helping you decide the best time to visit Turkey
To be honest, the best time to visit Turkey can be any time, especially if you want to see the cities.
However, we love the spring with its combination of pleasantly warm weather and smaller crowds of visitors – there’s a reason our Turkey tours tend to run at this time of year – so if we had to choose one season, spring would be it. If you would like more information about traveling in Turkey don’t hesitate to contact us.