Why wait till summer? Book a cheap flight and explore all the wonder that is Turkey during the quieter months. Here are 10 reasons we love Turkey during the winter.
1. There’s (almost) no one there
When you visit Turkey between November and February feels like, for the price of a plane ticket, you’ve rented the country and you have it all to yourself. While huge attractions like Ephesus and the Hagia Sophia will still be popular over the winter months, they’re nowhere near as busy as they are during the height of high season.
2. It’s quite a lot cheaper
There are some incredible discounts to be had during off season in Turkey. Travellers find they can stay in four and five star hotels at amazing discounts - sometimes up to 80 percent off high season prices. You’ll also find that some activities (for example, horse riding, trekking, rafting) offer off-season prices, and car hire is also cheaper. Haggling for goods at markets and bazaars is often easier as vendors are keen to shift their wares during quiet times.
3. You won't collide with anyone whilst skiing
Skiing in Turkey is still relatively uncharted territory. If you head to the north east, you’ll find pristine skifields and very few skiiers cluttering up the slopes. Don’t expect Euroglitz or chalet-style entertainment in the evenings - this is bare-bones tourism in an unpeopled part of the country. Heading to Uludag (near Istanbul) or to the ski resorts near Antalya is a slightly more familiar ski experience as the infrastructure is better and there are more tourists hitting the slopes. Antalya’s also a little warmer than its colder northern counterparts, which are sub-zero winterlands.
4. You can eat your way through Istanbul
Love Turkish food? Head to Istanbul this winter and join a tour designed to showcase the best cuisine in the country. A number of tours take in produce and spice markets to give you an idea of the provenance of the heady flavours found in Turkish food, before ushering you round a number of restaurants, cafes and street food stalls where you’ll find the most delicious examples of food on offer in the city.
5. You can learn to cook up a storm
If simply eating isn’t enough and you’ve always wanted to turn your hand to making delicious dishes from one of the world’s most famous cuisines, head to Istanbul during the off season for workshops run by top Turkish chefs. Whether your tastes tend towards trendy Turkish fusion or traditional Ottoman offerings, the cooking courses on offer in Istanbul are many and varied. Impress your family and friends back home with the ultimate souvenir of your time in Turkey.
6. You can explore the cities that you missed in the summer
Turkey’s larger centres like Antalya and Istanbul have so much to offer: great restaurants, 5-star and boutique hotels (at a discount, as we’ve mentioned), museums, galleries, malls, boutique shops, cultural attractions and walking tours. There is so much to do that you’ll find your perception of Turkey as solely a country of beaches and sunshine will change forever.
7. Opt for a health or surgical procedure
It might sound like a strange - not to mention drastic - way to spend a winter holiday, but give it some thought and it might start to make sense. Health tourism is booming in Turkey and a number of people are using their annual leave to fly out and have procedures done. Potential patients come from all over the world for their fertility treatments, cancer treatments, dental procedures, cosmetic surgery - even open heart surgery. For many, it’s an opportunity to skip long waiting lists or costly private operations in their home countries and opt for a more cost-effective procedure carried out in a world-class hospital.
8. You can get pampered
If the idea of surgery is a little extreme, you can always go the more gentle route and book yourself in for a spa holiday. The treatments on offer are modern and highly professional, with luxurious spas and hammams offering massages and skin treatments - with a heavy emphasis on water therapy, with cold and hot pools and tubs. Take a group of friends and enjoy some dedicated me-time.
9. You can take a thermal break
Turkey is a volcanic country and therefore has a high number of natural hot springs. Who needs sandy beaches when you can opt for the healing - and heating - power of natural hot spring water? The best known is Pamukkale, but the whole country is dotted with hot springs, often adjacent to good hotels and other cultural attractions. Other thermal resorts can be found in Bursa, Mugla and on the Black Sea.
10. Play a round of golf … or many rounds of golf
With 50 hotels and 14 world-class golf courses, Belek’s reputation as a premier golfing destination is thoroughly well deserved. During the winter months the courses are quiet - and golf courses are keen to get players in, which means there are plenty of bargains to be had with some pretty amazing courses, as well as the resort hotels attached to them. The town is located in a central part of the Antalya coastline, so you’re also well placed to explore the region’s ruins and cultural attractions in between rounds.
Bonus number 11. Snow-covered Cappadocia is just spectacular
The surreal landscape of Cappadocia is unquestionably incredible. But add a layer of snow and it becomes a magical winter wonderland. Take a balloon flight over the fairy chimneys and the mysterious, shadowy valleys and gaze out across the icy expanse of central Turkey. Or hike through the valleys and across the plains. Afterwards, head to the nearest cave hotel for a cup of tea and to warm your feet by the fire.
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