Whether December is a good time to go to Turkey depends on what you want to do and where you want to go. If your reason for travelling is a holiday and you dream of sun-kissed beaches while swimming in the Aegean or Mediterranean, prepare for disappointment. However, December is a good time to visit for exploring, skiing, city breaks or finding a property to buy. The advantages of visiting Turkey in December are fewer crowds, less waiting time to get into attractions, and cheaper flight and hotel prices. We think that is enough, so this article explains everything about visiting Turkey in December.
About December in Turkey
1: What is Turkey Like in December?
We touched on it briefly in our introduction but will elaborate because this is important. Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are home to many coastal resorts and districts. These places are your typical beach holiday resorts and are a hive of activity during the tourism season from May to October. However, at the end of October, the primary flight schedule stops, and tourism to these resorts drastically reduces. In some cases, like Altinkum on the Aegean coast near Izmir, some beachfront restaurants, bars and nightclubs close. In addition, councils stop laying out sunbeds and umbrellas. The most significant exception is Antalya city centre over in Mediterranean Turkey. Tourism happens all year round, but again, in smaller coastal resorts like Kas or Kalkan on the outskirts, expect reduced facilities. So, research carefully if you plan to visit Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts during December.
2: What is the Weather Like in December?
Here is the thing with Turkey, the weather can't be stereotyped because there are several different climate zones. For example, in the northeast, it isn't unusual to see snow on the Kackar mountain tops. But at the same time, in Mediterranean Antalya, people sit outside in t-shirts. So, check the regional weather and temperatures for the area you plan to travel to, but for example, in Istanbul, expect daytime temperatures around 10 degrees and five at night. So, wrap up warm. Istanbul can also receive snow and rain in December. Meanwhile, in Antalya, daytime temperatures average around 17 degrees. (More about weather climates in Turkey.)
3: Where is the Hottest Place in Turkey During December?
The hottest places in Turkey are in the Southeast, namely the cities like Sanliurfa and Batman. However, those places generally only attract cultural tourists because of their conservative outlooks, and inland locations. So instead, head to Antalya, further along the Mediterranean coastline, to visit the hottest spot during December. In Antalya, locals ski in the mountains in the morning and swim in the Mediterranean in the afternoon. The backing Taurus Mountain range evokes the difference in weather and temperatures.
4: About Skiing in Turkey
December marks the beginning of the skiing season in Turkey, going through to April. Turkey has about 15 ski resorts, mainly located inland up the mountain ranges. Some are more popular than others, including Mount Uludag at Bursa, and Mount Erciyes in Kayseri, near Cappadocia. If visiting Antalya, head to the nearby ski resort of Saklikent. (No to be confused with the gorge of the same name in Mugla.)
5: City Breaks in Turkey during December
This is where Turkey delivers in abundance because although the country operates many different niches of tourism, it excels in city breaks. So whether you stay a couple of nights or stretch more than a week, expect loads of things to do and places to go. Remember, during December, northern destinations in Turkey are colder, so wrap up warm, but ideal cities to put on your bucket list include…
Glorious Istanbul: As the former ruling capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, Istanbul is Turkey's largest metropolis. Sitting on two continents, surrounded by the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus strait and Golden Horn, the population of 15 million people make up this hub of business, economy, education, health, and tourism. Major sightseeing attractions include the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, and Basilica cistern in Sultanahmet. These are all UNESCO World Heritage sites. Also, visit the new part known as Taksim, the hub for nightlife and shopping. You can never run out of things to do in Istanbul during December, but if your time is limited, aim for four days to see the highlights.
Cosmopolitan Antalya: This is, by far, our favourite place in Turkey during winter. All-inclusive hotels in Antalya make a roaring trade at Christmas and New Year by hosting festive events. Most all-inclusive hotels also keep their spa and indoor pools open to relax after seeing the main sights. Within the city centre are some fantastic shopping malls, but the main sights include Kaleici's old town part with authentic Ottoman houses. Also, visit Antalya Museum and the Aquarium. At the beginning of December, stroll around the Konyaalti district for quaint cafes and some superb restaurants.
Ankara- Capital of Turkey: Sitting in central Anatolian, Ankara is home to 6 million Turkish people. It might surprise some people to learn that Ankara became the capital in 1923, replacing Istanbul, yet this big metropolitan area still does not achieve the same fame. Regardless, the primary reason to visit during December is Anitkabir, the Mausoleum of Ataturk, founder of the modern Republic of Turkey. Other places to visit include many museums and the castle giving off a fantastic big city view. As a large city, Ankara delivers in abundance for nightlife and shopping.
Modern Izmir: Sitting in the Aegean, Izmir is the name of Turkey's third-largest city and peninsula. The place to explore in December is Konak, the old city district. Start at the clock tower, then visit the agora ruins, shop in Kemeralti bazaar, and witness a fantastic view from the Kadifikale castle. If the weather is fine, take a short trip to Izmir Wildlife Park. We enjoy Turkish restaurants around Konak that serve fresh fish and seafood. Otherwise, the Alsancak area excels in shopping choices.
Green Bursa: This city of Turkey earned fame as the Ottoman's first ruling capital before they invaded Constantinople. The famous UNESCO World Heritage sites mainly sit in the old city part, including the famous great mosque and many Ottoman tombs. In addition, Bursa earns fame as where the famous Iskender kebab was invented, so visit restaurants to sample this renowned dish throughout Turkey. Combine a December city break in Bursa with weekends at Uludag ski resort.
6: Visit Cappadocia in Turkey
Ok, so bear with us here. Cappadocia in December is cold. After all, it is located inland at higher altitudes, so naturally, the air can get nippy. However, during winter, this place is a magical destination in Turkey. Enjoy excellent sites like Goreme open-air museum, which holds many 14th-century churches. Yes, Cappadocia embraced the early beginnings of Christianity, hence the Cappadocia fathers. Also, take an early sunrise trip in a hot air balloon over the great valleys of fairy chimneys which are rock formations shaped over thousands of years by the unique wind cycle. Derinkuyu underground city is another marvellous place to visit. Cappadocia is one of those places in Turkey that everyone must see. (More about Cappadocia in Turkey.)
7: Visiting Ephesus in December
Once again, this is another place with reduced tourism in December. Ephesus ancient city ruins are one of Turkey's top attractions. Roughly 15 million people visit annually, and hundreds of cruise ships dock in to see the old city that nearly rivalled Rome. Check weather forecasts before visiting, but most days offer suitable temperatures to explore the Roman terrace houses, Celsus library and grand amphitheatre. (Visiting Ephesus ancient ruins in Turkey.)
8: About Pamukkale During December
Pamukkale is the other top visited tourist attraction in Turkey in December. Granted, the best time to see it is summer because paddling in the white calcium pools is a delight. However, if the weather is right, still visit because the landmark alone is a marvel of Mother Nature and a must-see once in your lifetime. After seeing the pools overlooking the village, drop by the museum, and explore the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, a spa city once favoured by wounded Roman soldiers for relaxation. There is also Cleopatra's pool, where visitors swim over fallen columns. (About Pamukkale in Turkey.)
More About Turkey
Facts About Turkey: Visiting Turkey during December is much more fun with prior knowledge. Our article about fun facts to know about Turkey gives the perfect introduction to a country that is massively misunderstood by some and loved by others.
Souvenirs to Buy in Turkey: While exploring, you will find souvenir shops selling items that make great presents for friends and family back home. Additionally, they will be a wonderful reminder of your time in Turkey during December.
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