Türkiye: A winter wonderland
Some countries are best visited in certain seasons. Others, however, are described as “countries of all seasons”. Türkiye, where visitors can experience four seasons in all their glory, is one of those countries where each season offers a different adventure.
In fact, winter is one of the best seasons to travel to Türkiye, especially if you like winter sports, stunning natural vistas and authentic local life. Türkiye will welcome you with its world-class ski resorts, spectacular mountain views, traditional delicacies to keep you warm, and quiet winter nights where you can enjoy the amazing landscapes.
The Magic of Skiing
Thanks to its mountain ranges, Türkiye has become one of the world’s leading destinations for winter sports. You can choose from a variety of world-standard ski resorts, all of which offer five-star hotels, high-quality snow and a wide variety of slopes for skiers of every level.
Winter tourism in Türkiye is synonymous with Uludağ. Close to major cities like Bursa and Istanbul, Uludağ is Türkiye’s oldest and most popular ski resort. The mountain is covered with snow between December and May and the recently expanded cable car will transport you to the mountain’s hotel area and ski slopes. Uludağ offers everything for an unforgettable winter holiday, from cosy suites with fireplaces to vibrant nightlife.
Situated on the shores of Lake Sapanca, Kartepe is the closest ski resort to Istanbul. With slopes for skiers of every level, Kartepe draws winter sports enthusiasts from all over Türkiye. The resort is also very close to local attractions such as Maşukiye and Lake Sapanca.
Located in the Köroğlu Mountains in Bolu, Kartalkaya is another popular ski destination close to major cities like Istanbul and Ankara. A favourite for snowboarders with its experts-only off-track slopes, Kartalkaya is suitable for alpine as well as cross-country skiing.
Mount Erciyes in Central Anatolia is one of Türkiye’s top destinations for skiing and snowboarding. The mountain is an extinct volcano with dramatic angles and plenty of snow, which create excellent slopes and perfect conditions for skiers.
Further east in Anatolia is Palandöken Mountain, Türkiye’s highest peak at 3.125 meters, and home to one of Türkiye’s largest ski resorts. Palandöken is a preferred destination for skilled skiers with its steep slopes, long trails and two or three-meter-high light powder snow.
Sarıkamış is another great ski resort in Eastern Anatolia. The Sarıkamış ski resort is 55 km to Kars, a historic city in the northeast. The resort offers nine slopes for skiers and snowboarders of every level.
Nature Cloaked in White
For nature enthusiasts, winter is a magical season full of opportunities to discover nature in hibernation. Türkiye’s many nature parks and lakes present unique winter scenes which cannot be experienced in other seasons.
The Yedigöller (Seven Lakes) National Park is one of Türkiye’s most beautiful natural havens, offering a truly stunning scenery. In winter, the seven lakes which gave the region its name, and the surrounding forests of oak, alder, pine and hazelnut trees are cloaked in white, creating stunning landscapes. Yedigöller is close to Kartalkaya ski resort and makes a great day trip.
Another popular winter destination is Lake Abant, a picturesque freshwater lake close to major cities like Istanbul and Ankara. Surrounded by dense forests of pine, hazel, willow and oak trees, the lake offers a perfect nature getaway. There are plenty of things to do around the lake; you can discover the 7-kilometre shoreline hiking, biking or horseback riding.
Türkiye’s Black Sea coast (Karadeniz) is a vast and enchanting place, especially in winter. The highlands offer spectacular mountain and forest landscapes, and a mild climate convenient for travelling.
Located on the historical Silk Road, the city of Trabzon is a must-see with its historical monuments and beautiful mountain villages. A striking monument carved out into the mountains, Sümela Monastery is one of the highlights of the Black Sea region. The enchanting tree-lined valley below is especially striking under the blanket of snow. Lake Uzungöl is a perfect spot for nature lovers; you can visit the charming village surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
The Black Sea is also home to several “yayla”, or alpine pastures, including Ayder Yaylası, an idyllic plateau famous for its wooden alpine huts, and Anzer Yaylası where you stay and experience local life in the middle of a natural paradise.
Cappadocia is a fascinating open-air museum incorporating numerous picturesque valleys and settlements, notably Uçhisar, Göreme, Avanos, Ürgüp, Derinkuyu and Ihlara. This unique geography that had been shaped by volcanic eruptions from nearby mountains is a fairytale land which becomes exceptionally seductive in winter.
As the valleys are nestled under a blanket of snow, fairy chimneys of various sizes and shapes become even more fantastical. Cappadocia is the common name of an expansive area encompassing parts of several cities, namely Aksaray, Nevşehir, Niğde, Kayseri and Kırşehir in Central Anatolia. The region was home to various civilizations since ancient times and the traces they left can be seen today in rock-cut churches and underground cities.
There are over thirty underground cities across Cappadocia while new ones are being discovered. You can also discover the region by horseback riding or hiking. Cappadocia is also renowned as one of the best places in the world to fly with hot air balloons. As the balloon gently soars through the air over fairy chimneys, breath-taking valleys and unique rock formations, you can see the whole amazing picture that is Cappadocia.
Along the Eastern Express Trail
Snow-capped mountains, ancient ruins dating back to the world’s oldest civilizations, and frozen lakes reflecting the winter sun… Winter in Northeast Anatolia may be harsh but it is a uniquely gratifying experience to visit this enchanting and historical region in the coldest season.
The Eastern Express, which departs from Istanbul and stops in Kars, is a great way to discover some of Türkiye’s greatest historic and natural wonders such as the ruins of Ani, the great ski resorts of Sarıkamış, and Palandöken, Doğubeyazıt, Mount Agri and Erzurum.
With its pastel-coloured stone buildings dating from the 19th century, Kars is a rich city in history, architecture and hospitality. Kars is also an ideal base for visiting the surrounding attractions, particularly the ruins of Ani. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ani is an ancient city surrounded by untouched valleys and mountains. The ruins of this once magnificent kingdom are especially striking during winter.
Türkiye’s easternmost district Doğubeyazıt in Ağrı stands out with its stunning historic sites, as well as its closeness to the Mount Ağrı, Türkiye’s highest peak and the supposed resting place of Noah’s ark. The Ishak Pasha Palace, a unique example of Turkish-Ottoman architecture, is 5-kilometre from Doğubeyazıt and it is a truly stunning sight in the middle of a mostly uninhabited stretch of land. Mount Ağrı with its perpetually snow-covered peak also offers one of the best sights in Türkiye.