Turkey is a country that has something for everyone. Whether you and your family are looking for a beach holiday, to explore ancient ruins, enjoy the mind-boggling landscapes of Cappadocia, explore beautiful Istanbul, or even ski, you can do it in Turkey.
A fairly large country (slightly larger than the U.S. state of Texas), the climate in Turkey can generally be divided into four discernable seasons.
However, from a tourism perspective, many tend to break the year-round weather changes into three categories:
- The high season, which falls during the spring/summer months (May – September)
- The low season during late fall and winter, (mid-November – March), and
- The shoulder season, which includes part of the spring and the fall (April and October – mid-November).
When is the best time to visit Turkey?
The best months to visit Turkey are either May or early June, when the weather is more agreeable and before the peak season of both the summer heat and the crowds.
More generally, the best time of year to visit Turkey is during the early part of the high season or the shoulder season, depending on whether you want to spend most of your trip at the beach.
While summer has good beach weather, it is also extremely hot, and there will be more tourists to contend with during July and August.
Also, if you are planning on spending time at any outdoor sites or ruins, it’s best to avoid visiting during July and August if you can to avoid the excessive heat.
If you really want to be free of crowds and long lines but do not mind cooler weather, traveling to Turkey during the low season might be a good choice.
We can easily break down the climate in Turkey (in tourism terms, at least) as follows:
The High Season (May – September)
This is the period when the weather is very hot and dry, both on the coast and inland, particularly in July and August, with average temperatures between 21-30°C (70-86°F) and sometimes even as high as 40°C (104°F).
This is when many plan their beach holidays along the Mediterranean, Aegean, or Black Sea coasts. The sea will be perfect for swimming during this time—just be wary of the heat during the day.
The southern Mediterranean coast can be even hotter than the western Aegean coast, so it’s likely to be a bit more pleasant during May, June, and September.
The Black Sea coast has the coolest summers in Turkey, with average temperatures 16-27°C (60-80°F), and may even experience some rain from time to time.
If you want to visit ancient sites like Ephesus during the high season, they can get quite hot during the day, and many of these places offer little respite from the sun. If you’re planning a site-focused trip, you might want to avoid going between mid-June and August.
Regardless of when you go, it’s also wise to get an early start for any such visits or go toward the end of the day to avoid peak sun hours and (hopefully) peak crowds as well.
Keep in mind that if you’re visiting the coastal resorts, cruise ship day-trippers may significantly increase the crowds at certain sites and beaches during the high season.
The Low Season (mid-November to March)
November through most of March can be pretty cold in Turkey (average highs between 8-14°C (46-57°F), especially inland, which is more mountainous and where you’re very likely to see lots of snow. If you want to ski in Turkey, this is the time to go.
However, you’re likely to have some rain in Istanbul and along the coasts.
But if you’re not necessarily focused on experiencing the best weather in Turkey and more on having a quieter, calmer, less expensive holiday with tourist sites (mostly) to yourself, the low season can be a good option.
Just be sure to bring warm clothing, especially if you are traveling during December to February, and prepare for snow if you’re traveling inland in Anatolia.
The Shoulder Season (April and October- mid-November)
This is when temperatures are more moderate at 16-28°C (60-82°F) but it’s primarily still sunny.
While it is generally too chilly for swimming during April and many hotels and restaurants in tourist areas along the coast may not yet be open, you can avoid the heavy crowds and the oppressive heat at tourist sites and ruins during this season.
Swimming in late September and early October is still possible, and prices and availability are likely to be better during this time.
While it can be rainy in April, a plus is that flowers will start to bloom in the gardens of Istanbul (see the Istanbul Tulip Festival below!) and in the mountains in places like Cappadocia.
Best times to visit Turkey: By Destination
This list focuses on sites in western Turkey, where the majority of tourists plan their visits.
Best Time to Visit Istanbul
A beautiful and vibrant city with loads of things to do, Istanbul is a good place to visit any time of year. During the shoulder season, Istanbul is at its best, with shorter lines, fewer crowds, and more agreeable weather.
Also, if you’re interested in taking a cruise along the Bosphorous or even visiting the nearby Princes’ Islands (a nice day trip from the city), this would be the best season for it.
The city is just as nice to explore during summer but just be prepared for the heat and the crowds. There will be more tourists at places like the Aya Sofia, the Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar, but it’s still a great time to enjoy the city.
Just take a break at a shady cafe with a cool drink, or even plan a visit to the city’s naturally-cool underground cisterns during peak sun hours when you need a respite.
If you’re looking to dodge most of the crowds and the heat during the low season and visit Istanbul in winter, just be prepared for cooler weather, rain, and maybe even snow. Be sure to bring warmer layers of clothing, waterproof shoes, and pick up a good wind-resistant umbrella but enjoy the magic of Istanbul.
Best Time to Visit Cappadocia
Cappadocia is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Turkey. Located inland in central Anatolia, it’s an interesting place to visit any time of year, depending on your preference.
During the shoulder and high seasons, you can enjoy hiking, visiting the caves, and spending lots of time outdoors. (It will be less crowded during shoulder season.)
During the winter in Cappadocia, the landscape is quite magical when covered in a layer of snow. Exploring many of the caves and hiking is still possible while enjoying the coziness of cave lodging.
Depending on the month you go, it should always be possible to take one of the famous balloon rides for which Cappadocia is so well known.
Best Time to Visit The Aegean Coast
Sometimes called “Aegean Turkey,” this part of western Turkey stretches from the Dardanelle Strait, west of Istanbul, to the east of Bodrum. The ideal time to visit this region is early summer between May and mid-June, and late September-early October when it’s not extremely hot.
Tourists flock here during the high season (mainly June – August) for the beautiful beaches near scenic cities like Izmir and Bodrum and some of the nearby historical ruins and sites, like Ephesus and Troy, so everything can get pretty crowded.
The outdoor historical sites can be extremely hot during the summer months and there’s little shade to be had, so it’s best to visit in the early morning or in the late afternoon/evening.
The beaches will be less crowded if you’re still game to swim during either end of the shoulder season (late April and early October). The shoulder season is likely to be the most pleasant for sightseeing and visiting the ruins.
If you wish to visit this region during the low season, be aware that many places close during the winter months, so it’s best to research hotels and restaurants in advance.
Best Time to Visit The Mediterranean Coast
This section of Turkey’s coastline, also known as the “Turkish Riviera” or the “Turquoise Coast,” runs from near Marmara to Cape Anamur along the Mediterranean in the south of the country. It’s an area with beautiful beaches and scenic seaside towns, like its most well-known and largest city, Antalya.
Temperatures can get extremely hot during the summer (even hotter than the Aegean coast), and the crowds can be thick, like on the Aegean coast. You can try to dodge the long waits, throngs of people, and the highest temperatures if you go during the shoulder season.
Many places here may close during the off-season, too, so it’s best to do your research beforehand on what tours and attractions you want to see to be sure they are running.
Best Time to Visit The Black Sea Region & Kartalkaya
East of Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara, this is the coolest of Turkey’s coasts. It will also be more humid during the summer than on the dry Mediterranean and Aegean beaches.
Generally, there will be fewer tourists than on the other coasts. Visiting here during spring or summer, you may experience some rain.
The Black Sea region is also home to the Kartalkaya ski resort in the Koroglu Mountains, which is a great option if you want to enjoy Turkey’s brief skiing season between December and March.
Best time to Visit Pamukkale
Located in southwest Turkey, inland from the coast, Pamukkale is famous for its unique mineral-rich, terraced thermal pools. It can get busy and hot during the summer, so it’s ideal for visiting during the spring (April or May) or even between September and November.
September is also the month of the International Pamukkale Music and Culture Festival, which is held in nearby in Denizli. While this brings more people, it’s also a great time to visit.
Public Holidays and Events in Turkey
- Ramadan – The 30-day period of Ramadan is celebrated on the 9th month of the Lunar calendar, and thus changes each year. As it’s a time for fasting from sunrise to sunset, many restaurants or stores may be closed or operating on more limited hours during this time.
In 2024, Ramadan will likely fall 10 March to 9 April.
- New Year’s Day (1 January) – a public holiday when most places are closed and public transport is limited.
- Orthodox Christmas (6 January)
- Camel Wrestling Festival (January-March) – This event is held in Selcuk. Just like it sounds, camels will wrestle and one will be eventually chosen as the winner.
- Istanbul International Gastronomy Festival (February) – This event hosts chefs from around the world for competitions, workshops, and events.
- Istanbul International Film Festival (end of February) – This event takes place for 10 days and it celebrates contemporary films and a variety of themes.
- Canakkale Victory and Martyrs’ Day (18 March) – This day commemorates the heroes of Canakkale who fought to protect their country.
- Nevruz (21 March) – Persian New Year and the celebration of the coming of spring, considered a time for solidarity, peace, and reconciliation. There are often public festivals associated with this event featuring fire jumping and folk music.
- Istanbul Tulip Festival (March & April) – This is when millions of tulips are planted across Istanbul, and the festival features incredible displays in the city’s Emirgan Park.
- Hidrellez Festival (5 & 6 May) – Celebrates the start of spring as a time for hope and new life. There are celebrations throughout Turkey on this day, many which feature dancing, traditional folk music, and the traditional fire leaping where participants leap three times over a fire pit.
- Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival (late June-early July) – Held in Edirne, participants dress in leather trousers and cover themselves in oil as they wrestle on the grass as they compete for the Kirkpinar Golden Belt and Chief Wrestler title.
- Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival (June & July) – This is held in the open-air Aspendos Roman theatre near Antalya, and includes performances by international ballet and opera companies.
- Cappadocia Balloon Festival (July 20-23) – Balloons of all kinds fill the sky over the town of Ürgüp during this festival, which also features special shows during the days.
- International Wine Festival (end of October) – Held in Cappadocia, this festival has wine-tasting events from local vineyards.
- Republic Day (October 29th) – Celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the new Turkish Republic in 1923. It’s most vibrantly celebrated in Istanbul with fireworks and art events. Most public places are closed on this holiday.
- Mevlana and Whirling Dervish Festival (December 7-17) – A 10-day event held in Konya that celebrates the life and teachings of Rumi, a 13th-century poet.
More on Visiting Turkey with Kids
We have a great selection of articles to help you plan your dream trip to Turkey with your family.
We’d recommend starting with our guide “Planning a Family Holiday to Turkey,“ then for diving into more of the detail, things to do, and how to plan your days, we also recommend you check out:
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