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Turkey in January: Weather, Special Events, Cities, Tips & More

Most people plan their Turkey vacations in the summer when the sun is shining, and the beaches are packed. January in Turkey is neither warm nor beach weather. However, there are still some excellent reasons to visit Turkey at the start of the year – one of them is the lower prices.

Is January a good time to visit Turkey? In January, a trip to Turkey means you’ll have many of this nation’s hotspots, mostly for yourself. In January, Turkey has a different taste, from thermal baths to ski resorts; even Turkish cuisine is different with winter tastes and winter vegetables.

You can travel all around the country, from the Mediterranean coast up to the northern Black Sea coast, without having to contend with oppressive crowds. Best of all, you can enjoy steep discounts on flights and hotels.

If you like this guide, you can also check my December and February guides.

Hot Air Ballooning over Goreme Cappadocia Photo by Unsplash

Here’s what you need to know about traveling in Turkey in January including Turkish weather, holidays and festivals, cities and sites to visit in Turkey in the winter months, and some tips about Turkish January.

What are the best activities you can do in Turkey in January?

Unlike in summer times, Turkish people returned to cities. In January, Turkish cities are full of life, cities are full of concerts, events, celebrations. You can also check local concerts, events by Biletix which is owned by the international Ticketmaster.

Museums and all cultural tourism venues are also open in winter. Additionally, there are some sites to visit in Turkey which is way better to visit in January. It is the best time to visit places like Ephesus or Topkapi Palace. You will find cultural spots charming with fewer crowds.

I will go more into detail about what you can do in January in Turkey, but first I wish to reveal my personal two favorite activities in January.

My Favorite Activities

Kaya Thermal İzmir – Outdoor Thermal Pool
Photo courtesy of Kaya Thermal

Enjoy Turkish Thermal Spas

Izmir Balcova is a magnificent choice. While you enjoy Izmir, the 3rd biggest and most lively port city, you can take a break in these thermal spas. My personal favorite is Kaya Thermal Hotel. (if you want to check the hotel, here is the link)

My wife and I love to spend weekend breaks in this hotel. We love the Spa of the hotel. The Turkish bath and massage personnel are excellent in this hotel. There is also hot thermal in indoor or outdoor pools.

If you want to explore and enjoy a natural reserve, take the cable car to reach the top of Balcova Hill. Here you can enjoy a Turkish picnic and a breathtaking view of Izmir City.

Kaya Thermal İzmir – SPA. This is one of our best activities with my wife
Photo courtesy of Kaya Thermal

Enjoy the ski resorts

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Uludag is the ski capital of Turkey
Photo by Alp Cem on Pixabay

One of my favorites is Uludag which is known as the ski capital of Turkey. Uludag ski resort is located on a volcanic mountain. Uludag mountain is also surrounded by Bursa, the 4th biggest city in Turkey. 

Bursa city offers nearly every comfort of a major city, plus geothermal baths and unique culture. You can try the doner kebap in its birthplace.

Bursa is a couple of hours’ drive away from Istanbul, so if your main destination is Istanbul, you make your day off easily in Bursa or Uludag.

Weather in Turkey in January

January is one of Turkey’s coldest months of the winter season. Snow is common in many parts of the country, particularly in mountainous East Turkey. Even in the south, all mountain tops are covered by snow. And when it’s not snowing, it’s likely to be windy or rainy.

What is the weather like in Turkey in January? Here is the map. If you have a hard time reading the map, I summarized the weather temperatures in the table down below.

As you can see from the graph, Turkey’s southern coastline regions are always warmer than their northern regions. However, in January, the South is also cold, windy, and rainy.

RegionTemperature in °CTemperature in °F
North Coastline (Thrace and the Black Sea including Istanbul)2°C – 7°C35.6°F – 44.6°F
West Turkey (Aegean Coast on including Izmir)4°C – 10°C39.2°F – 50°F
Mediterranean Coast (Mediterranean coast including Bodrum and Antalya)7°C – 12°C44.6°F – 53.6°F
Central Turkey (Anatolia including Ankara, Konya, Eskisehir)-5°C – 2 °C23°F – 35.6°F
East Turkey (including Kars, Erzincan, Van)-11°C – -3°C12.2°F – 26.6°F
Southeast Turkey (including Gaziantep, Urfa)0°C – 7°C32°F – 44.6°F
January average temperatures for regions of Turkey (1970-2019) Source: Turkish State Meteorological Service

And, as always, check the current forecast before you leave – when you’re packing is a perfect time – so you can find out in advance if it’s unseasonably cold or warm.

What should I wear in Turkey in January?

This is a simple but important question.

You should wear normal winter clothes in January in Turkey. Nothing too heavy, but definitely nothing less than sweaters and a light coat. Do not be fooled by the warmer temperatures on the coast.

The coast is usually windy, and the air humidity is high. The water content of the air will make you feel colder and lessen the cold protection of your clothes. Don’t forget to bring your waterproof shoes, because it will be rainy.

Special Events in Turkey in January

“Christmassy” Turkish New Year

New Year is celebrated as a national holiday, and the first day of every year is a bank holiday in Turkey.

Turkish New Year is an infusion of the Christmas and Thanksgiving traditions from the west – such as a Christmas tree and cooked turkey dinner. This explains why the New Year has a very Christmassy feel.

If you are invited to a Turkish family house on the 31st of December, you will experience a turkey (real bird) dinner, exchanging gifts, family games, countless New Year Tv Shows, and the announcement of the annual New Year Lottery numbers.

Orthodox Christmas in Turkey

Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 6th (Armenian Orthodox) or 7th (Greek Orthodox). At this time, Istanbul‘s Orthodox churches are filled with worshippers. Orthodox Christmas is beautiful in Istanbul because it has always been the center of Orthodoxy.

Local Christian communities in other cities also celebrate orthodox Christmas. You can check local churches for specific Orthodox Christmas events.

A group of swimmers trying to retrieve the cross thrown to Golden Horn by Orthodox Patriarch Photo Source: Hürriyet Daily News
Cappadocia in Winter with hot air balloons
Cappadocia in Winter
Photo by yonatan anugerah on Unsplash

Turkish Cities in January

Cappadocia in January

Cappadocia is one of the best places to visit in January. Cappadocia has it all, one of the most authentic natural wonders, underground cities, cave hotels, hot air ballooning, fantastic wines, and much more.

Most of the Cappadocia is a protected National Park, and Goreme National Park is on UNESCO World Heritage List.

You should definitely see the underground cities which were home to thousands of inhabitants. As a traveler to both, I find these underground cities more amazing than the Egyptian Pyramids.

There will be snow all around, but visiting underground cities will not be a problem. On the other hand, Hot-air ballooning in Göreme is a priceless experience. 

This is a very romantic place. 2 years ago, a Mexican friend of mine proposed to his girlfriend right on Lovers Hill when they are watching the hot air balloons taking off.

Wines, check the local wines, you won’t be sorry 😉

Winter in Taksim, Istanbul
Winter in Taksim, Istanbul
Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

Istanbul in January

The New Year Parties are over, and it is the working time. However there are upsides to all this, it is shopping time, discounts will be everywhere, Museums are empty waiting for you.

Bazaars like Kapalıcarsı were full of tourists in summer, yet now they are mostly visited by locals. Now you can see the true Istanbul.

In this month of the year, you can experience the most real Turkish life, blend into locals or enjoy being flattered by the service sector for being the rare tourist around.

Turkish Sahlep

Also, when walking in the streets in the cold, you should dive into one of the Turkish patisseries. In cold months, sometimes Turkish tea or Turkish coffee won’t be enough to end your cold. It would be best if you drank something stronger, warmer, and thicker like Sahlep.

Sahlep is another traditional Turkish drink made of powdered orchid roots and hot milk. Sahlep is served with cinnamon powder on top.

Sahlep was once a popular drink in Germany as well as the United Kingdom. However, due to low orchid production, Turk decided to save the orchids to themselves 🙂 In the summer, the same orchids are used to make Turkish ice cream.

Izmir in January

Izmir, my hometown, is both more traditional and liberal than most of Turkey. Traditional in the sense that Izmir has its own cultural values and way of life.

Being one of the important port cities in the Mediterranean, Izmir is the most liberal place in Turkey. Izmir is very open to other cultures and religions and has a strong tradition of secularism.

Izmir offers everything a European metropolitan city offers but more. You can walk near the shore each night, and you can discover another unique restaurant.

This is not the city of kebabs. Enjoy magnificent fishes and local wines. Try Turkish Rakı, a Turkish national drink that is also nicknamed lion milk by Turkish locals. Tapas/Mezes are mostly vegetarian and delicious.

If you are coming with your family or friends, rent a seaside villa with a chimney near the sea, because it is off-season it will be cheap and can be your perfect holiday. Take walks near the beach or go to Izmir to discover its unique culture and history.

Izmir Zoo “Dogal Yaşam Parkı” can be a good visit in cold weather. You can warm yourself in the tropical dome if you are cold. Photo by Erhan YILDIRIM on Unsplash

Mediterranean Coast, Antalya, Bodrum in January

Fethiye, Alanya, or Kusadasi may not be the best places to go in the winter. Most of the locals shut down their operations, and restaurants, shops, and hotels are closed during the off-season.

Yet, in Bodrum and Antalya, it’s now locals’ turn to have fun. With their sizable local populations and tourism is over, now locals are enjoying their life after the hard work in the tourism season.

Bodrum and Antalya are full of events all around the year. These cities are home to sizable, highly educated white-collar refugees. Most people escaping the hectic business life of Istanbul and major cities settle in these cities to enjoy their lives.

Plus, if you are not shy of slightly cold weather, many of the attractions you’ve likely got on your must-see list in Turkey are still open– ancient sites, churches, museums, cultural heritage sites. Enjoy your siesta in an orange garden after eating your Turkish breakfast.

Turkish Breakfast