Go Cold Turkey: 10 Terrific Ways to Experience Turkey in Winter

When the temperatures drop, so do the prices and crowds in Turkey. It's a great time to visit for cold-weather adventures.

Photo By: Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Turkey

Photo By: Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Turkey

Photo By: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

Photo By: Intrepid Travel

Photo By: Intrepid Travel

Photo By: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

Photo By: Intrepid Travel

Photo By: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

Photo By: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

Photo By: Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Turkey

Take a River Cruise or Land Tour

Turkey has become a hot tourist destination-- even in winter. When the mercury falls, take a leisurely cruise on the famous Bosphorus Strait, between Asian Turkey and European Turkey, or opt for a land adventure. Intrepid Travel's Turkey Winter Discovery Tour includes stops in Istanbul, Cappadocia, Erzurum, Kars (where frozen Lake Cildir looks like a winter wonderland) and more.

Race Down a Snowy Slope

Turkey's high mountains are usually covered in snow year-round. Winter, when the prices drop and the crowds go home, is the best time to snow ski, heli-ski and snowboard. For heli-skiing, visit the Kackar Mountains, home to a national park, or Ayder Plateau or Ikizdere, both in the city of Rize. Many ski resorts are family-friendly.

Warm Up in a Turkish Bath

After a chilly day on the slopes or in the skies, relax with a Turkish bath, or hamam. These warm baths may include a scrub, soak, rinse and massage. Modern spas and hotels offer them, and so do many historic hamams in Istanbul. The harbor district is home to Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami, an elegant, restored bathhouse built between 1578-1583. It's known for its striking architecture and lounge area, shown here.

Discover the Fairy Chimneys

Experience Turkey's magical landscape in Cappadocia, where "fairy chimneys" were formed millions of years ago by volcanic explosions. Early inhabitants used them as homes and churches, even carving out caves and underground cities. In towns like Goreme, tourists can stay in the caves. Intrepid Travel's Cappadocia Shortbreak offers a guided tour with a local who'll explain the mysteries and legends surrounding the unusual formations.

Ride a Hot Air Balloon at Dawn

You can also see the fairy castles—and more of Turkey's incredible landscape—by air. Cappadocia is one of the most popular places in the world to go hot air ballooning. The balloons take off year-round, weather permitting, but you may want to stay in the area for a few days in case you have to re-schedule. (April to June and September to October are usually the best months to go). Dress in layers; the air is colder, higher up.

Visit the Golden Horn

Istanbul's Golden Horn is a natural harbor on the European side of Turkey. Couples once took romantic outings in small boats to see stunning tulip gardens planted along its shores. Today, visitors take ferries to see old synagogues, churches, mosques, homes, parks and other attractions. Make time to ride a cable car to the top of Pierre Lotti Hill and snap a selfie with the peninsula behind you.

Shop the Grand Bazaar

Bring a shopping bag. A big one. Winter weather won't keep you out of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, the largest covered market in the world. It's packed with some 4,000 shops, and its 64 streets and 22 entrances cover tens of thousands of square meters. Among the treasures you'll find: mosaic lamps and chandeliers, like the ones shown here, along with Turkish ceramics, kilim rugs, chocolates and baklavas, copper coffee pots and more.

Experience the Bosphosrus

Turkish Airlines is currently offering a stopover in Istanbul to passengers transferring from certain U.S. cities. If your trip meets the guidelines, you'll get complimentary accommodations for one or two nights so you'll have time to explore the city and the Bosphorus River, shown here. The airline also has an Istanbul Bosphorus Experience that lets you tour the river by motorboat. For dates and details on these and other Istanbul programs, contact Turkish Airlines.

Watch the Whirling Dervishes

Learn about Turkey's culture and history at a Whirling Dervish ceremony. The ceremonies originated with a 13th-century Sufi order, the Mevlevi, and include religious elements, such as prayers, chants and music and dances inspired by the mystic poet Rumi. The Mevlevi are most active in Istanbul and Konya, where the Whirling Dervishes festival will be held Dec. 10-18, 2018.

Explore the Troy Museum

According to Homer's Iliad, the Trojan War was fought in a province now known as Canakkale. in 2018, as part of Turkey's "Year of Troy" celebration, the new Troy Museum opened on that historic site. It features artifacts from the ancient cities of Troy and Troas, 24 pieces of gold jewelry and other items, along with interactive films, educational displays, simulations and animations.

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