Turkey has some beautiful coastline complete with charming harbor towns, stunning beaches and lively waterfront cities. But these are probably not the places you want to visit in the winter. Fortunately there are also fascinating historical sites and exceptional natural wonders that provide plenty of options to tour Turkey in off season options for travelers
The colorful and vibrant city of Istanbul has an intriguing past and a diverse and interesting present. It is an intoxicating mix of east and west, modern and ancient. A city that is full of culture and history, delicious food, and friendly people. It is a destination with mosques and palaces, markets and hamams and it is an exciting place to visit any time of year.
Cappadocia is a unique region known for its otherworldly landscape. Here you can explore homes and churches carved out of bizarre rock formations or venture into an ancient underground city. You can then go from under the earth to flying high above it in a hot air balloon followed by a hike through the Red Valley before finally resting your head in a castle cave hotel.
The Unesco World Heritage site of the ancient city of Ephesus allows you to walk the stone streets among the recovered and renovated ruins and get a feel for what life was like in the 10th century BC. The world long past comes alive, maybe more so than anywhere else in the world, as you view the Temple of Hadrian the Library of Celcius and the Great Theater.
*Note: Ephesus is not only a good option for off season travel, it is actually better to visit at this time. During peak and even shoulder season you will be on of thousands of tourists all jostling for a spot. Going in the winter means you will actually be able to stop and take photos and admire the beautiful buildings rather than being shuffled along with the crowds. Plus you’re not dying from the heat!
The Cotton Palace (which is what Pamukkale means in Turkish) is an unreal landscape of white, dotted with turquoise pools. The terraced basins and petrified waterfalls are created by the mineral laden hot springs which were used as a therapeutic thermal spa by the Greco-Romans. Aside from the amazing natural phenomenon the site is also home to the fascinating ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis. It can get pretty cold at night so make sure you pack some warm outerwear for women and men before your trip.
*Note: Although the site is well worth visiting any time of year the pools themselves are more picturesque during the warmer months. However they are also much busier.
Suggested 5-7 Day Itinerary
- Stay in Istanbul a minimum of 3 nights to be able to see the main sights
- Fly or drive to Kayseri then drive or bus to Cappadocia
- Stay in Cappadocia for 2-3 nights to see the landscape by land and also hot air balloon
- Fly or drive to Izmir. Will likely want to overnight depending on transportation.
- Drive, bus or train from Izmir to Selcuk
- Use Selcuk or Sirince for a home base for 2-3 nights
- Do day trips to Ephesus and Pamuakkale by car or bus
- Fly back to Istanbul