TURKEY THROUGH THE YEAR
Turkey Through the year
Turkey’s national and regional holidays are basically in three categories: religious feasts celebrated throughout the Islamic world, festivities associated with events or people in Turkish history, and traditional festivals, usually with a seasonal theme. The joyful spirit is tangible on public holidays, and religious feast days, when old and young, rich and poor unite, and extended families gather. Regional events celebrate Turkey’s diverse origins in terms of music, folklore, sport, and the performing arts. Urban centers like Izmir and Istanbul host well-publicized festivals, but smaller towns also stage lively celebrations. The Passage of the season is essential, as many venues are outdoors. In the eastern provinces, harsh winters restrict the type of events that can be staged.
This is the best season for visiting Turkey. Temperatures are comfortable, and the days longer and warmer. Many places are spruces up after winter, and restaurants arrange their tables outdoors. This is also the time to see Turkey’s wildflower displays. Most tourist attractions, such as the historic sites, are far less crowded and thus more peaceful at this time of the year.
Turks take their holidays seriously, and summer sees coastal areas of the Aegean and Mediterranean, in particular, crowded with university students and families on the move. Those city dwellers lucky enough to own a summer house usually move to the coast to escape the oppressive heat when the school holidays begin in June.
Turkish beaches offer opportunities for all kinds of activities, and resorts such as Bodrum and Marmaris are renowned for their active nightlife. Be on the lookout for impromptu festivals involving grease-wrestling of folk dancing, for example. Although local tourists’ offices have information on events in their areas, these may not be well-publicized. Full details may be unavailable until just before the event.
Autumn is an ideal time for visiting Turkey. The rural regions have grape or wine festivals, and many villages celebrate their successful harvests of wheat, apricots, cotton or other crops. In the coastal areas, the sea is still warm, and watersports can continue well into October. Along the south coast, warm weather can last until quite late in November.
When the street vendors begin roasting chestnuts in Ankara and Istanbul. It is a sign that winter is near. Both cities can be damp and cold, Ankara frequently has temperatures below freezing and gets a lot of snow. This is when coastal regions have their rainy season. Winter is a good time for visitors to explore Turkey’s museums, as significant sights are open and uncrowded. The ski centers at Palandoken and Uludag have their busiest season from December to April and offer activities both on and off the slopes.
Turks do not celebrate Christmas, but most hotel chains offer a special menu on the day. New Year’s Day, however, is an official holiday throughout Turkey.