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Visiting Istanbul and the Turkish Coast

The country’s most visited destinations remain the coastal provinces, with a tourist high season in June-early September. Istanbul’s humidity and long lines can be overwhelming in July and August. The western and southern coasts benefit from a seasonal Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and chilly winters, while Turkey’s Anatolian plateau is dry and cold in winter.

View across the rooftops of Istanbul at sunset.
Beautiful Istanbul at sunset. Photo © silverjohn/123rf.

The shoulder seasons, early March-late May and mid-September-mid-November, offer milder weather, sparser crowds, and better deals on airfares and hotels. Spring heralds Istanbul’s annual tulip celebration and the city’s world-renowned arts festivals. Wine aesthetes uncork their passion in Thrace, Çeşme, or Cappadocia at the end of September, just in time for the grape harvest.

Ramadan, the month of Islamic fasting between sunrise and sunset, is based on the lunar calendar and will fall during summer for at least the next decade. Ramadan affects tourists in a minor way. The practice translates into low-energy staff and cranky cabbies but also presents occasion to partake in festivities including the breaking of bread over a hearty Iftar (breaking the fast) meal proffered by many eateries throughout the country.

Where to go if you have…

  • One week: Visit Istanbul and Cappadocia.
  • Two weeks: Add a cruise through the Turquoise Coast’s half-dozen resorts.
  • Three weeks: Add the southern Aegean cities of Kuşadası, Pamukkale, and Selçuk. Or add the northern Aegean coast, Ankara, and Konya.

Before You Go to Turkey

To visit Turkey for tourism or commerce, you need a valid passport and an e-visa. Visas for work or study are obtained through embassies and consulates. Obtaining visas when you enter the country is no longer possible as of 2014. There are no medical requirements to enter Turkey.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Istanbul & the Turkish Coast.