Coastal Turkey remains relatively mild in December, while inland places tend to be colder, especially mountainous areas. While December doesn't exactly produce lounging-on-the-beach weather, coastal areas like Antalya and Bodrum average around 59°F (15°C). Istanbul, which is coastal but in the north, averages around 52°F (11°C). In contrast, the inland cities of Ankara, Konya, and Cappadocia are quite a bit colder, with average temperatures of 43-44°F (6-7°C).
Rainfall is moderate in December and throughout the winter. Istanbul, Pamukkale, and Bodrum all receive a fair amount of rain, while coastal Antalya may be warm but it sees a whopping 9.5 inches (246 mm) of rain in this month, on average. Bring your umbrella (or steer clear!).
Crowds & Costs
December is the low season throughout Turkey so you might be able to find good deals on accommodation and flights. However, hotels in some areas shut for the winter, particularly on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. If you really want to visit these places in December, look for boutique accommodation rather than big hotels.
Where to Go
As long as you pack appropriately for the cooler weather and likelihood of rain, you can visit many parts of Turkey in December and have a great time. Istanbul is always a lively city and with so many indoor cultural and historic attractions--as well as great restaurants--there's no need to stay away in December. The city also knows how to party and puts on good New Year's Eve celebrations.
Some outdoor attractions are also ideal in December, as you won't have to spend the day traipsing around in the heat. The ancient ruins at Ephesus are enthralling and you may have more stamina for looking around the large complex in cooler weather. The hot springs behind the terraces at Pamukkale are also more enjoyable in the winter than during the hot summer.
What to Do
General sightseeing is the best activity to plan in December, whether that's cultural and historic sites in the big cities or the dramatic landscapes of places like Cappadocia and Pamukkale. To experience a memorable cultural event, head to the Sufi pilgrimage city of Konya in December (sometimes November) to check out the Whirling Dervishes Festival (see more below).
If you're into skiing, you can also head to the northern Köroğlu Mountains, where there are some decent ski fields that run through the winter.
Events in December
Whirling Dervishes Festival, Konya, in November or December. This festival celebrates Jelaleddin Rumi, a Sufi saint who preached love, tolerance, and forgiveness. The last day of the week-long event is usually the most festive.
New Year's Eve, December 31st. The end of one year and the arrival of another is celebrated in Turkey much the same way it is anywhere else in the world! In Istanbul, in particular, you can find a great party if you're looking for one.
Traveling to Turkey in December? Check out these great itineraries
Historic Turkey: Istanbul, Cappadocia, Konya - 9 Days. Discover why Turkey was one of the most important forces of the ancient world as you travel from Istanbul to Antalya, stopping at points of historic and cultural interest along the way.
Cappadocia & Southeastern Turkey - 8 Days. Ancient culture and spectacular scenery are the highlights of this 8-day journey through southeastern and central Turkey. Marvel at the mosaics of Gaziantep, explore the sunken city of Halfeti by boat, see the archaeological wonders of Sanlıurfa, admire the views from the top of UNESCO-listed Mt. Nemrut and more.