Winter in Turkey is a bit cold in most places (and very cold in some), but if you're coming from North America or parts of Northern Europe you may be pleasantly surprised by the mildness of big cities like Istanbul and Izmir.
Coastal areas tend to be warmer than inland areas, but also wetter. For example, the average January temperature in Istanbul is 48°F (9°C), with 4 inches (102 mm) of rain; Antalya sees average temperatures of 57°F (14°C) and 8.5 inches (216 mm) of rain. On the other hand, the average temperature in Ankara is 39°F (4°C), with just 1.6 inches (42 mm) of rain; similarly, Cappadocia sees average temperatures of 37°F (3°C) and rainfall of 1.5 inches (40 mm).
Crowds & Costs
January is right in the middle of the low season throughout Turkey. Many coastal resorts shut for the winter because even if the temperatures are relatively mild, who wants to lounge around on the beach in winter? Istanbul and other popular destinations like Cappadocia are much quieter in mid-winter, so if cultural sites and general sightseeing are your priorities, you could get some bargains on accommodation and tickets and still have a great time in January.
Where to Go
Turkey's cities and cultural/historic attractions are ideal places to visit in January. Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir offer many indoor and outdoor sites. Head indoors to a museum, mosque, or palace when the weather's cold or wet, or enjoy crisp winter weather at outdoor parks and ancient sites when you can.
The natural and historic attractions at places like Ephesus, Pamukkale, and Cappadocia can also be great in the winter. These places are incredibly busy during peak season and you can get really hot walking around outdoors. This isn't a problem in winter, plus the hot springs at Pamukkale are especially appealing in the cold.
While Turkey isn't necessarily known as a ski destination, you can find decent skiing in the Köroğlu Mountains in the north in January.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
General sightseeing is ideal in Turkey in the winter, especially if you include a combination of indoor and outdoor attractions on your itinerary. Coffee shops and restaurants serving Turkish cuisine, coffee, and sweets (so many varieties of Turkish delight!) are also great places to retreat into when the weather gets cold, or after dark when the sun sets early.
Events in January
Orthodox Christmas, January 6th-7th. According to the Julian calendar, which most orthodox churches in Turkey follow, January 6th is Christmas Eve and the 7th Christmas Day. Check out Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches and communities at this time.
Camel Wrestling Festival, three months from early January to the end of March. Held in Selcuk near the ancient site of Ephesus, camels wrestle for the ultimate honor of being crowned winner (or, the ultimate honor of its owners!)
Traveling to Turkey in January? Check out these great itineraries
Exploring Ancient and Historic Turkey - 7 Days. Starting in Istanbul, travel to Gallipoli, Troy, Sirince, Pergamum, and Ephesus, focusing on some of the country's many incredible ancient sites.
Explore the Sites of Istanbul - 5 Days. Immerse yourself in the ancient sites, grand architecture, bustling markets, and impressive vistas of the city sitting between Europe and Asia.