Top Events

İstanbul Music Festival, June

Cappadox, May

Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival, September

Mountain Walking, July

İstanbul Tulip Festival, April

January

The dead of winter. Even İstanbul's streets are empty of crowds, local and foreign, and snow closes eastern Anatolia's mountain passes and delays buses. Accommodation in tourist areas is mostly closed.

New Year's Day

A surrogate Christmas takes place across the Islamic country, with decorations, exchanges of gifts and greeting cards. Celebrations begin on New Year's Eve and continue through this public holiday. Over Christmas and New Year, accommodation fills up and prices rise.

March

As in the preceding months, you might have sights to yourself outside the country's top destinations, and you can get discounts at accommodation options that are open.

Çanakkale Deniz Zaferi

On 18 March Turks descend on the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula and Çanakkale to celebrate what they call the Çanakkale Naval Victory – and commemorate the WWI campaign's 130,000 fatalities. The area, particularly the Turkish memorials in the southern peninsula, is thronged with visitors.

Mesir Macunu Festivalı

An altogether different way of marking the spring equinox, Manisa's Unesco-protected festival celebrates Mesir macunu (Mesir paste), a scrumptious treat made from dozens of spices that once cured Süleyman the Magnificent's mother of illness. Takes place over a week around 21 March.

İzmir European Jazz Festival

This jazz festival fills the Aegean city with a high-profile lineup of European and local performers. Gigs, workshops, seminars and a garden party make this a lively time for jazz lovers to visit.

April

Spring. April and May are high season in İstanbul and shoulder season elsewhere. Not a great month to get a tan in northern Turkey, but you can enjoy balmy, breezy weather in the southwest.

Alaçatı Herb Festival

The Alaçatı Herb Festival is a great time to visit the culinary-minded Aegean town, home to many fine restaurants and boutique hotels. The festival celebrates the unique local herbs, with many opportunities to enjoy the dishes they flavour.

İstanbul Tulip Festival

İstanbul's parks and gardens are resplendent with tulips, which originated in Turkey before being exported to the Netherlands during the Ottoman era. Multicoloured tulips are often planted to resemble the Turks' cherished 'evil eye'. Flowers bloom from late March or early April.

İstanbul Film Festival

For a filmic fortnight, cinemas around town host a packed program of Turkish and international films and events. An excellent crash course in Turkish cinema, but book ahead.

Anzac Day, Gallipoli Peninsula

On 25 April the WWI battles for the Dardanelles are commemorated and the Allied soldiers remembered. Antipodean pilgrims sleep at Anzac Cove before the dawn services; a busy time on the peninsula.

May

Another good month to visit. Shoulder season continues outside İstanbul, with attendant savings, but spring is flirting with summer and the Aegean and Mediterranean beaches are heating up.

Windsurfing, Alaçatı

In Turkey's windsurfing centre, Alaçatı, the season begins in mid-May. The protected Aegean bay hosts the Windsurf World Cup in August and the season winds down in early November, when many of the eight resident schools close.

Ruins, Mosques, Palaces & Museums

This is your last chance until September to see the main attractions at famous Aegean and Mediterranean sights such as Ephesus without major crowds, which can become almost unbearable at the height of summer.

Dedegöl Dağcılık Şenliği

Dedegöl Mountaineering Festival sees Eğirdir's mountaineering club scramble up Mt Dedegöl (2998m), now spring is thawing the Taurus Mountains. Register to join the free two-day event (19 May), which includes a night at the base camp.

International Giresun Aksu Festival

The historical, hazelnut-producing Black Sea town hails fecundity and the new growing season with boat trips to Giresun Island, concerts, traditional dance performances and other open-air events. A week in late May.

Uluslararasi Bursa Festivali, Bursa

The International Bursa Festival, the city's 2½-week music and dance jamboree, features diverse regional and world music, plus an international headliner or two. Free performances are offered and tickets for top acts are around ₺40. Begins in mid-May.

Cappadox Festival, Uçhisar

Cappadocia's three-day arts festival merges music, nature walks, art exhibitions, yoga and gastronomy into an extravaganza of Turkish contemporary culture, highlighting the area's natural beauty.

June

Summer. Shoulder season in İstanbul and high season elsewhere until the end of August. Expect sizzling temperatures, inflexible hotel prices and crowds at sights – often avoided by visiting early, late or at lunchtime.

Çamlıhemşin Ayder Festival, Ayder

Held over the first or second weekend in June, this popular early-summer festival highlights Hemşin culture with folk dance and music. It also features northeast Turkey's bloodless form of bullfighting, boğa güreşleri, in which two bulls push at each other until one backs off.

Cherry Season

June is the best month to gobble Turkey's delicious cherries, which Giresun introduced to the rest of the world. Founded more than 2000 years ago as the Greek colony of Cerasus (Kerasos), the Black Sea town's ancient name means 'cherry' in Greek.

İstanbul Music Festival

Probably Turkey's most important arts festival, featuring performances of opera, dance, orchestral concerts and chamber recitals. Acts are often internationally renowned and the action takes place at atmosphere-laden venues such as Aya İrini, the Byzantine church in the Topkapı Palace grounds.

Kafkasör Kültür, Sanat ve Turizm Festivali, Artvin

Join the crush at the boğa güreşleri (bloodless bull-wrestling matches) at Artvin's Caucasus Culture, Arts & Tourism Festival, held in the Kafkasör Yaylası pasture, 7km southwest of the northeastern Anatolian mountain town. Late June or early July.

Historic Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival, Edirne

In a sport dating back over 650 years, brawny pehlivan (wrestlers) from across Turkey rub themselves from head to foot with olive oil and grapple. Late June or early July.

July

This month and August turn the Aegean and Mediterranean tourist heartlands into sun-and-fun machines, and temperatures peak across the country. The blue skies bring out the best in the hot-blooded Turkish personality.

Mountain Walking

Between the Black Sea coast and the Anatolian steppe, the snow clears from the passes in the Kaçkar Mountains (Kaçkar Dağları), allowing multiday treks and sublime yaylalar (highland pastures) views in July and August. www.cultureroutesinturkey.com.

Music Festivals

Turkey enjoys a string of summer music jamborees, including highbrow festivals in İstanbul, Bursa and İzmir. The cities host multiple pop, rock, jazz and dance music events, while summer playgrounds such as Alaçatı and the Bodrum Peninsula turn into mini-Ibizas. June to August.

August

Even at night, the weather is hot and humid; pack sun cream and anti-mosquito spray. Walking and activities are best tackled early in the morning or at sunset.

Cappadocian Festivals

Two festivals take place in the land of fairy chimneys (rock formations). A summer series of chamber music concerts are held in the valleys and, from 16 to 18 August, sleepy Hacıbektaş comes alive with the annual pilgrimage of Bektaşı dervishes.

September

İstanbul's second high season begins; elsewhere, it's shoulder season – temperatures, crowds and prices lessen. Accommodation and activities, such as boat trips, begin winding down for the winter.

Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival

The internationally acclaimed Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival takes place in this atmospheric Roman theatre near Antalya (June or late August and September).

Diving

The water is warmest from May to October and you can expect water temperatures of 25°C in September. Turkey's scuba-diving centre is Kaş on the Mediterranean, with operators also found in Marmaris, Bodrum, Kuşadası and Ayvalık on the Aegean.

İstanbul Biennial

The city's major visual-arts shindig, considered to be one of the world's most prestigious biennials, takes place from mid-September to mid-November in odd-numbered years. Venues around town host the internationally curated event.

Kaş Festival

Held on Xuma Beach, Yalıkavak, at the tip of the Bodrum Peninsula, this popular mid-September music festival toasts the end of Bodrum's busy summer season with an eclectic mix of electronic, world and jazz DJs and musicians.

October

Autumn is truly here; outside İstanbul, many accommodation options have shut for the winter. Good weather is unlikely up north, but the Mediterranean and Aegean experience fresh, sunny days.

Walking

The weather in eastern Anatolia has already become challenging by this time of year, but in the southwest, autumn and spring are the best seasons to enjoy the scenery without too much sweat on your brow. See www.trekkinginturkey.com and www.cariantrail.com.

Akbank Jazz Festival

Every October, İstanbul celebrates its love of jazz with this eclectic lineup of local and international performers. Going for over 25 years, it's the older sibling of July's İstanbul Jazz Festival.

November

Even on the coastlines, summer is a distant memory. Rain falls on İstanbul and the Black Sea, southern resort towns are deserted and eastern Anatolia is ensnarled in snow.

Karagöz Festival, Bursa

A week of performances celebrate the city's Karagöz shadow-puppetry heritage, with local and international puppeteers and marionette performers. Held in November of odd years.

December

Turks fortify themselves against the cold with hot çay and hearty kebaps. Most of the country is chilly and wet or icy, although the western Mediterranean is milder and day walks there are viable.

Ski Season

Hit the slopes: the Turkish ski season begins at half a dozen resorts across the country, including Cappadocia's Erciyes Dağı (Mt Erciyes), Uludağ (near Bursa), Palandöken (near Erzurum) and Sarıkamış, near Kars. Late November to early April.

Snow in Anatolia

If you're really lucky, after skiing on Erciyes Dağı, you could head west and see central Cappadocia's fairy chimneys looking even more magical under a layer of snow. Eastern Anatolia is also covered in a white blanket, but temperatures are brutally low.