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When to go Turkey

SPRING

Spring (April, May, through mid-June) is prime because the weather is moderate throughout the country, the days are long, and the tourist rush hasn't begun. April can be rainy, though.

April

During April in Turkey, you may get some rain, or a lot of rain, but there may also be virtually none, and in any case the wild flowers and cherry blossoms will be out in the Thrace/Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean and Central Anatolia regions, which is more than fair compensation for any rain showers. In Istanbul, the city's Tulip Festival produces three million tulips burst into a riot of color.The waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean are approaching a comfortable temperature for swimming at their beaches. Temperatures in the west and south are relatively mild, but in the mountainous East it's still cold. The Southeast (Gaziantep, Urfa, Mardin, Diyarbakir), so torrid and parched in high summer, is very pleasant now, but there may still be snow on top of Nemrut Dagi south of Malatya. At the beginning of the month, dolphins on their annual migration swim through the Sea of Marmara and northward through the Bosphorus at Istanbul, and onward to the Black Sea.

On ANZAC Day (April 25), dawn services at Gallipoli remember the 500,000 men who died or were wounded here during World War I. Backpackers Travel organizes tours to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day.

May

May usually brings perfect weather throughout Turkey, with long sunny days and not much rain. The Istanbul Tulip Festival may still be affording wonderful splashes of floral color throughout the metropolis. Though May is the perfect time to take a Blue Voyage yacht cruise or visit the torrid Southeast, it's still chilly in central-east and northeast Anatolia. The tourist season begins in earnest in May, and thus also do the sound and light shows at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. They last until October.

June

The weather is perfect throughout the country, with long days, but it gets hot as June progresses. There is little rain except along the Black Sea coast. Good time to be on a Blue Voyage yacht cruise! The International Istanbul Music Festival takes place throughout June. In 2009, the Formula 1 Grand Prix auto race will take place at Istanbul Park on Sunday, June 7th. Practice heats on Friday and Saturday, June 5th and 6th, and the qualifying race on Saturday, keep most Istanbul hotels fully booked at premium prices right through the weekend and perhaps a few days beyond.

SUMMER

Summer (mid-June, July, August, through mid-September) is quite hot in five of Turkey's seven distinct climatic regions, though usually rainless, and cool inland in the evenings.

July

The weather is hot, the sky is blue, the sea is warm, and everything is crowded with vacationers both Turkish and foreign, including Blue Voyage yacht cruises, which are most expensive now. In Istanbul, sound and light shows at the Blue Mosque continue. The International Istanbul Jazz Festival brightens Istanbul's nights during the first two weeks in July. This is one of the best months to tour eastern Turkey, which is pleasant in July. The southeast will be hot, but not as hot as in August or early September.

August

It's hot and sunny all month, and crowded too. This is the best time to be in Eastern Turkey, when the weather is fine and crowds are smaller than along the western beaches; but the Southeast is blazing hot. In Istanbul, sound and light shows continue at the Blue Mosque. Similar shows begin at the Anit Kabir, Atatürk's mausoleum, in Ankara.The holy month of Ramazan begins in August in 2009 and 2010, and lasts into September. In 2011, Ramazan is coterminant with August. In August in 2010, Ramazan begins in July and continues until mid-August. If you plan to visit Istanbul near the Formula 1 race dates, reserve your hotel room well in advance! The mass of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is held at the House of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana) near Ephesus on August 15, with the Catholic archbishop of Izmir officiating.

AUTUMN

Autumn (mid-September through October) is second best with mostly mild weather, but the days are shorter, and rain may begin again in October.

September

The weather is still hot and fine, moderating a bit towards the end of the month, and Blue Voyage yacht cruises come down in price. Swimming in the sea is still good and the crowds are still in evidence. The Izmir Fair goes on until 9 September, which is Izmir's Day of Liberation (1922) in the Turkish War of Independence.The International Istanbul Biennale art exhibitions begin in mid-September and last through October.The holy month of Ramazan falls partly in September in 2009 and 2010. The three-day holiday at the end of Ramazan, called Seker Bayrami, falls in September in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

October

The month begins with very good weather, but the autumn rains usually begin sometime in mid- or late October. There may also be freak snowstorms in Central Anatolia, but overall this is not too bad a month to travel in Turkey. The International Istanbul Biennale art exhibitions are on throughout the month in Istanbul.Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayrami, October 29), is Turkey's most important patriotic national holiday, commemorating the proclamation of the Turkish Republic by Atatürk in 1923. Lots of parades and speeches. There's a half-day holiday on October 28 in anticipation.

WINTER

Winter (November, December, January, February, March) is chill and rainy everywhere except the southeast, but with lower prices and fewer tourists.

November

The weather can be pleasant, with cool to warm days and chilly nights, but you play cat and mouse with the rain. Swimming may still be possible and pleasant along the Mediterranean coast-or not (especially later in the month). If your luck holds, you can have a marvellous late-year beach vacation. Kurban Bayrami, Turkey's major religious holiday, shuts down the country during a week in November in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (dates). The most important day of the month is November 10, the day Atatürk died in 1938 (at 9:05 am) in Istanbul's Dolmabahçe Palace. The entire nation still observes a moment of silence on that day, at that time. Though not a public holiday, on the day of Atatürk's death, the banners of newspapers are in black rather than the customary red, and the national hero's accomplishments and philosophy are reviewed in schools and on radio and television.

December

In rare years, the warmth and pleasantness of a good November will stretch into early December.Usually, however, the weather is chilly throughout the country, though milder along the Mediterranean coast. In Istanbul, many days will be cloudy, with rain. You will probably enjoy some brisk, chill, sunny days as well. It is unusual to have frost in the city, and any dusting of snow-very pretty!-soon melts. You must expect some rain, perhaps heavy, anywhere in Turkey. In Central Anatolia and eastern Turkey, there will most probably be some snow, particularly at the higher elevations (although in 2008, global warming seems to have melted the snowcap on the volcanic peak of Mount Erciyes in Cappadocia for the first time in living memory.)Along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, snow is very unlikely. In the mountains of eastern Turkey, there will certainly be snow, sometimes closing roads. Kurban Bayrami, Turkey's major religious holiday, shuts down the country during a week at the end of November and into December in 2009.

March

Still rainy many days in much of the country, perhaps with some snow, though there may be some good periods on the south Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. In Istanbul there may be some wet snow, or rain, or bright sunny days when the air may be brisk but the sun is warm and everyone heads outdoors for a stroll.The International Istanbul Film Festival begins in mid-March and lasts until mid-April.Toward the end of the month, if the weather is moderate, you may be able to see the dolphins leaping and cavorting in the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus as they pass through Istanbul on their annual migration to the Black Sea.It's still bitterly cold and snowy in the East, with some mountain passes closed.