By Karl Cushing | December 2016 | 7 minute read
Agents will hear plenty about Turkey in 2017, with roadshows and fam trips planned to help reverse poor visitor numbers and show the trade that Turkey has much to offer out of the summer season.
“It’s a pleasure to holiday in Turkey out of season. October can generally be regarded as fairly warm, and while November may not be a time to bare all on the beach it is a time to sit in a beach-side or pavement café and enjoy the heat of the sun”
JANE BAXTER GERÇEKSÖZ, TURKEY PRODUCT MANAGER, LIOS TRAVEL
Explore more: Plant yourself in lively Antalya or Bodrum and use the time you’d typically spend bronzing on the beach to explore the region’s many historical sights and natural wonders
Quieter approach: Explore fascinating Istanbul on foot, spending more time enjoying the sites and less time queuing
Savour the good life: Kick back on the terrace of your boutique hotel or villa and drink in the views out over Kalkan bay
Play a round: Luxuriate in the sumptuous spas of five-star properties such as the Maxx Royal after searching for birdies on Belek’s excellent golf courses
Feast your eyes: Embark on your own personal culinary tour sampling Turkey’s mouthwatering regional foods and wines, or take an option such as Intrepid Travel’s ten-day Real Food Adventure, which runs until mid-October
Grab some culture: Take in one of Turkey’s unique cultural events such as the Mevlâna festival of whirling dervishes held in Konya each December
Best foot forward: Hike the Lycian or Carian Way in late autumn as the showers and sun revive the local plantlife
Away with the fairies: Head to Cappadocia to explore the snow-topped fairy towers, underground cities and mushroom rocks by day before snuggling up in your cosy cave hotel
Slope off: Ski down the imposing Mt Erciyes or try another winter resort such as Palandoken or Uludag, home to reputedly the world’s longest gondola ride
Return revitalised: Detox away your festive excesses at one of Bodrum’s five-star spa hotels or wellness centres such as the new Canyon Ranch
You wouldn’t recommend a beach holiday outside April-October, which marks the limits of the resort-focused programmes for the likes of Simpson Travel and Classic Collection, but if tanning isn’t your primary objective then much of Turkey can be enjoyed over the low season, even the resorts.
Key centres such as Izmir and Bodrum on the Aegean and Antalya on the Med, served year-round by Turkish Airways, Pegasus Airlines and Atlasglobal, offer ample year-round facilities, plus sea temperatures take longer to cool than the air.
To the east of Antalya lies Belek, a golfing paradise and another good low-season bet sold by Simply Luxury by Travel 2 which recommends the five-star Titanic Deluxe Belek with its five outdoor pools, private beach and spa.
Bodrum, meanwhile, makes a good base for exploring sites like historical Ephesus and the thermal springs of Pamukkale. Its wellness facilities such as Life Co Detox Centre, and swanky spa hotels such as the Ada Hotel and Grand Yazici, offer another low-season draw. And Ilios Travel features cosy private villas with fireplaces on the Bodrum peninsula, such as the Cream House in Gökçebel which sleeps six.
Smaller options worth considering include laid-back Kalkan and Alacati, a personal favourite. Easily accessible via Izmir, and featured by the likes of Mosaic Holidays, it’s a culinary powerhouse replete with boutique hotels and inviting restaurants, also renowned for its windsurfing.
Istanbul is widely offered in winter by the likes of Classic Collection. Twin- centre options include On The Go Tour’s five-day Istanbul & Gallipoli, which also takes in historic Troy (from £699).
Walking tours are particularly well suited for spring and autumn. Top picks include the Carian Trail, Turkey’s longest, and the fabled Lycian Way, with trade-friendly operators including Inntravel, KE Adventures and Sherpa Expeditions. In winter consider Cappadocia — its spectacular mushroom rocks and fairy towers look even more magical under a dousing of snow, its cave hotels all the more cosy and romantic.
Out of season Goreme, with its open-air museum, makes a good base. Meanwhile, Mt Erciyes, served by Kayseri airport, offers snowsports and heli-skiing while flights to northeastern Erzurum service Palandoken Winter Sports Centre.
Winter in Istanbul
The still and sleepy air hits me as soon as I step off the jetty at Büyükada. Even the Phaeton drivers reclining in their ageing horse-drawn carriages seem loath to fight over the diminished pool of visitors and the loudest noise over the hushed chatter of a handful of daytrippers is the occasional crunching of gears as a few hardy tourists tackle the hill out of town on oil-starved rental bikes.
While winter on Istanbul’s Princes Islands sees some seasonal businesses close up shop, I am having a fine time pootling along the car-free roads and paths on my late-January visit, admiring the faded flakey grandeur of the once palatial wooden homes and mansions under crisp, crystal clear skies.
Büyükada, largest of the islands, is often taken as a day trip from the capital — and is sold as such by the likes of On The Go Tours — but I’d opted to overnight.
This afforded ample time to see the sites and hike up to the Monastery of St George, the crystal-clear sunshine skies affording stunning views over the twinkling sea.
The visit would prove a highlight of my stay in Istanbul where, from my base near Taksim Square, I spent a fascinating week exploring the city, from Beyoğlu and hipsterish Kadıköy to the historic Old Town.
Crossing the fisherman-lined Galata bridge, I’d load up on tasty fish sandwiches from the nearby boats before tackling the refreshingly crowd-free big draws such as the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, often pausing for the occasional coffee or street vendor cay to warm the cockles.
What the experts say
“The number of British travellers visiting Turkey this year from January to September decreased by 30%. However, we have many reasons to be optimistic and hopeful for 2017. We are planning advertisement and marketing activities with tour operators and travel partners, as well roadshows in various UK cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. Fam trips will take place in April/May 2017 and feature visits to Bodrum, Dalaman, Alanya and Izmir. Anyone interested in attending should email RSVP@gototurkey.co.uk.”
IRFAN ONAL, GENERAL DIRECTOR, MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM, REPUBLIC OF TURKEY
“For winter breaks I’d recommend the Antalya region. The weather tends to be warmer than other holiday destinations in Turkey and it’s one of the few beach destinations you can travel to directly from the UK during the winter season.”
LAUREN ROSS, EUROPE PRODUCT & COMMERCIAL MANAGER, SIMPLY LUXURY BY TRAVEL 2
Accommodation: Choice Hotels International will launch its first Ascend branded hotel in Turkey early next year, in Alacati, while The Peninsula Hotels brand is planning a high-end spa hotel for Istanbul’s Galata district. Recent high-profile openings include Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort, which opened in July in Kaplankaya, Bodrum, and Tui launching its all-inclusive Tui Blue brand in May with two new properties — Tui Blue Sarigerme Park and Tui Blue Palm Garden.
Where to book it
Exodus Travels’ eight-day Turkish Winter Wilderness guided tour that walks and snowshoes clients around Cappadocia and the Taurus Mountains starts from £899pp for a February 4 2017 departure, including flights from London to Kayseri and transfers.
A five-day Explore Istanbul tour from Mosaic Holidays is from £549pp, including flights, four nights’ accommodation in a standard room at Sirkeci Mansion hotel on a B&B basis, private airport transfers, some entrance fees and two half-day guided tours.
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