When to go

WHEN TO GO

Nevertheless, the seasonal ebbs and flows of tourism in Turkey follow some general patterns. Prices peak during high season, which loosely refers to July and August, and the first half of September, when the azure coastlines teem with sun-and-fun seekers. It can get excruciatingly hot during these months, especially in Antalya, conveniently providing the excuse for a beachside or cruising vacation. Sightseeing is good any time of year, but keep in mind that in the summer, the white stone and marble of archaeological sites heat up considerably by 10 or 11am, while most museums close earlier in winter.

During the "shoulder season" months of April, May, mid- to late September, and October, prices are slightly lower, crowds are fewer, and the heat (however dry) does not have you scampering off a restaurant terrace or out of a tea garden for the relief of an air-conditioned dining room. You might even need a sweater for the early morning chill or late evening breezes, especially in Istanbul and on the steppes. June is the perfect summer month to shop for a bargain in Turkey, when many hotels experience an ebb in visitors yet the weather cooperates nicely.

Cappadocia is a great destination for rafting in the spring as well as for the autumn colors, while hiking, biking, and camping around the coastal villages are great spring or fall diversions.

In the winter the coastal towns shut down like a submarine before a descent. Cappadocia takes on an otherworldly wonderland aspect covered with a dusting of snow, but icy conditions may ruin a horseback-riding trek. Also, the hilltops of the Gallipoli Peninsula can get very wet and windy, so a pilgrimage to the battlegrounds may be best planned for the summertime.

Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan
One of the five obligations required by Islam is the observation of Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish, but the former is more popularly used, even in Turkey), the Muslim holy month of fasting. For one full lunar month (Sept 23-Oct 22 in 2006; Sept 12-Oct 11 in 2007), Muslims are prohibited during daylight hours from eating, drinking, smoking, or succumbing to sexual thoughts or activity. Instead, they adapt to an altered schedule, rising before daylight for breakfast or sahur, and then going back to bed. The fast is broken at sundown with an early evening meal, or iftar. Because of the extended daylight hours in summertime, this 30-day marathon is particularly arduous, but even in the wintertime, the sleep deprivation, hunger, thirst, and nicotine withdrawal are admirable displays of determination.

Ramadan evenings include festivities and fun. In Istanbul the Hippodrome is transformed into a street fair lined with imitation typical wooden houses, where you can buy books, gözleme (a crepe filled with cheese, spinach, or both), and kebaps (kabobs), or sit at one of the teahouses.

There are some small considerations for potential visitors. In exchange for all of this cultural overload, expect a slight alteration in the way people and places operate: Restaurants that are normally open might be closed; shops that are normally closed might be open; menu items that are normally available might be unavailable due to the general lack in demand. Also bothersome are the drummers who systematically wander the streets waking Muslims (and everybody else) for sahur, or the predawn meal. If sleep isn't something you compromise on, then consider yourselves forewarned.


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