Winter Tourism: The 5 Best Winter Sports Resorts in Turkey

Turkey is as an ideal tourist destination in the summer with its sun, sand and sea. But it’ll come as a surprise to many that it also has tons of outdoor sports activities in winter season. Scenic slopes on some of Turkey’s highest mountains are an ideal getaway for winter sports enthusiasts. Snowstorms are common like in Istanbul when one of the world’s biggest airports was completely shut down in January 2022. In fact, they are so common throughout Anatolia especially in the higest latitudes that road closures and shutdowns cut off many small cities and villages. Snowfall is heavy during December and February in the many mountainous regions of Anatolia, making it an ideal destination. You can choose to do the following sports: skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, heli-skiing, skii passing and ice skating. Alternatively, you can now try one horse sleigh riding, ice fishing, ice waterfall climbing and even heli-skiing in some parts of Turkey. It is truly a very adventurous choice for those wanting to try this culturally and geographically unique country.

In the last few years and past decade, Turkey’s ski resorts have attracted foreign tourists and sport enthusiasts and in recent years, domestic demand has also increased. Turkey is especially popular as a winter destination from its neighbouring region, especially European countries, such as Germany, Belgium, Poland and Ukraine, for instance. Apart from winter sports and activities, Turkey also offers some amazing spas and thermal facilities. It is also worth noting here, Turkey’s traditional hammam experiences that you can try in most hotels and in Istanbul. For the 5 Best Winter Experiences in Turkey, do reach our article on this blog! 

Image by vedat zorluer from Pixabay

Notable ski resorts exist in Uludağ in northwestern Bursa province, Erciyes in central Turkey, Kartepe in northwestern Kocaeli and Davraz in the western Isparta province and Sarıkamış in eastern Kars province. In recent years, Turkey has been trying to attract holiday goers from across the Atlantic, the Middle East and even Asia and Latin America. For instance, Cappadocia is now a famous destination in Turkey due to its otherworldly landscape, its hot air balloons and with Erciyes ski resort being quite close. According to the Turkish Travel Agencies Association, the region hosted close to 30,000 tourists in the winter of 2021-22 from all over the world. Palandöken, for instance, has many visitors from Iran and Ukraine, with about 20% hotel occupancy from tourists alone.

In recent years, the government and local municipalities have started investing and developing their own winter resort facilities. For instance, the Yıldız (meaning “star” in Turkish) Mountain Winter Sports and Tourism Center in Sivas, Central Anatolia is a new addition to the group of winter resorts in Turkey. It is easily accessible from Sivas and surrounding cities. It has two chairlifts at 804 meters, many ski tracks at many lenths, a toboggan hill, t-bars and of course, ski bungalows, that are quite popular. As the resort is new, more development of facilities and bungalows is on the block and we hope to see more resorts in Turkey in the near future. For example, another municipality, Denizli, has put some investment into developing a new resort in the Bozdağ mountains, not to be confused with İzmir’s Bozdağ mountains, which is more for mountaineering than skiing.

Most Popular Sports

Skiing & Snowboarding

Situated a high plateau and surrounded with many mountains, Turkey is a country that receives tons of snowfall in the winter. Resorts that offer skiing are: Uludağ, Palandöken, Sarikamis, Kartepe, Erciyes, and many others offer ski slopes and rental equipment.

Experienced instructors are also on offer in some big resorts that allow beginners a chance to tackle some of the advanced, mountainous terrain. On the other hand, snowboarding is also available on all the resorts. Bring your own equipment or rent what you need and enjoy the slopes in the resorts. 

A New Winter Sport: Heli-Skiing

In the northeast of Turkey, the Kaçkar Mountains recently became a destination for adventurers seeking the thrill to do heli-skiing. This sport is all about going higher than any ski lift and jumping off of helicopters on steep slopes and pushing the limits to try an extreme sport. Visitors from Switzerland, Canada and France are gathering here in Turkey’s highest ski runs this winter season to try the opportunities that these mountains provide enthusiasts. 

Most Popular Resorts

1. Erciyes, Kayseri
 

Located in the province of Kayseri, Erciyes ski center is fast becoming one of the hottest destinations for winter sports. Located on top of a sleepy volcano on a 25sq kms area, it has been voted one of the best skiing destinations in Europe.

Located only an hour drive away from Cappadocia, Mt Erciyes has a gorgeous view! It is the highest peak in Central Anatolia and is around 28 kms from the city of Kayseri. You can reach the centre by road in 40 minutes from the airport and from the city in 30 minutes. Most hotels offer guests transport for their visitors and its worth asking if they offer rides to/from the airport. Along with skiing, the area is also good for mountaineering and the ski resort lies on a plateau called  the Tekir Plateau.

The ski centre has skiing areas on the east and north of the mountain at an altitude of 2200 to 3100m. It has 20 lifts, 34 runs ranging in difficulty and more than 100kms of slopes. In recent years, the local municipality’s heavy investment has improved facilities and attracted more international visitors. The season opens around late November and last until April with some good powdery snow.

2. Palandöken, Erzurum

Image by izmiray from Pixabay

 
Palandöken centre can be considered the country’s best winter sports centre and is extremely popular. It is situated on the snowy slopes of Mt. Palandöken, a few kilometres away from the city of Erzurum, in the northeast of the country. It was built for the 2011 Winter Universiade, a multi-sports event for university athletes. Palandöken was ranked 18th among 41 ski resorts in the world according to the New York Times. Being just a mere 25 minute ride from the Erzurum airport, Paladöken is popular with serious skiers and the rich.
 

Palandoken maintains its powdery snow that allows sports activities throughout the season. Equipped with 22 different pistes, 10 chair lifts, 1 teleski, 2 baby lifts and 1 gondola lift on the slopes of the Palandöken ski center. It is located between 2000-3176 meters, and has many scenic tracks and to reach the Ejder 3200 hill (the toughest one), you need to ride a 1000-meter gondola lift. Around 12,000 people can ski at the same time here. Kapıkaya, along with Ejder, is one of the longest runs and both are suitable for slalom skiing because of their Olympic size features. Night skiing is possible here due to the illuminated runs. 

The closest city, Erzurum, is well-connected to the ski resorts and hotels in the area. Some well-known hotels haverestaurants, cafes and even spa facilities. For example, the Polat Hotel, Dedeman Ski Lodge, the Sway hotel and the exclusive Xanadu Snow White. The swanky Sway hotel, for example, has its own piste, spa and wellness facilities. However, if you want to stay in budget, you can stay in town and then choose to go up to enjoy the snow everyday. 

3. Uludağ, Bursa

Resort hotels in Uludag, Image sourced from Ets Tur

Uludağ is Turkey’s best-known ski resort and a favourite with domestic visitors. The resort has been divided into two areas, given its popularity. Every winter, it also hosts the Winter Wonderland Festival that brings in musicians for concerts and apres ski parties. Accessibly from Istanbul is mere 3 hours and from Bursa in 1.5 hours, Uludağ is popular with Istanbullites wanting to escape the city in winter for the weekend. Learn more about day trips from Istanbul in our article on the 7 Best Day Trips from Istanbul.

You can choose between skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, sledding or skibob. There are around 20 pistes, ski lifts and teleskis between the two areas and skilled skiers will enjoy both areas. Some hotels provide their own private pistes and a plus for experienced skiers who come here just to enjoy the powder!

There are some mainstay hotels such as the Beceren and the Grand Yazici in one area and some of the most upscale hotels in the other, such as Monte Baia. The season is open from October to April, with the best times being December to March. The altitude ranges from 1700m to over 2500 m. Roads can be tricky and dangerious so snow tires and chains are recommend in winter. Small shared taxis called a dolmuş from Bursa take about an hour. If you want to visit Bursa, learn about its history and place in Turkey in the article, A Brief guide to Bursa.

Cable car systems makes it easier for you to access the ski resort and park, believed to be the longest in Turkey at 9 km long in total. Four different sections of routes make it easy to access the mountain and the hotels. The first station is called the Teferrüç station and located in the Yıldırım district of Bursa. This service reaches the hotels area directly. The other stations are the Sarıalan transfer station and a hotels zone station.

4. Sarıkamış, Kars

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The Sarıkamış Ski Center in eastern Turkey’s Kars province is another picturesque destination for skiing. Mount Cıbıltepe offers 5 ski runs with pine trees, with the longest being 12 kilometers. Visitors here come from neighbouring Iran, Russia and Georgia.

The winter months are especially popular with Christmas and New Year’s bringing in visitors and enthusiasts. Hotels and travel companies are offering promotions that not only include winter sports but also cultural activities and tours that offer more than just a winter holiday on the slopes. Tours to the region and Kars city are popular due to the UNESCO world heritage archaeological site with the Armenian church in Ani. Moreover, Kars and Van hosts Iranian visitors who also come to shop on the Turkish side due to cheaper goods.

5. Kartalkaya, Bolu

Image sourced from ETS Tur

The Kartalkaya Skiing resort is just southeast of Bolu in the Köroğlu Mountains and in an area of 70kms. The resort has got 13 pistes, 25 different tracks, chairlifts and t-bars at an altitude of 1850 to 2200m. The season starts in late December and ends in March with 3m of snowfall expected each winter; with powdery consistency turning to slush at the end of the season. The area is surrounded by forests of the Black Sea region. As such, it’s ideal for alphine skiing and cross-country skiing. As with other resorts, there are rentals and if needed instructors availabe here.

As for accomodation, Kartalkaya’s got some of the top hotels in the country such as Kaya Palazzo which is popular with the Istanbul set. It offers full services, chalets, apres-ski parties and is quite expensive at prices going for 5000 Turkish liras per day. Operating since December 2011 with the concept of a luxury boutique mountain hotel, Kaya Palazzo Ski & Mountain Resort promises a wonderful holiday experience with fireplaces and jacuzzis in its 130+ mountain view rooms.

Image sourced from ETS Tur

Guests can benefit from the Dumankaya runways, which have a total of 7 lifts, with the Leitner branded front-protected lift, which is used for the first time in Turkey, and have direct access to the chairlifts. The hotel also has restaurants such as the Swiss Fondue, a steakhouse, bars and even swimming pools. Of course, you can find a cheaper option at 300 liras per night but it is a bit further away from the main town of Bolu at 30kms. Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, is 2.5 hours away and from Istanbul, it’s about 4 hours away. Some hotels even offer transfer services from Istanbul for its guests. From Bolu, a 45 minutes drive will get to Kartalkaya ski resort. Alternatively, you can choose to stay in Bolu city and then go to the ski resort the next day. In Bolu, you can check out picturesque Lake Abant and trek in the snowy mountains in the area.