Turkey is a bi-continental country: while geographically most of the country is situated in Asia, Eastern Thrace is part of Europe and many Turks have a sense of European identity.
Turkey offers a wealth of destination varieties to travellers: from dome-and-minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts, from heavily indented coastline against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia to cold and snowy mountains of the East, from crazy “foam parties” of Bodrum to Middle Eastern-flavoured cities of Southeastern Anatolia, from verdant misty mountains of Eastern Black Sea to wide steppe landscapes of Central Anatolia, there is something for everyone’s taste—whether they be travelling on an extreme budget by hitchhiking or by a multi-million yacht.
Turkey occupies a landmass slightly larger than Texas, at just over 750,000 km², and is more than three times the size of the United Kingdom. In terms of the variety of terrain and particularly the diversity of its plant life, however, Turkey exhibits the characteristics of a small continent.
There are, for example, some 10,000 plant species in the country (compared with some 13,000 in all of Europe) — one in three of which is endemic to Turkey. Indeed, there are more species in Istanbul Province (2,000) than in the whole of the United Kingdom. While many people know of Turkey’s rich archaeological heritage, it possesses an equally valuable array of ecosystems — peat bogs, heath lands, steppes, and coastal plains. Turkey possesses much forest (about a quarter of the land) but, as importantly, some half of the country is semi-natural landscape that has not been entirely remodelled by man.
The climate in Turkey varies a lot depending on the region, with conditions ranging from the sweltering summers of southeastern Turkey to the frigid and snowy winters of cities like Kars, Erzurum, and Ardahan. Therefore it is crucial to plan for whatever parts of the country you’re heading to, regardless of the season.
Starting from the coasts, areas on the Black Sea coastline experience an oceanic climate, similar to Western Europe, albeit quite a bit wetter. Summers are warm (25-28°C / 77-82 °F during the daytime) with regular showers, and winter ranges from mild to chilly with lengthy periods of rain and occasional snow.
Areas on the coast of the Marmara Sea have a climate similar to the Black Sea coast for most of the year. One big difference, however, is the relatively hotter (28-32°C / 82-90 °F during the daytime) and drier summers, because of the Mediterranean influence over the region. Areas on the Mediterranean and Aegean coastlines have a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot (29-35°C / 85-95 °F during the daytime) and dry summers. Winters are mild with occasional rainstorms, which can get quite heavy. Snow in this region is rare.
Cities that are on two coastlines, such as Istanbul, can show vastly different characteristics based on how close you are to either coast. For example, Sarıyer, a district on the northern coast of Istanbul, gets two to three times as much rain in summer as the southern-facing city center. Inland regions generally have a continental climate, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. The individual differences inside these regions are too many and too complicated to talk about here; however, there are general warnings that are useful.
- Summers in the southeastern part of the country and near valleys inland from the Aegean coast can get very hot, with daytime averages near or above 38°C (100°F)
- Winters in the eastern part of the country can get very cold as well, with nighttime temperatures regularly plunging below -18°C (0°F)
- Late spring to early summer is usually thunderstorm season in inland locations, and severe storms can sometimes be a problem.