Think Switzerland – what springs to mind first? Mountains, that is for sure. Cheese and fondue? Most definitely, too. Watches? Depending on your budget a hot pick as well. Hence, is it not correct to assume that we all associate certain things with a particular country? Yet whilst in some instances our preconceived notions are pretty much standard travellers fare every now and then we are in for a big surprise. The Republic of Türkiye is one such case, please let me explain.
When quite some decades ago your friendly columnist first heard about, and soon thereafter got acquainted with this splendid nation most foreign tourists would embark on one of only three potential types of journeys – first, the lure of the ‘3S’, sea, sand, and sun. Second, the attraction of a wealth of historical and archeologic sites allowing us to better understand mankind’s past. And last not least, city or shall we rather say metropolis breaks in the Pearl on the Bosporus, magnificent Istanbul. After all it was cumbersome getting from A to B not even mentioning C, so you went to one place, stayed put, and returned home.
Then from early in the new millennium onwards Türkiye decided to completely overhaul its image and reputation overseas and the tourism sector was no exception from that much welcomed development. Fast forward and we are almost headed towards 2024 – where does the country stand at the moment, what are the most noteworthy improvements? Today we shall focus on just one subject: winter tourism.
Yes, you read correctly – winter tourism. ‘Winter tourism in Türkiye, are you kidding me?’ Quite frankly and quite often this is the response to me when prompting face-to-face partners about what Türkiye represents to and for them besides the three all-time favourites indicated above in this contribution.
Erzurum, Kars, Kayseri
Over the past two decades winter tourism in synch with for example health tourism, educational tourism, city weekend breaks away from Istanbul, culinary tourism, ‘slow city and slow food’ – tourism to name but a few highlights have proven ever more popular. First, amongst the local population, However and in a second step, international audiences got alerted to the winter wonderland Türkiye has in store, too.
For those of you interested in learning more about a number of those fine winter destinations here are a few links. Let us begin in Kayseri https://www.kayserierciyes.com.tr/; then continuing to Erzurum https://www.anatoliatravelservices.com/en/guide/18/erzurum-snow-all-year-round.html; last not least we mention Kars https://www.dailysabah.com/life/travel/kars-the-undiscovered-winter-gem-in-northeastern-turkey.
In case you wish to read the details about the infrastructure roadmap with regards to all things winter tourism the Strategy 2023 paper is a highly recommended reading, too: https://www.ktb.gov.tr/Eklenti/43537,turkeytourismstrategy2023pdf.pdf?0&_tag1=796689BB12A540BE0672E65E48D10C07D6DAE291.
The latter publication allows us to better understand the key issues that had to be considered: certainly, Türkiye always had splendid and breathtaking mountain scenery. One only has to take a short flight to the eastern city of Van and as the airport has a runway adjacent to the lake airplanes must approach from landside flying over some of the most beautiful alpine terrain one could imagine anywhere in the world. But whilst living in a nation with mountains is one thing, setting up the required infrastructure to make skiing and many other forms of snow tourism a reality an altogether more complicated subject. Thus said this immense infrastructure investment did not occur overnight, rather, it was part of a carefully crafted and drafted development plan. It is fair to say that our Turkish friends always benefited from gorgeous winters but ‘serious’ white tourism kicked in not before early in the new millennium. One of the first regions that witnessed a total revamping of its previous winter tourism infrastructure was the central city of Kayseri next to Mount Erciyes with a stunning 3917 meters elevation. To put this into perspective we are talking about almost comparable heights as Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, stands at a proud 4807 meters. But Türkiye goes one peak higher so to speak and the country’s Mount Büyük Ağrı Dağı, (at times referred to as Great Ararat in English language travel guides) represents an unbeatable 5165 meters from bottom to the top.
The ski lift operators in Kayseri became trendsetters indeed as the snow guaranteed region around Mount Erciyes – as a matter of fact an inactive volcano – was what was probably the first real interconnected slopes’ winter paradise as guests soon enjoyed buying a regional ski lift day or weekly pass instead of queuing at each and every individual operator. If you take a look at the map, you will be amazed about the sheer size of that huge snow-dusted area. Needless to say, Kayseri has its very own airport, absolutely helpful with regards to travel logistics during winters.
World class hotels or family-oriented bed and breakfast, local or international cuisine, equipment rental options everywhere further facilitate your decision to holiday inside the nation without the need for often exorbitantly expensive winter season airfares in Europe.
The few suggestions added per hyperlink into this short overview are of course a personal choice, rest assured there are many more great locations and winter hot-spots.
Enjoy our great resort whilst perhaps start planning for a winter break – not anywhere far but within our wonderful host nation which has indeed turned itself into a vacation paradise for all four seasons.