With its location primarily in the temperate zone in Western Asia and Southeastern Europe, most expats expect Turkey to have a temperate climate. However, the country extends across a reasonably large area (783,562 square kilometers) of very diverse landscape, with mountains, plateaus, and coastal areas, surrounded by seas on three sides, and with the Sea of Marmara inside its borders, along with several straits, lakes, and rivers. As a result, the climate is also extremely diverse – parts of Turkey have rather harsh winters, while other parts enjoy a comfortable Mediterranean climate, and not far away you’ll find warm regions with plenty of humidity and rain. It’s important to figure out exactly where in Turkey you’ll be living, so that you can prepare accordingly.What to expect
The country is divided into seven regions, but these divisions are not purely geographically defined – the demarcations are also demographic and economic. As a result, even within the seven regions, the landscape and the climate vary considerably. However, for the most part, Turkey is unlikely to present you with weather that is too far from anything you’ve already experienced. As with any part of the world, commercial and cultural hubs tend to develop in the regions with a moderate climate, and these are usually the cities in which most expats find themselves.
The southern and western coasts of Turkey, bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea respectively, have what’s called a temperate Mediterranean climate – the summers are hot and dry, while the winters are mild with some amount of rainfall. The coasts along the Sea of Marmara, which connects the Aegean Sea in the west to the Black Sea in the north, enjoy a similar climate, but tend to be a little cooler, in both summer and winter. In the north however, in the coastal areas along the Black Sea itself, the climate is strikingly different. This area receives the highest rainfall in the country, particularly the eastern parts of it. It rains throughout the year here, and in spite of the rain, summers can get quite warm (although not really hot). Winter temperatures here can get to four and five degrees Celsius, but usually no lower. Snowfall is minimal in all the coastal areas, particularly the southern and western areas, where it is extremely rare.
Many of the mountains in Turkey tend to be close to the coast and running parallel to it, as a result of which the mostly warm, Mediterranean climate of the coast does not extend inland. The Anatolian plateau, for example, has a continental climate, with extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters. (In all seasons, there can also be rather drastic differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures.) Summer temperatures here frequently go above 30 °C, and winter temperatures are frequently below zero. Winter in the western part of the plateau is milder, but the eastern plateau sees temperatures up to 40 below zero.
However, if you’re not too happy about rain, the great thing about this region is that it’s mostly dry. By the time the rain clouds cross the mountains and reach inland, they’ve already spent themselves. Of course this means that the mountainous regions themselves tend to be extremely cold and rainy. Winters in the mountains are long and harsh, with several months of snow, and regular snowstorms in many places. In some regions, the continuous build-up of snow through the winter results in villages regularly being snowed-in and cut-off from the rest of the country for several days.
Istanbul and Ankara, the two largest cities in Turkey (Istanbul is the bigger one, but Ankara is the capital) enjoy a Mediterranean and continental climate respectively. These two cities have large expat populations, and will likely be your destination too. Istanbul falls in the Marmara region, but is rather unique in terms of its climate, since it is also divided by the Bosphorus and has a rather diverse geography. As a result, at any point of time, there will be substantial differences in the weather in different parts of the city. The capital Ankara, on the other hand, is located in Central Anatolia, and the climate here is typical of the region – hot, dry summers, and cold, snowy winters.