When I first learned that Turkish Airlines offered direct flights between Riga and Istanbul, I started dreaming about a sunny winter getaway. The average temperature for Istanbul in January is 45F/7C, which might not seem super warm, but is an improvement over Riga’s 30F/-1C and near-constant snow cover. Istanbul is also 1,800 kilometers south of Riga, resulting in more daylight hours and, one would think, more heat. But Mother Nature had other plans: a cold front blew across the Middle East just in time for my trip. Figures!
Once I got over my initial disappointment, I realized how breathtaking Istanbul is under a blanket of white. Palm trees danced in the snow-speckled
breeze wind, while the city’s famed domes glistened whenever the sun made an appearance. Bare branches offered unobstructed views of historic architecture, and diminished crowds ensured a pleasant touring environment. We never needed dinner reservations for even top restaurants. Meanwhile, we could really appreciate the charms of the Grand Bazaar, which is reportedly choked with tourists in the summer months. I didn’t get the warm weather I was after, but the beautiful scenery more than made up for it.
Would you like to see Istanbul covered in snow?
What are your favorite places to visit during the off season?