One of the joys of travel and life in a country other than your own is experiencing local festivals and events. And there is no shortage of festivals in Turkey!
From national holidays to religious festivals and holidays. To musical events, sports competitions and food festivals. And everything in between.
Turkish people know how to mark an occasion!
If you want a piece of the action when it comes to Turkish festivals, here is a list of some of the top festivals and events that take place in the country throughout the year.
Some festivals take place at the same time every year. Others will need you to plan a bit more carefully if you want to be around for the celebrations.
Religious festivals and holidays, for example, follow the lunar calendar and fall 11 days earlier each year.
The dates below, are all for 2023.
National Holidays In Turkey
National holidays take place on the same day every year.
As a rule of thumb, if you suddenly spot numerous Turkish flags and images of Atatürk draped from public buildings and people’s balconies, this is your clue that there’s about to be a national holiday.
Below are the national festivals where you can be part of a Turkish festival atmosphere if you’re in the country at the time.
**2023 is the 100th anniversary of the declaration of the Turkish Republic so many towns and cities will have extra special celebrations this year.**
23rd April National Sovereignty & Children’s Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı).
This national holiday commemorates the foundation of the Grand National Assembly in 1920.
On the actual day, weather permitting, expect to see lots of outdoor events and activities for children in town squares.
Some Turkish towns and cities also host children from different countries around the world who perform shows in national and traditional costumes.
You can read more here about National Sovereignty & Children’s Day.
19th May Commemoration of Atatürk Youth & Sport Day – Atatürk’ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı
This is the Turkish festival where the focus is on the young people – the youth!
The festival commemorates the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence and the also the birthday of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
As well as sporting events, many local councils also organise free live music events where famous Turkish musicians, popular with young people, perform.
In the past, Hadise has performed in Fethiye, for example. And, in 2022, we were treated to a free Manga concert in the town square. They were appreciated by a huge local crowd.
If you’re in the country on May 19th, read more here about what you might see on Commemoration of Atatürk Youth & Sport Day and what the festival means.
30th August Victory Day – Zafer Bayramı
Commemorating victory at the Turkish War of Independence, Zafer Bayramı is dedicated to the armed forces.
Here in Fethiye, ceremonies take place at the statue of Atatürk and there’s often a paramotor display by the Turkish Aeronautical Association.
You can read more detail here about Victory Day in Turkey.
29th October Republic Day – Cumhuriyet Bayramı
Republic Day is the big one!
Commemorating the proclamation of the Turkish republic with Mustafa Kemal as the first president of the Republic of Turkey, every town and city of the country will commemorate the event in some way.
Huge celebrations take place in big cities like Istanbul, Ankara (where many pay respects at Atatürk’s mausoleum, Anıtkabir) and Izmir.
Here in Fethiye, we have torchlit processions, convoys and live music concerts.
Find out more here about Cumhuriyet Bayramı.
There are various significant dates in the Islamic calendar. For the purposes of this page, we’ll concentrate on the festivals that are most likely to impact you if you are in the country at the time.
Note that the Islamic calendar is lunar. This means dates for festivals are 11 days earlier each year.
Ramazan (Ramadan) – March 23rd-April 21st 2023
A holy month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. You may be invited to community or family iftar get-togethers (breaking of the fast) at sunset.
In Turkey, special Ramazan pide bread is eaten at this time.
Ramazan Bayramı (Eid al-Fitr) – 21st-23rd April 2023
Still sometimes called Şeker Bayramı (Sugar Festival) this festival is the festival of Breaking the Fast.
This is a holiday where families get together and lots of traditional Turkish desserts and other sweet treats are shared. Supermarket shelves will be stacked with sweets and chocolates
Kurban Bayramı (Eid al-Adha) – June 28th-July 1st 2023
This is a major holiday in the Islamic calendar and one of the main festivals in Turkey.
A time for family reunions, if you are travelling during this period be sure to book seats for public transport and any accommodation well in advance.
This is especially the case whilst Kurban Bayramı is taking place in the summer months. Lots of Turkish families will head to the coast for holidays.
And the clue’s in the name – cows, sheep and goats are sacrificed during this festival. You may well see ‘evidence’ of this on your travels.
NB: Depending on which days Kurban Bayramı and Ramazan Bayramı fall, the Turkish government will sometimes declare a longer holiday to include weekends.
This means banks, post offices and other public services will be out of action for longer than usual.
Turkish Cultural Festivals
Away from the world of national and religious festivals, there is a whole array of Turkish festivals that take place around the country, throughout the year.
All of these cultural festivals are guaranteed to be etched into your memory should you manage to attend any of the various events.
The events listed below are festivals of local scale which represent local culture; be that food, music, sport or way of life.
We live in southwest Turkey, so we’ll list a handful of the bigger festivals local to this area, too.
Other events are amongst the Turkish festivals which have become synonymous with the country, some even being recognised by UNESCO and awarded Intangible Cultural Heritage status.
These are the most popular festivals that you’re likely to see on the country’s tourism posters and that draw huge crowds.
Winter Camel Wrestling
Camel wrestling festivals are particularly famous on the Aegean coast of Turkey.
This area is the best place to catch an event, although you might be lucky in catching an event elsewhere.
Look out for the famous Selçuk camel wrestling festival which takes place on the 3rd Sunday in January each year.
Elsewhere in the Aegean region, Bodrum and Aydın also have camel wrestling events in January.
A few years ago, this event came to our area in Fethiye. You can read more here about our experience of camel wrestling.
February Datça Almond Blossom Festival
For us, one of the first clues that we’re over the worst of winter and the arrival of spring isn’t far away: the February appearance of blossom on the almond trees.
This Turkish festival takes place in the small southwest town of Datça and the peninsula.
The Badem Çiçeğ Festivali (Almond Blossom Festival) takes place in February.
Expect stalls, traditional music, folk dancing and nature walks.
Spring Food Festivals
If you’re a foodie, then spring is a great time for you to be hunting out festivals in Turkey.
March Alaçatı Herb Festival
We’re heading to the Izmir Province for this festival.
One of the most famous Turkish festivals when it comes to the palate is the Alaçatı Herb Festival which takes place in late March, annually.
From cooking demonstrations to live music events, this festival is really popular. So book accommodation in advance.
(In the Muğla Province, the port town of Göcek has also started a springtime herb festival.)
Manisa Mesir Macunu Festival (Mesir Paste Festival)
Again, this Turkish festival takes place towards the end of March (usually 21st-24th) and is also in the Aegean region of the country.
This festival commemorates the recovery of Hafsa Sultan, mother of Süleyman the Magnificent; one of the great Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
A special paste – mesir macunu – was made for her. And when she ate it, she recovered. The Sultan then ordered the paste to be given out to the public.
Today, the paste is wrapped in small pieces of paper and thrown to the crowds below from the minaret of a mosque.
This is just one of a few wonderful Turkish festivals that have been awarded UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status (2012).
April/May Üzümlü Mushroom & Dastar Festival
We’re adding this event to our list because it’s local to us and growing in popularity each year.
Traditional dances, food demonstrations, locally made wine, local bands and nationally-famous musicians.
The Turkish festival days are Friday, Saturday, Sunday – with Sunday being the most popular day.
We’ll post dates when they are confirmed…
April Istanbul Tulip Festival
A bit of luck needed for catching the absolutely millions of tulips that are planted around the city in full bloom.
Obviously, we are at the mercy of the weather for the famous Istanbul Tulip Festival.
The festival runs throughout the month of April. And, generally speaking, if you’re in the city during that month, you’re in for wonderfully colourful tulip-filled treat!
Whilst you will see tulips just about everywhere around the main sightseeing areas of the city – including roadsides – Emirgan Park, Gülhane Park and Sultanahmet have magical displays.
May 5th-6th Hıdırellez
Herald the spring with this ancient festival that takers place around Turkiç nations and the Balkans, as well as in Turkey itself.
The northwestern city of Edirne is the main city where celebrations take place, followed by Istanbul.
Think fire-leaping, folk dancing, singing.
You might find smaller, local events taking place elsewhere around the country.
The Hıdırellez Spring Festival was awarded UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Status in 2017. Read more here about the Hıdırellez Festival.
July Oil Wrestling
Oil wrestling – yağlı güreş – is a hugely popular sport in Turkey. The main place to witness this spectacle is the famous Edirne event.
In 2023, this Turkish festival takes place 7th-9th July.
Attaining ‘Baş Pehlivan’ (Chief Wrestler) status in the relevant weight category is a huge honour.
The men wear leather pants and cover their bodies in olive oil.
If you can’t get to Edirne, oil wrestling festivals take place in other localities throughout the summer months.
Close to where we are in Fethiye, look out for the Seki festival and the Kınık Oil Wrestling Festival.
The Kınık event is hosted by Kaş Belediyesi.
Kırkpınar (Edirne) Oil Wrestling was awarded UNESCO Intangible Heriatage Status in 2010.
Summer Jazz Festivals
Prominent names in the world of music perform at various venues around the city as part of the International Istanbul Jazz Festival.
From famous names in jazz to famous musicians and singers more well known in other genres, look out for this Turkish festival from late June into early July.
And if you’re in the south of the country in August (usually the last weekend of the month), the Kaş Jazz Festival takes place at the Setur Marina.
Summer Opera & Ballet Festivals
Between the city of Antalya and the resort of Side is the magnificent Aspendos ancient theatre.
The International Aspendos Opera & Ballet Festival usually takes place in September with symphony orchestras and famous operas and ballets performed by the likes of Antalya State Opera & Ballet and Istanbul State Opera & Ballet.
If ballet is your thing, also look out for the Bodrum International Ballet Festival which usually takes place in August and lasts for one week.
September Izmir International Fair
Usually held at the beginning of September over 10 days, the Izmir International Fair is in its 92nd year in 2023.
This is both a trade and entertainment fair which has a theme each year.
Exhibitions, concerts, cinema, plays, street performances, adventure activities for the kids – it all happens at the Izmir International Fair.
This is one of the biggest Turkish festivals and it takes place at Kültür Park in the city.
October Fethiye & Ölüdeniz Air Games
A perfect rounding off of the summer season in our little corner of the country.
When it comes to Turkish festivals, this one is all about flying objects.
The festival usually takes place towards the end of October and features paragliders, paramotors, sky divers, hang gliders, DJs – and sometimes a display by the Turkish Air Force display team, Türk Yıldızları (Turkish Stars).
Read more here about the International Fethiye & Ölüdeniz Air Games.
December Konya Mevlana Festival
Commemorating the passing of Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi on December 17th 1273, the International Mevlana Commemoration Ceremonies take place over 10 days from December 7th up to the 17th in Konya.
This is one of the Turkish festivals that is synonymous with the country and was awarded UNESCO Intangible Heritage Status in 2008.
Populary known as the Whirling Dirvishes, witnessing a true Mevlana ceremony is mesmerising and truly special.
We have been privileged to attend a Sema ceremony at the Galata Mevlevi Lodge in Istanbul.
Check out ceremonies taking place there if you can’t make it to the Konya December festival. You can also attend weekly Sema ceremonies in Konya.
Other Festivals In Turkey
There are so many festivals that take place throughout Turkey.
Chances are, if you are travelling around the country, you may stumble across a local one. They’re well worth going along to see what’s happening.
Many towns and villages are famous for a particular product, fruit, vegetable or crop and will have an annual festival to celebrate that, for example.
In the bigger cities like Istanbul, look out for art festivals, film festivals and photography festivals.
And, of course, there are music festivals throughout the summer around the country where the big names in Turkish music play over a three day period.
The crowds either camp at the venue for the weekend or buy tickets to attend for the day and night.
For local festivals and events to our little area of the country, keep an eye on our Fethiye events calendar.