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Who knew that skiing in Istanbul is so easily accessible?
I recently went on a weekend trip to Bursa and had a blast exploring UNESCO world heritage sites, riding the longest cable car in the world, getting sunburned high above the clouds, and, of course, hitting the slopes at Uludag National Park.
If you’re ready to escape the crowds of Istanbul and recharge in a winter wonderland, this guide is for you. Use my step-by-step itinerary, detailed budget breakdown, and personal recommendations to plan an unforgettable weekend ski trip from the city!
Essential Info for Skiing in Istanbul
First things first, let’s break down some of the facts you need to know.
The best place for skiing in Istanbul is in Uludag National Park in the nearby city of Bursa.
I can’t find the exact dates that the park’s ski season runs every year, but National Parks of Turkey reports that the best time to ski is late December to late March. If you can, plan your trip on a weekday to avoid the crowds. If you must go on a weekend try to go on a Sunday and only visit on Saturday as a last resort!
So, how much time do you need to go skiing in Istanbul?
Two nights is ideal but one is fine if you’re pressed for time. Daniel and I left Istanbul at noon on Saturday and spent the afternoon and evening exploring Bursa. Then, we went skiing on Sunday and got the late 9 pm ferry back to Istanbul. If the DIY route isn’t really appealing to you, you can also book all-inclusive tours on Grupanya, Turkey’s version of Groupon, instead.
Dan and I went skiing in mid-February and it was absolutely spectacular – we still can’t stop talking about how beautiful it was and how much fun we had! If you want to go skiing in Istanbul keep reading to learn exactly how to get to Uludag National Park, what it costs, and everything else you need to know!
How to Get from Istanbul to Bursa
To go skiing in Istanbul you need to travel to Bursa on the IDO ferry, which leaves from the Yenikapi port near the Sultanahmet neighborhood.
Unless you’re a Turkish citizen or resident you won’t be able to buy tickets online, but the IDO website is easy to navigate and you can see the schedule and prices here. I took the metro to the port a few days early to buy tickets and though prices vary a bit, ours only cost 53 lira / 10 usd each for the round trip.
The ferry ride takes 1 hour and 45 minutes and will drop you at the IDO ferry port outside of Bursa. From here, there are still a few more steps to reach the city center.
First, take the large shared white vans to the Emek metro stop – this costs 3.5 lira / .66 usd and takes 20 minutes. At Emek you can buy a BursaKart for the last leg of the journey. The card itself costs 5 lira / 1 usd and then you can load it with as much money as you want. Each metro ride costs 2.30 lira / .44 usd.
Bursa is a huge city so research ahead of time to find the nearest metro stop to your hotel. If you’re going to the Old Town, the Demirtaşpaşa stop or one around it is good and will take about 25 minutes to arrive.
In total, traveling from Istanbul to Bursa’s city center requires a 1 hour and 45 minute ferry ride, a 20-minute shared van, and a 25-minute metro ride. The total cost for the one-way trip is about 32 lira / 6 usd per person.
What to do in Bursa
Besides skiing, there is a lot to see and do in Bursa.
Dan and I only spent one evening there but it’s an interesting city. First, we walked through Koza Han, the silk bazaar. Bursa is recognized as the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire and Koza Han is one of many UNESCO sites scattered throughout the city.
In the bazaar, we also tried a famous Bursa treat – ice cream topped with warm semolina halva – at a small shop called Haci Serif. Locals were lined up for it so, of course, we joined them. Honestly, it’s not my favorite Turkish dessert, but for 6 lira / 1 usd it’s definitely worth trying.
Afterward, keep walking to the Nusretiye Clock Tower for a fantastic panorama view of Bursa and the surrounding mountains. You can’t climb the tower itself but the walkway around it is really impressive.
Finally, finish your night with the dish that Bursa is known for – Iskender Kebab. This is basically a plate with kebab meat on bread and a buttery tomato sauce. Try it at Uludag Kebapcisi (go to the one at Ulu Mahallesi, 16. Şirin Sk. No:12, not the one at the mall) which is rated the 4th best restaurant in the city on TripAdvisor. The dish costs 38 lira / 7.22 usd.
Although I didn’t get to see it, Bursa is also home to a 600-year-old tree named Inkaya. It’s a bit outside of the city but could definitely be worth a stop if you have the time!
Where to Stay in Bursa
For a short trip, the best place to stay in Bursa is in the Old Town where you’ll be in walking distance of all the major sites.
Dan and I stayed at Bursa Ipekyolu Hotel and it was great. The rooms were a bit small but it was clean, had a great location, and came with a traditional Turkish breakfast. Plus, I’m a sucker for a gorgeous bathroom. It’s located in a 500-year-old building so this is truly a piece of the city’s history and I recommend it.
There are also lots of hotels up in the park itself, which are more convenient for skiing but also more expensive. Click here to explore hotels in Uludag National Park.
How to Get from Bursa to Uludag National Park
Ok, you came for the skiing so letsget to it.
After a relaxing evening in Bursa, we woke up ready to hit the slopes. To get to Uludag National Park you need to take the teleferik (aka the cable car).
It’s close to the Old Town and a taxi only costs 15 lira / 2.85 usd. Unfortunately, the cable car isn’t as affordable and round trip tickets cost us 80 lira / 15 usd each. It opens its doors at 8 am and we arrived around 9:30. Going early meant we avoided the long lines and were able to board almost immediately. The cable car takes 45 minutes and has one quick switch in the middle where you have to get out and change cars.
Even if you don’t want to go skiing, you should 100% take the cable car because it’s the longest in the world and has absolutely phenomenal views of Uludag National Park. We went on a super gray and rainy day and I was kinda bummed – until the cable car rose up over the clouds into a whole new world of sun and snow! It was seriously unbelievable. Even though Bursa never saw the sun that day we skied in perfect weather.
How to Rent Skis and Gear at Uludag National Park
I haven’t been skiing in years so I definitely needed to rent some gear.
First, of course, are the skis. Those cost 60 lira / 11.40 usd each for a day rental and come with boots and poles.
I also added on a pair of ski pants to wear over my leggings (30 lira / 5.70 usd) and ski goggles (also 30 lira). The goggles especially are a must because the sun is blinding on the snow. Finally, we rented a locker to share for 25 lira / 4.75.
If you need a warm coat these are available as well, but I’m not sure if there are hats, gloves, or scarves. Dan and I brought our own because they’re all so cheap to buy in Istanbul.
One last tip: the Uludag ski area is massive and there are multiple places to rent gear from. We rented from the shop right off the teleferik and had no issues. The only con to this is that we had to walk 10 minutes to the mountain carrying our skis, but it wasn’t bad. There was another shop between the teleferik and the mountain and then a third on the mountain itself right at the base of the first ski lift, so feel free to browse prices to find the best deal before you rent.
Skiing in Uludag National Park
This part is admittedly a bit brief because I’m not a great skier and mostly stuck to the smallest slopes. If you regularly ski in Switzerland or Colorado Uludag won’t live up to your standards, but if you’re just a casual skier it’s a pretty fun place. I only recommend checking out maps of the park online before you go or downloading one to your phone because the slopes are not well-labeled at all.
Once you arrive at the park, the next step is to buy your ski pass. When you get off the teleferik you’ll walk up a road lined with shops for 5 minutes and then turn right and climb up a hill of snow to reach the slopes.
On the right, you’ll see a small lift (not a chairlift, but one that hooks behind people and pulls them to the top). At the line for this lift is a tiny stand where you can buy your pass. They cost 90 lira / 17 usd for a four-hour pass or 150 lira / 28.50 usd for a day pass. You can also get passes for 1.5 days, two days, etc. as well.
Where to Eat in Uludag National Park
There are a bunch of lodges, hotels, and restaurants to choose from. However, Dan and I went to a supermarket in Bursa the night before and packed our own lunch to save some money.
I didn’t look at prices in the restaurants in the park but I saw so many other groups packing their own lunches that my guess would be that they’re a bit inflated.
How to Return to Bursa and the IDO Ferry
As you might guess, everyone wants to return to Bursa at the same time and the line for the teleferik gets super long. We got in line at 4:45 and waited in it for more than an hour to board. Then, we had to wait in another 20-minute line at the stop where we changed cable cars.
This was on a Sunday and I’m sure Saturdays are even worse. I recommend trying to leave before the masses around 3:30 / 4 pm at the latest. If you go on a weekday, it’ll be less crowded and you can probably leave anytime without much hassle.
Once we got back to Bursa we took a 10-minute taxi ride to the Demirtaşpaşa metro stop for 20 lira / 2.80 usd and rode the metro for 25 minutes back to the Emek station. From here you can catch the bus 1/GY to the Mudanya IDO ferry terminal or take the shared white vans again.
Just be aware that there are two ferry terminals called Mudanya! If you decide to take the shared vans (labeled Bursa – Mudanya) make sure you clarify that you want to go to the IDO terminal before you board. Dan and I got on the wrong one and ended up at the BUDO terminal instead, so we had to take an extra taxi down the coast to the IDO terminal.
From getting in line at the teleferik in Uludag to arriving at the IDO ferry port, our trip took 3 hours.
Returning to Istanbul
We arrived a the ferry port at 8 pm, boarded at 8:45, and left at 9. The ride is so quick and painless and we were back in Istanbul at the Yenikapi Ferry Port at 10:45 and home in our apartment by 11:30. It was definitely a long day, but our ski trip was so fun and so worth it!
If you are on vacation and aren’t pressed for time, you could spend a second night in Bursa after your ski day and return to Istanbul the next morning, which would be a little easier and more relaxing. If you want to save money though, it’s totally doable on a two-day / one-night trip.
Total Cost to go Skiing in Istanbul
Skiing is Istanbul isn’t a super cheap trip, but it’s affordable compared to many other places in the world. This list of our costs for a two-day / one-night trip can help you create your own budget estimate.
Round-trip ferry tickets for two: 106 lira
Total public transport and taxi costs in Bursa: 69 lira
Round trip teleferik tickets for two: 160 lira
Ski, poles, boots, pants, goggles, and locker rental for two: 265 lira
Full-day lift passes for two: 300 lira
One-night accommodation in Bursa: 285 lira
Our total cost for transport, accommodation, and skiing was 1185 lira / 225 usd for two. This does not include attractions (although everything we saw and most of the main sites are free) or food and alcohol on the trip.
The Complete Guide to Skiing in Istanbul
This is insanely long, but I hope you find it helpful!
If you’re visiting in the winter you should definitely make time to go skiing in Istanbul. Bursa is an interesting city packed full of UNESCO world heritage sites and Uludag National Park is an amazing natural escape.
I had a blast skiing in Istanbul, snapping ten thousand photos on the picturesque teleferik ride, and exploring Bursa’s old town – and I know you will too.
Ready to go? Click here to book your stay in Bursa!
Looking for more adventures from Istanbul? Check out this surprisingly cheap way to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia (and how to ride the famous hot air balloons when you go), learn how to visit the Prince Islands on a sunny day-trip from the city and find so much more in the complete Turkey Series!