Skiing down a volcano might seem like the plot of an action film rather than reality… but at Erciyes ski resort in central Turkey, it’s 100% possible.
Mount Erciyes (pronounced “er-chee-es”) is a snowy stratovolcano looming over the town of Kayseri and home to Turkey’s biggest ski resort. Skiing in Turkey isn’t as established as, say, the Alps, but if you’re already traveling in Turkey or looking for an offbeat skiing destination this winter, Erciyes is an easily accessible and budget-friendly option. (With far more friendly people than you’ll find in the Alps.)
Sold? Ish? Scroll on for a travel guide to skiing in Erciyes, Turkey.
Table of contents
- Best time to go skiing in Erciyes
- How to get to Erciyes, Turkey
- Best places to stay in Erciyes
- What to expect when skiing in Erciyes, Turkey
- How much does it cost to go skiing in Erciyes
- Ski and snowboard rental in Erciyes and Kayseri
- Lift ticket system in Erciyes
- Renting a car for Erciyes
- FAQ about skiing in Erciyes
- Resources for planning your trip to Erciyes
Best time to go skiing in Erciyes
When I visited in February of 2022, Kayseri wasn’t particularly cold, but the peak of Mt. Erciyes towers at 3,917 meters (12,851 feet); more than enough to ensure consistent cold temperatures and snowy conditions for the ski season.
The season’s start and finish depend on the year’s weather—naturally—but it roughly begins in November and continues on until the end of March. January and February are the snowiest months, and you can expect a base of around 2 meters at the peak of the season.
How to get to Erciyes, Turkey
Erciyes is smack in the middle of the country, though not quite in the middle of nowhere.
Plane: One of the most common ways to reach is to fly in to Kayseri, the closest town. However, I prefer to avoid flying where possible because, y’know, climate change!
Bus: For more climate-friendly travel, you can hop on a bus from major cities in Turkey and head straight to Kayseri. It’s an 11-ish hour bus ride from Istanbul to Kayseri, but buses in Turkey can be quite comfortable (and cheaper than flying). You can easily book your bus ticket from Istanbul to Kayseri here.
Car: Turkey is easily navigated by car, and renting a car opens up a world of possibilities (and convenience) if you’re spending a longer time in Turkey. I rented a small 4×4 through Rentalcars.com and had a grand romp all over Turkey. Rent a car in Turkey here.
Day trip to Erciyes from Cappadocia: Many people also visit Erciyes as a day trip while staying in the cave city of Cappadocia. If you want to do that, I recommend going through a tour company who can provide transportation and equipment for you and save you some hassle. Book your day trip from Cappadocia to Erciyes here.
Best places to stay in Erciyes and Kayseri
It’s possible to stay on Mount Erciyes itself, but close proximity to the resort comes at a price. A more affordable option is to stay in nearby Kayseri town, which is only 30-45 minutes away from the resort by shuttle or car.
Budget: Tower 352 – A new apartment complex in the center of Kayseri that I stayed at when I went skiing in Erciyes. Its apartments were neat and clean with excellent views over Kayseri and the mountains. Though they didn’t speak much English, the staff were friendly and helpful when needed. It was about half an hour’s drive from Erciyes resort.
Mid-range: Zumrut Palas Hotel – A welcoming hotel right across from the ski lifts in Erciyes. Staff go out of their way to accommodate guests, food is delicious, and rooms are always neat and clean.
Luxury: Grand Eras Hotel – True ski-in, ski-out hotel right on the slopes of Erciyes. A bit dated, but the hotel’s location and service make up for any shortcomings.
Visiting Erciyes from Cappadocia
Not everyone wants to spend several days skiing in Erciyes, and that’s fair enough!
It’s also possible to visit the mountain as a day trip from Cappadocia, one of Turkey’s most famous destinations. If you have your own car it’s a manageable 1.5 hour drive (plus time to get and return your ski equipment en-route), but the easiest way to visit Erciyes as a day trip from Cappadocia is to go with a guided tour that can arrange everything for you. Book a guided tour from Cappadocia to Erciyes here.
What to expect when skiing in Erciyes, Turkey
My expectations were low as Turkey’s ski industry is still in its early stages, but I was pleasantly surprised by the infrastructure in Erciyes.
Erciyes spans several areas across the mountain, and all are still being developed. The four areas are identified by their gate: Develi Kapi, Tekir Kapi, Hisarcik Kapi, and Hacilar Kapi. Hacilar gate is closest to Kayseri, but Tekir is the main gate with the most rental shops, restaurants, and beginner slopes. There’s enough to keep intermediate skiers and boarders busy for a day or two, and plenty of runs for those still learning.
Pistes in Erciyes are graded by color: blue is easiest, red is medium, and black is difficult. All pistes were groomed, but there were a handful of open areas for off-piste skiing and snowboarding. Moguls weren’t particularly formed anywhere. The off-piste snow coverage wasn’t so deep when I was there in February, so beware—I had some nice tumbles due to stones hidden just below the snow.
In general, I found the runs to be quite easy as compared to skiing in other countries, even the blacks. If you’re an intermediate- to advanced-level skier you’ll have fun, but experts might need to hike up a bit for more thrilling lines (technically forbidden in the resort, but a good number of people were doing it).
There were two high-speed gondolas and several high-speed chairlifts from the major base points. However, connecting lifts between areas could be small and painfully slow. To get from one side of Erciyes to the other (as a competent skier/boarder) expect to spend about 1-1.5 hours due to the lifts.
Operating hours for ski lifts in Erciyes are usually from 9:00 to 17:00. Lifts at the main bases close around 17:00, while connecting lifts might close around 16:30 or earlier.
How much does it cost to go skiing in Erciyes, Turkey?
To me, the low price was one of the best parts about skiing in Erciyes! Partially due to the crash of the lira, and partially due to it being a less-developed resort, skiing in Turkey was delightfully cheap compared to other parts of the world. I’ve also gone skiing in Kyrgyzstan and Turkey was even cheaper than there!
You can expect to pay around 300 TL per day (around $17) for lift pass and equipment rental when skiing in Erciyes if you rent from places outside the resort.
Ski and snowboard rental in Erciyes
If you want to save money—and receive better service—it’s ideal to rent your gear from shops in Kayseri, rather than in Erciyes itself.
A friend and I rented our gear from Erciyes Kayak Evim, and we were happy with their service. We rented ski clothes (including pants, jacket, and gloves), helmets, goggles, skis, and poles for several days, and paid about 300 TL per day for two people. A bargain!
Prefer the ease of renting from one of the shops at the resort? Expect to pay about 50% more.
Ski passes: the chairlift ride system in Erciyes
Unlike in other ski resorts, ski passes aren’t sold by the day or week—they’re priced based on how many times you ride the chairlift!
It can be confusing to guess how many times you’ll ride in one day; a lot depends on which lifts you take, your skiing ability, and how much skiing you want to do in a day. On the bright side, there is no time limit to the rides: if you don’t use up all your rides in one day, you can use them another day.
Personally, I found that a 14-ride pass would cover a day of skiing. If you’re skiing for multiple days, I recommend getting a higher number of rides.
Renting a car for Erciyes
Though there are shuttle buses from Kayseri to Erciyes, I had a rental car (from Istanbul) that I used to get to and from the resort. Not the most sustainable option compared to the shuttle, but it was much, much easier!
If you want to rent a car in Erciyes—or Turkey as a whole—I highly recommend renting through rentalcars.com, one of the easiest car rental sites around.
I went through Rentalcars to rent from a local company, Avec, and my rental experience was extremely smooth and without hassle. Even though we had some, erm, rough encounters with the car on some bumpier backroads, Avec didn’t charge us for any damages and was extremely communicative throughout. Most importantly, Avec doesn’t have any mileage limits on their rentals!
FAQs about skiing in Erciyes, Turkey
Is it safe to ski in Erciyes? Is Turkey safe?
Yes, you’ll be fine. You’re more at risk of having a ski accident than having anything happen to you because of any kind of political situation in Turkey. Don’t forget to get travel insurance or make sure your health insurance will cover you if something happens!
Is Erciyes crowded?
Erciyes sees a good amount of both domestic and international visitors, though less than you’d encounter at resorts like Ulug Dag, near Istanbul. Russians and Ukrainians make up the majority of internationals—you’ll hear announcements in Turkish, English, and Russian throughout the resort.
The base gate areas got busy on the weekend, but once you get higher up the mountain and start taking reds and blacks crowds thin out quickly. If you want to avoid beginners barreling down slopes with 0 control, come on a weekday.
Is there après ski in Erciyes? Is alcohol available?
Though Turkey is a Muslim-majority country, there was still plenty of drinking going on at the base of the slopes in the afternoons. Most people were bringing their own bottles of liquor or beer from elsewhere, though you could buy mulled wine at some of the restaurants on the mountain.
Do people speak English in Erciyes? Do people speak English in Turkey?
During my time in Turkey, I found that most people outside of Istanbul do NOT speak English, including people working in tourism. Fair enough—we can’t expect everyone to speak English! Despite the language barrier, people were patient and willing to work hard to understand what I was saying, and learning some Turkish words was extremely helpful for my travels.
In Erciyes, English was a bit more common, but still not widespread. If anything, Russian might be more useful on the mountain! Nevertheless, the English-speaking Turkish people I met in Erciyes had a notably excellent sense of humor.
Is Erciyes safe for [solo] female travelers?
Most men I met in Erciyes and the surrounding area were respectful and none triggered my creep radar. There were plenty of women and families out on the slopes, and I never felt unsafe while there. I was with a male friend most of the time, but I went skiing on my own quite often and never had any issues. I’d happily recommend Erciyes to other female travelers!