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The Best of Istanbul – Photo Essay

After 4 days exploring Istanbul we felt lucky to have even spent that long in such a beautiful city. Our Istanbul Photo Essay showcases our favourite shots



Istanbul Street Food Cart at Night

There have been a few places around the world that we have travelled to that we hadn’t really given too much thought to before visiting. We are ashamed to admit that Istanbul in Turkey is one of those places.

As one of the largest cities in the world, and bordering Asia and Europe, we should have expected more. A lot more. But we basically didn’t do our research. We were really only in Turkey for the ANZAC Day celebrations along the Gallipoli Peninsula and our Sail Turkey adventure.

By the end of our 4 days exploring the city from our Istanbul vacation rental, including the incredible UNESCO World Heritage historic city centre, we felt incredibly lucky to have even had that long in Istanbul. Since then we have also vowed to do the proper research to make sure we don’t miss out on any other potentially amazing cities in the future!

Istanbul Photo Essay

These are our favourite photos from Istanbul. We hope you can see why the city grew on us so quickly.

Istanbul Panorama from Tower Galata

Istanbul UNESCO World Heritage Historic City Centre Panorama from Galata Tower

Istanbul New Mosque Yeni Camii HDR

Istanbul New Mosque

Blue Mosque Sunset Istanbul

Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque at Sunset

Blue Mosque Istanbul Sultan Ahmed HDR

Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Istanbul HDR

Minarets and Entrance to Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Foot Wash Tap

Foot Washing Area, Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque

Istanbul Street Food Kebab

Kebab Street Food in Istanbul

Istanbul Street Food Cart at Night

Fresh Corn on the Cob, Night Street Food in Istanbul

Istanbul Mosque Framed

Mosque Framed by the windows in Galata Tower

Istanbul Galata Tower HDR

Galata Tower, Istanbul

While we quite easily could have spent longer in Istanbul on our cheap holiday to Turkey we felt that 4 days was just enough time to see all the travel highlights. It was the perfect taster before the rest of our adventure travels through Turkey along the western coastline.

We just hope that we find the time in 2013 to explore deeper into the true heart of Turkey and hopefully experience more of this rich and diverse country that we initially knew so little about.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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  1. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)

    January 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Beautiful photos, guys. I really must make it to Istanbul one day soon. It’s been at the top of my list for years and somehow I never make it there.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      We were so surprised by how much we enjoyed it. Really need to explore the rest of Turkey at some stage now.

  2. Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey

    January 14, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    The already dreamy city-scapes look even more surreal in your photos.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      That’s what HDR will do for photos 😉 But still the cityscape is truly that magnificent!

  3. Natalie @ In Natalie's Shoes

    January 14, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Wow! Thanks for the chance to reminisce about how beautiful Istanbul is. I went 2 years ago and your pictures helped me to relive my travels. Thanks!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      We were there nearly 1 year ago and our own photos made me remember so many good times! Going to start going back through the last 3 years of travel and editing all my favourite ones I haven’t shared yet 🙂

  4. Escaping Abroad

    January 14, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    Mosques and churches always seem to make great subjects in photos. These are no exception! Istanbul remains high on my bucket list 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Hope you manage to get to Istanbul sometime soon! It is a fantastic place to visit and continues to become more and more popular every year.

  5. Larissa

    January 15, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    We, too, had done very little research about Istanbul, thinking it would simply be a stopover between the Middle East and Europe. But we really loved it! Spent 6 days there, and definitely want to go back. Thanks for the photo reminders!

    PS. We had our favorite sandwich of our RTW in Istanbul. YUMMY 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      The sandwich sounds amazing! Wonder if it rivals Gozleme which we fell in love with in Turkey 🙂

  6. wanderingeducators

    January 15, 2013 at 4:20 AM

    I just want to say: yum, yum, yum, yum. yum!!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      I did drool a little on my keyboard when I was going back through all the food photos haha.

  7. Jenna

    January 15, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    Istanbul is a city I hear more and more about and is starting to creep to the top of my list. I also hear it is a great place to live. Nice mix of photos! I especially like the kebab street food photo–the man’s expression is great.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      I need to start taking more people shots I think. He probably couldn’t figure out why I would want to take a photo of him doing his job! I guess I would find it weird if someone took a photo of me at my desk haha.

  8. Theodora

    January 15, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Aw, you’re making me miss Istanbul now…

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      Well your Himalayan adventures are making me jealous! Lets call it even 🙂

  9. Jennifer

    January 15, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Beautiful photos! We’ve only been to Istanbul on a long layover. We had 8 hours coming home from Jordan, so took the opportunity to grab a visa and explore the old city a bit. We really only had time for the Blue Mosque, the spice market, and the Grand Bazaar. We did eat corn on the cob from one of those stands though! We definitely need to go back.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Sounds like you did quite a lot in just 8 hours anyway. Well done! Most people would probably just sit in the airport watching movies. We actually didn’t really enjoy the corn, probably because it had been there all day haha.

  10. Vera

    January 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Very cool pictures! I’ve been to Turkey, but not to Istanbul – yet! Keep hearing a lot of good stuff about it, though, also in terms of hipness and stylewise. Pretty sure it’s another big city that could win me over rather quickly:)

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      I think that Loz would break his camera by taking too many photos 😉

      • Laurence

        January 16, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        It’s starting to become an issue 😉 Love the shot titled “Minarets and Entrance to Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque” – that’s just gorgeous 🙂

        • Cole Burmester

          January 17, 2013 at 9:44 AM

          Have learnt so much about editing in the last few months. Starting to go back through old photos and edit them. Very pleased with myself haha.

  11. Pete

    January 15, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    A beautiful city indeed. If you’ll be back in Turkey this spring, make sure to drop us a line and come and visit 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      We would love to return this spring! Fingers crossed we can explore Cappadocia at sometime this year.

  12. Petite Adventures

    January 16, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    Stunning photos! I’ve heard such amazing things about Istanbul – can’t wait to explore it some day!

    Kate xo

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Hope you get to visit one day soon Kate! It is a wonderful city but make sure you also take the time to explore the rest of Turkey too 🙂

  13. Ali

    January 16, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Istanbul became one of my favorite cities within minutes of arriving. Such a great place!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      Felt exactly the same way Ali 🙂 We arrived late at night and the first thing we did once we checked in was go for a walk.

  14. Delane

    January 16, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    I had a friend who told me to visit Turkey but I didn’t believe that I would like it until now!

    What great photos!!

    Thank you!

  15. Amanda

    January 16, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    Istanbul is one of those cities that I think it would be impossible to hate. It’s SO different from anywhere else in the world, and so alive! I can’t wait to go back sometime soon.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Lets organise a press trip because we want to go back too 😉

  16. Kristy

    January 17, 2013 at 5:09 AM

    The picture of the mosque is so stunning! My friend told me that kebab taste better in Turkey. I wonder if that’s true.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Hahaha which one? We took a few ;D

      • Kristy

        January 17, 2013 at 11:46 PM

        All of them but what I like most is the picture of Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque.

        • Cole Burmester

          January 18, 2013 at 8:15 AM

          Glad we made it so tough to choose your favourite! But I think you might have picked a winner too 😉

  17. Salika Jay

    January 17, 2013 at 6:28 AM

    Beautiful photos and architecture! Istanbul is a place I’m yet to visit and I see why I should plan one. Kebab looks good 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      January 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      Kebabs were delicious! Not sure what makes them taste better there… maybe it is because I wasn’t eating it after drinking all night haha

  18. Micki

    January 17, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Cole, thanks for this. We’re planning to be in Istanbul later this year, and you’ve given us the perfect start on what do do and see. Beautiful photos!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:14 AM

      Did you see our Spice Markets post? Most people head to the Grand Bazaar but I much prefer the smaller, more local, Spice Markets. They are located below the New Mosque in our “Best of Istanbul” post 🙂

  19. Jade -

    January 17, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Turkey is one of those place where I really want to visit in depth… I would love to spend at least 3 months there.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      We only spent 2 weeks there, and half of that was on a boat sailing the coastline so not really authentic. Need to get deeper into Turkey itself!

  20. Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad

    January 18, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    Stunning photos guys! I really need to visit Turkey again,it’s probably been over 15 years since I was there! And haven’t visited Istanbul yet!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:16 AM

      You REALLY need to go back to Turkey if you haven’t been to Istanbul yet Jarmo!

  21. Cheryl

    January 18, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    Gorgeous photos. I hope to travel there for NYE celebrations! Can’t wait. =)

    • Cole Burmester

      January 18, 2013 at 8:17 AM

      Are their NYE celebrations big there? Will have to look into it!

      • Cheryl

        January 22, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        Not quite sure! It’s just been a dream of mine to celebrate one there for an couple of years now!! 🙂

  22. Craig -

    January 18, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    Wow, great pictures. I’ve never been to Turkey, but really want to go.

    The kebabs make my mouth water, I remember having one almost every day when I was in France. How is the food in Istanbul?

    • Cole Burmester

      January 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      All of the local markets and street food was really good. The one meal we had in a restaurant turned out to be over priced, touristy, and the food wasn’t great!

  23. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    January 18, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    I spent about 24 hours in Istanbul, and I was blown away. It was the first time I visited a city with a very different culture, different architecture, different food…. I loved it and I definitely want to return.

    • Cole Burmester

      January 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      24 hours would have been barely enough time to scratch the surface. We felt we need to go back after 4 days there 🙂 Definitely try and make the time for it this year, or soon!

  24. Laurel

    January 19, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I haven’t been to Istanbul yet either, but I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Istanbul. Great photos and glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 20, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      It is a fantastic place Laurel! Chuck it on your to-do list for this year 🙂

  25. Dave

    January 20, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Was in Istanbul for only a few hours (layover) but did manage to see a few of the biggies – can’t wait to go back after seeing these photos!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 20, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      Make sure you have at least 3/4 days there Dave! You guys will love it when you make it over this side of the world.

  26. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    January 20, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    I went to Turkey this past year and was blown away at how my camera’s view finder was imprinted on my face after days out shooting! Gorgeous and pulsating – I came back with nearly 1000 pictures after less than 4 days in Istanbul!