Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport (IST) is the world’s 6th busiest and the city is planning to add a third – the world’s largest – by 2017, making chances pretty good if you fly often enough, you’ll eventually be above these Turkish skies. Whether you’re arriving for the first time or simply want to savor one more Istanbul-moment after a trip, you can use my photo above to quickly spot out some of the city’s most famous sites. I took this picture months ago without the intention of using it as a makeshift map, so please excuse the graininess. (I also inverted the photo so it’s oriented with north on top and west to the left. Here’s the original picture plus wider-angle by my friends Turkey’s For Life.)
To get these views under normal conditions, sit on the left side of your plane when arriving from Europe, the United States, or points west; the opposite for departures and points east. As impressive as these landmarks are from above, you’ll have to venture in the Basilica Cistern, say happy birthday to the 1,476 year-old Hagia Sophia, then eat your way through Istiklal Avenue to appreciate them from inside out.