Istanbul Atatürk Airport Spotting Guide

Istanbul Atatürk is the busiest airport in Turkey and due to its growing home carrier Turkish Airlines, is always worth a visit. With 60 Mio. passengers in 2016 and only one active runway for arrivals its very easy to catch almost all movements. As you may see on Flightradar 24, the ATC can place 10 aircraft on the ILS. Keep in mind that the traffics in therm of approach is pretty the same as London Heathrow, as an aircraft land every 2 to 5 minutes you won’t be bored, excepted maybe by Turkish fleet. Also the locations are pretty easy to find on foot and as already said, you won’t miss much traffic there.

What about traffics? Turkish Airlines is responsible for at least 80% of the traffic. But you have lots of interesting movements from exotic companies like, Afriqiyah Airways, Air Astana, Ariana Afghan Airlines, Atlas Global Airlines, Azerbaijan, Iraqi Airways, Libyan Airlines, Mahan Air, Malaysia, MNG Cargo, Taban Air, ULS Cargo, ZagrosJet and so on… The airport is open for 24 hours and sadly you can miss some interesting carriers as the fly during the night only.

A detailed flight plan can be found on the airport website.

Written by Julian Mittnacht, Jeremy Denton and Dirk Weinrich (Last update November 2016)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
 Airport Information Runways 17L/35R 17R/35L 05/23
3.000 m (9.843 ft) 3.000 m (9.843 ft) 2.580 m (8.465 ft)
Terminals Terminal 1 Terminal 2
Domestic flights only International flights only
 Spotting Information Ladder not needed
Car not needed
Restrooms Public Toilet at the beach and the FlyInn Shopping Mall
Drinks/Food Lot of Snack Bars/Restaurants are at the beach (Yeşilköy Marina) or the FlyInn Shopping Mall
Hotels Most hotels are pretty close to the Terminal but we ‘recommend’ the Airport Inn Hotel at Yeşilköy Marina as its in a walkable distance to the spots and you have a lot of restaurants next to you as well as the train station to the city. There is also a brand new Crown Plaza Hotel just next to spot #2.
Season There is no special season but its very hot in the summer. Less heat haze problems as you are pretty close to the aircraft.
 Runway Usage 05 80 percent of the day 05 is in use for arrivals
23 if the wind change, 23 is in use for arrivals
17L/35R mainly in use for departures
17R/35L mainly in use for departures

Spot #1 – Fly Inn Shopping Mall – 17/35 arrivals & departures, 05 arrivals
WHERE This spot is on the latest floor of the shopping mall on a balcony, next to the Lavazza Best Coffee Shop and next to the food court of the Fly Inn Shopping Mall, located in Florya. Taxi ride is approximate 10 minutes from the airport. If you stay at Florya park (spot 2), you can easily walk to this position. Just follow the path that is shown on the map. Footwalk is appr. 20 minutes
From the balcony, you have 2 areas (one for the Lavazza Best Coffee Shop where you can seat there only if you take something from the Coffe Shop or you can seat on the orange tables where you can eat every fast food). However, I draw your attention to the fact that if you seat and consume in the Lavazza Coffee, you could asked the server for the Wi-Fi, that could be a help to watch FR24.
WHAT The balcony is located just a few meters away from the perimeter fence and its a well known photo position for the local spotters. You have a great view of all the ramp action as well all the runways movements. You won’t miss a single plane here! Heat distortion isn’t a problem if they are using 35R/L but if you manage to take pictures of planes which land on runway 05, try from around 18:00 other you’ll get to much of heat haze. You have to be careful on one thing, sometimes an aircraft is landing on runway 35L that you are not expected to see.
TIME Best time is from 13:30 until 20:20. In the end of afternoon you can also catch the 05 arrivals around 18:00 (depend on the heat haze)
MISC. Its a great place for spotting as you have all the facilities that you need just behind you. You can sit there on a table in the shadow and can have a drink. Do you want more?
FOCAL LENGTH Runway 35L = 170mm C295 / 116mm 175 / 95mm 320 / 50mm 773

Runway 35R = 210mm 320 / 170mm 739 / 140mm 332 / 116mm 345

Runway 05 = 500mm 319 / 340mm ABF / 290mm 332 / 240mm 773

Spot #2 – Florya Park / boardwalk – 05 arrivals
WHERE All along the board walk is this spot located. To get there take a taxi from the airport to Florya Park, which is a popular relaxing place for the locals as its close to the beaches and is perfect to escape from the trouble of Istanbul City. If you are coming from the FlyInn mall use the tagged footpath on the map (walking time is 20 minutes). The spot is directly along the water so just find a place along the board walk where you would stay.
Another opportunity is to visit the Sosyal Tesisler Restaurant with its large terrasse and large shades over the table protect you from the sun as well. But you need to buy drinks etc. to stay here for a longer time!
WHAT You get all the arrivals if RWY 05 is in use (what is most of the time).
TIME From early morning until around 14:00. Be careful about the weather in morning. Mostly of the time lots of clouds are coming from the north with little rains also until around 12:30.
MISC. There is a public restroom (tagged on the map) next to the beach and some restaurants close to the park. Less shadow along the boardwalk but enough benches to have a seat. SECUTIRY NOTE: Usually you don’t have trouble with the police here and the locals are very friendly too but keep a low profile.
FOCAL LENGTH Runway 05 = 340mm 319 / 290mm 738 / 210mm 788

Pictures taken from the restaurant: Spot #3 – Turkish Air Force – Museum
WHERE The museum is famous and lots of signs could be found on the road. You can reached the museum from Airport Inn Hotel by walk or take a taxi. It’s on Eski Havaalani Cd. street.
WHAT Around 30 war aircraft could be taken like F-16, F-4, F-5, Transall, etc.
TIME Open everyday except Monday and Tuesday from 09.00 to 16.30
MISC. 7TL = 2.46 USD and free for kids.
FOCAL LENGTH 18-55mm in enough Spot #4 – Ataköy Shopping Mall – 23 Arrivals
WHERE The shopping mall is located in the city district Ataköy, close to the harbor and the Hyatt Regency. You can easily reach it by car and public transport.
The spot itself is in a corner of the valet parking in the north east corner just a few meters from the main entrance.
WHAT Arrvials on 23 only from this position.
TIME From morning until late noon.
MISC. You find everything you need within the mall. Supermarket, Restrooms, Fast Food…
FOCAL LENGTH A320 = 250mm; 787 = 190mm

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52 thoughts on “Istanbul Atatürk Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Geoffrey Lee

    Hi thinking of going to IST ,is the Crown Plaza Hotel good for spotting if so does anyone know the best room numbers to see the aircraft.
    Thank you

    1. ykb

      Hey Geoffrey, I’m a planespotter at IST, I would love to help you. I prefer you for spotting Flying Shopping mall, which is the best spotting locatiın. you can sit there all day (there is Burger King and Starbucks) spotting from the hotel is not very good. you can see all 3 runways from flyinn and you won’t miss anything. If you have got more questions I would love to help you. mail:

  2. Tim

    Two questions. What time of year is best to visit IST? I am aware that time is running short as the airport is due to close! Second, have any of the local checked out the new IST airport and possible locations? I appreciate it is early days!

    1. JulianJulian

      Winter month are very short so you don´t have light for a long time at the mall. So better from May till September.
      The new airport is not open yet and I doubt there are photo locations yet.


  3. S Curtis

    I have 5 hour transit at IST on route for spotting trip to Antalya. Then a 3 hr transit layover on way home. Of course i will be air side. Do the terminals offer a view of the aircraft arrival & departures. And does the airport have free wifi. I will not be using binoculars or camera. And will be discrete Just watching aircraft and on my phone watching flight radar 24 to gain reg numbers. And adding them to notes in the phone. Will i have any problems.

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Simon, yes you can see the ramp from both terminals. Use google street view and select the terminal so you can see it.


  4. KENt

    Hi~ I’m a spotter form GUANGZHOU China, I want ask you some question about the Flyinn shopping mall. Frist, I wonder whether the Lavazza Best Coffee Shop is still open now? second, What if I went there from downtown by taxi ,how much will i pay?Third,In the coffee shop,if change the runway for land or take off,shall i spotter in there too? i have 80-400mm and 150-600Sports,there are all my question ,hope you can reply,Thank you !

    1. JeremyJeremy Post author

      Hello! According to recent spotting trip, I can confirm you that the Lavazza Best Coffe Shop is still open. About the price of the taxi, I’m sorry we don’t have a real idea of the costs but it shouldn’t be really expensive… If they switched the runway, from the Lavazza Coffe you will be able to get only the heavies departures and nothing else. I hope they will land from the sea that’s the best procedure to get good pictures. Don’t worry about your cameras, 90% of the time you will use your 80-400mm which is enough. Regards Jeremy

      1. KENt

        Hi Jeremy,

        Thx for your info,i will going to Istanbul Atatürk Airport at July 18th ,and i have some target i want get it —BOEING 737-600 and BOEING 737-500 AIRBUS A300F/A310F , that’s fewer of this aircraft i think ,so i really really want to get it!!!! can you get me some tips about which runway will it use to land or take off ?And can i call the UBER in Istanbul ?waitting for your reply.


        1. JeremyJeremy Post author

          Hi, personal experience and according to locals, they mainly use runway 05 for arrivals. Runway 23 they use for arrivals as well but less than the 05. The two other runways are mainly used for departures so 35R and 35L at the same time. Rarely they leave from 17R and 17L.

          I had a check on the website and according to it, UBER runs at Istanbul so you will be able to get one.

          You will definitely be able to get Airbus 300 and 310 freighter of MNG Cargo and ULS Cargo but for the 735 and 736 that will be more difficult.


          1. Mustafa Sandikci

            Hi guys,

            My name is Mustafa. I’m a local spotter at LTBA. If you are lucky you can get Ukraine 737-500 and Tunisiair 737-600. Also A300-A310 from Mahan Air.

          2. KENT

            oh it’s excite , i will go to LTBA at 18/07/2017, and i’d like to ask you do you know the coffee shop hours of opening?i want stay at night.


  5. Alec Meißner


    First of all let me tell you that the terrible attacks last tuesday were a big shock and that I´m with the people of Istanbul in my heart and thoughts – hopefully all of the victims still in hospital will have a speedy recovery!
    My question aims in the same direction. I was booked to IST last Wednesday for 5 days of planespotting but the flight didn´t operate and so I had to cancel the trip. Would like to give it a second try two or three weeks from now but I can´t find any information right now whether the afternoon location in the shopping mall is still accesible. Also I would like to know if there are general problems with security when spotting from the seaside in the morning. Maybe someone has recent experiences and is able to share them. It would be highly welcomed. Thank you very much and best greetings from Hamburg / Germany!


    1. Rob burns


      I have a couple of transiting flights where I will be in the airport for 7 hours at a time, my question is can I see the arrivals and departures, I am mainly a registration taker and wouldn’t be using binoculars or telescopes or cameras, just gaining the registrations of FR24. Can you confirm if I can see the movements from inside the terminal.



  6. Zhong

    Hello Julian,
    First thanks a lot for your useful information.I planned to go spotting at IST.I have no experiences here and you know a terrorist attack just took place somedays ago so I wonder if it is OK for taking photos of the aircrafts?Will there be some problems with the safe guards of the airport?And I can just speak English.



    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Zhong,

      Personally I would definitely avoid spotting within the terminals or next to it. Don´t use a scanner or binoculars too within that area.
      At the flyInn Mall you should be fine as this is a known place for plane spotting and is tolerated by the staff.


  7. Willem Alberto

    Hello Julian,

    Thx so much for this great info. I Was at the flying Inn 3 years ago. I will return Next sunday afternoon. Also Monday morning I have some hours before my flight 2pm.
    Is 7am a good time to spot (depanding the weather ofcourse) at spot 2? I saw the restaurant will open at 8 am
    Kind regards Willem Alberto

    1. Jan

      Hi Willem,

      yes certainly a good idea to use the monday morning as well! You can start spotting at location two as early as you like, you don’t have to go into the restaurant and you can stay at the promenade. Light should be getting good around 7 AM! Enjoy your time in IST.


      1. Willem Alberto

        Hello Jan

        thx for the info. Ok will stay at the promenade for some hours and hope to see some nice special traffic
        Will enjoy IST and thx again for the great info on this website!

  8. Michael Landon

    I am only in transit in the airport itself for about 12 hours. Are there any location in the transit area where I can spot using binoculars without any hassle from security o others?

    1. JulianJulian

      12 hours transit are a long time so why not take a taxi to the flyinn mall?
      You can see the apron and the movements from the gate area but I wouldn’t use binoculars within that area.


      1. Michael Landon

        Thank you, Julian, for your helpful reply and especially your warning about using binoculars around the gate area.

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi, I don´t know if there are any hotels close to the mall but Yeşilköy is close to the mall and you will find plenty of hotels there. And its a nice area next to the sea.

  9. Carl

    Hello I’m coming to Turkey in August my first time spotting will a telescope be ok as my telescope is very big and sometimes I do get stopped would this be a problem in Turkey

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Carl

      We have no experience with telescopes as we are all using a camera. But I think the Fly Inn Mall is a safe place and I can´t imagine you get problems there.


        1. JulianJulian

          I thinks its difficult to get the TK fleet as they are not all have their base in IST. AFAIK they have some planes in SAW and ESB too.

  10. mick palmer

    im coming turkey as soon as I have had and recovered from hip operation that will be mid june
    im hoping I will be able to get about on crutches ok
    im hoping to stay for approx. 2weeks doing both IST airports
    are hotels cheap if I book in advance
    also which hotel would you recommend
    thanks mick

    1. MarlinMarlin

      Hi Mick!

      Hope you will recover quickly from your operation!
      First of all, there are many hotels nearby both Istanbul airports belonging to diverse categories.
      Hotels are usually cheapest when you book in advance. Which hotel you like best is always subject to your expectations and personal standards. Price for hotels are ranging from 49EUR to 500EUR per night for hotels nearby Ataturk. Check for further details.
      If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us again!
      Have a safe trip, Mick and get well soon.


  11. William Mah

    Hello Julian:

    Thank you for the detailed info of the airport. Is it easy to get a taxi at Flyinn Mall? Thank you very much.



    1. JulianJulian

      Hi William,

      yes its pretty easy to get a taxi to the Mall and its not a long ride too.
      But notice the address in the case the taxi driver is new to the city 😉

      Enjoy your trip

      1. William Mah

        Thanks, Julian!

        What about if I want to take a taxi at the Mall to get back to the hotel? Are there many taxi at the Mall?

        Thank you very much!



        1. JulianJulian

          Hi William, there is a taxi remote stand at the entrance of the mall and its absolutely no problem to get one there.


          1. William Mah

            Hi, Julian:

            I’ll be going to Istanbul Airport in early next month, thank you for all info which is very helpful!



  12. ALAN

    good evening Julian

    i am most impressed with the information that you have, so i am looking at coming over sometime in sept 15 and having looked at the hotels i have selected the Airport Inn Hotel on the beach

    Now i will be on foot so from you map the hotel to the Flyinn how long would it take bear in mined will not be in a rush to get their.

    and also one other thing from the hotel to the Turkish AF Museum how long will it take to walk looking at the map poss no more than 20-30mins

    any other advice please let me know

    many thanks for your time

    Belfast City Airport

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Alan,

      the hotel is very close and you can easily walk.Walking time was something between 20 and 30 minutes to the spot at the park.
      The museum is also in a walkable distance, very close to the train station Yeşilköy where the train starts to the city.


  13. Daniel R.Carneiro

    Hi! I’ll be visiting IST on October 16 and would like to spend a time spotting at Flyinn.
    How could I reach this point from old centre (I’ll be at Asmali Hotel) by public transportation (bus, metro, etc)?

    Best regards,
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Daniel,

      I would use the train to Florya station an would walk from there to the mall. A station is not far away from your hotel and you don’t need to change the trains. Otherwise you can use the metro to the airport and take a taxi.


  14. Bulent Kavakkoru

    Hello Julian,

    Your website very nice and give info about spotting in Istanbul. I think we meet in seaside I gave you brochure about spotting in Istanbul. My names Bulent and I am member of SpotTR spotting group. Thanks again for this info on your website.

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