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IST Photo Walks



You do not like tours? Neither do I… I have always avoided packed tours, all-inclusives, or red hop-on-and-off double-decker  tour buses.    After  many   years  of travelling,  I realized   a  local friend could  be   the best guidebook   to offer insiders’ tips, cultural insights and a homey feeling  because facts and files disappear in a few hours, but impressions we get and connections we make on     journey linger.   I can never choose between the pleasures of the past  or the contemporary, the urban or the rural. It is not the highlights I am after, it is the soul I am chasing.

With over 25 countries under my belt, I apply the same philosophy to Istanbul, combining my passion for the city, arts & culture, photography, cuisine, and architecture in IST photo walks. It is for those who want to have more than a glimpse of the city and Turkish way of life- with a photographic edge.

This   is not a photo workshop which provides technical instruction. Rather, it aims to draw your attention to subtle details and help you capture what is quintessentially Istanbul while introducing you to the true Istanbul state of mind.

Istanbul is vibrant. Overwhelming. The dove and the hawk. Love and hate. If you are looking for a story-teller who would orientate you through this city and tailor your adventure to your desires, whether it be local bazaars, architecture, green spots, Turkish cuisine, or cityscape, this is your good opportunity.

For private walks and group bookings, please contact me at [email protected]



I. Meric, Brighton UK

I wonder if all big cities are like Istanbul to a certain extent, but this city is nothing but an assault on your senses. The crowds, the noise, the dirt, the traffic jams, the rudeness and the anger of people…I can easily make this list longer. What was once beautiful is now either inaccesible or lost under the surface of  the cheap, loud and vulgar.
Nihan’s Photo Walks are indispensible for an explorer who demands more than an average tourist. Sure, Istanbul has some great views, but any guide can show you those places. If you have an appetite for intelligent twists on a scenic route, if you want to discover exquisite parts of a big city which even the locals don’t know, and if you definitely want to combine good veggie food (yum!) with alternative art, history, architecture and photography, Nihan will prove you how a crazy city like Istanbul can still provide a finer beauty that you can’t find in books or guided tours.
photo credit: i. meric/ izmir palas

Rodrigo Nunez, Mexico

This past week in İstanbul has been wonderful; from the beautiful Nişantaşı with its luxurious stores to the Kılıç Ali Pasha mosque, hamam & shop and the infinite stories full of history and your knowledge. This trip wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Although it has gone quicker than we all would have prefered, I am certain we will meet again, whether in istanbul or somewhere else. We will remember with joy the buses, taxis, ferries and countless metres we shared with you. Certainly, the Turkish delight we enjoyed the most was your sweet self. Love, peace and happiness.    

Rodrigo & co.

Sandy Simonian, the USA, jewellery designer

It was a pleasure exploring Istanbul with Nihan, it was like being with a friend instead of a tour guide.  She has a warm, inviting personality and likes to show her clients local neighborhoods of the city that they might not see on their own. 
We spent a few days together walking around and photographing areas of the city that would have been difficult for me to find and feel comfortable in by myself.   I love flea markets. Nihan took me to a very interesting market with antiques and unusual items.  It was invaluable to have her with me to translate from Turkish to English, I was able to know about the piece I was buying and offer the right price for it.  I have traveled to 7 continents and 75 countries and can completely  recommend Nihan and her services. Thank you Nihan for sharing your city with me!
Photo credit: Sandy Simonian


John Howitt, Derby, the UK

Istanbul is a city of marvels. Trying to find everything to see in this city is an impossibility. Despite being obvious, the attractions of sultanahmet, ayasofia, basilica cistern are still majestic, memorable and remarkable locations, but there is so much more. Thankfully, i have been introduced to such gems as Kariye museum, Küçüksu pavilion, Yoros castle, and Yildiz park. In different ways, all very photogenic locations. And the journeys to these locations are also integral to my memories. I can’t forget meandering dolmuş journeys through nişantaşı backstreets, misty yeniköy ferry crossings, an icy cold boat trip to princes islands and the twilight return revealing istanbul’s streetlight silhouette from the sea. Memorable.

Another aspect of my trips with Nihan is the culinary experience. The tasty treasures of nar restaurant, fresh fish (palamut) at Yoros with the bosphorus lapping at our at our feet, being introduced to figs straight off the tree. Anatolian cuisine at çiya restaurant, ekmek teknesi and a small tradesmen’s restaurant in the banking district which i never would have gone to without nihan’s intimate knowledge of the city. Istanbul has become a place that i know well, but without Nihan, only the obvious would have been known to me. I feel more attuned to the way istanbul works, its people and culture through Nihan’s personal guidance through its delightful nooks and crannies.


photo credit: John Howitt/ Rumeli Hisarı fortress




Michel Ocelot, France: author of animated films

Nihan Vural was the absolute answer for my little time in Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul. In her company I could take without worry metro, bus and tram with the istanbullites, and walk and walk and walk, and get to see the grandiose landmarks, breathtaking views, and the modest secrets only an inhabitant can know and which mean so much. And I enjoyed her conversation, her knowledge of ancient history and of immediate actuality, her thinking, her love for this universe-city, a contagious love… I shall come again. In the meantime I take advantage of her great site to keep in touch with the life of her fantastic city.

Gerben, the Netherlands

Istanbul will leave you gasping for air and astonished in every possible way, from negotiating the most mundane aspects of life in this metropolis, such as the incessant noise, the crowds of people and horrific traffic, to trying to grasp and understand the richness, diversity and multi-layered treasures of its history and culture. Whether you want to discover this city’s current mad expansion and ongoing transformation, or dive into it’s multifaceted religious and cultural history, or sample it’s mouthwatering culinary riches, Nihan has got you covered.

Off the beaten track is a horrible cliché and can mean a dozen different things in Istanbul. Fortunately she has them all under her belt and will guide you through all the histories, big and small and even smaller, this utterly fascinating and always intriguing city has to offer. Prepare for a tour full of twists and turns and keep that camera ready!
Photo credit: Gerben/ cats of İstanbul

İdil Kemer, İstanbul, Performer & yoga teacher

I have been living in Nişantaşı district for a while and was curious to know more about my neighborhood. As a performer and a yoga teacher, I have been involved in exploring the body-space relationship through movement and breath. So when I had an opportunity to join Nihan Vural’s Nişantaşı photo walks, I just did not want to miss it.

The elaborate stories that she told revealed a vision of neighborhood that I was hardly aware of before. Her non-linear way of narration has changed the way I perceived my neighborhood in terms of time and space. I would highly recommend such a “unique” everyday experience that intertwines spatial and kinetic experiences with facts and files as well as myths and stories. She skillfully weaves the stories of the residents with the history of architecture. Such an awareness of body in space made me feel more connected to my neighborhood. Thank you!

Teoman Şahin, Istanbul, English Language Instructor

“Walking around Istanbul my eyes wide shut” I suppose that’s what most of us are inclined to do even when our eyes are wide open. Walking in Nişantaşı with Nihan was a pleasant, informative, gripping, holistic but at the same time a melancholic experience that has brought Istanbul alive with many historic and mundane moments in time. An Istanbul, we would only consider to be of concrete buildings or streets. An Istanbul that has unfortunately fallen prey to the sprawling shadow of urban development. An Istanbul whose historical texture goes unnoticed while we are wandering in its streets. I was taken aback to find out that there is more to Nişantaşı than shopping and wining & dining; it was like a time travel in contemporary Istanbul… It was like taking a stroll with Sultan Abdülmecid, who granted the permission and encouraged settlement on these hills, thereby naming it Teşvikiye. I am grateful to Nihan for offering me an urban experience that opened up a new dimension for me in this city with her soft style, and amusing historical anecdotes. This was an outdoor activity I will probably join again and again to invigorate my urban life here. Looking forward to the next walk… Thank you, Nihan.

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Diana Westall, Perth, Australia

I would like to take this opportunity to THANK YOU so much for the wonderful time we spent together last week.  As we explained to you, my partner and I tend to shy away from large tours whilst travelling and to find you and the fact that you could fit us in at such short notice was such a blessing. Your passion and knowledge of the Zeyrek district was inspiring and we were so lucky to be able to learn, and see so much of it with you.  The time we spent in the Mosque together was very special and we felt we didn’t need to actually see inside the Blue Mosque as we had seen the true thing with you.
Your family stories and our little stop at the place you used to visit with your Grandma when you were small was also special.  To be able to taste the special drink, Boza, with a local and the know the history of its contents was wonderful. Also the lunch we shared with you is a highlight of eating we have experienced whilst in Turkey.  Very local, very delicious and very cheap. Once again, thank you so much for your time and professionalism.  We will contact you whenever our Australian friends are coming to Istanbul.  I do not think they could get a better guide anywhere.

Ed Hoenig, U.S.A.

My wife and I had the good fortune to find Nihan online prior to our recent trip to Istanbul. We have traveled a bit and have hired private guides before, but our experience with Nihan was on another level compared to our other guiding experiences. 

This positive experience was mainly due to the warmth, enthusiasm and professionalism of Nihan. We exchanged numerous emails prior to our visit ironing out the details of our tours. Nihan made numerous suggestions and custom tailored our time with her to coordinate with our interests and schedule. Perhaps one of the most valuable suggestions to me personally, was her recommendation to read Orhan Pamuk’s book “Istanbul: Memories and the City” prior to our arrival. The “melancholy of ruins” translates well from his prose and creates a frame through which to view the city and sense the depth of feelings that the city imposes on its residents.

Our relaxed walks through the Karaköy/Galata and Nişantaşı neighborhoods were a delight as we talked together on the significance of everything from architecture and history to the cultural and political changes that were transforming the city even now. Our tiny glimpse into the past and present lives of Istanbulites left us with a sincere desire to return again and reunite with Nihan for more adventures together.

Out of so many powerful feelings and memories, it is hard to convey with words the experience we shared. A few moments stand out in my mind as I write I would like to mention: Sitting on the carpeted floor in the quiet and cool mosques and whispered discussion with Nihan about the significant features and rituals of the mosques and the worshipers. Having lunch together in a Kurdish neighborhood with it’s incredible sights and tastes, then visiting the tea shop next door to purchase the special blend of teas that the restaurant served. Standing in the doorway for photos with Nihan at the entrance to the apartment that Orhan Pamuk had grown up in and wrote so much about. 

We only had 3 days in Istanbul and wanted to maximize our experience there and not just see the typical sights and leave with a lot of photos and no deeper feeling or understanding of this incredible city. We believe that we accomplished this as much as is possible with such a short time to visit, and left with a strong feeling that our lives had been touched by the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of one of the most beautiful, unusual and fascinating places we’ve ever visited.