Famous in the Bible as the final resting-place ofNoah's Ark, Mount Ararat has been wreathed in legends for millennia.
Its two peaks, Great Ararat (Büyük Ağrı, 5137 meters/16,854 feet) and Little Ararat (Küçük Ağrı,3895 meters/12,779 feet) were revered by the people of ancient Urartu (13th to 7th centuries BC), who gave their name (Urartu = Ararat) to the mountain.
The nearest town to the mountain is Doğubayazıt.
When permits are granted for climbs up the mountain, the treks depart from this town.
The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2000 BC) describes a great flood, as does the later record of Berossus (3rd century BC), and of course the Bible(Genesis and Gospels) and the Kur'an.
In the story, a flood lasting 40 days and nights wipes out all living things except those in a boat or arkbuilt, on orders of God, to survive The Deluge. In the ark are male and female representatives of each species, including Noah, his wife and family.
Recent marine archeological research in the chill, deep waters of the Black Sea has revealed sunken cities on the underwater slopes along the Turkish coast.
Geological evidence supports the theory that in ancient times the northern end of the Bosphorus was blocked by earth and rock. The Black Sea had no outlet (like Lake Van today), and its water level was below that of the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus.
Were there characters like Noah who saw the flood coming and built boats to survive? We may never know. What does seem far-fetched is that any of the boats came to rest on the slopes of Ararat, which is a long way from the Black Sea.
This has not deterred ark-hunters, who have trekked up Ararat over the years in search of Noah's Ark. The most famous expedition was that led by ex-US Astronaut James Irwin in 1982.
In 1985 an expedition led by David Fusolddiscovered a boat-shaped stone formation on a nearby mountain called Musa Dağı ("Mount Moses") east of Doğubayazıt near the village of Üzengili. Using ground-penetrating sonar, Fusold mapped the site and produced intriguing but inconclusive evidence that the stone formation was anything more than a curious stone formation.
Want to go look for yourself? It's not easy. Although guided treks up Mount Ararat were allowed during the 1970s, after several grim incidents the government forbade them because of very real danger from smugglers and other outlaws, Kurdishterrorists, severe weather and wild beasts.
Contact a Ministry of Tourism office to find out what the current permit situation might be.
Landscape near Dogubayazıt.