Lake Van, Eastern Turkey

Last Updated on December 9, 2022

Eastern Turkey's  vast, highly alkaline inland sea calledLake Van (Van Gölü) is surrounded by history andstark beauty.

The city of Van is the goal of most travelers because of its historic sights, hotels, transportation links, beautiful Van cats and other attractions, but Tatvan, on the western shore, is the railhead for trains westward to Ankara and Istanbul.

Just north of TatvanNemrut Dağı (2935 meters/9629 feet) is an extinct volcano holding a beautiful crater lake. (This is not the Nemrut Dağı with the colossal stone statues, which is 500 km (311 miles) W near Malatya.)

Near Gevaş, 90 km (56 miles) E of Tatvan and 44 km (27 miles) SW of Van, you can hire a boat for the 3-km (2-mile), 20-minute voyage north to the island of Akdamar to see its 10th-century Armenian Church of the Holy Cross with fine relief carving.

Edremit, 15 km (9 miles) W of Van, has beaches at which you may dip a toe in the highly alkaline lake—but not if the toe is sunburned or has a cut on it, as the alkaline water will sting mercilessly. If you have dirty laundry, you can wash it in the lake and you won't need any soap.

At Ahlat on the NW shore are unusual Seljuk Turkish tombs and cemeteries. What is now called Malazgirt, 87 km (54 miles) NW of the city of Van, was once Manzikert. On August 26, 1071, Seljuk Turkish Sultan Alp Arslan defeated Byzantine Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes on the field of battle here, opening all of Anatolia to conquest by the Seljuks and, later, the Ottomans.

Van is also the base for visits to the mountain towns of Hakkâri and Yüksekova.

Bitlis, a provincial capital 17 km (11 miles) SW of Tatvan, is set dramatically in a valley, and boasts several Seljuk Turkish mosques and caravanserais, and a castle.

Unless you like long bus or car trips, or even longer train trips, the best way to get to Van is by plane.

See the City of Van and Tatvan pages for distances and travel times.

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