The former centre of the Urartu and Armenian kingdoms, Van has experienced a rich history under Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman rule. Its features ancient castle ruins and historic churches set on the picturesque shores of Lake Van.
Things to do in Van
The most distinctive landmark in Van is the Van Castle, which stands on a 100-metre-high bluff overlooking Lake Van. It’s reached along a pleasant zig-zag walking trail from the city centre and offers magnificent panoramas across Lake Van.
The small island of Akdamar in Lake Van is home to the beautiful Cathedral of the Holy Cross, an Armenian Apostolic cathedral that dates back to 921 AD. Take a short boat ride across to admire the spectacular bas-relief carvings along its external walls, most of which depict scenes from the bible.
Don’t miss a visit to Hoşap Castle, a large medieval fortress in the nearby village of Güzelsu with mud-built walls from the 17th-century Ottoman era. Combine it with a visit to Cavustepe Castle, which dates back to the ancient Urartu kingdom.
While exploring Van, keep an eye out for the unique Van Cat, named after the town. It is native to Van and distinguished by its snow-white fur and two different-coloured eyes.
Getting around Van
Regular flights from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir land at Van Airport, which is around 10 minutes’drive from Van. Long-distance buses travel to Van daily from most major Turkish cities. There are also frequent ferries between Van and Tatvan on the western shore of Lake Van, and private taxis are available for longer trips.