A lunar landscape of barren shores and eerie mountains rings Turkey’s largest lake, 119km at its widest. The natural base is sizeable, nondescript Van, rebuilt for exploring the area after the old town had been destroyed by occupying Russians in 1918. On a limestone outcrop between Van and the lake known as the Castle of Van stand the remains of Tushpa, the former capital of the Urartian kingdom which flourished between the 9th and 7th centuries BC. Here you can see eroded battlements, rock tombs and cuneiform inscriptions. Back in the nearby good Van Museum which displays many rare Urartian finds.
The lake’s top sight is Ahtamar Island, a tiny island approached from just west of Gevas. The attraction here is its Armenian Church of the Holy Cross which was built in the 10th century and whose glory rests in the richly sculpted reliefs of biblical scenes on its exterior walls.