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Earth : Europe : Turkey : Eastern Anatolia : Van
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Armenian Cathedral on Akdamar Island

Van (pronounced vahn, like the English word one) is in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey. It is located on the eastern shore of Lake Van (Van Gölü), a salt lake which is locally known as Van Denizi (“the sea of Van”). Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey.

Get in

By bus

Buses leave to most destinations in Turkey. A ticket to Diyarbakir costs 20 TL (09:00, 12:00 and 23:00, 6 hours), to Malatya costs 25 TL (08:30, 9 hours) and Trabzon costs 50 TL (07:30 and 12:00, 12 hours). Remember that most departure times are from the Otogar, a few km's out of town. Free shuttle buses run from the main ticket offices in the town centre but remember to be there at least half an hour before the scheduled departure time. As always, check details when buying the ticket.

Minibuses to Doğubeyazıt and Yuksekova for border crossings to Iran.

There are also two buses a day to and from Urmia in Iran costing only 15 Euros.

By train

From Istanbul’s Haydarpaşa station (on the Asian side) there are trains direct to Tatvan, a town on the west side of Lake Van, two times a week, on Mondays and Fridays. This train (Vangölü Express) departs from Haydarpaşa at 10:55PM and calls in a number of cities and towns across Anatolia, including Eskişehir, Ankara, Kayseri, Sivas, and Malatya among others. According to the timetable all the way between Istanbul and Tatvan takes almost 40 hours (arriving in Tatvan at 2:17PM on Wednesdays and Sundays), frequent and probably long delays discluded. This is the longest (both in terms of miles traveled and time spent inside the train) non-international train journey in Turkey and gives a through panorama of almost all regions of inland Turkey. Inter Rail pass is accepted in this train. Once arrived in Tatvan, you can take the ferry which crosses the lake to Van.

International train from Istanbul to Tehran (Trans-Asia Express) calls in Van once per week (on Thursday evening, around 10pm, as of April 2011), see [3] (note that this link is not up-to-date as of April 2011, despite being the official website, the Van-Tabriz train leaves Van on Tuesday evening, not Wednesday)

Apart from Trans-Asia, there is also another international train service once a week (on Tuesday evening as of April 2011) between Van station and Tabriz in NW Iran.

By plane

There is an airport (Van Airport) located about 5-10 km away from the city. There are flights from Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Antalya. Outside the airport there are taxis to the city costing 20 YTL, but you can also walk for the main road where dolmuses stop and take you to the city only for 1 YTL. A new bus run by the municipality now serves the security entrance to the airport (past the taxis and towards the main road).

To get to the airport from the city centre, dolmuses marked Hava Alani leave nearby Hotel Akdamar (Kazim Karabekir Caddesi). Drive takes about 15 minutes, making weird detour becouse of the major roadworks.

By boat

There is a ferry line in the Lake Van, between Tatvan on the western shoreline and Van on the eastern shoreline. The ferry going to Tatvan leaves three times a day, morning, noon and evening, though departure times are not fixed. 5TL. It takes four hours to cross the lake.

Get around


  • The castle, located on a high hill towards the waterfront from the town with great vistas over the town and the lake. Take a Dolmus to Kale; if you walk to and around the first small building you reach on the road you can find a path up behind it, otherwise go through the official entrance further down to road towards the water and pay the fee.
  • The ancient Armenian church (Ahtamar or Akdamar) on a small island in Lake Van is beautiful. Dating from 921, the church has recently been re-opened after an extensive restoration, making its impressive frescoes possible to see. It is possible to take a dolmus, signed Gevas / Akdamar, from the minibus otogar in the north end of Cumhuriyet Cd, to the boat dock, which lies 50 km west of Van. The ferry across to the island costs 10 TL/person with 16 persons or more. A private boat costs 150 TL. A short wait at the docks for more passengers may prove fruitful if you are an independent traveller. You may take the return ferry one hour after your arrival, otherwise additional ferries that can take you later (don't have to take the same boat back, just take as long as you want on the island). Cost for entry to site is 3TL.
  • The old city of Tuşpa a few kilometres west of the city.


Local people mainly speak Kurdish. The national language, Turkish, is also very common. People, especially the young generation, understand some basic English. Do not expect more.



  • Urartu Halı (handmade carpet), Van edremit yolu (5 miles after van airport), +904322179765, [1]. If you like to see beautiful handmade carpets and kilims you must stop for free presentation.


The city is famous for its breakfast halls (kahvaltı salonu), in which for about 10 lira, you are served a really filling breakfast including locally produced cheese (different types) and honey among many other stuff. The price usually includes an unlimited amount of tea. Look around.



Plenty of hotels around the northern end of the bazaar.

  • Hotel Emre, PTT Caddesi (One street west of the main drag of Cumhuriyet Caddesi, one block north of Hotel Yakut), 0544 497 47 46. A simple hotel with trivial hot showers in the morning. A little noisy outside during the day, but night is silent and with decent staff. No breakfast and no English, but the location is near everything and it's by far the best budget option after the earthquake. 30-40 TL per person.
  • Hotel Ipek, Cumhuriyet Cad. 1. Sokak No: 3 (Close to the big downtown mosque, around the corner from the old Hotel Aslan), 0432 216 30 33. Simple basic hotel, a bit noisy but with friendly staff. No breakfast. single without/with shower 25 / 30 TL.
  • Hotel Asur beside the tourist office, offers clean rooms with attached bathroom. Single 60-80 TL, Double 110 TL including breakfast. The staff speak English and are very helpful.
  • Otel Bahar, Ordu Caddesi, Carsi Polis Karakolu Ustu (east of Cumhuriyet, near the big green mosque), 0539 729 6838. Clean, spacious rooms, nice views of the green mosque on the upper floors, central location, good breakfast and free wi-fi. 60 TL for double room ensuite.
  • Merit Sahmaran Hotel (4 star Hotel), Yeniköy mevkii. Sahil cad.12 KM. No:60 Edremit VAN, [2]. Merit Sahmaran Hotel is 4 star hotel near the Van Lake
  • Hotel Sehrivan, Just off Sihke Cd (Just to the south of the mosque in the main bazaar, Lat Long 38.503404,43.394006). Clean rooms, only 40 TL for a twin single. Very fast wifi access. No breakfast at that price. Twin 40 TL. (38.503404,43.394006)

Get out

  • Iran is only 100 kilometres away in the east. It is possible to go by road or rail. (Be sure to have your visa before you arrive in Van)
  • Doğubeyazıt to north, which is near another border gate to Iran, the stunning İshak Pasha Palace, and the legendary Mount Ararat—the highest mountain of Turkey. Doğubeyazıt has fairly extensive bus connections to other destinations in Eastern Anatolia and is an easily accessible destination from Van. Make sure to take the de-tour to Muradiye Waterfalls, located off the highway leading to Doğubeyazıt from Van.
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