Van (170 km east of Bitlis), the ancient Urartian capital of Tuspa, tempts visitors with its location on the eastern shore of the lake. This remote but important city is set in a verdant oasis at the foot of a rocky peak. An imposing 9th century B.C. citadel overlooks the new and the old parts of town. Steps carved in the rock lead to the Urartian fortress.
Halfway up the steps, inscriptions in cuneiform pay homage to Xerxes. Within the fortress are several Urartian royal rock tombs. In the old city, the Ulu Mosque, Husrev Pasa Mosque, Kaya Celebi Mosque and the Ikiz Kumbet reflect Seljuk and Ottoman architectural styles. Van’s interesting Archaeological Museum is in the new city, inland from the uninhabited old district. Still very much part of a traditional lifestyle, the women of Van produce beautiful kilims woven in blue, red and white patterns. The exotic Van cat, a protected specie, has thick white fur and one blue and one green eye.
At Van Iskelesi (Van Harbour), friendly tea gardens and restaurants invite you for a break. Edremit, a holiday resort center 14 km to the southwest, has good beaches, swimming and camping. In the same direction is Gevas, where you can visit a Seljuk cemetery with numerous decorated headstones, and the lovely Halime Hatun Turbe (Mausoleum).
On the pastoral, winding road to Hakkari, the Zernek Dam Lake offers itself as a resting spot on the way to Hosap, 60 km from Van, where a 17th century fairytale castle rises above a small hill. Although the interior is badly damaged, the exterior walls, crenellations and turrets are well preserved.
Among the interesting geographical features around Lake Van, the Muradiye Waterfalls, 88 km north of Van, with a peaceful tea garden and restaurants, and Gahnispi Beyaz Cesme Falls, 60 km south of Van, are worth visiting.