It is an ancient city on the east side of the country’s largest inland body of water, Lake Van. The capital of an ancient civilization, Van is one of the most important tourist centers in the region.
It is assumed that it was founded by the Hurrians in the 16th century B.C. In the 9th century B.C. the city, called Tuşpa then, was an Urartian city.
Because it was the capital of the Urartu Empire between 830 B.C and 694 B.C, the traces of the Urartians are abound in the center and around the city. It is known that it was later named Van after a prince who played an important role in the city’s growth.
The first settlement of Van, which was under the rule of different cultures after the Urartian domination, was in the quarter which is known as the Old Town at the present time. The city was captured by Sultan Selim the Grim in 1514 and became an Ottoman city in 1548 during Sultan Selim the Magnificent time.
The citadel, 2 km inland, and the ruins on the plain on the outskirts of the citadel prove the cultural diversity of the area. The old town was destroyed during Armenian attacks in 1895 and most of the buildings were ruined. After its destruction during World War I, the city was founded on its present site. The Grand Mosque, the mosque and tomb of Hüsrev Pasha, still resisting time, can be seen in the Old Town.
The governor of the city, Hüsrev Pasha, had the mosque built in 1565. The monument was built by the architect Sinan, but very few of the colourful tiles on the walls have survived to the present time. The hewn stone hexagonal tomb, is covered by a pyramid shaped cone with 12 angles.
The Urartian castle, 2 km. east of the lake, was built on a hill by the Urartian king Sarduni I in 855 B.C. The castle, ruined during an Assrian attack, was restored in Byzantine, Seljuk, Akkoyunlu and Ottoman periods. The Ottomans elaborated a mosque, a madrasah, barracks, a water tank and a store house. Many ancient and medieval works of art were uncovered during the excavations directed by a foreign scientist in 1889. Two gold inlaid shields found in the castle are now on display in the British Museum in London.
The castle, 1.800 m. in length and 120 m. in width, has corridors, dungeons, caves and altars in it. The view of the Old Town and the lake from the castle is quite impressive.
The Archeological Museum, a twostorey building in the center, has two galleries. The archeological finds uncovered during the excavations at Patnos, Toprakkale, Çavuştepe and Giyimli are exhibited in the gallery on the ground floor. The ethnographical works collected around Van are on display in the upstairs gallery. The museum reflects the cultural diversity of the city.
Besides the Urartian artifacts, there are Islamic, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman works of art in the museum.
The ancient city of Toprakkale on steep rocks, 2 km north-west of Van, was founded by Van-Muradiye the Urartian king Russa I in the 8th century B.C. The city entered its golden age during the reign of Russa II, but it was abandoned after its destruction by the Medes in the 6th century B.C.
Important discoveries have been made at the site since 1879. The castle and the water ways still stand. There is a closed passage with a set of 55 steps leading the rock-cut cave to the top.
The castle in the village of Çavuştepe, 22 km. south-east of Van, is also of interest. The inscription of the castle has it that it was founded by the Urartian king Sarduni in the 8th century B.C. In the twin-castle, different from the other Urartian castles, are a palace, a cistern, a temple and the city walls which have been uncovered so far.
The Hoşap Castle, to the north of the Hoşap Stream, was built on the sheer Rocks of Kartal Yuvası, on the Hakkari road. It was built by Sarı Süleyman Mahmudi (Blonde Süleyman) in 1643. There are 365 rooms, 2 mosques, 3 baths, a prison wells and store houses in the main castle to the southeast. Downhill from the castle to the south is the Hoşap bridge over the Hoşap Stream.
The Turkish cemetery and the tomb of Halime Hatun in Gevaş, churches on Ak-damar and Çarpanak islands, the Muradiye waterfall, tombs in Erciş, the ruins at Dil-kaya and Tilkitepe, and the Urartian period waterways around the city are the sites which are worth a visit.
The largest lake in the country, Lake Van is in the limelight. It takes at least two days to have a tour around the lake, which has an area of 3750 sq. km. It is assumed that the 1720 -meter- deep lake was formed approximately 2,8 million years ago when Mt. Nemrut erupted and blocked the southwest mouth of the old river.
The colour of the lake changes all through the day and offers a marvellous view. There are various rumours about this amazing and impressive phenomenon. Watching the sun set by the lake is really rewarding.