TatvanEastern Anatolia, located on the western shore of Lake Van.
The region is historically important as the centre of the Urartu and Armenian kingdoms. It later came under the rule of Byzantines, Seljuks and then the Ottomans - see main Wikipedia entry for history.
Tatvan's main importance to travelers is as a transport hub. It's the eastern terminus of the railway from Ankara, with onward connections by road.
A direct train, the Vangölü Express run twice a week from Ankara to Tatvan. The journey is scheduled to take 26-27 hours but is often delayed. There are couchettes and a sleeping car but no buffet. The main stops along the route are Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya and Elazig. Turkish railways, TCDD, offers timetables and online ticketing. Onward train services to Iran have been suspended for reasons variously cited as security and track improvements.
The Vangölü Express is scheduled to arrive before midday, but often pulls into the city at mid-afternoon. However you should still be able to reach Van the same evening – walk 1 km south to town centre to pick up a dolmus. The train back to Ankara departs about 07:00 so that will mean staying in Tatvan the night before.
Tatvan railway stationaddress: İstasyon Cd
By boatA ferry crosses the lake between Tatvan and Van, three per day at irregular times. The crossing takes four hours and the fare for pedestrians is 5 TL.
By carHighway D300 is of a good standard, mostly dual-carriageway, and connects westward to Bitlis (20 km) and eastwards to Van (100 km).
By busBuses run several times a day to Ankara (17 hours), Istanbul (23 hours) and all major cities in Turkey, some involving a change to a connecting bus: see Kamil Koc website for times and prices. Buses run from the Otogar, 2 km north of town centre. They also stop in the centre, and ticket offices are found here.
Frequent dolmuşes run from town centre to Van (100 km, 2 hrs) via the south lake shore, Highway D300. There are no direct services around the north shore. For transport to Doğubeyazıt and into Iran, go via Van.
- Ahlat tombs in the Seljuk cemetery just west of the small town of Ahlat, on the northwest lake shore. Frequent dolmuses from Tatvan, 45 minutes, but ask to be set down at the museum as the town is 3 km further on.
Mount NemrutThis 3050 m mountain broods over the town and lake. It's a dormant volcano, which erupted 250,000 years ago to block the valley outflow and create Lake Van; the last eruption was in 1692. Within its caldera are several small lakes, one of which is always warm enough to swim in, thanks to geothermal hot springs. But no giant heads here! - don't confuse it with the better known mountain of the same name near Adiyaman, 300 km to the west. You can drive up the tarmac road into the caldera, or look to join a tour from Tatvan - enquire at bus offices.
- Akdamar island - 90 minutes by dolmus from Tatvan towards Van, get off at the marina just before Gevas. But Van is the better base for this trip, see that page.
- Van itself is an easy day trip from Tatvan.
Lake Van toursYou can join boat tours on Lake Van departing daily from the waterfront.
Drink Tea with the localsTake a stroll down the main street on an evening and it's more than likely you will be asked to join some friendly locals for Cay (Turkish Tea). A great way to meet local Kurdish people.
Remember to stock up on food the night before if you're taking the train towards Ankara, as it departs early and has no catering. Lots of bakeries and groceries along main street, plus a big shopping mall in town centre with a Carrefour supermarket inside.
Eat & drink
Camping by the lakes on Mt Nemrut is free, but consider the altitude, the logistics and the weather outlook, and the amount of litter can be off-putting.
Gayda Otelphone: +90 434 827-55-04This is the only truly budget option in town. Shared bathrooms, semi-dirty toilets, no breakfast, small clean rooms, comfortable clean beds, very nice staff, no English, wifi, safe atmosphere. There is another Gayda Otel that is more modern (50 TL single). If you ask to see it, one of the staff will take you.
Ustun Oteladdress: Belhic Celik SokakSmall and comfortable hotel, rooms at the rear of the building have a lake view. Comfortable warm lobby to relax in and drink tea. Clean, friendly staff, free WiFi, rooms have attached bathroom with plenty of hot water, good heating in the room, basic breakfast included in the price. Good value all round. They do have some rooms with shared bathroom which may be cheaper.
phone: +90 434-827-3535address: 181 Cumhuriyet CdGood clean budget-to-midrange option, spacious rooms, good rooftop breakfast buffet with lake views
There are numerous internet cafes dotted along the main street in the town centre (some more modern than others) costing 1.50 or 2 TL/hour. There is one just upstairs from office of Van Gölü Seyahat bus company in town centre, open till late at night and very convenient if you're looking into spending your time until your departure.