Introducing Nemrut Dağı National Park
The spellbinding peak of Nemrut Dağı (nehm-root dah-uh) rises to a height of 2150m in the Anti-Taurus Range between the provincial capital of Malatya to the north and Kahta in Adıyaman province to the south (it's not to be confused with the less-visited Nemrut Dağı near Lake Van).
Nobody knew anything about Nemrut Dağı until 1881, when a German engineer, employed by the Ottomans to assess transport routes, was astounded to come across the statues covering this remote mountaintop. Archaeological work didn't begin until 1953, when the American School of Oriental Research undertook the project.
The summit was created when a megalomaniac pre-Roman local king cut two ledges in the rock, filled them with colossal statues of himself and the gods (his relatives – or so he thought), then ordered an artificial mountain peak of crushed rock 50m high to be piled between them. The king's tomb and those of three female relatives are reputed to lie beneath those tonnes of rock.
Earthquakes have toppled the heads from most of the statues, and now many of the colossal bodies sit silently in rows, with the 2m-high heads watching from the ground.
Although it's relatively easy to get to the summit with your own vehicle, most people take tours, organised in either Kahta or Malatya, or as a longer day trip from Şanlıurfa or Cappadocia.
Plan to visit Nemrut between late May and mid-October, and preferably in July or August; the road to the summit becomes impassable with snow at other times. Even in high summer it will be chilly and windy on top of the mountain. This is especially true at sunrise, the coldest time of the day. Take warm clothing on your trek to the top no matter when you go.
There are three ways of approaching the summit. From the southern side, you pass through Karadut, a village some 12km from the top, before embarking upon the last few kilometres to the car park. From the southwestern side, a secondary road goes past Eski Kale (Arsameia) and climbs steeply for about 10km until it merges with the Karadut road, some 6km before the car park at the summit. This secondary road is quite rough in parts, and should only be attapmted by confident drivers. Travellers staying in Karadut can walk the 12km to the summit. It's a clearly marked road with a steady gradient.
From the northern side, you can travel from Malatya via a recently upgraded 96km road until the Güneş Hotel, near the summit. Note that it is not possible to cross the summit by car from the northern side to the southern side.
It costs T8 to enter Mt Nemrut National Park. Coming from the southwest, the entrance gate is at the turn-off to Eski Kale; from the south, the gate is just past Çeşme Pansion; from the north, the gate is at the Güneş Hotel.
Nemrut Dağı National Park destination guides
Eastern Turkey Adventure
Spectacular mosques, rustic Armenian churches and towering stone castles reward those willing to get off the beaten path. From ancient mud brick cities to exotic bazaars and the mysterious fallen stone heads at Nemrut Dagi, this 8-day trip is Turkey at its most fascinating.