In the mood for some sophistication? Well, you have come to the right place. It usually comes as a surprise to many travellers to discover that Van is by far the most engaging and liberal urban centre in eastern Anatolia. It feels different from other metropolises in the east, not least because of its sizeable student population. Don’t expect too much, though: it’s certainly not hedonistic (you’re not in Marmaris, baby), but there’s a fluid, lively energy to the city and a true joie de vivre, as testified by the daily passegiatta (promenade). As happens in Italy, the whole town promenades up and down Cumhuriyet Caddesi to window-shop, catch up with friends, see what’s new, and generally take things easy. If you want to see young couples walking hand in hand on the main drag or flirting in the pastry shops, this is your chance. The place offers a refreshing change, particularly if you have travelled from rigorous Şanlıurfa or Hakkari.
Beautifully positioned near the eponymous lake, Van doesn’t make the most of its enticing location, with few activities on offer. Forget the lake, and focus on the striking monuments, including Van Kalesi (Van Castle or the Rock of Van), which is a true pleasure.
Van is also an ideal base to journey around the lake or explore the ancient Urartian city at Çavuştepe, the craggy mountain fortress of Hoşap and the remote village of Bahçesaray.