Van Castle (Van Kalesi) & Eski Van

sights / Historic

Van Castle (Van Kalesi) & Eski Van information

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About 4km west of the centre, Van Castle dominates the view of the city. Try to visit at sunset for great views across the lake.

The site is fairly spread out, something to bear in mind when it's scorching hot. Ask to be dropped off the bus at the northwestern corner of the rock, where there's the ticket office and a tea garden.

Just past the ticket office is an old stone bridge and some willows. To the left, a stairway leads up the rock. On your way up is a ruined mosque with a minaret, as well as an arched-roof building, which used to be a Koranic school.

From the summit the foundations of Eski Van (the old city) reveal themselves on the southern side of the rock. The flat space punctuated by the grass-covered foundations of numerous buildings was the site of the old city, destroyed during the upheavals of WWI. A few buildings have survived and are clearly visible from the top: the Hüsrev Paşa Külliyesi , dating back to 1567, which has been restored and has a kümbet (tomb) attached; the nearby Kaya Çelebi Camii (1662), with a similarly striped minaret; the brick minaret of the Seljuk Ulu Camii ; and the Kızıl Camii (Red Mosque).

At the ticket office ask the custodian (he'll expect a tip) to show you the huge cuneiform inscriptions (ask for the tabela ) as well as the numerous khachkars (Armenian crosses) that are carved into the southern side of the rock. Look out also for the water reservoir, an ancient hamam and a ruined palace (not visible from the top of the rock). The Kızıl Camii and Ulu Camii can also easily be approached, further south. Taking some distance from the rock to get a wider perspective, the custodian may point out various rock-cut funeral chambers (not visible from the base of the rock), including that of King Argishti.

On the way back to the ticket office, ask the custodian to show you the Sardur Burcu (Sardur Tower; 840–830 BC), in the little willow forest (as there's no sign, it's not easy to find). It's a large black stone rectangle sporting cuneiform inscriptions in Assyrian praising the Urartian King Sardur I.

To get to the castle, take a 'Kale' minibus (TL2) from İskele Caddesi opposite the Hz Ömer Camii.