Welcome to Ahlat

Founded during the reign of Caliph Omar (AD 581–644), Ahlat became a Seljuk stronghold in the 1060s. When the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan rode out to meet the Byzantine emperor Romanus Diogenes in battle on the field of Manzikert, Ahlat was his base.

Just west of Ahlat is an overgrown polygonal 13th-century tomb, Usta Şağirt Kümbeti (Ulu Kümbeti), 300m off the highway. It's the largest Seljuk tomb in the area.

Further along the highway on the left is a museum, and behind it a vast Selçuk Mezarlığı (Seljuk cemetery), with stele-like headstones of lichen-covered grey or red volcanic tuff with intricate web patterns and bands of Kufic lettering.

Over the centuries earthquakes, wind and water have set the stones at all angles, a striking sight with spectacular Nemrut Dağı as a backdrop. Most stones have a crow as sentinel, and tortoises patrol the ruins.

The small museum has a reasonable collection including Urartian bronze belts and needles. At the time of writing a new museum around 300m back towards Tatvan was being completed.

On the northeastern side of the graveyard is the unusual Bayındır Kümbeti ve Camii (Bayındır Tomb and Mosque; 1477), with a colonnaded porch and its own mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca).

Other sites include the Çifte Kümbet (Twin Tombs), about 2km from the old museum towards the town centre, and the Ahlat Sahil Kalesi (Ahlat Lakeside Fortress), south of the Çifte Kümbet, which was built during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent.

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Eastern Turkey Tour - Mt. Ararat to Tarsus

ItineraryDay 1: ISTANBUL – AGRI – MT ARARAT VIEW – ISHAKPASA PALACE – VANStop At: Mount Ararat, Agri, Agri ProvincePick up from your hotel and transfer to the airport for flight to Agri. Arrival and meet your guide and driver. We will start our tour with a photo of majestic Mount Ararat. Duration: 1 hourStop At: Ishak Pasa Palace, Agri, Agri ProvinceWe will also visit the magnificent Ishak Pasa Palace, which was built between the 17th and 18th centuries by a local lord. It is a mixture of Ottoman, Persian and Armenian architectural styles. We get a view of the Dogubeyazit Castle. Duration: 2 hoursStop At: Muradiye Selalesi, VanWe visit the Muradiye Waterfalls on our way to Van.Duration: 1 hourMeals included: • DinnerAccommodation included: Overnight in Van. Elite World HotelDay 2: VAN – CAVUSTEPE – VANStop At: Van Castle (Van Kalesi), VanVan was the ancient Urartian capital. An imposing 9th c B.C. citadel overlooks the town. We will visit the famous Citadel and view Lake Van, which is ringed by mountains, and deep blue in color. It is the largest lake in Turkey and lies at an altitude of 1720 meters. A fortress over 3000 years old was discovered under the waters of the lake. Duration: 1 hourStop At: House of Van Cats, VanWe will continue along the southern shore of Lake Van where you will have some wonderful views and have lunch in Tatvan. After lunch we continue to the northwest part of the lake and visit the Volcano Crater of Nemrut. Duration: 1 hourStop At: Ancient Urartian site of Cavustepe (Sardurihinilli), VanWe take a journey to the ancient Urartian site of Çavuştepe.Duration: 1 hourMeals included: • Breakfast • DinnerAccommodation included: Overnight in Van. Elite World HotelDay 3: VAN – AKDAMAR – NEMRUT VOLCANO CRATER – AHLAT – TATVANStop At: Holy Cross Church, VanAfter breakfast we drive along Lake Van and will take a small ferry to visit the Akdamar Church (Church of the Holy Cross), which is built on an island in the lake. This church, from the 10th century is carved with impressive Old Testament scenes and figures on the outside.Duration: 2 hoursStop At: Nemrut Krater Lake, Bitlis, Bitlis ProvinceWe will continue along the southern shore of Lake Van where you will have some wonderful views and have lunch in Tatvan. After lunch we continue to the northwest part of the lake and visit the Volcano Crater of Nemrut. Duration: 1 hourStop At: Ahlat Mezar Taslari, Bitlis, Bitlis ProvinceAnd then to the ancient cemetery of Ahlat. The eerie lichen covered tombstones left by the Ahlatshah dynasty and others are each one of a kind with intricately carved inscriptions. These impressive stelae all face in the same direction and make for an unforgettable photo with the background of the mountains and Lake Van. We continue to Tatvan and overnight.Duration: 1 hourMeals included: • Breakfast • DinnerAccommodation included: Tatvan Kardelen HotelDay 4: TATVAN – HASANKEYF – ANITLI – MIDYAT – MARDINStop At: Hasankeyf, Batman, Batman ProvinceWe depart after breakfast and continue to Hasankeyf, which is an ancient city located on the Tigris River. We view the Mausoleum of Zeynel Bey who was the son of Uzun Hassan ruler of the Akkoyunlu Dynasty who had control of Hasankeyf in the 15th century, the old Tigris Bridge built in the 12th century by the Artukid Sultan Fehrettin Karaaslan, the ancient citadel and the mint. You will view rock cut stairwells and dwellings in the huge rock face. Hasankeyf is threatened by the Ilisu Damn project and some monuments have been removed access restricted.Duration: 2 hoursStop At: Midyat Old City, Midyat, Mardin ProvinceOn our way to Midyat we will make a stop in Anitli (HAH) village where there is an ancient church and monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Syriac name of the church is Yoldath (Aloho) and according to the local Syriac community, the 6th-century church was originally established by the three Kings of the Orient. The church is considered the most beautiful example of church architecture in Tur Abdin. We continue to Midyat and see the old town with its sandstone houses and the steeples of nine Syrian Orthodox churches. Midyat is famous for its silver filigree jewelry and local wine. Duration: 2 hoursMeals included: • BreakfastAccommodation included: Overnight in Mardin Izala Hotel or Maridin Hotel.Day 5: MARDIN – DEYRULZAFERAN – DARA – MARDINStop At: Great Mosque of Mardin, Mardin, Mardin ProvinceToday we visit the city of Mardin, with its golden stone houses that blend into the hills. The houses are often decorated with intricate carvings. This is a very lively trading center with people coming to buy and sell and a great place to look at copperware, jewelry and hand-made soap. See the Great Mosque of Mardin, the Kasimiye Madrasa and get a fantastic view of the Plain of Mesopotamia.Duration: 2 hoursStop At: Deyrulzafaran Monastery, Mardin, Mardin ProvinceWe visit the Syriac-Jacobite Monastery of Deyrulzaferan, which is a beautiful structure made of the native stone.Duration: 1 hourStop At: Dara Mesopotamia Ruins, Mardin, Mardin ProvinceWe visit Dara which is an amazing village hosting a Necropolis which was dug into Roman quarries, a roman water purification system and underground cisterns.Duration: 1 hourMeals included: • BreakfastAccommodation included: Overnight in Mardin Izala Hotel or Maridin Hotel.Day 6: MARDIN – HARRAN – SANLIURFAStop At: Harran Ruins, Harran, Sanliurfa ProvinceWe depart for Harran, city of the prophet Abraham, with its fortress, the world’s first Islamic University and beehive shaped adobe houses.Duration: 2 hoursStop At: Cave of Abraham, Sanliurfa, Sanliurfa ProvinceWe continue to Sanliurfa for lunch and then visit Abraham’s Cave where it is thought that the prophet was born.Duration: 15 minutesStop At: Balikligol, Sanliurfa, Sanliurfa ProvinceWe will also wander the gardens and see the Pools of the Holy Carp. The Halilurrahman Mosque on the sacred pool was built in 1211. We continue for some shopping and exploring in the Old Bazaars. These are old stone arcades from the 16th century. Important bazaars are Gumruk (Customs), Haci Kamil, Mencek, Bican Aga and Topcu Hans. Traditional crafts are still being practiced and you can find colorful material, scarves (Kefiye or Agali) and outfits, copper, wood and household items. Colors and scents may overwhelm you. Duration: 2 hoursMeals included: • Breakfast • DinnerAccommodation included: Overnight in Sanliurfa. Hilton Garden Inn or El Ruha Hotel. Day 7: SANLIURFA – MUSEUMS – GOBEKLITEPE – SANLIURFAStop At: Sanliurfa Archeology and Mosaic Museum, Sanliurfa, Sanliurfa ProvinceWe visit the Archaeology and Mosaic Museums where you will start to learn about Gobeklitepe and see some amazing finds from the site and others in the area and also see some intricate mosaics such as those of the Amazon women. Surrounding the museum grounds are the remains of cave houses.Duration: 2 hoursStop At: Gobeklitepe, Sanliurfa, Sanliurfa ProvinceWe drive to see the real thing! Gobeklitepe, which is one of the most incredible archeological finds ever as the remains are those of the earliest religious structures yet to be discovered. With its T-shaped megaliths carved with strange images of animals. Gobeklitepe is at least 12,000 years old and is still being excavated. It is possible after we return to Sanliurfa to visit the Great Mosque and walk in some back streets where we can visit the Memorial House of Klaus Schmidt who led the excavations of Gobeklitepe until 2014. His wife, who is also an archeologist still lives in the historical house, does artwork and seminars.Duration: 2 hoursMeals included: • Breakfast • DinnerAccommodation included: Overnight in Sanliurfa. Hilton Garden Inn or El Ruha Hotel.Day 8: SANLIURFA – MT NEMRUT – ADIYAMANStop At: Severan Bridge, AdiyamanToday we drive to Mount Nemrut, which is the highest mountain (2150 m) in Northern Mesopotamia. Our first stop is Cendere Roman Bridge - built by Septimus Severus in the 2nd century AD. Duration: 30 minutesStop At: Arsemia Antik Kenti, KahtaContinue to Arsemia with relief carvings of Antiochus and Hercules.Duration: 30 minutesStop At: Karakus Tumulusu, KahtaSee Karakus, a tumulus of the royal Commagene women. Duration: 15 minutesStop At: Mount Nemrut, AdiyamanWe continue to Mt Nemrut and visit the East and West terraces, fire altar, statues of Apollo, Zeus, Hercules, Tyche and Antiochus Epiphanes I, Tumulus. We then descend down the mountain through small villages and beautiful scenery.Duration: 2 hoursMeals included: • BreakfastAccommodation included: Overnight in Adiyaman. Grand Isias Hotel, White Star or Hilton Garden Inn.Day 9: ADIYAMAN – GAZIANTEP – ADANAStop At: Bakircilar Carsisi, Gaziantep, Gaziantep ProvinceAfter breakfast we drive to Gaziantep. The artisans of Gaziantep are specialists in making copperware and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The city has a fortress with 36 towers originally constructed in the Justinian era and later rebuilt by the Seljuks. See the Old town of Gaziantep with beautifully carved stonework of doors and windows in the old parts of town and the bazaar. Gaziantep is also known for its cuisine so we should enjoy a traditional meal with specialties of the region such as lahmacun, kebabs, cig kofte and sweets such as baklava.Duration: 2 hoursStop At: Zeugma Mosaic Museum, Gaziantep, Gaziantep ProvinceWe will visit the Zeugma Mosaic Museum which is the second largest mosaic museum in the world containing 1700 m2 of mosaics. The collections are focused on finds from Zeugma. Here you can see the famous “Gypsy Girl” Mosaic. We will continue to Adana.Duration: 2 hoursMeals included: • BreakfastAccommodation included: Overnight in Adana Senbayrak City Hotel, Masel Hotel or Ibis Hotel. Day 10: ADANA – TARSUS – ISTANBULStop At: Ancient Road, Tarsus, Mersin (Icel), Turkish Mediterranean CoastWe will drive to Tarsus and discover the rich religious heritage of this town which is the birthplace of St Paul. We will visit the Ancient road of Tarsus.Duration: 15 minutesStop At: St. Paul Kuyusu, Tarsus, Mersin (Icel), Turkish Mediterranean CoastSt Paul’s Well and the foundations of the house where he is believed to have lived.Duration: 15 minutesStop At: Old Tarsus Houses, Tarsus, Mersin (Icel), Turkish Mediterranean CoastWe will take a walk in the old district of with its beautiful stone houses and continue to the ruins of the Roman baths. We see the church mosque which is one of the oldest places of worship in Tarsus and may have been the original cathedral of St Paul. Although converted into a mosque this church still has Christian religious frescoes. Duration: 1 hourStop At: St.Paul's Church, Tarsus, Mersin (Icel), Turkish Mediterranean CoastWe also visit the Church of St Paul which was built in the 5th century A.D. Duration: 15 minutesStop At: Kirkkasik Bedesteni, Tarsus, Mersin (Icel), Turkish Mediterranean CoastKirkkasik Bedesten (40 Spoons Bazaar) which was built in 1579 and is now a center of handiwork by local women artisans. After the visit we continue to the Adana airport and flight to Istanbul. Upon arrival transfer to your hotel. Duration: 20 minutesMeals included: • BreakfastNo accommodation included on this day.