Tatvan - Ahlat - Adilcevaz - Erciş - Muradiye - Van - Gevaş
The surroundings of Lake Van, the biggest lake in Türkiye, are among the oldest settlements in Anatolia. Lake Van and its surroundings became an important center of civilization when the Urartians, who lived in the region starting from the 13th century BC, established an empire in the 7th century BC.
This deep history enriched the culture of the region. The region, which bursts with the beauty of nature, is abundant in historical structures. Its cultural richness is mirrored in the regional cuisine which is rooted in a rich history and traditions.
Today Lake Van is surrounded by two provinces: Van on the east and Bitlis on the west. The cuisine of these two provinces has common characteristics, yet at the same time features different specialties.
We can start our culture and gastronomy tour at Bitlis. Bitlis province has three towns which have coasts to the lake: Tatvan, Ahlat, and Adilcevaz. All three are famous for numerous meat and vegetable dishes.
The most popular dish of Tatvan, which is located between the foothills of Mount Ağrı and Lake Van, is büryan, lamb roasted to perfection in a belowground coal-fired oak tandır (tandoor) oven before emerging in all of its glory, ready to be sliced and savored with fresh flatbread. If you would like to start with a soup, gebol is a good option, made of corn and served with butter. Şemşemok, pastries filled with chopped meat seasoned with spices, is a delicious warm appetizer. You can finish off your meal with güzbez – with plenty of walnuts added to boiled honey, it promises an unforgettable taste and a burst of energy.
Before leaving Tatvan for Ahlat, make sure you visit the Urartian Stone Tombs and Kalekıran Hill to enjoy a beautiful lake view.
Ahlat, located north of Tatvan, is literally an open-air museum. Historical tombstones and domes, ruins of a castle, old mosques, and cave houses await you here. A special place to visit is the Tombstones of Ahlat at the Uranian and Ottoman citadel, which are some of the most outstanding tombstones and mausoleums of the early Turkish period in Anatolia.
If you are sitting at a table in Ahlat, these two dishes are a must: çorti, a cabbage dish, and harse. Çorti is prepared by boiling fatty meat with bones in pickled cabbage juice called çorti. Harse is made of chicken breast roasted in a tandoor oven with wheat and then mixed until it becomes a thick paste. As a dessert we recommend Ahlat lokması, ring-shaped fried dumplings covered in syrup.
Thirty-five km east of Ahlat is Adilcevaz. Adilcevaz is a walnut paradise. There are more than 30,000 walnut trees in the region which sends walnuts to many regions in Türkiye. The most popular dish in Adilcevaz is içli köfte prepared by filling bulgur wheat with spicy minced meat.
Let's keep moving eastwards. We are now in Van province. Erciş is located on the northern coast of Lake Van and the Urartian tombs, Erciş Castle, and Ardzvaber Monastery here are worth visiting.
Erciş cuisine is famous for tandır balığı, indigenous inci kefali (pearl mullet) cooked in a tandoor oven, and kavurmalı ucgun ekşilisi. Usgun or sometimes called ışkın (wild rhubarb) is commonly used in Van cuisine. Kavurmalı ucgun ekşilisi is prepared by frying this unique plant with onion and seasoning with tomato paste and fried meat.
After Erciş, we will first move east and then south. We will pass Muradiye and arrive at Van city center. If you want to change your route, you can visit Muradiye Waterfalls, Seytan Bridge (Devil’s Bridge), built in the 19th century, and Saint Stephanos Church in Muradiye.
Van breakfast is a popular term in Turkish gastronomy. Words cannot really do it justice: various types of local cheeses, honey, Van specialties such as murtuğa, a unique combination of local butter, eggs, and flour... You can find Van breakfast in many other cities in Türkiye, but the most original one definitely awaits you in Van city center.
The most popular dish at the Van breakfast spread is Van otlu peyniri.(herbed cheese) It is a local cheese usually made of ewe's milk and seasoned with local herbs including – using their local names - sirmo, heliz, mendo, siyabo, kekik, nane, and sov otu. Make sure to include Van’s unique karakovan honey at your breakfast table.
After a rich Van breakfast, you will need to move a bit to aid digestion. The best option for this is to visit Van Castle built by the Urartians in the 9th century BC. This majestic castle, made of massive stones, is one of Van’s most symbolic buildings.
We recommend you have keledoş for dinner. The dish consists of chickpeas cooked over a long period of time with wheat, lentils, and lamb meat, and served with butter.
Our last destination around Lake Van is Gevaş. The most important places to see in Gevaş, which is 50 km southwest of Van, are Akdamar Island and Akdamar Church on the island. You can reach the island by boat from Gevaş. The most popular dishes in this historical settlement are tuzlu balık (fish cooked in salt) and mumbar dolması. Tuzlu balık is indigenous inci kefali (pearl mullet), which is grilled after resting in salt for three days. Mumbar dolması is prepared by stuffing minced meat, rice, and spices into sheep intestine casing.
- Lake Van
- Mount Ağrı
- Urartian stone tombs
- Kalekıran Hill
- Tombstones of Ahlat at the Uranian and Ottoman citadel
- Ahlat Castle
- Erciş Castle
- Ardzvabar Church
- Seytan Bridge (Devil’s Bridge)
- Saint Stephanos Church
- Van Bridge
- Akdamar Island
- Akdamar Church
- Gebol soup
- Güzbez dessert
- Ahlat lokma dessert
- İçli köfte
- Kavurmalı usgun ekşilisi
- Van otlu peyniri (herbed cheese)
- Karakovan honey
- Tuzlu balık
- Mumbar dolması
- Indigenous flowers like Delphinium and Ranunculus around Lake Van
- The salty water of Lake Van
- The cool water of high-altitude plateaus
- The story of Akdamar Church
- The legends about Lake Van from the local people