Wan (Van)

Wan (Officially: Van) is a major city in eastern Turkey's Van Province, located on the eastern shore of Lake Van in Northern Kurdistan. It has been a large city since the first mil

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Wan (Officially: Van) is a major city in eastern Turkey's Van Province, located on the eastern shore of Lake Van in Northern Kurdistan. It has been a large city since the first millennium BC, initially as the capital of Urartu in the 9th century BC and later as the center of the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan. It remained an important center of Armenian culture until the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Today, Van has a Kurdish majority. In 2010 the official population figure for Van was 367,419, but many estimates put it much higher with a 1996 estimate stating 500,000 and current co-mayor Bekir Kaya is quoted as saying it may be as high as 1 mio. The Van Central district stretches over 2,289 square kilometres.[i]


Archaeological excavations and surveys carried out in Van province indicate that the history of human settlement in this region goes back at least as far as 5000 BC. The Tilkitepe Mound, which is on the shores of Lake Van and a few kilometres to the south of Van Castle, is the only source of information about the oldest culture of Van.

Under the ancient name of Tushpa, Van was the capital of the Urartian kingdom in the 9th century BC. The early settlement was centered on the steep-sided bluff now known as Van Castle (Van Kalesi), close to the edge of Lake Van and a few kilometers west of the modern city. Here have been found Urartian cuneiform inscriptions dating to the 8th and 7th centuries BC. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Babylonian is called Armenia in Old Persian.


In modern history, under Ottoman Empire from the 16th century, towards the second half of the 19th century Van began to play an increased role in the politics of the Ottoman Empire due to its location near the borders of the Persian, Russian and Ottoman Empire, as well as its proximity to Mosul. During the period leading up to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were well represented in the local administration. The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople estimated 185,000 Armenians in Van, 180,000 Assyrian Jacobites, 72,000 Kurds, 47,000 Turks, 25,000 Yezidis and 3,000 Gypsis. Following the Armenian Genocide between 1915-1918, the province and region was deprived from most Armenians.[ii] 


Van has often been called "The Pearl of the East" because of the beauty of its surrounding landscape. An old Armenian proverb in the same sense is "Van in this world, paradise in the next”.


In 1941, Van suffered a destructive 5.9 earthquake. A more severe 7.2 earthquake occurred on October 23, 2011.[iii]



[i] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia


[ii] “Armenian Genocide”. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide. Retrieved 2014-07-15


[iii] "Report: Death toll rises to 217 after massive earthquake in Turkey". CNN. 2011-10-24. Retrieved 2011-10-24.

Drinking tea is especially important to residents in Wan, so many visitors like to partake of this ritual as well. Cheese is also famous to Wan, with many varieties to try. Additionally, breakfast is especially famous in Wan, where entire streets are named after the meal and hearty dishes are served for dine-in or take-out. Akdamar Church - Located on the Akdamar Island in the middle of Lake Van, this tiny ancient church is now open to visitors, following a recent renovation. A ferry or private boat can take tourists to the island for visits.

Lake Van - This large lake -- the largest in Turkey, actually -- attracts many tourists for its clean waters and favorite fishing spots. Picnic along the shore or take a boat tour.

Van Fortress - Also referred to as the Van Citadel, this ancient fortified compound was built on the hill overlooking Wan. It is built of mud bricks and basalt.

Hosap Castle - Located in the village of Hosap, about a one hour drive from Wan, this medieval fortress is fairly well preserved and open to visitors. The remains of the original 1643 building were restored in the 1970s and 80s.
Wan (Officially: Van) has many options for tired travelers. Everything from high-end hotels to mid-range stays to camping. For a luxury vacation, try the Elite World hotel or the Merit Sahmaran hotel, both with on-site restaurants and lavish amenities. Transportation to and from Wan is very easy with options for air, train, boat, bus, and car travel. The domestic airport in Wan connects travelers to Istanbul, Antalya, Izmir, Diyarbakir, and Ankara. There are trains directly from Istanbul to Tatvan, the city located directly opposite to Wan over the lake. At Tatvan, the passengers boards a ferry to complete their trip to Van. Once a week, the Trans-Asia Express train stops in Van as well. Buses from all the major cities in Turkey offer transportation to Wan and of course, travelers may also drive to Wan with their own vehicle or a rental.

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