Van Gölü

Lake Van

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Dünya’nın en büyük soda gölü

Lake Van is a huge soda lake, 3712 square km in extent, trapped in a mountainous basin by a volcanic eruption and ringed by rolling uplands, extinct volcanoes and fertile valleys. The deepest point is 450m, and of course there are local legends of a lake monster. In many places, the lake is bordered by pleasant shingle beaches from which you can swim; it is generally very calm and so ideal for children, canoes or sailboards. The water is buoyant and leaves the skin feeling soft and clean; many people prefer it to swimming in the sea.

Several rivers feed the lake, but there is no outflow river and the level is maintained by evaporation. The only fish, the pearl mullet, is found close to river deltas; in spring they migrate into the rivers to spawn, leaping the waterfalls in a fine show. These deltas are an important haven for wildlife; ducks, flamingoes, herons and storks and many smaller birds live there in season. They are also a stopping point for birds migrating from Africa to Siberia.

Lake Van is bordered by several Urartian castles; the most important was the capital at Tuşba, or Van. It has four islands, of which Akdamar Island is well-known for its restored medieval church. Several ferryboats cross the lake – the train route from Istanbul to Tehran uses one of these to transport passengers and freight from Tatvan to Van. Others run from smaller harbours around the lake, linking Van to Ahlat, and Edremit to Akdamar. As well as Lake Van, many small lakes dot the region – these include the freshwater lakes of Erçek, Rusa, Arin and the Nemrut crater lakes.

The average elevation of the region is 2000m, and the highest peaks are Süphan (4058m), followed by Nemrut and Erek, at about 3200m. In winter, temperatures sink below freezing and, although precipitation is quite light, the region averages 80 days under snow. Although once the area was covered by cedar forest, nowadays natural forest cover is limited to oak forest to the south of the lake, with some replanting around Van.

Walking is the most natural way to travel and the best way to discover the true essence of this region. To get to know eastern Anatolia, you need to feel the earth beneath your feet. Whichever route you use, the focus will be on water – high crater lakes, bird-filled marshes, or the shimmering expanse of mighty, blue Lake Van.