Van is the Hidden Tourist Destination In Turkey

Last summer, we (me and my husband) decided to spend our vacation in Turkey. Our plan was to visit at least two cities there. I started searching through Google Maps to find out which cities are convenient for us to travel to. We usually search on Google Maps and click on a place or city then we do some research about it and after that we make a final decision for our destination.

Turkey is a popular destination amongst international tourists. Some cities of this country are in Europe, while others are in Asia. The European cities in the west of Turkey are more famous and attract more international visitors like Antalya, Izmir and Istanbul. On the other hand, the cities is the east are not well known as a tourist destination. I should mention that Istanbul is an unique city, and located in two continents, Europe and Asia.

I have been in Turkey a couple of times and visited Cappadocia, Istanbul, Antalya and Konya, mostly the western part of the country. We decided to visit Istanbul, because you never get tired of this particular city, and Van in the east side of Turkey.

There is no direct flight from any European cities to Van. Thus, we had to go to Istanbul first and then travel to Van. There are couple of flights every morning from the Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport to Van. Therefore, we booked our flight from London to Istanbul and another flight in the following day to Van. We booked a night at the Gokcen airport hotel, because our flight to Van was the morning after and we wanted to avoid any chance of missing it.

The standard flights usually go to Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the main airport. Some Pegasus flights from Europe land in the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, but their time were not suitable for us. Our flight was with Turkish Airlines and we arrived to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in the afternoon. The airport is closer to the city and really far from the other airport. We had plans to go to the central and eastern part of the city to visit a friend of mine.

Be Aware of Taxi Scam in Istanbul

We took a bus to Taksim square and I will highly recommend you to do the same, because it is cheap and comfortable to get to the city centre. We had to go to the Asian side, so we called a cab and he charged us 150 Lira after going around for more than an hour. After discussing with my friend and local people, we found out the route is about 20 or 30 minutes which costs normally 60 to 70 Lira. Yes! we faced the first common issue in the Istanbul city on our very first day.

There are more than 20,000 taxis around the city and you will find that some drivers are not very honest, especially with international visitors. That is why you should check your route and check the approximately fee here.

As I mentioned earlier, the other airport is outside of the city in the Asian part, so our journey to the hotel didn’t finish. After having dinner in a local restaurant in Kadikoy, we caught a coach to our hotel, located in the airport.

Van: Small, Friendly and Different

We arrived in the Van airport before noon. We took a taxi to go to our hotel, called Menua Hotel. This time we check the route in our map and the taxi driver followed the route. The taxi fare in Van is cheaper than Istanbul and you will find out that the taxi drivers are more honest and helpful. It is better for you to learn some basic words in Turkish, because almost no one talks English in this small city.

Van Is a Small City

The Menua hotel is located in the centre and is a four stars hotel. The staff can speak English even though not properly. They are so helpful and you need to just explain them what you need by drawing or using body language sometimes, then they will help you right away. The buffet breakfast was included.

Van Lake

Van, city with a long history, is located on the eastern shore of the Van lake. Although the lake is beautiful and suitable for swimming, you can’t find a lot of opportunities for water ports and beach activities. Therefore, it is better to focus on the striking monuments, including Van Kalesi which means Van Castle or the Rock of Van.

Van Castle or The Rock of Van

Also, you can take a boat and go to the Akdamar Island and visit the Church of the Holy Crosson. We were lucky, because when we visited the church we could watch the traditional orthodox wedding ceremony outside the church.There are a couple of restaurants and shops, so you can buy fresh food or drinks if you need to do so.

Behind Akdamar Island

The Island is really beautiful and the water is clear and blue. You can go around the Island and spend a day there and relax or swim in the lake. You can get the same boat or ferry to get back to the city.

The Church of Holly Corosson

In the city centre there are shops and a mall. You can’t find famous brands in Van, but you will find Turkish brands and local shops. The price of clothing is not high, so you can buy nice clothes with good quality and save some money. You can give it a try, do some shopping and explore more about the city, culture and its people.

Many buildings in the city have collapsed in the earthquake of 2011. The city has not been rebuilt completely yet, it needs more investments.

The old Town of Van was burned by Ottoman forces in 1915 as they retreated before a Russian army which had invaded Ottoman territory in support of Armenian revolutionaries. The Russian held the town until 1917, when the Russian Empire itself suffered a revolution and collapsed.

Van is the best city in the eastern part of Turkey to visit and to explore the history of the area while enjoying the salted lake and its surrounding. After four days being in Van and enjoying traditional food, nature, and locals, we headed back to Istanbul. You can find out more about Istanbul in my next post.

The Church of Holly Crosson
The Church of Holly Crosson
Traditional Dance outside the Church