The three- to four-hour bus or dolmuş trip to Hakkari, along the gorge of the Zab River, has spectacular mountain scenery, especially beyond the town of Başkale. With your own transport Çavuştepe and Hoşap Kalesi could be visited en route.
Nondescript Başkale, 113km south of Van is, at 2500m, the highest town in Turkey. Some 14km before town, however, a road leads northeast to the village of Albayrak. Here is the once-important Armenian monastery church of Surb Bartolomeos, founded in the sixth century. The west entrance has some beautiful relief carvings, but unfortunately the hilltop building is surrounded by razor-wire (it is part of an army camp) and is off-limits unless you gain permission from the military, best done through Remzi Bozkurt at the Büyük Asur Hotel in Van, or Harun at the Hotel Aslan. Although you can at least look at the exterior of the church from the road it’s only worth coming here if you head a further 20km on to the village of Yanal. Here is a fine sixth/seventh-century church, Surb Echmiadzin in Soradir, which some architectural historians believe was the inspiration for the later Surb Khach on Akdamar. Near Yavuzlar village are some rock formations similar to the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia.Read More