Some 25km northeast of Bitlis, TATVAN, a functional town stranded between the mountains and lakeshore, makes a good base for exploring the surrounding sights. It has smartened up considerably in the last few years, with a new shopping centre and cinema wowing the bemused citizens. To the north is the massif of Nemrut Dağı with its crater lakes; further east around the lake are the impressive Selçuk remains at Ahlat.Read More
Immediately north of Tatvan, the extinct volcano of Nemrut Dağı (no relation to the mountain with the statues), rises to 3050m. Six thousand years ago Nemrut is believed to have been 4450m high; as a result of a huge volcanic explosion, the whole upper section of the peak was deposited in the Van basin, thus blocking the natural outlet and creating the lake. The present-day volcanic cone contains two crater lakes, one of which is pleasantly warm.
After snowmelt in May/June, the crater is accessible by car or dolmuş. Dolmuşes cost around 120TL for a three- to four-hour excursion to the crater, try Ekrem Kaplan (t0535/544 9901) at the Ahlat dolmuş stop on Cumhuriyet Caddesi. With your own car, take the Bitlis road out of Tatvan and almost immediately take the signed right (13km), or head for Ahlat and look for the signpost.
From the rim, an asphalt road drops down and right towards the warm lake; bear left on a dirt track to the cold crater lake. The 7km-diameter crater is lushly vegetated (beech, aspen and juniper), contrasting sharply with the bare landscape outside. In summer Kurds graze their flocks on slopes. The crescent-shaped Soğukgöl (cold lake) occupies the western half of the crater, and on its east shore there are some swimmable hot springs. Better for a dip is smaller Sıcakgöl (warm lake), connected to its partner by a narrow path leading east or a left branch off the asphalt road and heated to 60°C by ongoing volcanic activity.