Explore Lake Van and the southeast
HAKKARI, 200km south of Van, is dramatically situated high above the surging Zap River and ringed by soaring peaks. The people of this wild, impoverished mountain town wear their Kurdish identity more openly than anywhere else in Turkey apart from Diyarbakır, and many women, particularly those from the surrounding villages, still wear flamboyant traditional dress. The relatively few visitors who do make it down to Hakkari come mainly to enjoy the spectacular mountain and gorge scenery en route. After spending a night it’s back to Van for the majority, though a few adventurous souls take the checkpoint-littered road south then west, along the mountainous Iraqi border to Şırnak.
The only historic monument is the newly restored, austere Meydan Medresesi in the lower town, just south of the petrol stations, but it’s usually kept locked – and the fabulous Hakkari stelae which it once housed are now in Van’s archeological museum. Of most interest are the striking views (admittedly often across jerry-built apartment blocks and assorted telegraph poles and electricity pylons) to the surrounding peaks, including Sumbul Dağı and, looming behind it, the 4135-metre Cilo range.Read More
Hakkari is one of the best places in Turkey to see, hear and, with luck, be invited to, a proper Kurdish wedding. These celebrations involve much dancing, usually with a paid band of musicians setting up their screeching electrical amplifiers on any suitable piece of level ground. In contrast to Turkish custom, women and men dance together to traditional music played on the fiddle, demblik (drums) and electric keyboard. Dancers link little fingers in a line, before advancing in step with much shaking of the shoulders and intricate footwork (a dance known in Kurdish as govend). Married women may wear a headscarf, but younger women let their hair fall free; both men and women wear as much gold as they can possibly muster.