The shabby town of AHLAT, which lies a picturesque drive 42km northeast of Tatvan along the north shore of Lake Van, is known chiefly for its medieval Muslim cemetery, holding hundreds of beautifully carved gravestones, and for its monumental tombs, known as türbe in Turkish.

The cemetery and tombs are by far the most substantial remains of a settlement that can boast a very long history. The Urartians are known to have been here in the first millennium BC, and were followed in turn by the Armenians. Ahlat fell to the Arabs during the seventh century, was retaken by the Byzantines two hundred years later, and subsequently passed to the victorious Selçuks after the nearby Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The Mongols, who arrived in 1244, were succeeded by the İlhanids a century later; by the fifteenth century Ahlat had become the main base of the Akkoyunlu Turcomans. Even after the local Ottoman conquest of 1548, real power in this remote region remained in the hands of the Kurdish emirs of Bitlis. Ahlat continued to be a populous, polyglot city until World War I.

Old Ahlat is a sprawling site, centred on a small museum, with the most visited of the monumental tombs, the Ulu Kümbet, some 300m south. The Meydan cemetery, peppered with intricately carved tombstones, is immediately north of the museum, while the Bayındır tomb lies 600m north of the museum across the cemetery. The city ruins nestle in a valley around 400m west of the Bayındır tomb.


Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Turkey features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook