The most direct route to this region is the Central Anatolian Highway that passes through Kayseri, Malatya, Elazig, BingoI, Mus, Van and on to Iran via Hakkari.
Malatya is a busy city situated on a fertile plain at the foot of the Anti-Taurus Mountains. The archaeological museum houses new finds from the Lower Firat region, dating from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic ages. Next to the city museum, you can shop in the bazaar where an entire passageway of shops is given over to copper ware. In Malatya, the apricot growing center of Turkey, it is possible as well as gorging on the fresh and dried fruit to sample many delicious apricot confections. The two small towns which predate the establishment of present day Malatya are easy expeditions. Aslantepe, seven km away, was the capital of a Hittite state in the first millennium B.C., and Battalgazi, 9 km away, was once the ancient city of Melitene. At the latter stand the ruins of a Byzantine enclosure, and in the center of town the 13th century Ulu Mosque is an excellent example of Seljuk architecture. Elazig, founded in the 19th century, lies on a plain in the shadow of a mountain crowned with the ancient city of Harput's citadel. The destruction of several earthquakes and the relatively recent construction of Elazig has meant that Harput's population has mostly deserted it for the-modern city. Several Seljuk mosques remain, however, which are worth visiting. The Keban and Karakaya Dams on the Firat river have created huge artificial lakes dramatically altering the surrounding environment. Twenty-five kilometers south of Elazig, the lovely and tranquil Hater Lake invites relaxation.
High mountains encircle Tunceli, 133 km north of Elazig on the Elazig-Erzurum road, On the way stop off to see the fortress of Pertek, built in the Middle Ages and still in good condition today. In the Menzur Valley National Park near Ovacik, 60 km northwest of Tunceli, you can fish in rushing trout-filled streams while enjoying the amazing scenery.
Bingol means "a thousand lakes" a name given to the town, no doubt because of the many glacier lakes in the surrounding mountains. In the city itself stand the remains of a medieval fortress. Bingol Ski Center is 20 km to the west.
Mus, a little out of the way for most tourist's routes, was founded in the sixth century. Many of the city's monuments including the remains of a citadel and the Aslanhane Caravanserai are in poor condition. The Seljuk mosques of Alaeddin Pasa and Had Seref, however, are certainly worth a detour.
The lively city of Bitlis, an important center of tobacco production, stands in the middle of a green oasis. The city's architecture uses the local dark stone, and the masonry monuments include the Serefhan Medrese, the 12th century Ulu Mosque, the Seljuk Gokmeydani Mosque and the Ottoman Serefiye Mosque. Bitlis Ski Center is close to the town's center. From Tatvan, on the western shore of Lake Van, you can take a passenger and train ferry across the water to Van. Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut) makes a challenging climb. In the center of it, a deep crater lake bubbles with volcanic hot springs. The ruins of Ahlat, 44 km north of Tatvan on the west shore of Lake Van, once an important city of Turkish art and culture, are scattered today among more recent constructions. In the 12th century this city was the capital of the Turkish state that ruled the Van Basin. Several mausoleums, notably the Ulu Kumbet, the Bayindir Kumbet, the Hasan Pasa Kumbet and the Cifte Kumbets offer a comprehensive overview of Seljuk funerary architecture and decoration. In the Seljuk cemetery are beautifully inscribed monumental tombstones from the 12th century. The Turkish Art Museum houses a collection of ceramics, ancient coins and jewelry. Modern Ahlat provides lakeside tourist accommodation, beach facilities and restaurants.
As you drive around the lake you come to Adilcevaz, where the Ulu Mosque, built of the region's dark volcanic stone, stands on the lake shore. Ten kilometers west of Adilcevaz is Kef Castle, and nearby, the Urartian temple of Haldi dates to the ninth century B.C. Artifacts from this site can been seen in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. The Adilcevaz High School garden displays some of the column bases.
Van, the ancient Urartian capital of Tuspa, tempts visitors to its location on the eastern shore of the lake. This remote but important city is set in a verdant oasis at the foot of a rocky peak. An imposing 9th century B.C. citadel overlooks the new and old parts of town. Steps carved in the rock lead to the Urartian fortress; half way up inscriptions in cuneiform pay homage to Xerxes. Within the fortress are several Urartian royal rock tombs. In the old city, the Ulu Mosque, Husrev Pasa Mosque, Kaya Celebi Mosque and the Ikiz Kumbets reflect Seljuk and Ottoman architectural styles. Van's interesting Archaeological Museum is in the new city, inland from the uninhabited old district. Still very much part of a traditional lifestyle, the women of Van produce dark and beautiful kilims woven in blue, red and white patterns. The exotic Van cat, a protected animal, has thick white fur and one blue and one green eye. At Van Iskelesi (Van Harbor), friendly tea gardens and restaurants invite you for a break. Edremit, a holiday resort center 14 km to the southwest, has good beaches, swimming and camping. In the same direction is Gevas where you can visit a Seljuk cemetery with many decorated headstones and the lovely Halime Hatun Mausoleum.
Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey and at an altitude of 1720 meters, is ringed by beautiful mountains: Mount Suphan (4058 meters) on the northwest side and the Ihtiyar Sahap Mountains to the south. You can travel the circumference of the entire lake visiting several ancient Urartian sites as well as others that represent the legacy of the various peoples who have inhabited the area.
Some of the islands in Lake Van have monasteries and churches built on them; no doubt the remote location offered seclusion to the resident religious communities. Forty-one kilometers southwest of Van, Akdamar Island (a half hour sail from shore) is the most important of these. On the island stands the tenth century Church of the Holy Cross, now designated a museum, whose stone outer walls are richly carved with Old Testament scenes and figures. After sightseeing, swimmers and picnickers enjoy themselves around the island's almond groves. If you have time, visit Carpanak Island to enjoy its landscape, and to wander around the 12th century church which has now been converted into a museum. Cavustepe, 35 km from Van on the Hakkari road, is an important Urartian citadel. Excavated in 1970, today you can see temples, a palace, a sacrificial altar and inscriptions. On the pastoral, winding road heading to Hakkari, the Zernek Dam Lake offers itself as a rest spot on the way to Hosap where a 17th century fairy-tale castle rises above a small hill. Although the exterior walls, crenellations and turrets are well preserved, the inside is badly damaged. Among the interesting geographical features around Lake Van, the Muradiye Waterfalls, 88 km north of Van, with a peaceful tea garden and good restaurants, and Gahnispi - Beyaz Cesme Falls, 60 km south of Van, are worth visiting.
The road to remote Hakkari takes you through some of Turkey's most magnificent scenery, the Cilo-Sat Mountains and the Zap Valley. A medieval fortress dominates the city which stands at an altitude of 1700 meters.