Fringed by tawny-hued peaks soaring to 13,000ft, startlingly blue Lake Van, an inland sea seven times larger than Lake Geneva, is one of Turkey’s best-kept secrets. Given that this intriguingly beautiful high-altitude (5,380ft above sea level) lake lies almost a thousand road miles east of the fleshpots of Turkey’s economic and cultural capital of Istanbul, it’s not surprising that relatively few Turks make it out here, let alone foreigners, who flock instead to the country’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Indeed, Van is far closer to Tehran than to Istanbul, and Turkey’s border with Iran lies just 60 miles east of the lake.
Remote today, the lake once sat astride a major branch of the Silk Road and was for many centuries a populous, prosperous region. The Armenians who lived here until the vicissitudes of the First World War had a saying, “Van in this world, paradise in the next”, and the exquisite medieval churches dotting its shores bear witness to their industry and piety. Van was also a paradise for the precursors of the Armenians, the little-known Urartians. From around 900 BC until 600 BC the Kingdom of Urartu rivalled the mighty Assyrian Empire to the south, and they gave as good as they got against the notoriously war-like Assyrians from their formidable palace-cum-fortress capital on the eastern shores of the lake, The Telegraph writes.