Province: Van

From its ancient castles to its unique cats, the province of Van has many claims to fame. It’s home to Turkey’s most iconic breakfast, upside-down tulips and, allegedly, a lake monster that prowls the depths of Lake Van, Turkey’s largest lake.
Like all of Turkey, the history of the area can be traced back well into the prehistoric, though it was in the early Iron Age, around the 8th century BC, that the region began to flourish with the rise of the Urartian kingdom whose primary cities were on the eastern shore of Lake Van. Cuneiform inscriptions of the Urartian peoples can be found all over the area, often as clear as when they were first carved.
Some time between the 6th and 7th centuries BC the Urartian kingdom fell and a new kingdom rose up in its place. The kingdom of Armenia grew in historically Urartian lands, its core stretching from Lake Van up to modern Armenia. The Armenians would regularly shift back and forth between being a subjugated to a self-ruling people with Romans, Persians, Seljuk, Mongol, and Ottoman powers controlling the territory.
During the Medieval period, the Armenian inhabitants developed distinct architectural styles and built tall, narrow churches with high conical domes; many of which still adorn the hills and islands of Eastern Turkey and Van in particular. In fact, there were 90 churches built in and Lake Van, though many have been lost.
The Ottomans, great architects and builders themselves, did not leave much behind in Van, though their Seljuk predecessors and Mahmudi subjects added great monuments, castles, and mosques reflecting the designs and tastes of the Islamic kingdoms.
Whether you come for the historic castles and churches or the almond blossom covered lake shore, there’s plenty of reasons to visit Van.