Turkey > Destination > The Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia Region


The Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia Region

With its high mountain ranges, remote plateaus, lakes and river beds splashed with colour, plus some of the best Turkish architecture anywhere, this region of Anatolia brings history to life. Sivas, Divrigi, Erzurum, Battalgazi, Harput and Ahlat were important centres of Selcuk art. In Eastern Anatolia are the cities of Agri, Bingol, Bitlis, Elazig, Erzincan, Erzurum, Hakkari, Kars, Malatya, Mus, Tunceli, Van, Ardahan and Igdir, while in the southeast are the larger cities of Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Mardin, Siirt, Sanliurfa, Batman, Sirnak and Kilis. Travelling around the east is more challenging, with huge distances between towns, extremes of climate and fewer facilities, but this is amply compensated by the remote beauty, relatively unspoilt scenery and of course hospitality of the people.


Erzurum is located on a large plane at an altitude of 1950 metres and contains many religious schools, tombs and mosques from both the Selcuk and Ottoman period. Kars, in the far northeast, is famous for its castle and nearby Ocakli (Ani) is a historical city with rich architecture from the 10th and 11th centuries. Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi), whose peak soars up to 5165 metres, is significant to different religions. It is believed that after the Flood, in which all humanity was destroyed, Noah’s ark came to rest on Mount Ararat and as the waters receded, Noah and his family settled on the nearby plane of Igdir. As their numbers increased, they eventually spread along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to other parts of Anatolia. Accordingly, Igdir is seen as the centre from which the second generation of humanity multiplied and again spread over the world. The magnificent palace complex of Ishak Pasa, which looks down onto Dogubeyazit, was built in the late 17th century by the Ottoman governor Ishak Pasa. The location and appearance of the castle is stunning and is made up of a kitchen unit, a mosque and separate quarters for men and women. Lake Van is one of the highlights of the country and a tour of the entire lake should be made in order to experience the full range of beauty, including beautiful mountain silhouettes, bays, beaches, islands and important centres of Turkish culture and art.

Van, on the southeast of the lake, was the capital city of the Urartu empire and Van Castle, built around 1000 BC, is a marvellous example of that age. South of Van, Edremit is a popular vacation spot famous for its beaches, camp sites and restaurants. On the island of Akdamar is a museum which was originally a 10th century church. As the Tigris and Euphrates flow towards the planes of Mesopotamia, they pass through an important region of Anatolia which contains the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin, Adiyaman, Sanliurfa and Gaziantep, which is the oldest cultural settlement centre in Anatolia.

Hercules shaking hands with Mithradates, King of Arsameia, Adiyaman

North of Diyarbakir is Cayonu, the most important neolithic settlement of the area. The basalt walls of Diyarbakir, which are more than 5 km long, are the longest city walls in the country. Mardin is one of the few cities in the country that has preserved its traditional aesthetic architecture and is unique also because of its unusual location on top of a hill.


The prophet Abraham, who is the father of three different religions, is believed to have lived in Sanliurfa and Harran and so they are considered to be sacred places. The Ataturk Dam, built in Bozova near Sanliurfa, is the biggest in Turkey and the fourth largest in the world and the area around Harran will be the most productive agricultural region of the country. Gaziantep is the most important industrial and agricultural area in southeastern Anatolia and best known for its special varieties of kebap, lahmacun and baklava and its Antep pistachios. Northeast of Adiyaman, on top of Mount Nemrut is the mausoleum made for the Commagene King, Antiochus I. On the east and west of the memorial grave site are the terraces where rituals were carried out and of course the world famous huge statues of the gods, which are best experienced at sunrise or sunset. Malatya is an important industrial and agricultural region on the lower Euphrates, famous for its apricots and the 13th century Ulu mosque in Battalgazi with its beautiful glazed tiles.



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