Lake Van (Turkish: Van Gölü, Armenian: Վանա լիճ, Vana lič̣,
Kurdish: Gola Wanê ελληνική γλώσσαGreek :
Θωσπῖτις λίμνη), the largest lake in Turkey, lies in the
far east of that country in the provinces of Van and Bitlis. It is a
saline soda lake, receiving water from numerous small streams that
descend from the surrounding mountains.
Lake Van is one of the world's
largest endorheic lakes (having no outlet) – a volcanic eruption
blocked the original outlet from the basin in ancient times. Although
Lake Van has an altitude of 1,640 m (5,380 ft) in a region
with harsh winters, its high salinity prevents most of it from
freezing, and even the shallow northern section freezes only
1 Hydrology and chemistry
5.1 Armenian kingdoms
5.3 Seljuk empire
10 See also
12 Further reading
Hydrology and chemistry
Akdamar Island and the Holy Cross Cathedral, a 10th-century Armenian
church and monastic complex.
Mount Artos (Mt. Çadır) is seen in the
Lake Van is 119 kilometres (74 mi) across at its widest point,
averaging a depth of 171 metres (561 ft) with a maximum recorded
depth of 451 metres (1,480 ft). The lake surface lies 1,640
metres (5,380 ft) above sea level and the shore length is 430
kilometres (270 mi).
Lake Van has an area of 3,755 km2
(1,450 sq mi) and a volume of 607 cubic kilometres
(146 cu mi).
The western portion of the lake is deepest, with a large basin deeper
than 400 m (1,300 ft) lying northeast of
Tatvan and south of
Ahlat. The eastern arms of the lake are shallower. The Van-Ahtamar
portion shelves gradually, with a maximum depth of about 250 m
(820 ft) on its northwest side where it joins the rest of the
Erciş arm is much shallower, mostly less than 50 m
(160 ft), with a maximum depth of about 150 m
The lake water is strongly alkaline (pH 9.7–9.8) and rich in sodium
carbonate and other salts, which are extracted by evaporation and used
Landsat photo of Lake Van
The lake's outlet was blocked at some time during the Pleistocene,
when lava flows from Nemrut volcano blocked westward outflow towards
the Muş Plain. Now dormant, Nemrut Dağı is close to the western
shore of the lake, and another dormant stratovolcano, Süphan Dağı
dominates the northern side of the lake.
The water level of the lake has often altered dramatically: near
Tatvan, Felix Oswald (see Geology of Armenia, 1901) noted a raised
beach high above the present level of the lake as well as recently
drowned trees. Investigation by Degens and others in the early 1980s
determined that the highest lake levels (72 metres (236 ft) above
the current height) had been during the last ice age, about 18,000
years ago. Approximately 9,500 years ago there was a dramatic drop to
more than 300 metres (980 ft) below the present level. This was
followed by an equally-dramatic rise around 6,500 years ago.
Similar-but-smaller fluctuations have been seen recently. The level of
the lake rose by at least three metres during the 1990s, drowning much
agricultural land, and (after a brief period of stability and then
retreat) seems to be rising again. The level rose approximately two
meters in the ten years immediately prior to 2004.
As a deep lake with no outlet,
Lake Van has accumulated great amounts
of sediment washed in from surrounding plains and valleys, and
occasionally deposited as ash from eruptions of nearby volcanoes. This
layer of sediment is estimated to be up to 400 metres (1,300 ft)
thick in places, and has attracted climatologists and vulcanologists
interested in drilling cores to examine the layered sediments.
The dormant volcano Mount Çadır viewed from Akdamar Island
In 1989 and 1990, an international team of geologists led by Dr.
Stephan Kempe from the University of Hamburg (now Professor at the
Technische Universität Darmstadt) retrieved ten sediment cores from
depths up to 446 m (1,463 ft). Although these cores only
penetrated the first few meters of sediment, they provided sufficient
varves to give proxy climate data for up to 14,570 years BP.
A team of scientists headed by palaeontologist Professor Thomas Litt
University of Bonn
University of Bonn has applied for funding from the
International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) for a
new, deeper-drilling project to examine the lake's sediments. Litt
expects to find that "
Lake Van stores the climate history of the last
800,000 years—an incomparable treasure house of data which we want
to tap for at least the last 500,000 years." A test drilling in
2004 detected evidence of 15 volcanic eruptions in the past 20,000
Lake Van is situated in the highest and largest region of Turkey,
which has a harsh continental climate. Average temperatures in July
are between 22 and 25 °C, and in January between −3 °C
to −12 °C. In particularly-cold winter nights the temperature
reaches −30 °C.
Lake Van mitigates the climate somewhat, so in
the city of Van, on the shore of the lake, the average temperature in
July is 22.5 °C, and in January −3.5 °C. The average
annual rainfall in the basin of Lake Van, ranges from 400 to
Lake Van viewed from space shuttle Challenger during flight STS-41-G
The only fish known to live in the brackish water of
Lake Van is
Chalcalburnus tarichi the Pearl Mullet or inci kefalı, a Cyprinid
fish related to chub and dace, which is caught during the spring
floods. In May and June, these fish migrate from the lake to less
alkaline water, spawning either near the mouths of the rivers feeding
the lake or in the rivers themselves. After spawning season it returns
to the lake.
103 species of phytoplankton have been recorded in the lake including
cyanobacteria, flagellates, diatoms, green algae and brown algae. 36
species of zooplankton have also been recorded including Rotatoria,
Copepoda in the lake.
In 1991, researchers reported the discovery of 40 m (130 ft)
tall microbialites in Lake Van. These are solid towers on the lake bed
created by mats of coccoid cyanobacteria (Pleurocapsa group) that
create aragonite in combination with calcite precipitating out of the
Lake Van region is the home of the rare
Van Cat breed of cat,
noted for among other things its unusual fascination with water, and
is surrounded by fruit and grain-growing agricultural areas.
According to legend, the lake is home to a mysterious sea creature,
known as the
Lake Van Monster
Lake Van Monster which is believed by some to lurk below
the surface of the lake, described as being 30–40 ft long with
brown scaly skin and with an elongated reptilian head and flippers,
resembling an extinct mosasaurus or basilosaurus. Apart from some
amateur photographs and videos, there is no physical evidence to prove
Further information: Urartu
Tushpa, the capital of Urartu, was located near the shores of Lake
Van, on the site of what became medieval Van's castle, west of
present-day Van city. The ruins of the medieval city of Van are
still visible below the southern slopes of the rock on which Van
Castle is located.
In 2017, archaeologists from Van Yüzüncü Yil University and a team
of independent divers who were exploring
Lake Van reported the
discovery of a large underwater fortress spanning roughly one
kilometer. The team estimates that this fortress was constructed
during the Urartian period, based on their visual assessments. The
archaeologists believe that the fortress, along with other parts of
the ancient city that surrounded it at the time, had slowly become
submerged over the millennia by the gradually rising lake.
Armenian medieval khachkar near Lake Van
The lake was the centre of the Armenian kingdom of Ararat from about
1000 BC, afterwards of the Satrapy of Armina, Kingdom of Greater
Armenia, and the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan.
Lake Sevan in today's
Lake Urmia in today's
Iran, Van was one of the three great lakes of the Armenian Kingdom,
referred to as the seas of
Armenia (in ancient Assyrian sources:
"tâmtu ša mât Nairi" (Upper Sea of Nairi), the Lower Sea being Lake
Urmia). Over time, the lake was known by various Armenian names,
including Armenian: Վանա լիճ (Lake of Van), Վանա ծով
(Sea of Van), Արճեշի ծով (Sea of Arčeš), Բզնունեաց
ծով (Sea of Bznunik), Ռշտունեաց ծով (Sea of
Rshtunik), and Տոսպայ լիճ (Lake of Tosp).
By the 11th century the region around
Lake Van was on the border
Byzantine empire, with its capital at Constantinople, and
the Seljuk Turkish empire, with its capital at Isfahan. In the uneasy
peace between the two empires, local Armenian-
employed Turcoman gazis and
Byzantine akritai for protection.
In the second half of the 11th century Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes
launched a campaign to re-conquer
Armenia and head off growing Seljuk
control. Diogenes and his large army crossed the
confronted a much smaller Seljuk force led by
Alp Arslan at the Battle
of Manzikert, north of
Lake Van on 26 August 1071. Despite their
greater numbers, the cumbersome
Byzantine force was defeated by the
more mobile Turkish horsemen and Diogenes was captured.
An early 20th century picture of the 10th century Armenian monastery
of Narekavank, which once stood near the southeastern shore of the
View of the lake from aboard the train ferry Van of the Turkish State
Railways in 1987. In December 2015 the new generation of train
ferries, the largest of their kind in Turkey, entered service in Lake
Alp Arslan divided the conquered eastern portions of the Byzantine
empire among his Turcoman generals, with each ruled as a hereditary
beylik, under overall sovereignty of the Great Seljuq Empire. Alp
Arslan gave the region around
Lake Van to his commander Sökmen el
Kutbî (literally Sökmen the Slave), who set up his capital at Ahlat
on the western side of the lake. The dynasty of
Ahlatshahs (also known
as Sökmenler) ruled this area from 1085 to 1192.
Ahlatshahs were succeeded by the
Main article: Armenian architecture
Van Castle and the southern shore, on
Akdamar Island lies the
10th century Church of the Holy Cross (Armenian: Սուրբ Խաչ,
Surb Khach), which served as a royal church to the Armenian Vaspurakan
kingdom. The ruins of Armenian monasteries also exist on the other
three islands of Lake Van: Lim, Arter, and Ktuts. The area around Lake
Van was also the home to a large number Armenian monasteries, among
the most prominent of these being the 10th century
Narekavank and the
11th century Varagavank, both now destroyed.
Ahlatshahs left a large number of historic tombstones in and
around the town of Ahlat. Local administrators are currently trying to
have the tombstones included in UNESCO's World Heritage List, where
they are currently listed tentatively.
The railway connecting
Iran was built in the 1970s,
sponsored by CENTO. It uses a train ferry across
Lake Van between the
Tatvan and Van, rather than building railway tracks around the
rugged shoreline. Transfer from train to ship and back again limits
the total carrying capacity. In May 2008 talks started between Turkey
Iran to replace the ferry route with a new double track
In December 2015 the new generation of train ferries operated by the
Turkish State Railways, the largest of their kind in Turkey, entered
service in Lake Van.
Ferit Melen Airport in Van is located close to the shore of Lake Van.
Turkish Airlines, AnadoluJet,
Pegasus Airlines and
SunExpress are the
airline companies in
Turkey which have regular flights to this
An image from the 2010 UIM-IOC Van Grand Prix in Lake Van.
Lake Van occasionally hosts several water sports, sailing and inshore
powerboat racing events, such as the UIM World Offshore 225
Championship's IOC Van Grand Prix, and the Van Lake Festival.
Geography of Turkey
Lakes of Turkey
List of lakes by depth
Rail transport in Turkey
Transportation in Turkey
^ a b c Coskun, M.; Musaoğlu, N. (2004), "Investigation of
Rainfall-Runoff Modelling of the Van Lake Catchment by Using Remote
Sensing and GIS Integration" (PDF), Proceedings of the 20th Congress
of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
(PDF)format= requires url= (help)
^ a b c d e Degens, E.T.; Wong, H.K.; Kempe, S.; Kurtman, F. (June
1984), "A geological study of Lake Van, eastern Turkey", International
Journal of Earth Sciences, Springer, 73 (2): 701–734,
^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica,
Lake Van (registration required)
^ Wong, H.K.; Degens, E.T. (1978), "The bathymetry of Lake Van,
eastern Turkey", Geology of
Lake Van (169), Ankara: General
Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration, pp. 6–10
^ Tomonaga, Yama; Brennwald, Matthias S.; Kipfer, Rolf (2011),
"Spatial distribution and flux of terrigenic He dissolved in the
sediment pore water of
Lake Van (Turkey)", Geochimica et Cosmochimica
Acta, 75 (10): 2848–2864, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2011.02.038
^ Sari, Mustafa (2008), "Threatened fishes of the world: Chalcalburnus
tarichi (Pallas 1811) (Cyprinidae) living in the highly alkaline Lake
Van, Turkey", Environmental Biology of Fishes, Springer Netherlands,
81 (1): 21–23, doi:10.1007/s10641-006-9154-9.
^ Landmann, Günter; Reimera, Andreas; Lemcke, Gerry; Kempe, Stephan
(June 1996), "Dating Late Glacial abrupt climate changes in the 14,570
yr long continuous varve record of Lake Van, Turkey", Palaeogeography,
Elsevier Science B.V., 122 (1–4):
Lake Van Provides Precise Insights Into Eurasia's Climate
History", Science Daily, Science Daily, 15 March 2007
^ Матвеев: Турция [что значительно ниже
установленной позже корректной цифры
в 161,2 метра] (in Russian)
^ Warren J. K. Evaporites: Sediments, Resources and Hydrocarbons,
Springer, 2006 ISBN 3-540-26011-0
^ Journal; Fish Physiology and Biochemistry
^ Inci kefali summary Archived 11 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Selçuk 1992
^ Kempe, S.; Kazmierczak, J.; Landmann, G.; Konuk, T.; Reimer, A.;
Lipp, A. (14 February 1991), "Largest known microbialites discovered
in Lake Van, Turkey", Nature, 349 (6310): 605–608,
^ The Concise Encyclopædia of Archaeology — Page 488 by
Leonard Cottrell – 1960
^ "Ancient Ruins Discovered Under Lake in Turkey". 2017-11-15.
^ "Ancient castle studied in Lake Van".
Hürriyet Daily News.
^ Ebeling, Erich; Meissner, Bruno (1997). Reallexikon der Assyriologie
und vorderasiatischen Archäologie (in German). Berlin: de Gruyter.
p. 2. ISBN 3110148099.
^ a b Hewsen 1997, p. 9
^ a b "Türkiye'nin en büyük feribotu Van Gölü'nde deneme seferine
çıktı". Hürriyet. 19 December 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
^ a b Image of the new train ferries of the
Turkish State Railways
Turkish State Railways in
Lake Van, Hürriyet, 19 December 2015.
^ Yüksel Oktay. "On the Roads of Anatolia — Van". Los Angeles
Chronicle. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007.
^ "Tentative World Heritage Sites". UNESCO.
Iran agree on joint railway". 27 July 2007 – Yeni
Robert H., Hewsen (September 1997), "The Geography of Armenia", in
Hovannisian, Richard G., The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern
Times, Volume I – The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the
Fourteenth Century, New York: St. Martin's Press, pp. 1–17,
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