TURKEY       HOME Lycian Coast

25th May to 5th June 2012. A selection of snaps covering our Tour to the Lake Van Area of Anatolia. Helen's page: http://fands.org.uk/1.FANDSVan.htm

Tour led by Ian Green & Basak Guner Gardner

 I hope to give an impression of the holiday and the country,    Click on the thumbnails to enlarge then "back"   top left,  to return to this page

WEDNESDAY  23rd  May   Taxi to Heathrow by 9.25; arrived after 2hr drive. A 4.5hr  flight to Istanbul where we met the others from our party and Ian our leader  We took a minibus to the hotel in the old town and, after freshening up, walked to a restaurant overlooking the Bosporus for a typical Turkish meal. The blue Mosque was floodlit by the time we returned home to the Sultana Cesme Hotel with night flying gulls swooping around.

Turkey, Istanbul is in the West, Kurdish Van in the East

An alley in Old Town Istanbul

A fast cat


Trading late into the evening

Old Wooden town houses

Built at various times on different levels

This Bazaar was still open

Above and below the street level

A Cushion Shop

Dusk at Aya Sofia (4 Minarets)

The view of the Bosporus from the open air part of the restaurant

An ancient doorway

Floodlit with nocturnal gulls swooping round the Blue Mosque

A textile shop

Lamps and Hookahs for sale

No customers here


An old water point

The Sultana Cesme Hotel is a quiet, old fashioned, "rooms only", hotel on a narrow street in the old city part of  Istanbul.  There is no lift and other vehicles cannot get past while the minibus is loading but motorist are quite tolerant with just an occasional hoot.

Homeward bound

THURSDAY 24th May  Day1      
   We had a very early start to get to Istanbul Airport by 5am where we ate breakfast after check-in. Then, after a 2hr flight to Van, a minibus drive to near Dogubeyazit (altitude 1625m) sitting below mount Ararat, the Sim-Er Hotel. The journey involved several stops to botanize/bird watch.

Istanbul Airport Cafe

     Our plane arrives at Van and is reflected in the windows

The welcoming committee (unofficial)

Modern Van ringed by snow capped mountains

A new roadside Mosque

Solar hot water generators as appear on most new middle class houses

Hooded Crow

Rag and Bone man?

Green beetle on a buttercup

Bugs on orchid

Pedicularis comosa

Dactylorhiza osmanica

Ixiolirion tartaricum


Euphorbia ?

Lake Van was formed thousands of years ago when the Nemrut Volcano blew up and blocked the river that had fed the Euphrates. In fact, the whole landscape is clothed in volcanic fallout plus some lava fields. This means it is very dusty and fertile while the water of the lake has become increasingly full of dissolved salts such as Sodium Carbonate and can be used for washing clothes

 Iris barnumae



Scorzonera mollis

Landscape near Dogubeyazit

Discovered wandering around


Salvia multicaulis



Yellow Vetch, Birds Foot Trefoil

Pretty far east for a European species

The pond



Astragalus caraganae

Edible Frog?

Jandarma Check Point. They are rural, military and border  police like French Gendarmes

Common Blue Female

Singing for a mate

Wobbly suspension bridge

Astragalus halicacabus

Map of the Van area

Muradiye Falls Lunch stop

Falls Cafe for lunch, looking left

Looking right, Heather Samit and Sali

Phelypaea tournefortii

Phelypaea tournefortii parasite on Tanacetum species

Muslin Moth?

Common Blue

Lesser Fiery Copper

Iris Iberica elegantissima

Iris Iberica elegantissima

River near the lake


A redder Form

Iris Iberica elegantissima


Small Argent and Sable Moth?

Mountain Herd

Village boys who should be in school

Typical Hill Village


Alan with Mount Ararat and Little Ararat on the horizon

Ranunculus kochii

Merendera kurdica

Pasque Flowers

Mysotis alpestris

Helen botanizing

Watched by a bear?

Shepherdess and dog

Seed heads

Anemone narcissiflorum

Erigeron Caucasicus

The latest bonnet

Arnebia pulchra

Adonis eriocalycina

Adonis eriocalycina


Primula auriculata


A Secondary School

Agama Lizard



Shepherdess and flock

Adonis wolgensis

Agama Lizard doing display press ups.


Mount Ararat on the horizon

Pulsatilla albana

Gentiana Verna

Primula elatior subsp. pelasii

Merendera kurdica

Anemone narcissiflorum


Androsace villosa

 Allium akaka


FRIDAY 25th  May Day 2       
 The Sim-Er Hotel is used by group tours and travellers to Iran but the owner has planted trees around which are watered by the waste from the hotels own bore hole. An oasis in a bare landscape

We spent the day exploring the Tendurek Pass (2644 meters) between Dogubeyazit and Caldiran

Mount Ararat from our Hotel 


Tulipa armena

Tulip habitat

Tulipa armena

Natural Road material

Gravel Depot

Hills behind our hotel showing fallout layers

Hilltop police forts

Moving house

Old Lava Field

Hotel Foyer


Hotel Dining Room/Restaurant

The PPK, based mainly in Kurdish Iraq, penetrated into the Van area some years ago but were beaten back, and the government in Istanbul's support for revitalisation and recent earthquake relief has lessened their support from the Kurdish population. All is now quiet but the numerous police checks continue


Blue Iris

Hotel Water Borehole

Hotel outdoor dining tent

Hotel Front door

Fruit Stall 

SATURDAY 26th May. Day 3      
.We went on to the Cilli Pass and Ishak Pasha Palace having been stopped on the way by two Istanbul Polis, they were not happy being banished from their home town


Long view of Isak Pasa Palace 

Main Gate

Vault cover


Decorative stone Panels


Decorative stone Panel

Note the Chimney

Ancient Castle, new Mosque etc

Rain is coming

Newer Mosque

Isak Pasa Palace was once on the Silk Route, its construction was started in 1685 by Colak Abdi Pasha, the Kurdish bey of Beyazit province during Ottoman times. It was completed by  Ishak Pasha, his grandson, in 1784 but it was more an administrative centre than fort and was abandoned when the population moved down to the plain.

Monica surveys the view in the  Cilli Pass area

 Iris caucasica

Dead thistle

Scandix iberica

Common Blue

Androsace villosa

Plant accessories depot

Stork on its nest

Empty six lane highway

Roadside Cafe

It seems that all the major roads in the area are being improved to six lane highways. As most lead towards to Iran it has been suggested that it is American money. There is an enormous amount of work going on revitalising the area, especially needed after last years devastating earthquake

A poor village Mosque



Campanula stevenii 

 Gladiolus atroviolaceous


Scree slopes lunch area

We looked on the screes above Isak Pasa Palace for red and yellow tulips before lunch but they were over. The volcanic ash scree was difficult for those less agile as they gave way easily. The locals picnic-ing were very friendly and curious. John helped translation with drawing

Gypsophila pulvinaris on the rock face  

Looking towards Iran in the dusk. The horizontal line half way up is the lorry queue in Iran, too dark for my camera

Looking towards Iran from the meteor crater

Meteor Crater

In 1892 a Meteor fell in Eastern Turkey, the noise of the strike was heard several miles away. The cater is cylindrical, 35m diameter, 60m deep and is the second largest in the world, but unfortunately mud has fallen into the crater filling it by several metres.

Orobanche cernua


Small Heath


Monica walks through the Geraniums.

Snow in winter, snow melt floods followed by an arid summer.

The meteor crater was very close to the border with Iran and we had to leave License and Documents with the Border Guards when we visited. For 10Km back one side of the road was blocked with lorries, double parked, and we could see similar on the other side. We were told there was a three day delay. There were no facilities for the waiting drivers!

Geranium tuberosum

Ixiolirion tartaricum

SUNDAY 27th May. Day 4      
We left Dogubeyazit and drove around the lake to Tatvan at the western end. The  Hotel Kardelen, hopes to serve as a ski centre in winter and the ski lift is ready to go when the snow comes. As it is at  582 m the heating was on. The staff transferred from the old Hotel Kardelen to the new and were trying hard.   

Gravel Quarry

Gravel Works

Silene alba




Maggie approaches some Orchids



Scrophularia orientalis


Agricultural tools for sale

Tractors for sale

Cafe Society

Starling nest

Diesel from water carboys

Twice we stopped at small roadside private garages and refilled the minibuses from large used water bottles full of diesel.  We wondered why and could the proximity of the Iran border have any bearing on this?





Freyer's Fritillary Butterfly



Terrapins basking

River lunch stop and long view of terrapins

Astragalus Onobrychis

Common Blue on astragalus

Common Blue


Tatvan Lakeside Trees 

Hyacyamus albus

Trifolium purpureum

Farmer and family at Golduzu

Road block

Tethered calf

Calf's mother

Ian was doing a survey of the endangered White Headed Ducks who leave their eggs to incubate in the warm shallow water of  Lake  Arin. Although the marsh and shallow lagoon teamed with birdlife my camera was not good enough to get any reasonable photos.

White Headed Ducks

Soda Lake near Golduzu

New wall and poplars round the orchid site

Orchis pseudolaxiflora

White Orchid




Lake Van and Tatvan from Hotel Kardelen

MONDAY 28th May.  Day 5      
 We spent the day in the extinct Nemrut's 7km diameter crater with its Lava Fields, Aspen Scrub and lake side flora.

 Snow remains to the left and Crater Lake is beyond

Nemrut Crater rim 

Euphorbia macrocarpa


Rindera lanata

Iris caucasica


Scorzonera mollis

Lunch stop beside the smaller crater lake

Basalt, Obsidian etc rocks

Note snow on crater rim

Aspen Scrub


Viewing the hot spring

Linum mucronatum

Satellite view of the crater, the small lake is at top right  

Natural Bonzai

Pushkinia nemrut dagi

The lake in Nemrut Crater is divided into two by a lava flow. A hot spring flows into the small lake which helps to make the boulder scree above it a popular place for snakes to hibernate in, below the snow. We saw sloughed snake skins and the odd tail and felt the hot spring water.  


Sempervivum in fissure


Pasque Flowers

Fritillaria minuta

Globularia Trichosantha

Fritillaria minuta


Fumitory asepala 

Tea or Chay is the main drink of the locals. Produced in double boilers, water below the tea, with sugar added for softies. Instant coffee is also available. There is even a boiler monument in Van celebrating the social impact of tea.

Snake skin

Bee on Euphorbia

Ground Beetle



Heather and Basak


Puff Ball fungus


Red beetle on a Euphobia

Fumitory asepala 


Geranium tuberosum




Iris caucasica


Pamela takes a slide

Habitat in snow melt

Merendera persica

Hotel Kardelen

Local Inhabitant, spur thighed tortoise

Glaucium grandiflorum

Glaucium grandiflorum

Earthquake damage

Suslik as pictured on the web


There was a Central Asian Suslik who popped out of his hole to be watched by the very early breakfasters at the hotel but it avoided photographers.

Globularia Cordifolia on hotel front slope

TUESDAY 29th May. Day 6.       
Basak took George, Heather, Helen, Monica, Pamela and Peter on a two hour drive to Sason, the start of the climb to find Iris Gatesii on Halkis dag, 5,504 ft  A guide's nephews helped to carry the lunch and water.   Those who had no sticks used branches which helped with balance.    

Ian took the rest of the party to Boluk Yazi




Mixed Traffic

Dirt Road


More Chay

Queue for the Loo

Heather climbed over a wall to take this bug.

Cows drinking from the Bitlis River which becomes the Tigris

Walking to the minibus stop. There are minibus services to all villages

Monica photos Iris Gatesii seed heads

Last year the AGS Group climbed  Mount Halkis and found that the Iris Gatesii were not yet out, very frustrating, but when they came down they found them flowering on this grave.

Pamela, Helen and Guide look down, The nephew carried Heathers tripod


Egyptian Grasshopper

Campanula reuterana


Lesser Spotted Fritillary

Gentiana olivieri


Glanville Fritillary  

Ant with dead Grasshopper

Campanula involucrata

Gentiana Olivieri

Onosma albo-roseum

Green Cricket

Mount Halkis, 1738m, is north of Batman near the village of Sason.



Mountain flower garden

Green Toad

Iris Gatesii

Two members turned back as the climb was vey steep to 5000ft with two traverses across screes with  footholds scraped  out in the ash by our local guide. Basak had to collect 4 iris corms to boost the collection in the Istanbul Botanical Garden. These got thoroughly battered by the hail storm that hit us (painfully) on the way down,  hailstones sugar cube sized delivered with force.

Iris Gatesii

Heather takes the hills opposite, white with hailstones




 WEDNESDAY 30th May Day 7


We went to Tugkoyn to see a peony on the land behind a farm where the locals were curious about us, as they were at most locations and then on to the south shore of Lake Van. Then up to the Kizkunkiran Pass

More tea

Worry beads

Watch the Traffic


Hanging Out

Farm buildings


A small flock of sheep

Furry Scarab

Aethionomena grandiflora

Aethionomena grandiflora



Animals kept below?

Noctuid Moth

Peonia maculata and bugs


Farm women

Farm Toddler

Washing wild Greens

Beetles Mating on achillea

Lunch spot just by the road widening. Alan centre stage

Green Fly

Gundelia tournefolia

Bugs and Burnet Moth on Gundelia

Painted Lady

Moth, highly decorated

Grass Wave Moth

Zephyr Blue


Common Blue

Fungus the size of a dinner plate

Cephalanthera kotschyana



Lathyrus undulatus

Scrambles like a Sweet Pea

Bee Orchid

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Spider eats fly

Row of out-of- focus shots

Grizzled Skipper

Carpenter Bee

Orange Tip?


Dung Beetle


Glanville Fritillary

A grumpy Bee Orchid

It seems that the traditional women wear a heavy, long coat in drab colours and a head scarf when outside, but "modern" women and westerners cause no comment. The country women often wear the baggy "harem" trousers.
31st May Day 9      
We set off for the Karabet Pass, up to 9500ft.

We caused the local Jandarma (probably bored stiff) to see what we were up to, especially as a minibus broke down beside us and they had to borrow a tow rope. This was later returned at the Police Post

Margaret sets off

On the cliff face

Potentilla lignosa

Local Jandarma decide we need to be investigated

Potentilla lignosa

Wash day

Karen birding

A carpet of small flowers


Ranunculus kochii


Sheila botanising



Clouded Yellow

Fritillaria minuta

Fritillaria crassifolia

Tulipa humilis

Fritillaria crassifolia

Tulipa humilis


Tulipa armena


Fritillaria crassifolia

Tulipa juliae

Fuzzy Red Scarab Leaving the tulip

Fuzzy red worms interact

Fritillary Inside

Tulipa juliae

Tulipa humilis

Iris caucasica

Rock Garden

Pamela snaps Sheila and Basak, Helen snaps a flower

Tulipa armena

Wayside Mosque and loo

Orange Aphid

Two Beetles in Ornithogalum

Karen and John spot Eagles

Merendera kurdica

Merendera kurdica

 Fritillary Pudica

Merendera kurdica

In traditional trousers, she is planting seeds

Merendera kurdica

We were told that the Turks take a pride in the inside of their houses however, dust, poverty and no mains water must make that difficult

 FRIDAY 1st June Day 8


The Merit Hotel was of a higher standard with lifts, baths, free wi-fi etc and even managed on- line check in at the end. The only snag was late running birthday parties where everyone did "Greek" dances. We were also able to use their contractor "courtesy bus" when one of ours broke down.

We set off for the Ercek Lake

Hotel Facade only slightly cracked by the earthquake

Hotel Jetty with sail style shades

Early Breakfast with Alan & Heather

 Papaver apulum



Convolvulus lineatus

Small Heath Butterfly

Yellow vetch

Convolvulus galacticus

Silver Studded  Blue


A sheep left its footprints

Orchid Pink form

Orchid White form

Ian surveys orchid numbers


Anthericum ramosum


A farm woman

 Black Winged Stilts


Turkish Trousers

Sand Martin nests

Washing up

George lunching

Glaucium grandiflorum

More washing


Beetle Orgy


Dung drying for winter fuel

Scabious rotata

Digging the field


Heather chats to the locals

Basak photographs a cow

Proud mum

Grandma's turn

Papaver persica

Coast Road

SATURDAY 2nd June Day 9 

We set off for the Zernek Reservoir, Guzeldere Pass and Albayrak

From our Window

By the Zernak reservoir


Ground Beetle

 Hyacyamus Reticulatus



Iris paradoxa

Tiny black flowers

Iris paradoxa


Iris paradoxa

Sentry post

Hilltop Jandarma post overlooking Guzeldere Pass

Iris paradoxa

Iris paradoxa


Iris paradoxa

Small Heath and Silver Studded Blue (Odd Spot?)

Vetch, Birds Foot Trefoil.

Red form of Hyacyamus albus

There is a nomad camp by the road, they may have travelled from down by the Syria border to the Albayrak area

Two of the nomadic people

Nomadic tents


Hybrid Iris


Balkan Green Lizard off the net.

The one that got away! The Balkan Green Lizard was far too fast for me to photograph as were a lot of the Butterflies who just would not settle

Hybrid Iris


 Iris urmiensis

 Iris urmiensis


Iranian border is at the foot of the far escarpment

Centaurea karduchorum

Hosap Castle

Hosap Castle

Main Gate

Perimeter Wall

Hosap Castle

Hosap Castle built in 1643 by a Kurdish Chieftain Mahmudi Suleyman but has been restored in recent times. 
SUNDAY 3rd June Day 10      

Off to the Catak Valley

Iris field

Bee Eater

A sparrow squatting in a Bee Eater's nest!


Iris Sari

Aethionema grandiflora

Iris Sari

Turkish Fiery Coppers


Hybrid Iris

Hybrid Iris


Cavusteppe built by the  Urartian king Sarduri II, 756-730 BC . This a copy of the Cuneiform dedication on the right

Urartian canal system below Cavusteppe

The base of the outer wall shows. The storeroom with pithois for storing oil and grain remains intact. They were an Iron age people

Along the top of Cavusteppe Fortress

MONDAY 4th June Day 11      
Akdarma Island and Carpet the Factory

Harbour for boats going to Akdarma Island

Ian, Basak and our two drivers

Wild Roses

Single Rose

 Armenian Church built 915-921 by Vaspurakan King Gagik I

Church Interior

Roemeria refracta

Christian Gravestone

Interior and murals

A bride visiting for photographs, not the wedding


Decorative Panel

Island Harbour

Eastern Bath White

Island Cafe

Decorative Panels

Akadamar Restaurant for lunch

View through a spoon

Akadamar Restaurant

Caged Van cat kept for breeding behind fine chicken wire to keep in the kittens

Carpet Factory Gate

Water Supply?

Amanda's Blue Butterfly

Government funded Trainee Weavers

Business discussion?

Unsure of herself?

Van Cat Painting on the wall

The loos (for Tourists)

Ordering drinks, tea, wine, arak anything!

Sheila and Helen demonstrate a carpet roof

and a dusty carpet bed.

and then the sales pitch. Monica did buy a runner.

TUESDAY 5th June Day 12        

To Van Castle and home to UK.

Prefabricated houses

Prefab City, Earthquake refugees

Van Castle

Typical (wealthy) house

Ancient Bridge rebuilt

The park

Inside the rock with steps to the King's elevated position

David in the chamber carved from the rock

Van Castle has been occupied by all the various conquers who have passed through Van:  Armenians, Romans, Medes, Achaemenid and Sassanid Persians, Arabs, Seljuks, Ottomans and Russians.

The climb up was quite a struggle!

Gate with drink sellers

Rear of the Ottoman gate

Polis Chay Break


Spring, useful in a siege


Visitors to the park

Having been up by 0500hrs, UK time, we were home soon after midnight and were very tired and spent several days recovering!


I am sorry we did not have time to see the giant heads at Nemrut National Park.

Helen's Geo-Tags