About Van Castle
Van Castle was an Iron Age castle which now stands as a stunning ruin on the rocks to the west of the modern city of Van. It was constructed as part of the Urartu Kingdom in the ninth century BC. Upon the fall of this kingdom in the seventh century BC, Van Castle was taken by the Assyrians.
The site of Van Castle bears the marks of these two civilisations as well as others, such as the Ottoman Empire. In particular, it is home to the remains of a mosque built by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566).
Van Castle history
Van Castle was built on a high rock overlooking the plain on the shores of Lake Van, located at a distance from the city centre. Van was the capital of the Urartu state for a long time under the name Tushpa, was built by the son of the Urartian King Lutupri, King Sarduri I. It was built in the 9th century BC. During the reign of Sarduri I, the surrounding feudal principalities and tribes were brought together and the capital called Tuspa was created in the place of present Van.
Van Castle, which was the scene of settlement from the Urartians to the Ottomans, was added to the inner fortress walls, two entrance gates, armoury, warehouse, towers and the Süleyman Han Mosque, which is the first Islamic work in Van, in the Ottoman period. The main walls, bastions and towers that provide the support were made of rubble stone, mud brick and cut stone material. These walls and fortifications form the silhouette of the castle from the north. During the Ottoman period, the castle was used purely for military purposes. The main city was established in the south of the castle. This is also surrounded by walls.
The history of Van Castle extends far beyond the fall of Urartu. It was conquered by the Achaemenid Persians, then used by the ancient Armenians, and then by various Persian and Roman kingdoms. The Arabs later took over, and so did the Seljuk Turks. The castle was largely destroyed by Tamerlane but later rebuilt by the Ottomans. Even the Russians briefly occupied the castle in the 20th century.
Most of the walls that survive today were constructed in the Ottoman era.
Van Castle today
At the foot of Van Castle, the current Van Museum opened in the spring of 2020, after the original museum was damaged in 2011 earthquakes. The museum address the history, archaeology and ethnography of Van Province as a whole, with a focus on the Urartian civilization. The Urartian exhibits include exquisite gold jewellery and an array of bronze belts, helmets, horse armour and terracotta figures.
The museum also introduces visitors to various Urartian castles and temples established throughout the region. It includes representations of nearby fortresses such as Ayanis, along with models of Çavuştepe. There are also numerous carvings of deities from Urartu’s vast pantheon.
Entry tickets to the museum cost 10 TL.
Getting to Van Castle
The fortress is situated 3 kilometres to the west of the centre of modern Van. Walk or drive along Melen and Sümbül streets to get to the entrance to the site, on the westernmost point of the fortress.
There is a “Kale” minibus from the centre of the city of Van to the castle. It stops on İskele Street, near Hazreti Ömer Mosque.