Day 6 saw us leaving Kars and heading to Van via Doğubeyazıt, which is best known as a jumping off point for climbing Mount Ararat, of Noah and Biblical Fame (though no physical evidence has ever been found). Mount Ararat is Turkey’s highest mountain at almost 17,000 feet above sea level (compared to Everest’s 29,000 feet). We did not have the climb on our itinerary though, as the mountain has restricted access, is controlled by the Turkish military, and requires a permit in advance. While we wouldn’t have gone all the way up, climbing around the base would have been cool had it been allowed. But we had some views of Mount Ararat on our drive, so we got closer than the vast majority of the world!
From Kars to Doğubeyazıt is about 2 hours and 30 minutes. As you get nearer to Doğubeyazıt, you have some decent views of Mount Ararat depending on visibility. We actually had better views from the road than from Doğubeyazıt because of cloud cover. Views were not great, but good enough. We didn’t actually stop in downtown Doğubeyazıt, but drove through it and out to İshak Paşa Sarayı (Palace). It is set up on a hill overlooking Doğubeyazıt.
İshak Paşa Sarayı is an 18th century palace built in the styles of the Seljuks, Ottomans, and Persians. It was built from honey-colored sandstone by an Ottoman governor. The blend of building styles makes it difficult to properly date. A sign at the entrance says 1784. This palace was on an important caravan route in Ottoman times, which explains its current rather remote location.
There are 366 rooms, which includes a number of bedrooms, a mosque, dungeons, stable area, kitchen, and more. The palace was very cool to explore and worth a stop if in the area. There was a bridal party there having photos done, which made DD very excited. The ceremonial hall was probably my favorite with its arches.
Entrance was 10 tl for adults, or free with the Musekart. There is a good-sized parking lot. The small bathrooms at the palace themself were closed, as were the ones at the Visitor’s Center just above the palace. We finally found bathrooms in the cafe, which is above the Visitor’s Center on the hill behind the palace.
After the palace, we headed back towards Doğubeyazıt and stopped for lunch at Ararat Carpet, Kilim, and Restaurant prior to reach the downtown area. This restaurant had a lovely outside eating area on its extensive front porch (plus a large inside area). The menu was extensive and our waiter spoke good English and was able to explain dishes to us so the adults tried some dishes we hadn’t had before, as we didn’t know what they were! DH got beyti, which is kebab inside of bread topped with a tomato sauce and served with yogurt. I got a dish with eggplant, tomato sauce, and beef. They were both delicious!! We also had a view of Ararat from the porch.
The bathrooms were great and the restaurant also had high chairs available.
We ended up touring their rug and kilim shop. They had some beautiful rugs and some unique designs. I love a blue one that was way too massive for our home and probably way to expensive, but it was gorgeous. I do love blue! We ended up buying two (much smaller) silk with cotton rugs that were handmade locally in the Kurdish style. A bit of a splurge, but they are beautiful.
Which road to take to get from Doğubeyazıt to Van was our biggest debate of the trip (followed closely by which road to take from Mount Nemrut to Malatya). This is because the most direct route went very near the Iran border and the only information I could find about it was about 10 years old and said “Don’t Do It.” That blog said the road was narrow, in poor condition, and very remote. Ripe for disaster. But the other route added about 2 hours to the drive.
After being very impressed by all the roads we’d been on so far, and finding our waiter spoke English in Doğubeyazıt, we asked him what his thoughts were on the road. He said the road was in great condition now, had a lot of traffic, and was an easy and often-used route to Van. We decided to try it. It was everything he said. Plenty of cars, buses, and trucks. Two lanes each way in good condition. We sped along and enjoyed the views, especially of the volcanic rock on the side.
We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Van. This was outside of town a little, with a view of the lake. I was really excited because the hotel was so cheap we were able to get the Presidential Suite for something like $130/night! It had a bedroom with a king, 1.5 bathrooms (including a large whirlpool tub), office, large living room/dining room open room, and a small kitchenette with a full fridge, sink, and stove top (though no plates or pots, so you’d have had to bring your own). We were excited to have plenty of space to spread out for the 3 nights we were there.
However, while it was large and gave us space, there were enough negatives about it that we were more than ready to depart. Like previous hotels, the A/C was off. Rooms were 27C, or 80F. No fans and the windows had signs not to open due to mosquitoes. We ended up ignoring that and opening up the windows that we could. No mosquitoes, but there was no breeze and outside was a similar temperature, so it didn’t help.
The bed was also the most uncomfortable of all the beds we stayed in. Extremely hard. So hard, that I used sofa pillows to lay on top of the mattress and slept on them. The kitchen was also stinky, with foul aromas coming up through the piping. There were also unusual outlet situations. In the office, there was a desk with a floor lamp next to it. However, there was no outlet anywhere near the lamp, so it was unusable. We also struggled with room service. Our first night, we ordered room service for me and the kids and it took 40 minutes to arrive. The pizza was ok, though not great. The grilled vegetables and chocolate soufflé were delicious. Later that night, DH ordered room service for himself and it never arrived. He called back down and they acted like they’d never heard of the order. It eventually came. On a positive note, the show was great and the kids enjoyed the whirlpool tub–it even had lights that turned on and changed colors!