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Lake Van

Surrounded by snow-clad mountains, beautiful Lake Van lies more than a mile above sea level, and not far to the north is the magnificent 17,000 foot glacier-capped Mt Ararat, Turkey’s highest mountain. Kurdish herders and their families will be shearing their sheep, the women resplendent in their traditional costumes, and in an extinct volcano crater the black-tented encampments of Bedouin nomads overlook a deep blue lake.

Ararat And Little Ararat © Karen Nichols

All this provides a marvellous backdrop for a breathtaking show of flowers. Perhaps a million powder-blue Puschkinias bloom all the way up the Karabet Pass and everywhere are meadows covered in a pink haze of Orchids and Primulas. Seven of the world’s most beautiful Iris species can be seen in profusion. The amazingly large and elegant white and deep maroon flowers of Iris iberica elegantissima are only bettered by the inky-blue veined standards and velvety orchid-like falls of rare Iris paradoxa. Deep cerise Merendera kurdica, bright mauve-pink Tulipa humilis, yellow, green, maroon or butterscotch Fritillarias and scarlet Phelypaeas make for an extraordinarily colourful show. Bee-eaters, Rollers and Hoopoes continue the colourful theme – these are some of Van’s commonest birds!

Iris Barnumae by Fiona Dunbar

On high passes we shall see Radde’s Accentors and Imperial Eagles whilst by the lake’s shore are flocks of Flamingoes and courting White-headed Ducks. The wonderful clarity of light makes this an excellent holiday for the photographer, not only for the flowers and landscapes but also some fine cultural sites such as the ancient Urartian citadel upon the ‘Rock of Van’, a ‘Tolkienesque’ Kurdish Fortress, and the magical Ishak Paşa Palace, each in a fantastic setting.

Dates and Prices

18th May - 30th May 2025 (13 days)

London - London £3,125
Istanbul - Istanbul £2,790
Van - Van £2,690
Single Supplement* £250
Deposit £300

* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged

or ask us a question.

Please note; dates and prices are provisional and will be confirmed by August 2024

Tour Summary

Days 1-2
Istanbul to Doğubeyazıt
Days 3-4
Ararat’s Hinterland and the Ishak Paşa Palace
Day 5
Tatvan via volcanoes and waterfalls
Day 6
Nemrut Dağı
Days 7-8
Tatvan’s Oak Woodlands and transfer to Van
Day 9
Hoşap Castle and Guzeldere Pass
Day 10
Akdamar Island
Day 11
Karabet Pass
Day 12
Bendimahi and Van Kalesi
Day 13
Erçek Gölü
Day 14
Depart from Van

Tour information


Flowers (particularly Irises and other Bulbs), Birds, and superb Landscapes. Also some Archaeological Sites.


Yasemin Konuralp , Phil Benstead

Group Size

One leader for a group of up to 8, two leaders up to the maximum group size of 15.

Included in the Price

All flights. All accommodation, transport and meals in Turkey. Services of the leaders. Please note: Drinks, tips and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included. There is no visa required for UK citizens.
Flower, bird and butterfly checklists are available.


The first night will be in the quiet Durusu Club Hotel just fifteen minutes drive from Istanbul’s shiny new airport. Set in wooded countryside overlooking a valley at the head of the reservoir the Durusu will be an ideal base to rest before catching the flight on to Van early the next morning. In Doğubeyazıt we will stay in the pleasant Tehran Boutique Hotel. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and have great views of Mount Ararat. On the western side of Lake Van we’ve three nights at the Ahlat Metropol Hotel sited right by the shores of the lake and with views of the extinct Nemrut volcano behind. There’s a nice wetland just down the road and Ahlat’s famous Seljuk cemetery is close by. In Van we’ve six nights at the excellent modern Doubletree by Hilton opposite a small wetland on the shores of Lake Van itself. This is a four star hotel with lovely rooms and in an excellent position for us to explore the region. All rooms in these hotels have en suite facilities and each hotel also has a good restaurant.


No more than three or four miles in any one day, usually much less, and always at a relaxed pace ideally suited to photographers.


UK return flights are from London Heathrow, Manchester*, Edinburgh* or Birmingham* to Van, via Istanbul. The same routing is also available from most major European Airports*. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.

*These routes may incur a supplement.


Generally warm and sunny. Showers and more prolonged rain are possible and it can be quite cool on the higher passes.

How to Book

Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back to us. You will receive confirmation of your place, and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information.

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