A half-day excursion southeast of Van along the road to Başkale and Hakkari leads to the fascinating Urartian site at Çavuştepe (25 kilometers from Van), and the spectacular Kurdish castle at Hoşap, 33 kilometers further along the road.

Hoşap Castle rises dramatically from a rocky outcrop alongside the sleepy town of Güzelsu.  The former town of Hoşap lay on the flat ground north of the castle rock and in the enclosed space on the opposite side of the castle from the road; the present village extends into this space.  The town was defended at one corner by the castle and elsewhere by a wall, which originally started from the ends of the castle’s two cliffs. Built of mud, and toothed with the remains of mud battlements, the wall of the early Ottoman period can still be seen in stretches.  The castle whose remnants are visible today was built in 1643 by a local Kurdish chieftain, Mahmudi Süleyman, and has an impressive gateway in a round tower.  Above the castle entrance are superb lion reliefs.  Be sure to explore the castle keep and examine the impressive walls.

The narrow hill at Çavuştepe was once crowned by the fortress-palace Sarduri-Hinili, home of the kings of Urartu and built between 764 and 735 BCE by King Sardur II.  These are the best-preserved foundations of any Urartian palace. The yukarı kale (upper fortress) is to the left, and the vast aşağı kale (lower fortress) to the right.  Climb the rocky hill to the lower fortress ruins, marked by a gate of black basalt blocks polished to a gloss; a few blocks on the left-hand side are inscribed in cuneiform.  As you stroll the hilltop site and admire the sweeping views of the local countryside, be sure to note other illustrations of Urartian engineering ingenuity, including the cisterns under the pathways, the storage vessels, the kitchen, and the palace.  Down on the plains to the south are irrigation canals also created by the Urartians.

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