Friday, July 6, 2012

Looking back through my photos, now I can truly marvel at the vast beauty of the brilliant sun rising over the top of the Taurus Mountains in eastern Turkey.

But when I was actually there on top of Nemrut Dağı (Mount Nemrut) all I could think about was the bitter cold. My teeth chattered, and I huddled closer to my husband for warmth. Seriously, bring a winter parka, gloves and a hat if you brave the pre-dawn morning trek – even in the middle of July!
Hubby and me on top of Mount Nemrut in SE Turkey.
Nemrut, a 2,134-meter-high (7,001 ft) mountain in southeastern Turkey, is topped with an unusual tumulus believed to be the burial grounds of King Antiochus I (64-38 B.C.), the ruler of the small Commagene kingdom.

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the region that lies between the Taurus Mountains and the Euphrates River was called Commagene, originally established as an independent kingdom in 162 BC by Mithridates Kalinikos I. The kingdom was at the height of its splendor during the period of King Antiochos I, who succeeded Mithridates.

The burial site, topped with man-made crushed rock, is surrounded by three spectacular terraces and a temple. The site was adorned with huge statues of various Greek, Armenian and Iranian gods, which were toppled to the ground by later earthquakes. The statues’ heads have become some of Turkey’s most iconic images, used heavily in tourism marketing, and are now secured behind a chained-off area on the site.
Unfortunately, I had a difficult time capturing any photos of these statues and beheaded heads without other tourists and their shadows being in them as well. Also, our hands felt nearly frostbitten and the wind gusts were so strong that it was hard to hold the camera steady.
Here's a good view of the other tourists huddled under blankets on top of Mount Nemrut.
Despite these difficulties, I thought it was remarkable to watch the sunrise surrounded by thousands of years of history on top of Mount Nemrut. A site not to be missed when traveling in southeast Turkey!

Few words are needed once you see these sunrise photos below.
Hiking down from Mount Nemrut.
Just surrounded by mountains everywhere!
After our summer trip to Mount Nemrut, we have visited eight out of 11 of Turkey’s UNESECO Heritage Sites. We still have left to visit:
  • The archaeological site of Hattusha, former capital of the Hittite Empire, located near modern Boğazkale, about 200 km. east of Ankara.
  •  The Great Mosque of Sivas and the Hospital of Divriği, 200 km. northeast of Kayseri.
  • The ancient ruins of Xanthos and Letoon near Antalya. These are two cities that made up the ancient federation of Lycia and provide excellent examples of Lycian tombs. 

Getting there:
We stayed at the Hotel Grand Iskender in Adıyaman, which was an 1.5 hour drive away from Mt. Nemrut (GPS coordinates 37.981281, 38.740797). There also are several pansiyon located in the small town of Kahta and the village of Karadut which are closer to the site. British writer, Pat Yale, provides more info in this helpful article about how to explore Mount Nemrut.

Where to stay:
Looking back, I’d recommend staying in the quiet village of Karadut, only 12 km. from the summit, just to save yourself from getting up so early.

Another option, recommended by my friend, is to do a homestay with a Kurdish family in the village of Yuvacali. This can be done by booking a tour through Nomad Tours Turkey. I had looked into this appealing option, but the timing didn’t work out with our schedule.

My Traveling Joys

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Julia said...

Thanks for the tips, Joy. This is definitely on our must-sees list. An amazing experience to be able to watch the sunrise, despite the cold. If you need any Xanthos, Letoonia info, give us a shout. It's on our doorstep. :)

Joy said...

@Julia, it's definitely worth the effort to get there and see Mt. Nemrut! Let's hope we get to Xanthos, etc. And I will definitely look you up! :-)

Karen said...

What a wonderful memory that will be after your fingers thaw out! Very fun.

Becca Ramspott said...

Beautiful pics and amazing adventures! Loved your sunrise, especially. Lovely. Glad you guys had fun.

Joy said...

@Karen and @Becca,

Agreed...wonderful trip! We are having lots of adventures - fun to rehash it over drinks this past weekend.

Unknown said...

Great photos and tips! I never knew it was so cold. Maybe I should plan a trip there to escape Antalya's July heat?

Joy said...

@Ellen, For the morning at least! By noon, the temps were closer to 30 C. Such a stark contrast for the summer.