Bitlis is a convenient tourism destination any time in any season with Ahlat Tombstones (Ahlat Mezartaşları) which made the Tentative UNESCO World heritage List, Ahlat Ruins dating back to the Urartu, Bitlis Castle (Bitlis Kalesi) from the time of Alexander the Great as well as several tombs, mosques, castles, caravanserais, madrasas and museums.
Seljuk Cemetery (Selçuklu Meydan Mezarlığı)
The cemetery in Ahlat covers a 210-acre area and has around 9000 graves. It is the largest ancient cemetery of the Islamic world as well as Anatolia. Dating back to the 11th to 16th centuries, the Cemetery houses four types of graves: built-up tombs, prismatic sarcophagi with or without a headstone, and funnel (chamber tomb). Headstones in the Seljuk Open Cemetery in Ahlat are a mixture of the obelisks (balbal) of the Central Asian shaman tradition and the Islamic tradition that succeeds it. Headstones bear information about the deceased, as well as epitaphs, literary words, verses of the Koran and hadiths on the front side, and the name of the master who made the tombstone, and ornamentations with letters and geometric shapes on the back side.
Ahlat Tombstones entered the Tentative UNESCO World heritage List as “The Tombstones of Ahlat the Urartian and Ottoman citadel”.
Ruins of Ahlat (Ahlat Harabeleri) is a settlement carved in rocks in Ahlat, one of the first settlement places in Eastern Anatolia, in the Neolithic age.
In Bitlis and Ahlat, there are a lot of cupolas dating back to the Seljuk and İlkhanid period which stand out with their decorations and architectural design. They are the finest examples of Seljuk mausoleums. Cupolas appear to have been shaped after tents. Characterized as mausoleums, the cupolas are usually two-storey buildings with the burial chamber at the bottom and a prayer room at the top.
Usually built for beys, their descendants and families, these cupolas are a mixture of the pre-Islamic (kurgan) and Islamic burial traditions of Turks.
Make sure you visit Çifte Kümbet (Twin Cupolas), the Cupola of Usta Şagirt (Usta Şagirt Türbesi), Emir Bayındır, and Hasan Padişah.
Bitlis Castle (Bitlis Kalesi) was built by Badlis, a commander of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. The Castle is 2800 metres in circumference and 56 metres high, and enclosed by 7-metre-thick fortified walls. According to old accounts, the upper castle housed a castle, 300 households, an inn and a mosque, and the lower castle comprised a bazaar with iron gates at both ends, a bedesten (covered bazaar), and several hundred houses. Among them, only the Castle survives.
Museum of Ahlat
The Museum opened in 1971, and serves as a local museum since it is the only museum of the area. Displaying prehistoric and ancient artifacts from the time of the Urartians and the Palaeolithic Age, the museum draws attention of the archaeology and history enthusiasts.
Bitlis Ethnography Museum
In the museum located in the Bitlis city center, works representing the lifestyle of the local people, social, religious, technical and scientific features and culture of the period are exhibited.
Coastal Castle of Ahlat
Its built by Mimar Sinan, commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent on his way back from the third Ottoman-Safavid War, the Coastal Castle of Ahlat (Ahlat Sahil Kalesi) is a rectangular lakeside castle with relatively low walls and 13 towers. With two surviving historical mosques and several houses inside.
Historical City Centre of Bitlis
Its located on a valley full of historical structures, the city centre of Bitlis is a popular destination with its architectural style and mystical atmosphere. Bitlis resembles an open-air museum with many historical buildings.
El Aman Caravanserai
Located on the Bitlis-Tatvan highway and the ancient Silk Road itinerary, El Aman Caravenserai (El Aman Kervansarayı) is an Ottoman building from the 16th century. Built by Hüsrev Pasha, the Governor of Van, it is the largest caravanserai in Anatolia. It is located in the intersection of the Caravan Road, Pilgrim's Road and Silk Road, and played a key role in ensuring security and meeting the needs of caravans.
Usually separated from the street by a high wall, isolated from outside but equally free and original inside, Bitlis houses were built from uniform face stones with a flat compacted earth roof. Giving a rather still impression from outside, the crowned gates of these houses imply that the real mystery lies within. Bitlis houses are like a gateway to a spacious world opening to humane traits with stone-tiled patios and gardens full of fruit trees.
Although it is not clear when the Grand Mosque was built but there is an inscription stating that it was renovated in 1150 during the Seljuk period.
Kef Castle in Adilcevaz
It is on Mount Kef near Adilcevaz. Built by the Urartians, the Castle dates back to the 9th C. BCE. Only the remnants of the castle have survived.
Zal Pasha Mosque
The Mosque was named after Zal Pasha, a vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, and is located on the side of Lake Van (Van Gölü) on the Ahlat-Adilcevaz Road. The Mosque was built from local (Ahlat) stone, and has 12 domes.
Adilcevaz Coastal Castle
It is located on a hill 3 km north of Adilcevaz District. It was built around (685-645 BCE), As a result of the archaeological excavations around the castle, artifacts unearthed from here are exhibited in Adilcevaz.
Located in the city centre, the Madrasa was built by the Seljuks in 1589. A masterpiece of the Seljuk architecture, the Madrasa stands out with rich motifs and ornaments on its walls.
White Church in Mutki
It is located on a slope in İkizler village of Mutki district. Estimated to have been built in 900s, the structure was used as a monastery where priests were trained. Only the ruins of the structure remain today.
Nemrut Ski Resort
Bitlis has great potential of winter tourism since it has a long winter. Giving the opportunity to enjoy the view of Lake Van while skiing, Nemrut Ski Resort (Nemrut Kayak Merkezi) has one of the longestski-runs in Türkiye.
The chairlift system has a lift length of 2550 metres and carriage capacity of 1000 passengers, allowing visitors to enjoy skiing to the fullest with a wonder of nature - Nemrut Crater Lake (Nemrut Krater Gölü) on the one side, and the immense view of Lake Van (Van Gölü) on the other.
Lake Van and Cable Wakeboarding
Lake Van (Van Gölü) has a soda content and long beaches along the shores of Bitlis in particular. In addition to sea-sand-sun type of vacations, water sports are available in Lake Van. Among the districts of Bitlis, Tatvan and Adilcevaz stand out with water sports.
Bitlis Shores of Lake Van
The largest lake in Türkiye with a surface area of 3765 km2. 1876 km2 of Lake Van (Van Gölü) is in the borders of Bitlis. It is a tectonic and volcanic barrier lake in terms of its formation. The lake has an altitude of 1700 metres and a maximum depth of around 170 metres. Ferry cruises are available between Tatvan and Van on Lake Van.
The lake is surrounded by Tatvan, Ahlat and Adilcevaz with their unique natural beaches. Beaches of the lake are about 600 kilometre-long in total, and most of them are natural beaches.