Turkey's largest and most unusual lake consists of 3,738 square km (1,443 square miles) of eerily blue water surrounded by mighty volcanic cones, at an elevation of 1,725 meters (5,659 feet). The lake was formed when a volcano blew its top and blocked the course of a river, leaving the water with no natural outlet; as a result the lake is highly alkaline and full of sulfides and mineral salts, six times saltier than the ocean. Lake Van's only marine life is a small member
of the carp family, the darekh, which has somehow adapted to the saline environment. Recreational water sports are limited, and beaches along the rocky shores are few and far between. Swimming in the soft water is pleasant, but try not to swallow any—it tastes terrible.
The towns of Adilcevaz and Ahlat, on Lake Van's north shore, are worth visiting only if you're in the area; you'll probably want to head instead to Van and the nearby island of Akdamar, along the lake's south shore.
Lake Van, Van, Turkey