When I first planned my trip in Turkey, I was determined to go off-the-beaten trail that normal tourists don't bother and move toward the east. The first destination in the East of Turkey was Mt Nemrut.
You may have recognized a photo of statue's heads scattered on top of a mountain from somewhere. I first saw it on the Lonely Planet's cover for Turkey, got super interested in it and did some research, found the name of the place and without hesitation, I mapped my travel and went to Mt Nemrut. It was not an easy task though and this article illustrated the steps I went through so you don't have to.
Looking for a complete itinerary for Turkey? One Month In Turkey.
Getting to Mt Nemrut
In terms of basing myself, I had several options from doing a multi-day trip from Cappadocia, stay in Kahta and take a day trip via an organized tour, or stayed in Karadut, the final village before the summit. The idea of going with an organized tour did not appeal to me at all so my only option was to stay in Karadut and hike from there.
Looking for a guide to Cappadocia? 4 Days Backpacking Guide to Cappadocia.
Due to my schedule (I had to meet up with a friend in Istanbul in 2 days), I did not have the luxury to cruise to Kahta with an overnight bus so I decided to book a cheap flight (via Anadolujet through Skyscanner or Momondo) to Adiyaman, the closest airport to Mt Nemrut via Ankara. The problem was that I needed to get to Ankara from Goreme early in the morning. Fortunately, there was a bus leaving at 7 and would arrive in Ankara in time for my flight to Adiyaman. It was a tight schedule but it worked out well, and I saved myself 11 hours sleeping on a bus.
Where to Stay near Mt Nemrut
For accommodation, I realized that the further east I go, the fewer hostels I found, and that was the case for Mt Nemrut. I went with Karadut Pension, the closest affordable accommodation I could find to make the hike shorter. Don't expect glamorous accommodation for anything in this area since Karadut is a village tugged away within a valley of a mountain range. Comfort does not come through here.
To get from Adiyaman airport to Karadut, you can get a shuttle to Kahta for a very cheap price and hitchhike to Karadut or you can ask the pension for a transfer. The latter option will cost you 80 TRY though.
I arrived late in the evening and missed the sunset but since it was so remote, the sight of the shifting colors of the sky was still captivating.
Hiking up Mt Nemrut from Karadut
From Karadut, it took me around 3 hours one way to hike up to the summit of Mt Nemrut. Since it was in the mid summer of July, the heat was unbearable. The higher I went up, the rest shade I found.
The trail along the road was interesting at first with abandoned buildings, grassy hills and turtle sightings (really) but it got repetitive real fast after an hour.
One hour into my hike, I found a little kiosk where I had to pay 20 TRY for a single access ticket to the summit to proceed forward.
After I paid for the ticket, I thought the summit was close but as I found out later, it was only the beginnning of a long steep hike.
So close yet so far. Since I was 2 hours into the trail and during those time I did not see any cars passing by, it was too late to go back or to hitchhike. I had to move forward.
After 3 hours in the heat, I almost collapse when I arrived at the parking lot near the summit. It was windy and cold so do prepare a jacket when you are there, especially if you want to go during sunrise or sunset.
And here it was, the ruins of the statues of gods and kings of the 1st century BC destroyed by mother nature.
Here is me for scale with the size of the heads. I could imagine how impressive it would be when the heads were still on their bodies. Once again, humanity had defy nature and built this impressive monument on top of a 2,134 m high mountain.
Some heads were still in good conditions, but some were not hence the fence around the monuments. Too bad about the fence because it made a good looking monument ugly.
Did you know, these statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them? Now it was brought down at some stage and scattered around the site.
At first, I thought the monument was only built on one side of the summit but as it turned out there were more statues on the other side. This particular one on the left is probably the most well-known one out of all because it was on the cover page of the Lonely Planet's book about Turkey.
You know you had a productive day when you climbed a mountain from right at the bottom of the valley in this photo to the top!
Once I got this shot, I left the summit and started to make my way back to the pension. As I was walking, looking like shit as I was, a car stopped and asked if I needed a lift. I did not even have to throw my thumbs out to get a lift here in Turkey, people offer! I said yes, and tagged along with them. They were electricians who were installing a new security system at the site and they were heading back to Adiyaman. They don't speak much English but they tried and that's what counts.
Hitchhiking Back to Karadut
Many people had warned me about hitchhiking in Turkey but my experience was the opposite of theirs. People are not scared to give strangers a lift and they will try their best to help you out as much as they can. I was dropped right at the door of the pension in 15 minutes and I was off to bed right away.
Is Mt Nemrut worth all the trouble?
After I posted a few photos of Mt Nemrut on my Instagram, a friend asked me if it was worth it to go all the way there. The answer is simple. Are you determined enough that you need to see this monument, if so then it is worth your time. If not, then you will have to think hard because there's only one thing to do there and it could get expensive real fast. The transportation to and from the hotel was 160 TRY, not to mention the absence of the hostels which made it even more costly for backpackers like me. If you think this is too much trouble then skip Mt Nemrut and go to Van, Kars or Trabzon instead.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Next up, we will go even further east to Van, once a prosperous Armenian town but was enacted as part of the Turkish territory and explore the Armenian church on the Akdamar island, the domestic 2 colored eyes cats and how I survived Ramadan in the east of Turkey.
Continue Reading the Next Part: A Backpacking Guide on Things to Do in Van, Turkey.
Further Reading for Turkey
Turkey is a country that stands in the middle of Europe and Asia. Empires after empires rose and fall on this land and in order to see Turkey as a whole, you will have to go further than just Istanbul.
Here is a selection of articles and travel guides that you might need to further plan your trip to Turkey:
- Looking for a complete itinerary and travel guide for Turkey? One Month Itinerary for Turkey.
- You will likely be flying into Istanbul when you are traveling to Turkey. Check out my 4 days itinerary for Istanbul.
- A lot of Roman-influenced can be seen throughout Turkey. One of the big ones is Ephesus, a Roman ruin near Selcuk, south of Istanbul. Here’s a quick guide on how to get to Selcuk and visit Ephesus.
- Pamukkale is a popular tourist attraction since the ancient time. People from all over come to bath in these white salt pools along the cascade. It is an incredible sight to behold and if you want to visit, check out my One Day Travel Guide to Pamukkale.
- The southern coast of Turkey boasts a vivid turquoise colored sea, stunning cliffs and the Lycian trail, one of the best long trekking trails in the world that runs along the coast. Check out our travel guide on hiking the Butterfly Valley and Kabak in the Southern port town of Fethiye, Turkey.
- Cappadocia is a big area full of amazing things to do, from hot air balloon to hiking the valleys. Here’s a complete guide on how to spend 4 days in Cappadocia, Turkey.
- It’s time to go off the beaten path with a visit to Van, a city in Eastern Turkey known for its massive breakfast and an Armenian temple on an island. Here’s a travel guide on how to visit Van, Turkey.
- The Northern coast of Turkey, below the Black Sea is also a great place to go off-the-beaten-path. Trabzon is an important ancient port city full of history waiting for you to explore. Check out my travel guide on how to visit Sumela Monastery in Trabzon.
- Kars is a city located on the easternmost part of Turkey and along the border with Armenia, there’s an ancient Armenian ruin called Ani that will blow your mind away. Here is a complete guide on how to visit Ani from Kars, Turkey.
- Not convinced by my words? Maybe these photos of Turkey will help! 45 Photos that will inspire you to travel to Turkey.
- Since you are already all the way east, why not cross the border from Turkey to Georgia and make your way to Tbilisi, a vibrant capital city of Georgia. Check out my Georgia Travel Guide to plan your next trip to Georgia.
- For all articles about Turkey, visit Turkey Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for the Middle East? You can find more on my Middle East Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.