albayrak1If you're driving from Van to Hakkari or vice versa you might want to divert off the main road to see the remains of the huge Armenian church at Albayrak. It used to be out of bounds inside a military post but that is no longer the case and visitors are free to take a look around. 

The church has been associated with the martyrdom of St Bartholomew (flayed alive, then crucified upside down) since at least the eighth century although the current building probably dates back only to the 13th century and was largely rebuilt in the 19th.

The association with the saint may have come about because of a confusion brought about by the area's Armenian name, Aghbak. The church appears to have continued to attract pilgrims keen to see the saint's bones until into the 20th century.

Unfortunately in 1966 the church was blown up and the roof caved in. In the 1990s it was also used as a base during fighting in southeastern Turkey. 

Despite this, striking carvings remain above the main entrance. The lower carving shows a man on horseback stabbing a fallen enemy. T A Sinclair suggests that it a reused piece of Sassanian sculpturealbayrak2

The upper carving shows the base of a carving of the Trinity with paired angels on either side and a lion and a bull beneath it. Sinclair suggests that these carvings date back to a 15th-century renovation of the church. 

Albayrak itself is a dusty little village with not a lot going on, especially since its old role in smuggling oil and other items across the Iranian border seems to have been brought to an end. 


There is nowhere to stay here. Most people visit from Van although you could also stay in Hakkari.

Transport info

Without your own car you could take the bus from Van to Hakkari, get out in Başkale (beyond Albayrak) and try to sort out a taxi from there. 

Driving, you need to continue south from Çavuştepe and Hoşap towards Başkale and Hakkari. Before you get to Başkale you will pass a large mllitary base on the left of the road with an ambiguous sign pointing to the Albayrak Sağlık Ocağı (health Centre). Turn immediately left beside the military base. The road trundles uphill, then drops back down again into Albayrak.

Once you're finished with Albayrak you might want to continue along the road to the scenically dramatic but unsigned village of Yavuzler.




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