cavus1The Uratian archaeological site of Sardurihinilli at Çavuştepe is to the right of the road as you head southeast from Van to Hakkari. Here King Sardur II (r 764-735 BC) built himself a fortess and palace on a ridge of rock overlooking the Gürpınar plain.

The walls were built of giant blocks of andesite that fitted together so well that no mortar was needed to join them although only the lowest levels now survive.

There are several specific things to look out for at Çavuştepe, including giant pithoi (jars) that were embedded in the ground to serve as storage units for wheat, each jar labelled with its contents.

There is also as the remains of a temple to the warrior god Khaldi, one of the three main Urartian deities, with a fine cuneiform inscription.

You can also gaze down onto one of the Urartian irrigation ditches known as the Semiramis Canal; it’s still in use today.

Most visitors, however, will probably be most struck by the remains, at the far end of the ridge, of what must be one of the earliest squat toilets in existence.cavus2

Caretaker Mehmet Kuşman is one of the world’s few people in the world who can read and write Urartian. If you’re lucky enough to find him on site he will translate the temple inscription for you and perhaps reproduce the inscriptions on the buried wheat jars in the dust for you. 

Çavuştepe is believed to have been overrun by the Scythians in the early 6th century after which it never really recovered its former importance. 

Warning. There are three large uncovered cisterns in the ruins of the palace at the far end of the site. They are not signposted so parents should be especially careful about letting children run ahead of them.


There is nowhere to stay in Çavuştepe. The best choice of accommodation is in Van. 

Transport info

Minibuses from Van to Hakkari pass the site. Check the times of the return buses carefully.

On the same trip you can also visit the ruins of the castle at Hoşap further south on the same road. You could also make a long day off by continuing to the ruined church at Albayrak and the dramatic scenery at Yavuzler Köyü.


cavus3Mehmet Kuşman has been working at Çavuştepe for more than 50 years

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