Tourist’s guide to Nemrut Dag – an ancient complex in Turkey at 2000m

Nemrut Dag is a mountain stretching in the south-eastern part of Turkey in the province of Adiyaman, 96 km from the city of Malatya. Nemrut belongs to the Eastern Taurus mountain range and is located at an altitude of 2150 m above sea level. The uniqueness of the natural object lies primarily in the ancient buildings and stone sculptures of the Hellenistic period, preserved on its territory. In 1987, the ancient buildings of Nemrut-Dag, in view of their undeniable cultural value, were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Mount Nemrut Dag

Today Nemrut Dag is one of the most visited attractions in southeastern Anatolia. Although most often the residents of Turkey come here, the monument every year causes more and more interest among foreign travelers. To realize the full value of the mountain peak, it is important to turn to the history of the origin of its unusual sculptures and structures.

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Historical reference

Head of Antioch I
Antiochus I

After the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great in the 2nd century BC in the area where Mount Nemrut is located, a small state formed under the name of Kommagena. The founder of this ancient Armenian kingdom was a native of the Yervanduni dynasty named Ptomely Kommagensky. In 86 BC his descendant Antioch I comes to power in the empire – an energetic young man with high ambitions, often flowing into a real delusions of grandeur. The ruler claimed that he came from the family of Alexander of Macedon, and with frantic zeal tried to achieve the same glory as the great commander.

At the peak of his madness and self-love, Antiochus I decided to create a new religion, which included the traditions of Western Greek and Eastern Persian beliefs. The ruler declared himself the god of the Kommagensky kingdom and the main deity of the newly made faith. In 62 BC Antiochus I ordered to build for himself a tomb on the top of Mount Nemrut. Following the example of Egyptian funerary structures, the tomb was built in the shape of a pyramid. Outside, the sanctuary was decorated with stone statues of Greek and Persian deities from 8 to 10 m high. It is noteworthy that the statue of Antiochus was erected on equal terms among the sculptures of other gods.

Tourists on the mountain Nemrut Dag

Soon after the death of the ruler, the Roman Empire took possession of the lands of the Kommagen kingdom, and they completely forgot about the tomb. Only in 1881, German researchers managed to discover a lost historical complex, which at that time was known only to a few local residents. In 1953, on top of Nemrut, the Germans, in a team with American scientists, staged a tremendous archaeological site, cleared and explored all the monuments of the mountain. Thanks to their efforts, now any traveler can visit the ancient complex in Turkey and touch the statues, which are more than 2000 years old.

What can be seen on the mountain today

Currently, the ruins of the once majestic tomb, the analogues of which are still not found all over the world, have been preserved on the Nemrut-Dag Mountain in Turkey. Scientists could not name the exact reason for the destruction of this monument. Some of them believe that it was damaged by numerous earthquakes characteristic of the region. Others suggest that some of the foreign invaders might have damaged the object. Nevertheless, some fragments of the tomb managed to reach our days in good condition. What can be seen on the mountain?

East terrace

The territory of the historical complex on Nemrut-Dag is divided into three sections. The northern part of the monument is completely destroyed and is not of interest. But among the ancient buildings of the eastern section, a pyramidal mound, 50 m high and 150 m wide, is well preserved. Presumably, the body of Antiochus I is buried here, but there is still no evidence to support this theory.

Stone heads

The statues of the gods adorning the tomb over the centuries have seriously suffered: all sculptures sitting on the throne, without exception, have lost their heads. Scientists who examined the monument found and cleared the missing parts and arranged them in a row at the foot of the tomb. Among them are the heads of Heracles, Zeus, Apollo, the goddess of fortune Tiche and Antiochus I. Here you can also see the faces of lions and eagles standing on each side.

Eagle head

An interesting fact is that earlier statues of Greek and Persian gods were usually portrayed in a standing pose. Only occasionally in the temples dedicated to a single deity, sculptures were installed in a sitting position. As we have already indicated, at the tomb of Antiochus all the gods are depicted sitting on the throne, and such a pose was not chosen by chance. Thus the ruler of Commagena wanted to show that the great gods found their abode precisely on the mountain at his tomb.

Eagle and lion made of stones

Some of the ancient monuments are located in the western section: these are statues of all the same deities and animals of smaller sizes, as well as bas-reliefs with their images. The bas-relief with the figure of a lion decorated with 19 stars and a crescent moon is especially well preserved. Researchers are sure that it encoded the date of construction of the ancient complex (62 BC)

Bas-relief with a figure of a lion

In addition to architectural artifacts, Mount Nemrut in Turkey is famous for its breathtaking panoramas. Especially beautiful views can be observed here during sunrise and sunset. But in the daytime, local landscapes appear vivid pictures of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

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How to get there

Turkish Airlines Plane

The road to the mountain is quite difficult and takes a lot of time. The Adiyaman province in Turkey, where Nemrut-Dag is located, includes the capital of the same name, in which the airport closest to the object is located. The distance between them is about 60 km. Every day, several Turkish Airlines flights depart from Istanbul’s air harbor to Adıyaman. Once a day, you can get to the city from Ankara Airport.

Upon arrival at Adiyaman’s air harbor, you need to go to the city station, from where once every half an hour minibuses leave for Kakhta, the largest settlement nearest to the mountain (the distance between Nemrut Dag and Kakhta is almost 54 km). And already at the bus station of this city you can catch dolmush to the very mountain. The minibus will take you to the mountain ascent, from where you will have to walk to the top on foot.

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Useful Tips

  1. The ideal time to visit Nemrut Dag Mountain in Turkey is from May to September. During this period, the temperature in the region is comfortable enough for sightseeing. The period from October to May is characterized by low temperature indicators and heavy rainfall, which can ruin the whole impression of a trip to a historical monument.
  2. Hotel Karadut Pension Nemrut
  3. If you want to visit Nemrut-Dag as part of an excursion, then before buying it at a travel agency, talk with the staff of your hotel. It is possible that they will offer you an individual tour at a better price.
  4. 12 km from the mountain is a small village called Karadut, where you can find several good hotels and cafes.
  5. Many travelers who went to Nemrut Dag at dawn (sunset) found on top of a crowd of tourists. Therefore, it makes sense to go uphill in less popular daytime hours.

After visiting Nemrut Dag in Turkey, we recommend visiting the nearby Arsameya, the former capital of the Kingdom of Commagena, where it will be interesting to get acquainted with the ruins of the ancient city.

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