The ruined church of Akdamar Island in Lake Van is one of the most exquisite specimens of Armenian religious architecture, awe-inspiring in its surroundings. The church is the only surviving structure from Bishop Manuel’s palace of Aght’amar, which was built between 915 and 921 AD.
The complex of buildings, which originally featured streets, gardens, and terraced parks surrounding the palace and church, was built during the reign of Armenian King Gagik Ardzrouni of the Vaspurakan dynasty. The building is composed of red coloured tufa stone imported to the island from distant quarries and has a cruciform design (cross-shaped) with a conical roof domed on the interior.
A local tale explains why the island was given the name Aght’amar. Every night, a nobleman in love with a lovely girl named Tamar came to the island to see her. His boat capsized while crossing the lake one stormy night, and he drowned while screaming the words “Ach Tamar.” Tamar, who had been looking forward to seeing her loved one, was devastated to learn of his death and died soon after. Since then, the island has been known as “Ach Tamar” (Aght’amar). The lake is also said to be charmed, with angels entering and exiting the water, according to local legend.
The island is about 55 kilometres from Van, Turkey’s third largest city, and is located near the shore of Lake Van (Turkey’s third largest lake). The island is extremely enchanting in the springtime, when the island’s trees are flowering with fragrant flowers.
Tourists’ Interest in Akdamar Island
Iranian visitors were particularly interested in Akdamar Island, which had turned white due to the snowfall in Van. Iranian tourists that enter the Kapköy Customs Gate, which opened to pedestrian crossings by car after corona virus precautions, contribute significantly to the economy of Van, which has the longest land border with Iran.
Shopping malls and leisure areas, particularly hotels, are bustling, and Akdamar Island, one of the city’s most prominent tourism destinations, is attracting a lot of attention. Iranian visitors to Akdamar Island also threw a lot of snowballs and took a lot of photos as souvenirs. Araz, an Iranian tourist guide, stated:
“We are faced with a beautiful view on Akdamar Island. We brought a tour team from Iran. The Iranians love it here. This place has a beautiful view.”