Tatvan was built in the 19th century to serve the railroad: trains from Istanbul and Ankara arrived here, the rail cars were loaded onto big lake ferries and transported across the great salt Lake Van to the city of Van, from which some cars went on to Iran.
Thus Tatvan has a selection of hotels and restaurants, none of which are great, some of which are serviceable.
The PKK Kurdish terrorism of the 1980s and 1990s curtailed rail service, not to mention tourism, so Tatvan's role switched from civilian and commercial to military.
With the decline of the PKK Tatvan's tourism fortunes may revive because it's well placed to be a base for visits to the Seljuk Turkish monuments of Ahlat, the crater lake in the extinct volcano of Nemrut Dagi, and Akdamar Island.
For you, Tatvan is probably a lunch stop or at most a one-night stay on your way to the city of Van from Erzurum or Diyarbakir.
Many buses stop here on their way to and from Van. The Lake Van Express train from Istanbul via Ankara operates twice a week taking about 41 hours for the run. It leaves Istanbul (Haydarpasa) in the evening on Sunday and Friday, and Tatvan in the morning on Tuesday and Thursday. See the Turkish State Railways website for the schedule. The nearest airport to Tatvan is at Van.
Nemrut Mountain was located inside the borders of Tatvan District, to the north of the province. The mountain is 2935 meters high and display volcanic characteristics. Nemrut Mountain is a natural wonder and is being visited by numerous local and foreign tourists, especially in the summer season every year. The last eruption of Nemrut was in 1441. The diameter of main crater is 7 kms.
There are 4 thermal lake around Nemrut Mountain. The Nemrut Lake is located inside the crater area of Nemrut Mountain and is the first greatest crater lake in Turkey and is the second greatest crater lake of the world. The mountain is 27 km. away from Bitlis and is 13 km. away from Tatvan and could be easily reached by Tatvan and Cekmece Village road by private car.
Ahlat is a historic town and a district in Turkey's Bitlis Province in Eastern Anatolia Region. The center town of Ahlat is situated on the northwestern coast of the Lake Van. She was the district in Van Province between 1929-1936.
In the accounts of Nasir Khusraw the town of "Akhlat" is mentioned once: "And from there (Van) we arrived at akhlat in the 18th of Jumada al-awwal and this town marks the borders of Armenians and Muslims, ... an Emir ruled there which they called Nassr-ol-dolat and had many sons and had appointed them as district governors within his kingdom. In this town three languages are spoken: Taazi (Arabic), Persian, and Armenian and I think that's why they call this town Akhlat (Arabic word from the roots "Kha-la-ta" which means "mix, to mix".). They used coins worth 300 Dirhams each."
Ahlat and its surroundings are known for the large number of historic tombstones left by the Ahlatshah dynasty. Efforts led by the local administration are presently being made with a view to including the tombstones in UNESCO's World Heritage List, where they are currently listed tentatively.
In recent years, Ahlat also came to be known for the quality of its potatoes which carved themselves a sizable share in the Turkish agricultural products market.