Located in southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria, Mount Nemrut rises to just over 7,000 feet above sea level. Called Nemrut Dag in Turkish, it is protected by Mt Nemrut National Park and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is known for the vast field of gigantic statues that surround the sanctuary tomb of King Antiochus. These huge monoliths (25 to nearly 30 feet high) are similar to the mysterious statues of Easter Island in Chile and date to the first century B.C.
The statues at Mount Nemrut are of lions, eagles, various gods of Greece, and the king himself. They once were arranged in seated positions around the tumulus (burial mound), with the names of the gods inscribed on them and are now scattered about the site in a somewhat haphazard (but nonetheless impressive) manner. Around the tumulus are terraced courts carved out of the rock, an altar in the shape of a pyramid, and rock walls.
Many travel companies offer Mount Nemrut tours and vacation packages to this rather remote region of the country. They are generally part of the itineraries for tours that visit the Cappadocia churches and monasteries, the frozen waterfalls of Pamukkale, the ruins of Ephesus, and perhaps a visit to the beautiful beaches of the Turquoise Coast. It is also possible to book a simple overnight to Mt Nemrut National Park from Istanbul or Ankara.
Not a large percentage of visitors take advantage of these tours since Mount Nemrut is in a fairly remote area of the country and not near other attractions. However, the awesome statues at Mount Nemrut are well worth a visit if you have the time and funds to get there. The closest city with an airport is Adiyaman (about 45 minutes away from the site), and there are flights between this Mount Nemrut airport and Istanbul or Ankara.
The tourist infrastructure around Mt Nemrut National Park is not as sophisticated as it is along the coast, so you won’t be staying in world-class luxury hotels for your excursion. But if you book vacation packages from reputable tour operators, you can still expect clean comfortable hotels rooms and excellent transportation and guide services. Some day excursions from Adiyaman are done by helicopter.
Many of the Mount Nemrut tours will include sunset cocktails at the site, as the statues at Mount Nemrut are quite an extraordinary sight as the sun sets and under the brilliant night stars in the mountain air. This is fitting since it appears that, like Stonehenge in England, the statues at Mount Nemrut were originally arranged to mark certain astrological events that were important to religious rites. King Antiochus was a believer in a religious cult that worshiped several astrological deities of Persia (today’s Iran) and Greece. While the cult largely died out with the king, some of his successors also placed their tombs here, a site that was lost to modern civilization until excavated in the late nineteenth century by an engineer from Germany. Some of the statues lie on the ground, as though deliberately pushed over or toppled by earthquake. Many have their noses defaced (like the monuments of Egypt), evidence of the efforts of subsequent Christian generations to eradicate the history of the cult.