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Ahlat Open Air Museum

Coordinate: 38º45’10.00’’K 42º29’40.00’’D Height: 1675 m

Ahlat is located on the west coast of Lake Van, and remains within the boundaries of Bitlis. It was taken over in Great Seljuk Emperor Tugrul Bey from Byzantines in 1055. Turkmen began to settle into the city during this period. It was fell to the principality of Ermenshahs (Sokmens) which was founded by Sokmen in 1100. Migration was continued during this period, and Ahlat became a Turkish city.


After getting the title “Kubbetü’l Islam”, Ahlat became one of the three cities of Islamic world with Balkh and Bukhara. It turned into a science and cultural center educating many judges, scientists and artists. This prosperity ended after being destroyed by the armies of Timur in the 14th century.

Ahlat is famous with Seljuk monuments. These tombs have the appearance of an open air museum containing fine examples of stonework. Five of the tombs are left from Seljuks and one is from Ottomans. Meydanlık Cemetery is the biggest and most important cemetery of Ahlat. There are approximately a thousand tombstones from the beginning of the 12th century to 16th century containing Ermenshah period. There is also tumulus also called “shed” by people. There are 14 vaults and 2 castles mostly from 13th century in Ahlat which is a district in Bitlis today. Beautiful examples of stone works on tombstones show that Ahlat raised great masters on this.