Mysterious statues with prominent heads. A remote location in the middle of nowhere. A unique energy from the past.

Sounds like Easter Island, right? Well, it is. But it’s also Mt. Nemrut, Turkey. While these sites are from different historical eras and are on opposite sides of the planet, they do seem to be connected with a faint and sort of fascinating dotted line.

And while I have no doubt that Easter Island is a peak travel experience on many travelers’ bucket lists, I know that many don’t make it to that part of the world or simply can’t afford the trip. If you fall into that category and happen to be traveling to Turkey, then you might want to check out Mt. Nemrut. It’s an affordable alternative that’s not exactly shabby.

Before getting into the reasons for visiting Mt. Nemrut, here’s some information about the one and only Easter Island.

Easter Island–Polynesian Mystery

The world’s most remote inhabited island (an annexed territory of Chile), it houses 14-foot stone statues called moai, which once stood on special platforms called ahu. Although they’re intact bodies, they’re often called Easter Island ‘heads’ because they’re 3/5 the size of the bodies.

Easter Islandphoto © 2004 Phil Whitehouse | more info (via: Wylio)
These unique statues represented the ancestors and are the embodiement of living or former chiefs and gods, according to some sources, and were built between 1400 and 1600 AD. They may have been related to the religion of the Rapa Nui, the native Polynesians who inhabited the island.

Mt. Nemrut–‘Throne of the Gods’

King Antiochus I built his tomb sanctuary up on 7000-foot Mt. Nemrut (aka, Nemrud Dağı) in 62 BC and surrounded it with 24- to 30-foot statues of animals and Greek gods. The heads are now detached, thanks to earthquakes and possible defacement; some appear to be sentinels guarding the king’s tomb.

Mt. Nemrut Heads

Antiochos I, one of the Commagene kings, was part of an empire that was independent for a while but was eventually defeated by Roman legions. His reason for building this site was to express his gratitude and feeling of debt to the gods and ancestors who had assisted him. And at the same time, he wanted a tomb that was high and holy, away from the people, and among the gods he worshipped, a hybrid of Greek and Persian.

5 Reasons to Include Mt. Nemrut on Your Turkish Itinerary

1. A UNESCO World Heritage Site/8th Wonder of the World

Mt. Nemrut is a place of special cultural or physical significance, one that takes you back in time to a historical era that’s worth learning about. It’s also considered the 8th Wonder of the World.


Mt. Nemrut heads

2. Location: off the beaten path in Eastern Turkey

While Western Turkey is absolutely wonderful, it’s nice to get off the beaten path and to move beyond Ephesus, etc. in the West, Capadoccia in the center and into the East. There’s a lot of adventure to be had there at Nemrut and nearby.

3. An affordable backpackers’ alternative to Easter Island

Although it’s now easier and cheaper to get to Easter Island than previously, it’s still rather costly and out of reach for many backpackers. An RT flight could run between $700 and $900 and while there are some low-budget accommodations, the trip can get pricey. A low-budget trip there for several days (including airfare) might run around $1300 to $1500; a high-end trip could be as much as $2500.

Mt. Nemrut, which is often part of a 3-day tour to Sanliurfa, Harran, Kahramanmaras, cost me approximately $250 less than two years ago. That included everything except a couple meals. If done independently, I would imagine it could be done for $100 less but with a certain amount of challenge and inconvenience.

Zeus at Mt. Nemrut?

4. The sunrise is magical and worth experiencing

I loved watching the sun rise over Mt. Nemrut. It was mysterious and beautiful and warm. I’ve head that the sunset is equally as wonderful and so, if you go, I recommend finding a way to do an independent tour where you can perhaps go twice in one day.

Sunrise at Mt. Nemrut


5. It’s a mini adventure

Like most people, I stayed in a sort of scruffy but OK town called Kahta (felt like an adventure after being in Western Turkey) and then, as part of my tour, woke up about around 2:30 or so. My tripmates and I were then driven, in the cold and darkness, up to the mountain.

We then walked up a rocky path to the top, having no idea what we were in for. I then waited, huddling under blankets, with fellow travelers and strangers, until the sunrise. Once it came, I felt I’d been transported back in time to the kingdom of King Antiochus I…

Small tour group at Mt. Nemrut


Mt. Nemrut from another angle
Me being photographed by a Japanese travel companion who had a really nice Nikon that I coveted.

How about you?

Have you ventured beyond Cappadocia into the East, maybe to Nemrut or nearby? Would you consider it? Have you been to Easter Island? Does Mt. Nemrut seem like a nice alternative if you can’t afford the pricier trip?

Link Luv

Want to see more of this wonderful country, from the West to the East? Here’s a post from Turkish Travel blog the covers many different areas both on and off the beaten path and includes some great photos.

42 Comments

  1. Definitely on our ‘must do at some point list’ – but then, where isn’t?! 🙂
    Interesting you said about a tour. Recommended? When we do make it that way, we’ll have time on our hands. We don’t normally do tours but sometimes they’re invaluable. When we were in Cappadocia, we wouldn’t have experienced half the things we did if our hostel owner hadn’t successfully bullied us into a day tour.
    Julia
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Mooching Around Fethiye – Kale ParkMy Profile

    • Hi, Julia…I hear you. So many places that one must do…definitely! I’m not a tour person either, but…based on my time in Eastern Turkey, I don’t think it’s a bad idea. If you have time, though (and if someone with you happens to speak Turkish well), then you might be OK on your own. However you do it, I hope you enjoy yourself!

  2. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World

    Been looking forward to this post. I’ll definitely have to do some reading to understand the context of the place better, but I always like sites with mysterious random leftover statues/structures like Easter Island and Stonehenge… got a feeling I’ll like this one too.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..How I Will Help You Save The WorldMy Profile

    • Thanks, Jill. For some reason, it seemed to take forever to get it together! I found it challenging to synthesize all of the information, some of which was contradictory. Anyway, I know what you mean about the random leftover statues, etc. There’s something about them, isn’t there?

      Have you been to Stonehenge? I have not. Looks like a good place to check out.

      If you make it to Mt. Nemrut, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

  3. I am impressed how many hidden places turkey has!

  4. Wow, those heads are striking. I’m so glad you wrote about this. I had no idea about this 8th wonder of the world but am adding this to my ‘must do in Turkey’ list. Thanks!
    Kim recently posted..RTWsomanyplaces- @JacknJillTravel That is exciting! Congrats on the switchMy Profile

    • Hi, Kim. Glad you enjoyed it and to hear that you’re adding it to your list for Turkey. That’s wonderful! I think you’ll enjoy it. Just remember to wear something warm and to grab a blanket from your hotel. Enjoy!

  5. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures

    Looks cool! I once visited a similar sort of place in Colombia called San Agustin, filled with pre-Colombian carvings of heads and animals and such. It was pretty cool from what I can remember (I was about 7 at the time). This place looks pretty cool!
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..“There’s No School Today- The Government’s Been Overthrown”My Profile

    • Hi, Aaron. San Augustin sounds great….definitely my cup of tea! If I ever make it there, I’ll be sure to check it out. Good memory for having been only 7! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  6. I’d never even heard of Mt. Nemrut before I read this–what a cool place!
    Emily @Travelated recently posted..Pacific Foot Bath- AnyoneMy Profile

  7. This is one of my favourite places in Turkey and well of the beaten track. One day I’ll go back… I went there with an old Rollie camera from the 50s and like fool had the an ISO 3200 film in it (not best in bright daylight!). I ended up with pictures so grainy you couldn’t tell what was in them.

    Ended up with just 3 pictures shot with my mobile phone’s gimmicky panoramic-stitch feature – http://bit.ly/g6aq4P – good memories though!
    retrotraveller recently posted..5 photos I wish were mine – Wrinklies!My Profile

    • You’re been there, too? Nice. Yes, it’s definitely off the beaten path, which is what makes it so cool. You had ISO 3200 film? No kidding. Wild.

      But the photo I just checked out through your link (taken with a phone??) is amazing. Wow…I simply love it!! 🙂 Thanks for joining in and sharing your photo!

  8. So very cool, I’ve never heard of this place.
    ayngelina recently posted..A porky postcard from the Far EastMy Profile

  9. apart from the sunset, i would go there because of their rich history

  10. Oh, this place looks really cool. We also have this and Easter Island on our list, but again, what isn’t! We are explorers and this place looks perfect for us!

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  12. I’m putting Mt. Nemrut on my Turkey list. An interesting place that I previously was not familiar with!
    Laura recently posted..The One with the SunglassesMy Profile

  13. Natalie - Turkish Travel blog

    Fantastic post. I wanted to go there when I was in nearby Cappadocia however hubby was home sick and complaining about me spending all his money. Hopefully I will make it this year.
    Natalie – Turkish Travel blog recently posted..My Bodrum Road Trip – Part OneMy Profile

    • Thanks, Natalie! Hope you make it there this year. I look forward to seeing your post. And thanks for including this post in your recent one re: various places in Turkey to see. Great county….awesome that you live there! 🙂

  14. O wow, never knew there was a place like this in Turkey. But its a great alternative to Easter Island, and its much closer as well 🙂

  15. Great post Lisa! Turkey has been on my bucket list for some time now. After visiting Greece a few years back, I became even more intrigued by that part of the world with its deep history and the sense that you are transported to a different time. Hope to make it there soon! Thanks for sharing some inspirational bits with us! 🙂
    Mark recently posted..Morelia- Michoacán- A Photo EssayMy Profile

    • Thanks so much, Mark. I didn’t know that you’d been to Greece or that Turkey was on your list. How awesome! I have not been to Greece (but would go if I could add it on to another Turkey trip). True re: being transported to a different time. A form of time travel!

      Anyway, I must say that Turkey is one of my favorite countries ever and one that I recommend to everyone…new and seasoned travelers. It’s one that I could return to over and over again because it has so much to offer. I’m sure that you will love it and hope to read what you write if/when you get over there!

  16. Hey Lisa, I’ve travelled to turkey on a few ocasions and ventured to the far east of the country during our overland trip through Iran and Pakistan and onwards towards home in the mid 1990’s.

    Mt Nemrut was a site I had read about before going to turkey but due to the civil unrest within the country at this time, we basically had to run the gauntlet to the Iranian border. The ceasfire between the PKK and the government was called just after we went through (although it didn’t last long on this ocasion).

    This part of the world is far more civilized today and I will definetely vist the site if i ever get back there. A nice post, and some great pictures.

    • Hi, Jason. Thanks for checking out the post.

      Meanwhile….you did an overland tour through Iran and Pakistan? Wow. Sounds amazing! Interesting re: when you were there and what that meant for you when you were in Turkey. Sounds intense. I went through a special checkpoint close to Mardin, which I believe was in place due to local PKK forces. (I must admit that it was a tiny bit exciting passing through it…lol).

      True–thing are better there now. I do hope you get to visit. It’ll be fun to see what you think of it.

  17. I was wondering how to get to Mount Nemrut? I would like to visit the place but i have heard that there are long and steep walks to the summit. I have back(side) problems so i cannot exactly walk over very long distances. Do You think that it is possible for me to take the tour? I am also travelling with 2 kids- 14 and 6 years of age and with a 22 year old daughter who is autistic. So, will i be able to take the tour?

    • I wish I could say yes to this, but I think it would be a tricky walk given the situation you’ve described. I think it would easier to tour Western Turkey. Its infrastructure offers a lot more. Good luck whatever you decide!

  18. Great article! I was in Malatya, not too far from Mt Nemrut, and did consider visiting there, but alas time was not on my side…also I got super-sick in Malatya, so if I had booked a tour, I doubt I’d have been able to go anyway! I’m glad you posted this, as I’ve often wondered about what I missed out on. The sunrise looks beautiful.

    I agree with what you say about getting into Turkey’s east – it’s a whole world away from Istanbul and the path-better-trodden in the west. It felt like a whole different country, and it’s well worth the visit – Turkey’s bus network is fantastic, so getting there shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.
    Tom Stockwell recently posted..5 Ideas for PragueMy Profile

    • Hi, tom. Cool that you were also in Eastern Turkey–not everyone goes there! Shame about getting sick. I think it would have been rough if you’d gone yo Nemrut–especially if you’re not a morning person. I remember sleeping for just a few hours and then having to wake up. I wasn’t sick and it wasn’t easy.

      The East is like another country–for sure–and that’s what makes it so cool. Definitely worth it. I’d like to go back some time and see Van, etc. Maybe someday…

  19. Hello CB Drive,
    Thanks for the great post. I’m planning to return to Turkey with my husband. I’d like to visit the eastern part this time. Where did you book you three day tour that included Mt. Nemrut? And where did the tour originated?
    I love your blog, by the way. I’m aspiring travel photoblogger. Your blog inspire me to get goin gon it soon.
    Thanks,
    Marisol

    • Hi, Marisol. I wish I could remember who I booked it through (I think it was a small agency in Seljuk–the tour left from Cappadocia). If you can, I’d recommend doing a longer tour if possible with some of the other highlights of the East. I didn’t do that and wish I had.

      Thanks for the feedback on my blog–glad you’ve been inspired!

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  21. The statues on Mt Nemrut are of Armenian Gods made by Armenians.

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