Oh my God - Nemrut Dagi RULES!

Karadut Travel Blog

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Statues at Nemrut Dagi, with the full moon behind them

People who contributed to and improved my trip:

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, woooooooooow! Maybe i shouldn't write anything else about Nemrut Dagi, because all my head keeps saying is WOW! Now i had seen the photos before and knew what to expect, but my trip here was a little bit special for a number of reasons - snow, solitude, a full moon and a scintillating sunrise. I can't imagine any other factors that could have really improved my trip, it was just one of those experiences that you have to experience to understand.

The History of Nemrut Dagi dates back to the 1st Century BC, when the Kingdom of Commagene was declared independent from the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I took the throne in 80BC, and was quick to claim ancestral routes back to Seleucus I Nicator who founded the Seleucid Empire and also Darius the Great, who had been the King of Persia.

Statues with the heads of Apollo, Fortuna, Zeus-Ahura Mazda and King Antiochus at Nemrut Dagi, with the pyramid burial mound behind them
With his death in 64BC, Mithridates I left power to his son Antiochus I Epiphanes who would rule until 38BC. In this period the Kingdom of Commagene prospered and Antiochus began to see himself as a God-King, which led to his demands for the statues at Nemrut Dagi to be built.

So thats the History, and now how i got there! Of course the trustworthy Lonely Planet recommended a tour, but i wasn't in any mood to pay extortionate sums of money to be shuttled up to the top for an hour or so. Once i arrived into the small village of Narince i was mobbed by a group of young children, but a kebab shop owner fended them off and pulled a chair up for me to sit down on, outside the shop. It was nearly midday and i was feeling peckish, so i bought a kebab and sat with him waiting for a dolmush that was running up to the village of Karadut.
The heads of Heracles, an eagle and a lion, with the full moon in the background


Whilst waiting i got a shock when i saw a guy strolling through the village with a backpack, and soon i found myself engrossed in conversation with the bloke. Paulo was an Italian traveller who was hitch hiking his way through Turkey and like me he hadn't encountered any Westerners outside of Istanbul. We therefore took advantage of having someone to share our experiences with and chatted away for the next two hours. Finally he decided he had to make a move as he was walking up to Karadut, and just before 14.00 my dolmush turned up.

“Nemrut Dagi 15kms” the sign proclaimed, i was starting to feel deja-vu, this wasn't the first time in recent weeks where i had been dropped in the middle of nowhere. 'Karadut, Karadut' i repeated to the driver, but all he did was point up a road to the left and drove off to the right.
The head of King Antiochus, with the full moon in the background
I had sat waiting for two hours for the dolmush to Karadut and in the end i had only been taken halfway, which wasn't what I'd signed up for!

I knew the Cesme Pension was around 6.5kms from the summit, so that meant that i had a 8.5km uphill walk if i wanted to get there. Sunset was around 16.00 and i didn't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, so i made up my mind that i had no choice but to start walking. Whilst the scenery was captivating, i was in no real mood to enjoy it and this was heightened when i was once again mobbed by a group of children screaming 'tourist, tourist, money, money, what is your name' and so on and so forth. The kids in the East of Turkey are a real pain in the arse, but i tried to stay calm and just upped my pace until they left me alone.
Looking out from up on the pyramid, with the bodies on the Eastern Terrace getting ready to see another sunrise


Approaching Karadut village, a dolmush pulled up and i said 'Cesme Pension' and he signaled for me to get in and then drove me about 500m to Karadut Pension. This wasn't where i wanted to stay, but the driver and owner both started telling me Cesme Pension was closed. I knew this was a lie as i had made a reservation only yesterday, so tried to persuade the driver to take me to where i wanted to stay. Clearly the dolmush drivers are in cahoots with Karadut Pension and the driver flat out refused to take me, even though the office in Kahta had told Volkan over the phone that they should go up there.

Throwing my backpack onto my shoulders, i was back on foot and with the prospect of another hours walk up an 11% gradient with 25kgs hanging off me, marvelous! I eventually made in to the Pension at 16.
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi's Eastern Terrace, the sun glints off the snow
00, just as the sun was setting and the temperatures were plummeting. The owner was expecting me and showed me to my room. For 25YTL ($16) i had a double room with en-suite bathroom and air conditioning, which was essential to fight off the cold. Whilst it maybe wasn't the best value in the World it was ok and the price also included breakfast.

I was keen to take a shower and the owner told me that i should hurry as the water would freeze in the next 30 minutes or so. This gave me just enough time to get myself clean and also do a small amount of laundry. It was the last thing that i wanted to do after such a long day, but it was a necessity. Once i was done i went to sit by a fire with the owner and his assistant, that was burning outside. I decided to try and dry my clothes by the fire, but this made them smell of smoke and to add to my woes i burnt one t-shirt and melted part of my walking boot! Under normal circumstances i would have been pretty pissed off to say the least, but I'm trying to implement a mind set of realising that such things are trivial in the grand plan of life.
Sunrise seen from the summit of Nemrut Dagi


Some time later an English guy called Matt came to join us, and he was on his way back down the mountain having seen the sunset. Whilst i enjoyed his company, we were then sadly joined by a complete jackass who was Canadian-Turkish. Now i have met some jackasses in my time, but this guy really rated up amongst the biggest. I simply hate people who lie and boast, and this guy did both and nothing else. The worst thing is that he was boasting about things he clearly hadn't done.

22 years constant travelling. A month with the silver backs where he set up a clinic and school. He had a girlfriend in that village but she was killed by lightning along with a pupil. He introduced foam machines to Ibiza. Was climbing Everest and been filmed on discovery channel next year.
Sunrise, with the heads of an eagle, Apollo and Fortuna beginning to turn colour, as the bodies already bask in the glow of the sun. The full moon can be seen in the background
And so it went on. I decided to keep quiet and Matt did his best to humour the guy, i wonder if he knows what a complete arse he looks?! When Matt left for his Hotel i went to my room to study some Russian and get an early night.

On Sunday i was up at 03.15, having not slept particularly well from the cold. I donned a shirt, t-shirt, another shirt, jumper, coat, trousers, hat, gloves, two pairs of socks and my walking boots and i could still feel the wind rip through my garments as i left the room. There was only one thing for it and that was to set off at a good pace to get the blood pumping. I had no need for my head torch, as the full moon was more than adequately lighting my way and the road began in a reasonable condition.

A couple of kilometres down the road and it was apparent that I was getting pretty high, as the asphalt was now covered in snow and ice, making the going a bit tougher.
Me with the Statues and heads of and Eagle, Apollo, Fortuna, Zeus-Ahura Mazda and King Antiochus and Heracles at Nemrut Dagi, with the pyramid burial mound behind.
It took just over 2 hours to reach the summit, which was 2150m above sea level. The sky was slowly turning orange on the horizon, but i knew it was still going to be some time before the sun actually rose, so i hid under some shelter and ate some snacks.

At 05.45 i made my way up to the statues and was immediately blown away by the craftsmanship and setting. The bodies faced East towards the rising sun, whilst the heads sat solemnly in front of them, having been toppled by earthquakes over the centuries. A burial mound shaped like a pyramid and made up from crushed stones was positioned behind the statues and to crown the picture off, there was the full moon sat perfectly behind. This is why i travel! Julia later informed me that scientists had said that this was the closest the moon had orbited to Earth in decades, which was another unique factor about my visit here.
Head of Zeus-Ahura Mazda, with the statues behind


I tried my best to scramble around to take photos, but this wasn't always easy as the snow was knee deep in places and some of the rocks were slippery from the ice. The statues i was admiring were of Apollo, Fortuna, Zeus-Ahura Mazda, Antiochus and Heracles, with eagles and lions at either end. Antiochus dubbed this creation as 'The Throne of the Gods' and i can understand how one could feel immortal when buried in such a magnificent setting, with such an awe inspiring tomb.

I decided that the perfect view for sunset had to be from behind the statues, so i decided to ascend the burial mound and on the way got a good look at the Greek inscriptions on the back of the statues bodies. I have no idea what was written, but my guess would be 'Antiochus is a bloody good fellow, as are his God ancestors.
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi
He will become immortal upon death and anyone trying to mess with his tomb shall be struck down'. Or something like that! Standing on top of what was likely Antiochus' tomb felt a little bit naughty, but it was too good a chance to pass up on and it was only some lose rocks after all.

Having found what i believed was the best spot for photos, i had to huddle up and wait for 5 minutes or so until the sun finally came onto the horizon. The wind was coming up and over the pyramid making it bloody cold, but at times like this you know that your suffering will be worth it, and this proved to be the case, as the orange ball edged its way into sight. The valley slowly changed colour as the sun rose higher and clouds drifted into one part of the valley, whilst above the tomb some pretty patches of cloud materialised.
Fallen heads on the Western Terrace
I couldn't have asked for anything else, the place was spectacular. Its one of those moments where you want to dance and sing and in some respects you want someone there with you to say 'look, look, look', but then again to be all alone has this special quality that is unrivaled - it was just me and the Gods.

Climbing back down the pyramid, i stood in front of the statues again to watch them change colour, as the sun gradually fell upon the stone. It was hard to stand still, i wanted to keep moving, looking at it all from different angles, out to the sunset, to the statues, to the heads, back to the sunset and so on! I felt like a dog chasing its tail, going round and round and round! Around 07.00 i tried to compose myself and decided that i had seen what was to see on the Eastern terrace and therefore walked around the pyramid to the Western Terrace.
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karadut


Whilst the Eastern Terrace had all the bodies pretty much in tact, the Western Terraces bodies were almost non existent. On the other hand the heads were in slightly better condition and there were also some nice carvings on display. As this side of the mountain receives very little sunlight, the snow was really deep and there was only so much that it was possible to see in such conditions. I tried to cut myself a trail to get some different angles and perspective on what i was seeing, but it was hopeless as i just sank deeper and deeper into the snow. I decided that i had better not test my luck too far and called it a day.

Walking back down the mountain i couldn't help but keep looking back with a stupidly big grin on my face. I think i may have burst out into laughter at some point, i was completely elated with the way my morning had panned out.
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karadut
Now the sun was up, the walk back to the hotel was breathtaking, as i was encompassed by snow capped peaks. It took just over 2 hours to get back down and as some clouds began to roll in i made the decision that i would leave Karadut there and then, rather than stick around for the sunset and have to walk all the way back up there and spend another night in the freezing cold. When you see something like i had, to go back up could only have tainted the experience in my opinion.

I ate some breakfast and packed my bags and had no other choice but to set off walking, as there was no minivan scheduled until the following morning. Even though i was carrying all my bags now, and having already walked 13kms, i had a real spring in my step for the 8.5kms back down to the main junction.
Scenery on the walk back down from Nemrut Dagi
I passed through Karadut village and arrived at the main road, where i was immediately given a lift by a group of guys in a dolmush. When we arrived in Narince they insisted that i didn't pay as they were delivering produce and not an official service, which was very kind of them. From Narince i had to head back to Siverek and then i caught a dolmush on to Sanliurfa.

This trip has to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying that i have ever done. It entailed 30kms of walking and half of which was with a heavy backpack, but the rewards far outweighed the effort. I honestly believe that this is the beauty of independent travel, that whilst things may be more difficult, you normally get moments like these that you could not get from an organised tour with a group of 10 or 20 other people.
Stunning scenery where the dolmush dropped me off. This was the starting point of my walk up to Karadut
Now not everyone would be capable to walk this far, or indeed want to, but if you have the ability and desire then come and see for yourself, i promise you wont be disappointed!

Deats says:
Thanks mate :)
Posted on: Feb 26, 2012
pinkpeardrops says:
loveing the photos :)
Posted on: Feb 26, 2012
Deats says:
Goes down as one of my most memorable travel experiences for sure!
Posted on: Sep 03, 2009
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Statues at Nemrut Dagi, with the f…
Statues at Nemrut Dagi, with the …
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Head of Zeus-Ahura Mazda, with th…
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi
Fallen heads on the Western Terrace
Fallen heads on the Western Terrace
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The path from Nemrut Dagi to Kara…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karad…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Kara…
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Scenery on the walk back down fro…
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Building next to Cesme Pension, w…
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The full moon to guide me on my w…
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Follow the full moon!
Follow the full moon!
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Full moon
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Full moon lights my path up to Ne…
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A view from the pyramid
A view from the pyramid
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The bodies on the Eastern Terrace…
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Clouds roll in over one of the sn…
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A view from Nemrut Dagi over snow…
Sunrise at Nerut Dagi
Sunrise at Nerut Dagi
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Sunrise at Nemrut Dagis Eastern T…
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi's Eastern …
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagis Eastern T…
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Heads of an Eagle, Apollo, Fortun…
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi
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Lion on the Eastern Terrace
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Sunrise at Mount Nemrut
Sunrise at Mount Nemrut
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Head of Fortuna, with the statues…
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Head of King Antiochus, with the …
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Head of Heracles, with the statue…
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Greek writing on the back of the …
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A view of a valley, slowly fillin…
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Heads of an Eagle, Apollo and For…
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Head of Apollo
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Head of Fortuna
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Heads of the toppled statues on t…
Heads of Heracles and Fortuna
Heads of Heracles and Fortuna
Carvings on the Western Terrace
Carvings on the Western Terrace
Sinking up to my knees in snow
Sinking up to my knees in snow
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Snow capped mountains surrounding…
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Looking West with the moon in the…
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Welcome to Nemrut Dagi, home of t…
the path to Nemrut Dagi
the path to Nemrut Dagi
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi
Sunrise at Nemrut Dagi
Nemrut Dagis pyramid peak
Nemrut Dagi's pyramid peak
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karad…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Kara…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karad…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Kara…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karad…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Kara…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karad…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Kara…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Karad…
The path from Nemrut Dagi to Kara…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
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Scenery on the walk back down from…
Scenery on the walk back down fro…
Me on the road down to Kardut
Me on the road down to Kardut
Me on the road down to Kardut
Me on the road down to Kardut
Entering Karadut village
Entering Karadut village
Leaving Karadut village
Leaving Karadut village
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Scenery from Karadut to the main …
Scenery from Karadut to the main r…
Scenery from Karadut to the main …
Karadut
photo by: Deats