Summers are hot, averaging over 30°C (86°F) in the daytime, however, due to low humidity levels in eastern Turkey, temperatures are much more comfortable than a humid place. At nights it is common even in the hottest month of the year (August) for temperatures to drop to 12°C (53°F), so be sure to take at least a cardigan, if not something that would keep you warmer. Winters are very cold with temperatures mostly below -5°C (23°F), so take clothes to keep you warm and comfortable.
Vangölü Ekspresi ("Lake Van Express") departs from Istanbul’s Asian station (Haydarpaşa) twice a week on Mondays and Fridays at 10:55PM and arrives in Tatvan station after a 40-hr journey, on Wednesdays and Sundays at 2:17PM. This train also calls at a number of cities and towns across Asian Turkey, including Eskişehir, Ankara, Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, and Elazığ among others. Inter Rail pass is accepted in this train. See Turkish railway authority’s website for detailed information.
There is also another train from Elazığ, passing Muş on the way, which operate at least once weekly. It arrives at Tatvan at Tuesday evenings.
Train station is in the upper part of the town (northwest of downtown), about 20 minutes walk away from the town centre. It's off the main highway to Bitlis, but its entrance is not immediately visible from the road because of some buildings and trees inbetween—you may have to ask around.
The station lies at the end of a spur line—the main line normally heads straight to the train ferry harbour. All passenger trains to the area do make the de-tour and call at the station, though.
Train ferries connect Tatvan with Van, a rather large city located on the eastern shore of Lake Van. These ferries accept pedestrian passengers whether they have a connecting train ticket or not. It takes four hours to cross the lake. If coming from the town center, ask the dolmus driver for "ferryboat".
Ferries crossing the lake depart every day from north of the town center at ~07:00, ~12:00 and ~19:00 (5 TL) (as of June 2012).
A wide highway which is in a very good condition connects Tatvan with the city of Bitlis lying 20 or so km inland from the lake. In the other direction along the lake the city of Van is 140 km away.
Town's small otogar (bus station) is located on the highway to Bitlis, north of downtown, about half an hour's worth of walk from town centre, and not very far from the train station. Dolmuşes are also available to the centre. However, most inter-city bus companies have offices in town centre, too. In fact, most otogar offices are open only during day hours, with most companies preferring to use central offices during the night, which are far more convenient during the day hours, too.
Tatvan itself is not renowned for its historical or natural gems as it is rather a bleak town of mostly new, concrete development. It mainly serves travellers as a jumping off point to sights further afield.
- Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dağı). This is the mountain you'll immediately notice when you turn your eyes away from the lake, by virtue of being the highest in the area with its summit being 3050 mt above the sea level (the town barely makes it above 1700 metres). A volcanic one, it was the eruption of this mountain that blocked the outlets of surrounding rivers and caused them to flood in and form Lake Van in ancient times. Mount Nemrut has a number of lakes inside its caldera, one of which is always warm enough to swim in, thanks to the nearby hot springs. Some hotels and bus companies in Tatvan provide tours to its summit and the lakes. It's also possible to take the tarmac road leading into its caldera. Not to be confused with the much more popular mountain of the same name near Adiyaman, lying several hundred kms to west.
- Lake Van tours. You can join boat tours on Lake Van departing daily from the waterfront. 4 TL/person.
- Drink Tea with the locals. Take a stroll down the main street on an evening and it's more than likely you will be asked to join some friendly locals for Cay (Turkish Tea). A great way to meet local Kurdish people.
- There is a supermarket called Carrefour inside the big shopping mall in town centre.
A handful of hotels are located in the town centre along, or just off, the main street (near the post office). Most are clearly sign posted. Most single rooms cost between 40-90 TL. The only truly budget option is Gayda Otel. Altilar Hotel is now closed.
- Gayda Otel (On the main road through Tatvan, ~150m past the Carrefour, just after the mosque and footbridge, on the right side of the road), ☎ +90 434 827-55-04. Shared bathrooms, semi-dirty toilets, no breakfast, small clean rooms, comfortable clean beds, very nice staff, no English, wifi, safe atmosphere. There is another Gayda Otel that is more modern (50 TL single). If you ask to see it, one of the staff will take you. 25 TL single.
- Ustun Otel, Belhic Celik Sokak (50m down a side street off the main road, near Crater Hotel. Walking north west down main street (with the lake on your right hand side) it is approximately 300m past the mosque. The sign can be seen from the main road, when looking down the side street.). Small and comfortable hotel, rooms on the back side of the building have view to the lake, comfortable and heated lobby area to relax and drink tea. Clean, friendly staff, free WiFi, rooms have attached bathroom with plenty of hot water, good heating in the room, basic breakfast included in the price. Good value all round. They do have some rooms with shared bathroom which may be cheaper. Not sure of price for double. Please update with more info if you stay there. (Updated May 2015) 30 TL single.
Camping by the lakes on Mt Nemrut is also a (free) option. Although the amount of litter can be a bit off putting.
The telephone code of Tatvan is 434 (+90 434 when calling from out of Turkey).
There are numerous internet cafes dotted along the main street in the town centre (some more modern than others) costing 1.50 or 2 TL/hour. There is one just upstairs from office of Van Gölü Seyahat bus company in town centre, open till late at night and very convenient if you're looking into spending your time until your departure.
- Erzurum to the north; Malatya to the west; Diyarbakir, Hasankeyf, and Southeastern Anatolia to the southwest; Van to the east, across the lake (Flag down a dolmus for 10TL). If you have your passport ready with a visa, why not try moving on further east to Iran—which is possibly why you are in Tatvan in the first place anyway.
- Ahlat to north on the northwestern coast of Lake Van, about 45 minutes away from Tatvan by minibus, is, unlike Tatvan, a town of historical importance with some artifacts to see. Its main sight is a large Seljuk graveyard in the wide open steppe, though not as spooky as you might think, with elegant headstones with much stonework.
Trains — trains to Istanbul depart twice weekly - only on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:10AM. If you happen to miss the train of the day, nearest station is in Batman - which has trains to Istanbul the following day (i.e. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). Trains also depart from Batman in the morning (around 9AM). Van Gölü Seyahat has a night bus (at midnight) from Tatvan to Batman which costs 15 TL/person/one-way, arriving at Batman's otogar around 4:30AM. Walking otogar to train station take about one to one-and-a-half hour in Batman. Alternatively, you can take buses to Istanbul directly from Tatvan, but they cost more than double (70 TL/person/one-way) of what the train costs (about 30 TL/person/one-way).