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.
photo © 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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.