Lake Van is the fourth largest terminal lake in the world (volume 607 km(3), area 3570 km(2), maximum depth 460 m), extending for 130 km WSW-ENE on the Eastern Anatolian High Plateau, Turkey. The sedimentary record of Lake Van, partly laminated, has the potential to obtain a long and continuous continental sequence that covers several glacial-interglacial cycles (ca 500 kyr). Therefore, Lake Van is a key site within the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) for the investigation of the Quaternary climate evolution in the Near East ('PALEOVAN'). As preparation for an ICDP drilling campaign, a site survey was carried out during the past years. We collected 50 seismic profiles with a total length of similar to 850 km to identify continuous undisturbed sedimentary sequences for potential ICDP locations. Based on the seismic results, we cored 10 different locations to water depths of up to 420 m. Multidisciplinary scientific work at positions of a proposed ICDP drill site included measurements of magnetic susceptibility, physical properties, stable isotopes, XRF scans, and pollen and spores. This core extends back to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), a more extended record than all the other Lake Van cores obtained to date. Both coring and seismic data do not show any indication that the deepest part of the lake (Tatvan Basin, Ahlat Ridge) was dry or almost dry during past times. These results show potential for obtaining a continuous undisturbed, long continental palaeoclimate record. In addition, this paper discusses the potential of 'PALEOVAN' to establish new results on the dynamics of lake level fluctuations, noble gas concentration in pore water of the lake sediment, history of volcanism and volcanic activities based on tephrostratigraphy, and paleoseismic and earthquake activities. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.