Sediments of Lake Van, Turkey, preserve one of the most complete records of continental climate change in the Near East since the Middle Pleistocene. We used seismic reflection profiles to infer past changes in lake level and discuss potential causes related to changes in climate, volcanism, and regional tectonics since the formation of the lake ca. 600 ka ago. Lake Van's water level ranged by as much as 600 m during the past 600 ka. Five major lowstands occurred, at 600, 365-340, 290-230, 150-130 and 30-14 ka. During Stage A, between about 600 and 230 ka, lake level changed dramatically, by hundreds of meters, but phases of low and high stands were separated by long time intervals. Changes in the lake level were more frequent during the past 230 ka, but less dramatic, on the order of a few tens of meters. We identified period B1 as a time of stepwise transgressions between 230 and 150 ka, followed by a short regression between ca. 150 and 130 ka. Lake level rose stepwise during period B2, until 30 ka. During the past 30 ka, a regression and a final transgression occurred, each lasting about 15 ka. The major lowstand periods in Lake Van occurred during glacial periods, suggesting climatic control on water level changes (i.e. greatly reduced precipitation led to lower lake levels). Although climate forcing was the dominant cause for dramatic water level changes in Lake Van, volcanic and tectonic forcing factors may have contributed as well. For instance, the number of distinct tephra layers, some several meters thick, increases dramatically in the uppermost 100 m of the sediment record (i.e. the past 230 ka), an interval that coincides largely with low-magnitude lake level fluctuations. Tectonic activity, highlighted by extensional and/or compressional faults across the basin margins, probably also affected the lake level of Lake Van in the past.