- Middle east
A Backpacking Guide on How to Get to Ani from Kars
The end is inevitable. We have finally come to the final entry of my one-month-long trip in Turkey and we saved the best for last. Right at the border of Armenia, there's a city called Kars. You may not have heard about this place but lies within the city's vicinity were the ruin of a medieval Armenian city called Ani. I called this place the land of structures built in impossible places. Stick around and you will know why this is the case.
Getting to Kars from Trabzon
I arrived in Kars around 9 AM at the very industrial and soviet-looking bus station. With all bus companies in Turkey, if the bus station is located outside of the city center, there will usually be a free shuttle service available. I took the free shuttle service to the city center and walked around to find a place to sleep that day.
Where to Stay in Kars
Since there was not any hostel in Kars, a hotel is the only option for me. I found a moderately nice hotel called Hotel Temel. The breakfast was awesome but the price was still quite steep for a basic room.
Exploring Kars on Foot
To go to Ani, if you don't have your own car, the only option you have is to go with a shared taxi. You can asked any hotel in the area about the shared taxi and they will find one for you via Celil, a friendly local with perfect English who manages a daily trip to Ani. Since the trip leaves at 10:30 AM everyday, I was not able to go on it when I arrived so I decided to go walk around Kars and see what this city had to offer.
Another traction in Kars is the citadel on the northern part of the city. Luckily, the hotel I stayed was only 10 minutes away from the Citadel.
Walking through the city up to the citadel, I started to realize that there were no foreign tourists here at all. The eastern Turkey did not disappoint!
There were nothing special inside the citadel except the viewpoint where you can see the city from the top.
There was a little coffee shop built inside a ruin right by the river near the castle so I spent all day there relaxing and preparing for Ani tomorrow.
Getting to Ani, the Ruin of an Ancient Armenian City
The next morning, Celil picked me up at the hotel's lobby at 10:30 sharp. They picked a few more tourists up from different hotels and we were off to Ani.
Ani is what was left of the medieval Armenian city located 45km away from Kars. The trip took about 45 minutes one way and Celil told us that we had 3 hours and 15 minutes to explore the area.
I thought that was more than enough for me but as it turned out there were so many trails and structures in the area I almost did not make it back to the minivan in time.
Ani consisted of many Armenian structures from churches to houses scatterred all over the site, and the site was massive. Walking from one end to the other could take hours!
For example, this was once a large cathedral of this Armenian city but due to neglect, earthquakes and vandalism, the structure falls into ruins.. like all the other structures in Ani.
When I was in the cathedral, I saw these 2 free-spirit backpackers who were hitchhiking from Georgia to Turkey. Since I was planning to visit Georgia next, we striked up a little bit of coversation about how hard it would be to hitchhike. They said it was easy and people were so kind and you could possibly hitchhike from Kars to Ani easily if you know where to stand along the road.
As I was walking around Ani, I met an Iranian couple who tipped me that I should go walk part of the Silk Road trail and check out the structure built next to a river. They claimed it was wonderful so I ran down the trail..
And it was stunning as they claimed! Ani is surrounded by rivers and canyons so sights like these were plenty.
I do not know the actual name of this canyon but I called it the Thunder Canyon because.. you know.. it looks like a thunder.
In Ani, most of the structures were built near cliffs. Beyond this door was a big drop down to the canyon so be careful when exploring Ani.
This was the reason why I called Ani the land of structures built in impossible places. You won't find anything like this anywhere in Turkey.
The time went by so fast when I was exploring Ani. After 3 hours of exploration, it still felt like I did not explore enough. There were the Silk Road trail that I walked only parts of it but who knows where that trail will lead. There were still several structures I could explore and I wish Celil would have given us more time.
But that was the schedule I agreed upon so I made my way back to the minivan and was back at the city by 4pm.
Right before I left, I asked Celil about the possibility of going to Tbilisi, Georgia from Kars. Most border crossing to Georgia happens via Hopa - Batumi port cities through Trabzon but since I did not want to make my way back to Trabzon, I decided to proceed on via Kars. Celil assurred me that it is also easy from Kars especially during the summer. All I need to do was to go to the right bus station and got on the right bus and I'd be there in 4 hours. The bus runs daily in the morning so it was too late for me that day to go to Tbilisi. I ended up staying another night in the same hotel and prepared for my departure to Georgia.
Getting from Kars to Georgia
I woke up extremely early that day to catch a public bus to the international bus station. I did not know exactly where the station was and the bus driver knew it so he pointed me and dropped me off and the right station and off I went to Georgia.
Thank you for reading through the entries of my trip in Turkey. We had come a long way from Istanbul and now, the next adventure is upon us. I crossed the border to Georgia, a relatively unknown country to many people and explored the vibrant capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi and the mountaineous region called Kazbegi, straight out of the "Sound of Music" movie. Stay tuned!
Further Reading for Turkey
Turkey is a country that stands in the middle of Europe and Asia. Empires after empires rose and fall on this land and in order to see Turkey as a whole, you will have to go further than just Istanbul.
Here is a selection of articles and travel guides that you might need to further plan your trip to Turkey:
- Looking for a complete itinerary and travel guide for Turkey? One Month Itinerary for Turkey.
- You will likely be flying into Istanbul when you are traveling to Turkey. Check out my 4 days itinerary for Istanbul.
- A lot of Roman-influenced can be seen throughout Turkey. One of the big ones is Ephesus, a Roman ruin near Selcuk, south of Istanbul. Here’s a quick guide on how to get to Selcuk and visit Ephesus.
- Pamukkale is a popular tourist attraction since the ancient time. People from all over come to bath in these white salt pools along the cascade. It is an incredible sight to behold and if you want to visit, check out my One Day Travel Guide to Pamukkale.
- The southern coast of Turkey boasts a vivid turquoise colored sea, stunning cliffs and the Lycian trail, one of the best long trekking trails in the world that runs along the coast. Check out our travel guide on hiking the Butterfly Valley and Kabak in the Southern port town of Fethiye, Turkey.
- Cappadocia is a big area full of amazing things to do, from hot air balloon to hiking the valleys. Here’s a complete guide on how to spend 4 days in Cappadocia, Turkey.
- Mt. Nemrut and a collection of stone heads of gods atop the mountain are not easy to visit. The question has to be asked, Is Mt. Nemrut really worth visiting? We have the answer.
- It’s time to go off the beaten path with a visit to Van, a city in Eastern Turkey known for its massive breakfast and an Armenian temple on an island. Here’s a travel guide on how to visit Van, Turkey.
- The Northern coast of Turkey, below the Black Sea is also a great place to go off-the-beaten-path. Trabzon is an important ancient port city full of history waiting for you to explore. Check out my travel guide on how to visit Sumela Monastery in Trabzon.
- Not convinced by my words? Maybe these photos of Turkey will help! 45 Photos that will inspire you to travel to Turkey.
- Since you are already all the way east, why not cross the border from Turkey to Georgia and make your way to Tbilisi, a vibrant capital city of Georgia. Check out my Georgia Travel Guide to plan your next trip to Georgia.
- For all articles about Turkey, visit Turkey Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for the Middle East? You can find more on my Middle East Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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