Visit Ruins of Ani in Turkey
Ruins of Ani, Turkey
Known as the City of 1001 Churches, the ruined city of Ani was founded almost 2,500 years ago. At its height in the 10th and 11th centuries AD, Ani was the medieval capital of Armenia, and one of the largest and most impressive cities in the world. Thanks to Ani’s geographical location, its rulers were able to control the passage of merchant caravans traveling between Anatolia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. As a result, the city became a key cultural centre and trading outpost on the Silk Road. At its heyday, the city was incredibly wealthy, powerful, and home to over 100,000 people. However, the following centuries were not kind to Ani.
In 1064 AD, the city was captured by a Seljuk army that massacred its inhabitants. Ani was then attacked and conquered countless times, including by the Mongols, Byzantines, Ottomans, Kurds, and Russians.
Devastating earthquakes subsequently destroyed many important buildings, and by the early 1700s the once-mighty city was totally abandoned.
Today, this important Silk Road city lies ruined and forgotten. Its remaining buildings rise dramatically from a lonely plateau on the very edge of North-Eastern Turkey. Despite being one of the most important archeological sites in Turkey, very few tourists make it out this far. Those who do are rewarded with a place that’s unique and atmospheric beyond words. Exploring the crumbling ruins, far from the throngs of tourists found in better-known historical sites, you feel like an adventurer discovering this amazing place for the first time. It’s an experience that’s hard to beat.
What to See
It would take several days to explore the site fully. However, the main highlights can be seen in half a day.
Some of the key sites include:
- the cathedral of Ani, completed in 1001 AD but shattered by a huge earthquake in 1319;
- Ebu'l Manuçehr Mosque, believed to be the first mosque in Anatolia, built-in 1072;
- Church of Tigran Honents (Church of St. Gregory), one of the best-preserved structures, containing unique frescoes and intricate architecture;
- Church of the Holy Redeemer, an iconic building that has been split in half by lightning; and
- the impressive city walls.
In addition to the above, there are many smaller buildings, chapels, houses, baths, fortifications, and even a Silk Road caravanserai dotted around the vast archeological site. The ruins of Ani were included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2016.
How to Visit
The nearest city to the ruins of Ani is Kars.
Kars has an airport with daily flights from Ankara and Istanbul (Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Air). The city is also well served by rail and bus routes from other major cities within Turkey.
From Kars, you can reach Ani via minibus, taxi, or in your own car. If hiring a taxi, be sure to book it for the whole day, to give yourself enough time to see the ruins and guarantee a ride back to Kars afterward. Ask your hotel for assistance with arranging this.
If arriving into Kars by air, hiring a car might be the most straightforward way to reach the ruins. There are car rental offices at the airport, and the road leading to Ani is in good condition.
Where to Stay
There are no hotels or guesthouses in the area immediately surrounding Ani. However, in the nearby city of Kars you will find several decent options.
The admission fee for the ruins of Ani is 15 TL (as of 2021).
Opening hours are 8:00am - 7:00pm during the summer and 9:00am - 5:00pm during the winter. The ruins can be visited on any day of the week.
There is a small cafe near the ticket office at the entrance of the archeological site. However, you should bring plenty of water to last the duration of your visit. Ani’s location is arid and remote, and there are very few facilities. Do not risk dehydration.
Due to the proximity of the ruins to the Armenian border, follow all signs and instructions about which areas can be visited and which are prohibited. Ask at the ticket office if anything is unclear. Do not attempt to cross the border, which is currently closed (as of 2021).
Distances & Travel Times
Ankara: 1120 km (696 miles) W, 16 hours
Doğubayazıt: 229 km (142 miles) SE, 5 hours
Iğdır: 177 km (110 miles) SE, 4 hours
Istanbul: 1465 km (910 miles) W, 22 hours
Kars: 45 km (28 miles) W, 1 hour
Trabzon: 461 km (286 miles) NW, 9 hours