Most people think of
Kars as a remote frontier
post, the bitter end of Eastern
Turkey, but I like it.
It's got interesting things to see,
do and eat.
Most people—at least foreigners—also mispronounce
its name. It's KARSS (rhymes
with 'farce' and 'sparse'), not 'karze.'
Now that that's settled, Kars (alt.
1768 meters, 5800 feet, pop. 90,000),
set on its high, chill plateau beneath
sky, dominated by its stolid, forbidding citadel,
does not immediately endear itself
to the visitor, but give it a chance.
It holds an odd mix of interesting
things to see: the Armenian Church
of the Apostles (937 AD), the 15th-century Ottoman Stone
Bridge (Tas Köprü),
the grim Citadel (1579), a 19th-century Russian
cathedral, and a good local museum.
The region produces some of Turkey's
best butter and honey, and thick,
rough but appealing carpets made
with wool of different natural colors.
But most people come to Kars on the
way to the ruins of Ani,
the great medieval Armenian capital
45 km (28 miles) to the east on the
You'll have to spend at least one
night in Kars. Kars hotels have improved in recent years. More...
Kars is served by air, bus and train. Turkish
Airlines has daily flights from Istanbul and Ankara to
Kars, Pegasus Air has daily flights from Istanbul's Sabiha Gökçen Airport, but many travelers fly to Erzurum instead
and rent a car or take a bus to Kars.
Virtually all long-distance bus service
is via Erzurum. Minibuses will take
you to Ardahan, Iğdır or Sarıkamış.
To get to Yusufeli in the Kaçkar
Mountains without your own car,
you'll need to go via Erzurum.
Click here for info about crossing
the border at Posof into Georgia.
Although the Doğu Ekspresi train travels
to and from Ankara several
times per week, bus and plane are far
faster. If you do go by train, it's
a better idea to catch the train at
Erzurum, and to reserve a place in
On October 31, 2017, a new rail link between Kars, Tiflis and Baku was inaugurated. Built mostly as a link in the freight route from Europe to Asia, it will also carry passengers.
By the way, Imperial Russia tried
to grab eastern Turkish territory for
centuries, and actually did grab Kars
in 1878 and held it until 1920, which
accounts for Kars's having some Russian-style buildings.
—by Tom Brosnahan
Distances & Travel Times
km (28 miles) E, 1 hour
km (675 miles) W, 16 hours
km (129 miles) NW, 4.5 hours
km (180 miles) SE, 6 hours
km (128 miles) W, 3.5 hours
Hopa: 277 km (172 miles) NW,
Iğdır: 235 km (146 miles) SE,
km (892 miles) W, 25 hours
123 km (77 miles) N, 4 hours
Sarıkamış: 53 km (33 miles)
SW, 1 hour
km (270 miles) W, 8.5 hours
Yusufeli: 204 km (127 miles)
W, 4 hours