Far off the beaten path, the ruins of Ani are well worth the trip!
The ruins of the ancient Silk Road city of Ani are located in the far east of Turkey, right on the Armenian border. In fact, you can see the Armenian guards peering over the river gorge from their guard shacks.
Before the Mongols came through eastern Turkey and leveled it, Ani was an extremely prosperous town of over 100,000 people. Today, you can see how large the city was, as the ruins are scattered over quite a large area.
After driving about an hour out of Kars, known for its cheese and honey, it definitely seems that you are out in the middle of nowhere. There are only a few villages, and the site has a small parking lot.
First you walk through the Lion gate to find a large expanse. There is not much near the wall, but the view is pretty amazing and the wall is also quite long.
Walking down the hill, you eventually come to what remains of the Church of the Redeemer. Half of the dome still stands tall and leaves a distinct impression on the visitor.
There are a number of churches, cathedrals, and even a convent left over. Inside these there are still vibrant frescoes. The least damaged building is the citadel, and even it has a gaping hole right in the middle of the ceiling.
Hiking through tall grass you can see remnants of all sorts of buildings. There is an olive press, churches, roads, and many fallen columns and walls.
Being an old Armenian capital and prosperous for over 500 years, the ruins have been through some controversy. For many years, the Turkish government required archaeologists and visitors to obtain special permission to visit, but today these regulations have been relaxed and we had no problem visiting the site.
Have you been to Turkey? Are you willing to get off the beaten path and head East? If you’ve been to Ani, please leave your impressions in our comment section.