Ani: the Turkish ghost town protected by UNESCO

Ani was once a bustling trading town located along the Silk Road. What remains of it today is found in the Kars region of Turkey, but it was once the capital of Armenian kingdom that encompassed much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey.

The first people arrived here around 3000 BC. and they found a safe place to settle, feeling protected by the deep gorges created by the Akhurian River. Ani has then seen 23 civilizations and different dynasties pass over the centuries and has been sacked and destroyed to the present day, where vandals and someone passing by still delight in ruining what remains of it.

Only since July 2010 has UNESCO included it in the list of its heritage and, for the few buildings left in this ghost town, there is hope of being able to survive over time, preserving a history that has lasted for centuries.

The Church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents, in Ani, Turkey
Photo by Marco Tomasini from Shutterstock

Ani exudes authentic beauty even today, despite little left of the former capital. The different seasons always give vivid colors and, unlike other archaeological sites or tourist ghost towns, here you will not find large crowds of tourists, but only people attracted by the sense of adventure and the special place.

Ani’s buildings are constructed from the area’s volcanic basalt, which lends itself well to use, has insulating powers and colors ranging from reddish to black. The most important building in Ani is the cathedral, which was badly damaged by the 1319 earthquake and a Mongol invasion. Scattered among the meadows and hills are buildings that still need a visit. Consider that on the main (tourist) street you will find some of the most important such as the mosque and the three churches (Most Holy Savior, St. Gregory and Holy Redeemer), but if you want to explore the hills around to discover the whole ancient city, maybe you should take a few more hours.

Getting to Ani

To get to Ani it is first of all necessary to reach Kars from Ankara or wherever you prefer. Once you arrive in Kars you can choose between the different daily tours offered by the various agencies or you can look for some local bus that can take you to the archaeological site via a road of about 42 km.
Alternatively, you can rent a car and admire the rural landscape even more calmly.

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