Ani in eastern Turkey under snow, flocked by tourists

Ani in eastern Turkey under snow, flocked by tourists

KARS – Anadolu Agency
Ani in eastern Turkey under snow, flocked by tourists

Like every year, tourists flocked to the Ani ruins in the eastern province of Kars this winter to experience the ancient site capped with snow

Located close to Arpaçay district on the Turkish-Armenian border, Ani was the capital city where Armenian emperors ruled from between 961 and 1045 A.D. at the time of the Pakradouni Dynasty. Home also to the 11th and 12th century structures of Islamic architecture, Ani entered the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list in 2012 and the permanent list on July 15, 2016. 

Ani in eastern Turkey under snow, flocked by tourists

The first settlement in Ani dates back to the 3000’s B.C. and became home to many civilizations such as the Saka Turks, Sasanians, Bagratuni Dynasty, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottomans and Russians. 

Tourists visiting Ani are drawn mostly to historical structures like the Ebul Menucehr Mosque, the first Turkish mosque in Anatolia; Amenaprgiç Church; Ani Cathedral; Dikran Honentz Church and the Abugamir Pahlavuni Church. 

A reason behind the surge in the popularity of Ani and Kars is the Orient Express, a decades-old train service running from Ankara to Kars, which has become more famous in recent years as Turks from across the country discover underexplored parts of their country. Most travel in the winter especially to see the site under snow. 

Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Kars Provincial Tourism Director Hakan Doğanay said UNESCO’s recognition of Ani increased the interest to the site and the city. 

“It is one of the most important tourism destinations in Turkey. Twenty-one structures with the traces of 21 civilizations still survive. Ani was the capital of various civilizations for four times in its history. It is one of the biggest ancient sites in Turkey. With its 4.5-kilometer walls and 68-hectare walking route, Ani is one of the best-known ancient sites. In winter, people flock to Kars with the Orient Express. Their first question here is ‘how can I go to Ani?’ The Kars Governor’s Office provides two shuttles a day. We are about to finish the Ani environmental rearrangement project for visitors to spend more time here,” he said. 

Doğanay said Ani drew people every season, adding, “Ani is slowly getting what it deserves in Turkey. It has a different beauty in the summer, too. All of 118 endemic plant species in Kars also grow in Ani and its vicinity. Ani’s structures have different architectural features in this rich flora.” 

Doğanay said the Ani ruins were more popular among domestic tourists. 

“Before joining UNESCO, the number of visitors Ani received was 44-45,000. Now it has reached 90,000, making the number of visitors increase by 100 percent. Local tourists especially are very curious,” he said.