This is the city that provided the setting for Orhan Pamuk’s prize-winning novel Kar (Snow). Kars always elicits strong reactions – negative or positive, depending on your perspective. Some travellers loathe it (‘muddy’, ‘lethargic’, ‘stark’, ‘sad’); others scratch below the surface and realise that Kars is high on personality and atmosphere. All right, it’s a bit nibbled around the edges, but when the sun shines, the stately, pastel-coloured stone buildings look almost chirpy, giving the town the look of a Little Russia in Turkey. And the mix of influences – Azeri, Turkmen, Kurdish, Turkish and Russian – adds to the appeal.
The main reason for coming to Kars is usually to visit Ani, but don’t forget to enjoy the delicious local bal (honey) and peynir (cheese); these will certainly keep your spirits high. When the border with Armenia reopens, which is bound to happen one of these days, business with nearby Gyumri will thrive.
Kars destination guides
Eastern Turkey Adventure
Spectacular mosques, rustic Armenian churches and towering stone castles reward those willing to get off the beaten path. From ancient mud brick cities to exotic bazaars and the mysterious fallen stone heads at Nemrut Dagi, this 8-day trip is Turkey at its most fascinating.