'Underground City'

The cliffs and valleys all around the Ani plateau are riddled with hundreds of caves that guides have collectively dubbed Ani's 'Underground City'. Mostly carved out by humans over the millennia, the caves have served as dwellings, animal shelters, chapels and – the smallest ones – pigeon houses to provide a source of eggs and fertiliser. Visible clusters lie in the gully below the Church of Grigor Pahlavuny and across the valley from the Seljuk Palace.

Anybody can have a poke around the western caves but don't wander down to the Arpaçay Gorge, which is off limits due to border sensitivities. To find the most fascinating caves – multichambered caravanserais, churches with angel frescoes, domed pigeon houses and long tunnels inside the rock – you'll generally need a guide. Celil Ersözoğlu is recommended and his underground city explorations will add a couple of extra hours to your time in Ani.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby attractions

1. Seljuk Palace

0.14 MILES

Built into the western tip of Ani's defensive walls, this rectilinear palace has been so painstakingly over-restored that it looks quite out of place,…

2. Cave Church

0.19 MILES

Dozens of caves cut into in the cliff-like sides of Ani Plateau were made into chapels and hermit cells. The most easily accessible is this partly…

3. Church of Gagkashen

0.23 MILES

Even though the ruins of this once-enormous church are little more than its circular base and a jumble of column sections within, it is enough to grasp…

4. Zoroastrian Temple

0.37 MILES

This ruined temple is thought to have been built in the 4th century AD, during a period of Sassanian influence from Persia. It might have been converted…

5. Kervansaray


The Church of the Holy Apostles (Arak Elots Kilisesi) dates from 1031, but after the Seljuks took the city in 1064 they added a gateway with a fine dome…

6. Church of Grigor Pahlavuny

0.41 MILES

A well-preserved central landmark in the heart of the Ani plateau, this rotunda-shaped church with a conical roof was built in about 980 for the wealthy…

7. Ani

0.42 MILES

The ruins of Ani, 45km east of Kars, are an absolute must-see. Visitors enter through gigantic fortress walls that look like they fell off a crusader…

8. Arslan Kapısı

0.42 MILES

Just inside the Ani ruins is the sturdy Arslan Kapısı (or Aslan Kapısı – Lion Gate). Depending on which guide you believe, it was named after Alp Arslan,…