Worth a Trip: Around Ani
The moving ruins of Ani are a must-see, and if after that you want more, there are impressive Armenian ruins along the route between Ani and Kars. These sites have awesome settings in the middle of the steppe. Seeking them out is a great way to see a slice of rural Anatolia: some are in muddy farmyards, surrounded by tractors and sheds or are even used as cattle pens.
The sites can normally be accessed by car, and Kars-based guides and drivers, such as Celil Ersözoğlu, will add them to an Ani visit for an extra fee. There are no tourist facilities at the sites, so bring food and water, and beware ferocious farm dogs.
Heading back to Kars from Ani, at the end of the second village, Esenkent, turn left at a junction with a 'Kozluca' sign facing the Kars direction. After 6km turn right at another 'Kozluca' sign. Two kilometres up here, with good views of Ani en route, in the Kurdish village of Kozluca you'll find Bagnair Monastery, which consists of two Armenian monuments. The larger church, thought to have been constructed in the 10th century, is badly earthquake-damaged; the smaller one, 200m across a gully, is in better condition, with a nice 12-sided dome-drum adorned with blind arcades.
Back on the main road, continue 10km towards Kars and turn right at the far end of Subatan village, towards Bașgedikler. After about 15km, a signpost points left to Oğuzlu, 3km along a dirt track. The monumental 10th-century Oğuzlu Church rises up from the steppe and dominates the surrounding houses. It's in a bad state: an earthquake in 1936 caused the dome and other structures to collapse.
Backtrack 3km to the asphalt road, turn left at the brown signpost and head 7km, past Bașgedikler, to Yağkesen (Kızılvenk). You'll be overwhelmed by the eerie sight of the 10th-century Kızıl Kilise towering up from the small village in a flat grassland. Outstanding features of the church include its beautiful combination of red and black stone, its conical roof, slender windows, an inscription in Armenian above the portal and some handsome carvings. If you're lucky, you'll be able to see Mt Ararat in the distance far to the southeast.