Introduction

Recognised as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 2016, the ruins of Ani, 45km east of Kars, are an absolute must-see, even if you're not an architecture buff. Your first view is stunning: wrecks of great stone buildings adrift on a sea of undulating grass, landmarks in a ghost city that was once the stately Armenian capital and home to nearly 100,000 people, rivalling Constantinople in power and glory. The poignant ruins, the windswept plateau above the gorge of the Arpaçay river (Akhurian to Armenians) that forms the Turkish–Armenian border, and the total lack of crowds make for an eerie ambience that is unforgettable. In the silence broken only by the river gurgling along the border, ponder what went before: the thriving kingdom; the solemn ceremony of the Armenian liturgy; and the travellers, merchants and nobles bustling about their business in this Silk Road entrepôt.