Top choice in Far Northeast

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 castle. Beyond lie the sparsely scattered wrecks of great stone buildings adrift on a sea of undulating grass, landmarks of a ghost city that was once the stately Armenian capital and home to nearly 100,000 people. Today the windswept ruins poignantly overlook the river, which marks the closed Turkish–Armenian border.

In a silence broken only by birdsong, visitors ponder how life might have been here 1000 years ago: the thriving royal city; the solemn ceremony of the Armenian liturgy; and the travellers, merchants and nobles bustling about their business in this Silk Road entrepôt that once rivalled Constantinople in power and glory.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Far Northeast attractions

1. Arslan Kapısı

0.01 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,…

2. Zoroastrian Temple

0.19 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…

3. Kervansaray

0.25 MILES

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…

4. Church of Gagkashen

0.25 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…

5. Seljuk Palace


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,…

6. Ebu'l Muammeran Camii


The most substantial remnant of this 11th-century mosque is its minaret, now lying on its side with the spiral stairs inside clearly visible. It was…

7. Cave Church

0.31 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…

8. Church of Grigor Pahlavuny

0.39 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…