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.