The ruins of Ani are the remains of a medieval Armenian kingdom. They are a collection of stunning churches and beautiful mosques spread over a large area on the border with Armenia.
They are also in my opinion, one of the most underrated historical sites in Turkey
Ruins of Ani – North east of Turkey on the border with Armenia
In its prime, the city of Ani housed more than 100,000 people who lived within the city walls for protection.
The advancement and excellence of its architects, traders, scholars, and general population led to the construction of magnificent buildings and a nickname…
“The city of 1001 churches”
Located on the ancient silk trading route, Ani was a rival for the cities of Constantinople and Cairo. Its success made it a target for the Byzantine Empire and they surrendered control to them in 1045.
This was the beginning of their downfall and ultimate destruction.
Over hundreds of years, there were many rulers including the Seljuk Turks, Mongols, and Ottoman Empire. By the 18th century, the area had been completely abandoned and left in ruins.
At that time, the rulers were the Ottoman Empire and like so many other historical sites, they made no effort to preserve them for future generations.
Locals often took wood and stones from the ancient churches and mosques so they could construct new houses in nearby villages.
Eventually excavations started in 1893 when the area was under Russian rule but the First World War and Turkish war of independence meant the ruins of Ani were no longer a priority.
In recent years, excavations have resumed but not enough has been done. The WMF has placed the ruins of Ani on their list of endangered sites and in May 2011 agreed to work with the Turkish government to restore the churches and mosques before it becomes impossible to save them.
My visit to the ruins of Ani
It was a short half hour drive from the city center of Kars to the ruins. I was desperate to get there early to avoid the crowds. I did not want the commotion. I did not want to shuffle behind people or stand in a long queue to gain entrance
I had read on the Internet that in the past, police permission was needed to gain entrance to the ancient city and photography was forbidden. Luckily, for me, times have moved on and it was just a case of buying a ticket and taking as many photographs as I wanted.
The city itself amazed me but something else shocked me.
Our small tour group of three people and a guide were the only people there. We pulled into the car park and the first thing I noticed was the allocated slots for tour buses were all empty.
We made our way to the ticket booth and there were no queues. The ticket seller told us that people do not come to the ruins of Ani. The north east of Turkey is not a tourism hotspot and people dribble through rather than arrive on large tour buses.
This city was one of the best historic sites I have seen in Turkey and yet two words describe it perfectly
Note: I have so many photographs of Ani that I want to show you. In fact there are more than 50, which would make this an extremely long article. For that reason, I have broken it up into four parts so keep checking back for the next update on the ruins of Ani.
Readers question : Do you agree that the ruins of Ani are certainly a site worth seeing?