Kars

Kars is a city in Eastern Anatolia. It is most frequently visited as a jumping off point for travelers going to Ani, but it is a viable destination in its own right for its 19th century Russian imperial buildings, and, of course, its role as the setting for Orhan Pamuk's famous novel Snow.

A small village on the Rideau River in Ottawa, Canada is named "Kars" in honour of General Sir William Fenwick Williams's defence of the town of Kars, Anatolia during the Crimean War.

Understand

Climate

Kars is one of the highest cities in Turkey, situated at an altitude of about 2000 metres over the sea level. Complemented with the distance to the sea, this makes the climate of this area the harshest in Turkey with winter temperatures regularly below -30 C at nights (and no warmer than -15 C during the day). There is not a real summer season in Kars, only a short spring in July and August (this is also the wettest season) and a long, bitterly cold, and heavily snowy winter during the rest of the year. Keep in mind that nighttime temperatures can fall below zero degree (Celsius) in any time of the year (even in August).

Read

The setting of Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow is Kars.

Get in

By bus - most companies serve Kars - though you might need to change bus at either Erzurum or Igdir, depending on where you come from. Be sure to check whether there are services available.

By train - there is also a train station in Kars, with a daily service from Istanbul's Haydarpaşa station (Doğu Express), and another daily service from Ankara (Erzurum Express) . (Update, 2012. Due to major reconstruction works all over Turkish railway network, it's currently impossible to take a train out of Istanbul. Doğu Express keeps operating but its western terminus is now shifted to Ankara.)

By plane - Anadolujet offers regular flights from Ankara to Kars airport. Prices start from 59TL including all fees.

Get around

There are a few taxis serving the city centre. It's a pretty small place so it's quite possible to cover it by foot.

view from castle

See

Kars Castle - situated on the side of the hill facing the city, Kars Castle is one of the few sights to see within Kars. It's a short climb from the city centre, and is worth climbing for the view of the city. Open from 9:00 to 16:00, admission is free. The castle was built in 1153 A.D. later destroyed by Mongol invaders and rebuilt in 1579.

Russian/Baltic architecture along the grid of old town's streets, realized during the Russian occupation of the city in 18781918, singles out the city in Turkey. Fethiye Mosque (Fethiye Camii) in the city centre, originally built by Russians in the occupation period as a church, is the only mosque in Turkey having that distinctive architectural style.

The Church of Apostles just below the castle, now known as Kümbet or Kethuda Mosque (Kümbet/Kethuda Camii), is also well worth a look. The building was originally an Armenian church built in 10th century, and upon capturing the city, Ottomans converted it to a mosque in 1579. Later, when Russians came over, it became a church again, this time serving Russian Orthodox believers. After the Turks took back the city, it served for non-religious purposes for a time (such as a warehouse), and in 1998 consecrated as a mosque again.

Buy

Gravier cheese is delicious! You can enjoy having some from the shops near to castle. You can try the Soldier Souvenirs Passage on the main street with a lion statue sells stuff for rare collector's items.

Eat

A local speciality is goose (kaz), usually made into a stew.

Drink

Sleep

There are many hotels along the main street costing 30-45 Lira per night. (Mar 2016)


Connect

Most hotels and many cafés and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi.

Go next

Ani

A visit to Eastern Anatolia is not complete without a visit to the ruins of the ancient Armenian City of Ani, which is situated 45 km east of Kars. It is best to charter a taxi (100 Lira, 2016) or get a guide. (Entrance Fee 8 Lira)

In summer, it is very easy to find travel mates to fill a taxi. In winter, you will most probably travel alone.

There is also an English-speaking entrepreneur in Kars who will organize shared buses (40₺ per person, September 2013) to Kars. I sadly can't remember the name, but most hotels hotels should be able to give you his number if you just say something like "Ani, Dolmuş, Ingilizce". (There are no Dolmuş to Ani as of March 2016.)

If you're on a tight budget you can also try hitch-hiking to Ani. Walk about 2km out of town to the cross section where the street heads towards Ani (There are enough street signs to find it). There is not a lot of traffic on this road but eventually a local will stop for you.

Ardahan

Several minibuses to Ardahan every day, every hour from 8am (at least 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am). Departs from the minibus station (city center). 15₺, about 1h30.

Artvin and Hopa

Bus every morning 9.30am to Artvin and Hopa from the minibus station (city center). About 45₺. The bus is run by Artvin Ekspres and departs almost everyday; check one day before just in case. This option is the best to reach Georgia through Batumi. If the bus from Kars to Hopa does not run, first go to Ardahan by minibus and, from there, take the 12h30 to Hopa (35₺).

The same bus continues onwards to Trabzon (45₺ from Ardahan).


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 09, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.