More than 1,000 years ago, Ani, the former capital of Armenia, was a thriving metropolis of more than 100,000 residents that rivaled the other great cities of the world. But after it was attacked by the Mongols in 1236 and further destroyed in an earthquake in 1319, the once-great city slowly fell into ruins.
The ruins, with massive ramparts, cathedrals, monasteries, mosques, and bridges, remain a stunning sight to this day. But it hasn’t always been easy to see them. A treaty between the Soviet Union and Turkey handed Ani over to Turkey, and soon after the Cold War made it nearly impossible to see it for many decades.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, it is now possible to see the extensive ruins from either Turkey or Armenia. Though the ruins are in Turkey today, they are right on the border with Armenia, where sweeping views of the entire city are visible.
Visiting the Ani overlook from Armenia is not simple, however. The Cold War may be over, but Armenia’s border with Turkey is still guarded by Russian troops, and completely blocked by barbed wire fences, raked sand, and guard towers. However, it’s much easier to visit from Kars in Turkey, with tours organized daily throughout the year.
Know Before You Go
Remember to take your passport. Permission to visit should be requested a week in advance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Yerevan, and visitors will be escorted by Russian soldiers to the best viewing spot in an experience almost as interesting as the ruins themselves.