The famous Ani ruins in northeastern Turkey's Kars province continue to attract many visitors with their snow-covered white landscape and historical buildings.
The ruins, which are frequented by local and foreign tourists coming to Kars with the touristic Eastern Express for its charming wintery landscape, were visited by 34,500 people in the first two months of 2022.
The ancient city was closed to visitors for about four months in 2021 as part of the COVID-19 measures. After the visit ban was lifted, tourists flocking to Ani again came to admire both the historical buildings and the nature of the region, which is still covered with snow despite the quickly approaching spring season.
Ani, which hosted 66,200 visitors last year when it was open for tourists, saw more than half of the total number of tourists last year in just January and February this year.
Ülkü Yüksel, one of the visitors from Ankara, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that: "Ani is very beautiful. I didn't know it was this big. I visited many historical places, but Ani is very different from others. I feel that I have come to a completely different place in Ani, the atmosphere is very beautiful with its nature and history. Ani is truly fascinating.”
"We are so close to the sky, we seem to be touching the clouds. When this image meets history, you have insatiable moments. If anyone has not seen this place, they should definitely come and see it. There are many places to visit and see in Kars," Yüksel added.
Another local visitor, Mikail Ayaz, said that he would come and visit the Ani ruins whenever he had a chance. Stating that they were lucky to have such structures in Kars, Ayaz said they can experience history firsthand.
"I live in Kars. I visit the historical and cultural places in the region whenever I find the time. Ani is one of my favorites," he added.
In addition to religious structures such as churches and cathedrals, it also contains Islamic architectural works such as Ebul Menucehr, the first Turkish mosque in Anatolia. Ani was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016.
Kars, which is covered with a white blanket for most of the year due to snowfall, offers fairy-tale-like beauty to both local and foreign tourists every season with its history, nature and cultural richness.
Located around 42 kilometers (26.1 miles) from the Kars city center, the ancient city is one of the most popular hot spots for winter tourism with Lake Çıldır, which is covered with ice in winter, as well as the Cıbıltepe Ski Center and its trains that offer a scenic journey for passengers. The historical Ani ruins, known as the "The City with 1,001 Churches," "The City with 40 Gates" and the "Cradle of Civilizations," is one of the most striking touristic places in the city, which aims to host 1 million tourists annually by increasing the number of visitors every day.
The city is known as the first entry point from the Caucasus to Anatolia and is home to numerous works of Islamic architecture from the 11th and 12th centuries.
Since the day it was founded, the city has been home to several civilizations, 23 in fact – from the Sassanid and Byzantine Empires, to the Seljuks and the Ottoman Empire – and it was conquered on Aug. 16, 1064, by Sultan Alp Arslan, the second and arguably the greatest sultan of the Seljuk Empire.
Ani also hosts several priceless historical structures and cultural treasures, with a diverse catalog of religious structures such as mosques, churches and cathedrals, each with its own unique architectural beauty and historical value.