Explore Kars City: The Ultimate Turkey Travel Guide for Accommodation, Dining, and Sightseeing

When it comes to vacation planning, it is very common to look for turquoise blue water, paradise caves, sun, infinite beaches, and white sands… Outdoor attractions and sports theme travel programs are also good if you are looking for a dynamic alternative. What if someone offers you a little bit different location? Visiting Kars in Turkey, for instance. Boundless steppes, Ani ruins, Lake Cildir, and cuisine infused with goose and cheese are just a few of the attractions that you can find in Kars. What’s more? The further is you will feel like you are at the end of time, the more the wind will tell you the story of the “City of 1001 Churches and 40 Gates”

1. Where is Kars city?

Kars is located in northeastern Turkey, bordering the Turkish cities of Igdir, Ardahan, Erzurum, and Agri, and sharing a long border with Armenia. The Kars area is one of Turkey’s highest-altitude provinces.

The population is multicultural, and several ethnic groups coexist peacefully throughout the province. After being under the hands of Seljuk, Turks, Ottomans, and Armenian Bagratunists, the city became the capital of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia. However, due to WW1 and WW2, the 19th century was a little more challenging, and the territory was ruled by Persians, Russians, Ottomans, and British at different periods. Finally, after the Turkish Independence War in 1920, it became one of the cities of the Turkish Republic.

Kars city of Turkey view
Kars city of Turkey view

2. How Is The Kars Turkey Weather?

Kars city has an elevation of 1768 meters and is located in northeastern Turkey, hence the region has a continental climate. It has a harsh winter climate, which provides both advantages and difficulties. Winter temperatures range from -39 °C to +26 °C, the city is blanketed in snow for an average of 120 days, while the summer season is rainy. Temperatures range between 0°C at the lowest and 26°C at the highest throughout April to October. The city welcomes visitors essentially all around the year even in winter. The Eastern Express trips terminate in Kars Turkey and the Lake Cildir had got frozen; ride in a horse-drawn sleigh and Lake Cildir Altın At Kristal Buz Festival (Lake Çıldır Golden Horse Crystal Ice Festival) that had been holding annually, attracting both foreign and domestic visitors even in coldest months January and February.

 The soil, on the other hand, awakens after the snow, and about 1250 plant species, 100 of them which are unique and only grow in Kars, Turkey (such as Lathyrus karsianus, Nonea karsianis, Festuca karsiana), sprout in spring alongside the well-known local flower Galanthus.

Man and his horses walking in Lake Cildir of Kars city
Man and his horses walking in Lake Cildir of Kars city

See also Daily Kars City Tour

With this tour, you will have the opportunity to visit several magnificent sites, including the Ruins of Ani, Keseli Church, Picture Church, the Great Cathedral (Fethiye Mosque), Lion Gate, Emir Manucehr Mosque, Cildir Lake, Kumbet Mosque, Kars Castle, and the Lovers House.

Explore Kars City: The Ultimate Turkey Travel Guide for Accommodation, Dining, and Sightseeing  Daily Kars City Tour

3. Best Time To Visit Kars?

Kars is a city that offers a variety of activities all year, so the optimum period may be determined by your wish list. If you want to see some snow, chariot rides on Lake Cildir, or skiing winter may be appealing. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a historical place, spring and summer may be the perfect season to visit.

Kars City view
Kars City view

4. What To See in Kars City?

Kars is a city that appears to have an unending steppe that may surprise you when it comes to historical sites left by many nations over the years. The following is a list of churches, mosques, and castles.

  • Ani Ruins

Ani Ruins known as the forgotten ghost city of the northeast, are near the Turkish-Armenian border and maybe the first stop on the list of “things to see in Kars.” It is a must-see sight. The city walls contain the Ebu’l Menuçehr Mosque, The Grand Cathedral, St. Prkich (Halaskar) Church, Silk Road Bridge, Seljuk Caravanserai, Tigran Honents Church, Seljuk Palace, Surp Hripsime Monastery (Nuns Monastery), Abughamrents (Polatolu) Church, and the Zoroastrian (fire temple). It has been on the Unesco World Heritage List since 2016. The city was on the Silk Road and according to historical resources, it was one of the world’s largest cities with over 100.000 population at its highest period. The ruin has been called as “City of 1001 Churches and 40 Gates” that which the archeological digs revealed 50 churches, 33 cave chapels, and 20 chapels on gothic and romanesque architectural styles.

Ani Ruins or The Ancient Ghost City of Ani
Ani Ruins or The Ancient Ghost City of Ani

Kars attractions;

  • Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi Palace, commonly known as Kars Castle, was completed in 1579 by Lala Mustafa Pasa, Stone Bridge was erected by Murat III’s will, and The Caucasian Front War History Museum and Bastions are other magnificent sites for visitors.

  • The Tsar of Russia Nicholas II

The Tsar of Russia Nicholas II, constructed the Katerina Hunting Lodge in the 19th century, and the 7000-year-old Camuslu & Azat village Rock Paintings should also be visited.

  • Sarikamis Ski Resort

Sarikamis Ski Resort, which is one of Turkey’s best five skiing centers with significant ‘crystal snow’ like in the Alps, provides a high-quality skiing experience for professionals. Kars has 100 to 120 cm of snow along 4 months every year, allowing Alpine and Northern Discipline skiing.

Sarikamis Ski Resort in Kars, Turkey
Sarikamis Ski Resort in Kars, Turkey

Lake Cildir, the Kars Museum, the Caucasian Front War History Museum, as well as the Cheese Museum in Boatepe village, should all be on your schedule. In the winter, Lake Cildir freezes completely, and horse-drawn sleigh rides and the Cildir Lake International Golden Horse Crystal Ice Festival are performed in February. The bells echoing in your ears while you are skating on the sky reflection lake may cause you to fall in love with the district.

Lake Cildir or Crazy lake in Kars Turkey with ice
Lake Cildir or Crazy lake in Kars Turkey with ice

Kars attractions;

5. Transportation Options to Kars City

Kars Harakani airport has been open for domestic and international flights since 1988. Flights from Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, as well as other Turkish cities, are available. Even if there are no foreign flights to Kars on your preferred date, Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir with connecting flights may be considered. It is 6 kilometers from the city center and takes around 10 minutes to drive.

Since 1936, you may reach Kars by bus or vehicle from anywhere in Turkey, as well as by train from Istanbul or Ankara. The train was originally used for transportation between Anatolia cities, but since 2019, TCDD (Turkish State Railways) has organized another Eastern Express for traveling & touristic purposes, branded “The Touristic Eastern Express.” It has a capacity of 120 passengers and travels from Istanbul or Ankara, terminates in Kars via a nine-car train with six sleeping, one dining, and two service wagons. It provides 1 to 2-hours intervals on the route for travelers to explore the regions on their own. It is quite popular, especially in the winter, because the train route in the east of Turkey has a snowy surface that generates breathtaking views, and the bends, valleys, plains, and folds of mountains are very generous with creating magnificent landscapes. However, acquiring booking is quite difficult due to the high demand from both domestic and global passengers.

Dogu Ekspresi (Eastern Express) – Kars Train

6. What To Eat in Kars City?

The primary ingredients of the cuisine are legumes and meat products. Furthermore, Kars is a steppe region that favors animal activity above cultivation. Native people’s main occupations include cattle and goose breeding, as well as cheese manufacture. Daily meals consist potato or lentil noodle pilaf, sour meat, feselli, leaf dumplings, noodle soup, hasuda, kuymak, and katmer.

When it comes to tasting anything really exceptional, yellowfish from Cildir Lake, goose meat, chechil, gruyere, and tuluk cheeses that are sourced locally, and The Kazman Long Apple; a native winter fruit with a geographical indication, can be preferred.

Fishing in Kars City
Fishing in Kars City

Although Kars is near the border that makes it easy to bought wine from Armenia and Georgia, as well as Syriac wines to combine with delectable gruyere or goose meat. Hot wine can also be an excellent way to warm up after a horse ride on Lake Cildir in cold or after visiting the Ani ruins.

Kars Traditional Foods
Kars Traditional Foods

7. What To Buy From Kars?

  • Kars rugs

Kars rugs; are a common choice that some workshops still produce in a conventional way with local, native figures.

  • Cheeses

Cheeses; chechil, gruyere, and tuluk cheeses are being packaged in vacuum packs for long flights.

See also;

  • Obsidian jewelry

Obsidian jewelry; in the Sarikamis district, there is an obsidian gemstone mine, Black, brown, red, and green tones obsidian are turning into dazzling jewelry on the skillful hands of the local people.

  • Calpacs

Calpacs; of various types (a large black cap of sheepskin or other heavy material, worn by Armenians, Turks, etc.)

See also;

FAQs About Kars

  • Is Kars Armenia City?

No, it is not. Kars is at the frontier of Armenia, 328 km in length.

  • Is Kars Safe?

It is a completely safe city. In the previous decade, it has become a famous traveling district for both local and foreign visitors, particularly with the Touristic Eastern Express and various other award-winning films made in the region (Cosmos by Reha Erdem 2010, Rauf by Barıs Kaya& Soner Caner 2016, etc...). Furthermore, the government-funded development projects and education programs, as well as developing tourism opportunities, which support the local economy, and the activities of both cultural events and Kafkas University’s studies promote the region.

  • Does Kim Kardashian from Kars?

Well, some resources claim to even publish family trees however it is difficult to say for certain. 

  • Does Kars Oblast?

It used to be. The Ottomans were defeated in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and Russia ruled the territory for 40 years before ceding it to the Ottomans on March 3, 1918, under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Since 1920 (Turkish Independence War) it is one of Turkey’s cities.

  • Kars City Ethnic Framework

The majority of the population is Turkish and Kurds, with Russian Moors and Germans from Estonia, Volga, and Wittenberg making up the minority.

Kars was once a city in the northeast of Turkey, an old tired maybe, but definitely, a rural that covered with snow all along in winter nights but today it is in many travelers’ “must-see” lists either for winter or summer.

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