Kars is a province located on the most eastern part of Turkey in the East Anatolia Region and one of the coldest provinces because of its geographic location and terrestrial climate. Though the harshness of climate conditions has adversely affected industrial development in the province, it has enabled the province to be primary provinces of the region in terms of tourism potential. Winters in Kars are cold and tough and summers are mild and even cool.
The province is one of the primary winter tourism centers of our country. It is suitable for developments thanks to investments that will be realized in the region. In terms of cultural tourism, antique remains dating back to ancient ages of history and ruins of buildings draw attraction. The city having been permanently settled at since Paleolithic Age is one of the significant tourism centers.
The researches demonstrate that the history of Kars dates back to the Neolithic Age (9000-8000 BC). The area was then under the sovereignty of the Hurri Civilization, Urartians, the Iskit Civilization, Part Civilization, Sasani Civilization and the Byzantium Empire.
Alparslan, the sultan of Seljuks, conquered the city in 1064; therefore opened the gates of Anatolia to Turkish tribes.
Turkish tribes such as the Mongol Empire and Akkoyunlu and Karakayonlu Tribes ruled the city and its neighborhood. Yavuz Sultan Selim made Kars and its neighborhood an Ottoman land in 1514.
Towns of Kars are; Akyaka, Arpacay, Digor, Kagizman, Sarikamis, Selim and Susuz.
It is at a 4-km distance to the centrum of the province. It is believed that Dede Korkud, a famous Turkish poet, lived in Digor. There are churches dating back to middle ages in the surrounding. Bes Museum (Bes Church) nearby Digor and well-preserved Karabag Museum (Muren Church) nearby the village Karabag among these churches can be accessed on foot after transportation by an automobile.
It is at a 75-km distance to the centrum of the province. The Canyon of River Aras flowing from west to east and on the north of Kagizman is full of wild and natural beauties. To see the beauties in this canyon closely, you can go by following the road to Kagizman and Tuzluca. Moreover, historic buildings such as Tunc Kaya (Kecivan) Castle, Koroglu Castle and Cengim Church are worth seeing.
Sarikamis, one of the significant centers of Turkey in terms of winter sports and winter tourism, is located on a plateau at a height of 2200- 2900 meters.
Hotels beginning to furnish services nearby modern skiing centers and its natural beauties have caused Sarikamis to be an important tourism center. The most convenient skiing season is between 20th of December and 20th of March.
Susuz Waterfall at a 24-km distance to the centrum of the province is worth seeing. Moreover, Susuz Thermal Springs again nearby the centrum of the province is useful for treatment of rheumatism diseases.
There is the historic Ocakli (Ani) City in the borders of the town Akkaya at a 54-km distance to the centrum of the province and it draws attraction of visitors.
MUSEUMS AND RUINS OF BUILDINGS
It is one of the richest museums of East Anatolia.
Ceramic and bronze works, agates, various coins, embellished wooden gates, niches and bells discovered in the area Kars are exhibited in the department of archeological works. And materials used by local people throughout history are displayed in the department of ethnographic works. Various relief works and ram statues and tombstones are exhibited in the garden of the museum.
The square-planned and two-floored mansion built in the last-period-Ottoman-architecture style in the last half of the 19th century was restored and turned into a museum and exhibition hall. The first floor of the mansion is arranged as a hall where military materials used during 93 War on the protected emplacements at the centrum of the province Kars and Yahniler Hill during 1877- 1878 Ottoman-Russian War and photos and maps belonging to Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasha are exhibited. Metal harnesses, canon shells used by the Russian Army and military equipment used by the Ottoman Army are displayed in the hall. Panels on the walls of the big hall, plans of operations of the Ottoman Army in 93 War and pictures and gravures explaining the war are very interesting. There is also an exhibition hall.
Ani (Ocakli) Remains
Ani Remains are at a 48-km distance to Kars. The foundation of the city by the bank of the River Arpacay near the border between Turkey and Armenia nearby the village Ocakli dates back to 350-300 BC. Ani is one of the important haunting centers of tourists who have visited Turkey. City walls, churches of the Middle Ages, architectural buildings of the Seljuk Civilization in Ani are worth seeing.
The ruins were significant centers of trade because of being the first accommodation center in the entrance to Anatolia via Silk Road. The richness of the antique city stems from this fact. In the pre-historical period, the settlement in the ruins was realized inside volcanic caves in the valley known as the Brook Bostanlar. The interior castle forming current ruins was built by Karsak tribe after whom the city is named as Kars in the 4th century AD. Outer rampants of facades of the ruins began to be made built by King Ashod of Bagrad in 964 AD and then King Sembat III had the second fortification rampant system in 978 and the third rampant system had been made to be built between 1064-1072 by Ebul Menucehr, the Ani ruler, after the conquest of Ani by the Seljuk sultan Alparslan in 1064. The castle rampants were built by using Horasan Mixture in 2 or 3 rows in patches with tuff stones in colors of camel hair and black. The gate with lion figures on which is the main entrance to the ruins is composed of two big entrance gates.
It was located in the valley where the River Arpacasy flows on 6 km east of the village Ani (Ocakli). There are three churches and a watchtower in Kosevenk founded as a princedom subjected to the Bagratlı Kingdom.
All of the constructions were built in a central cross-planned made of clear-cut tuff stones. Some of these constructions built in the 9th century are in a well-preserved position and some of them are damaged today.
Camuslu Village Yazilikaya Picture
‘Camuslu Village Yazilikaya Pictures’ in the district Kotek in the town Kagizman are on the slopes of Aladag nearby the village Camuslu. They date back to Upper Paleolithic Ages. Stone tools, fireplaces and throwing axes discovered in Tombultepe and Kurbanaga Caves in the area date back to 10,000’s BC, to Lower Paleolithic Ages. Moreover, in Kurbanaga Cave, there are potteries, lassos, pictures showing tools used for hunting such as nets dating back to the Bronze Age. Yazilikaya is composed of two panels; one is big and the other is small on the steep and smooth surface of a rock made of basalt. The big panel is at a height of 4 meters from the ground and at a length of 14 meters and at a width of approximately 4 meters. On the other hand, the small panel is in the eastern direction of the same wall. On Yazilikaya panels, human and animal figures are embroidered. On the second panel, it was discovered that it was rendered with a tool similar to a pen. It is understood that these lines supposed to be drawn at earlier periods were created by small obsidian pencils.
Kars Castle called the Central Castle of the Interior Castle was built in the 10th century. It was built by Vizier Firuz Akay by the order of Melik Izzeddin, the sultan of Saltuklu tribe subjected to Seljuk Civilization, in 1153 AD. Outer castle rampants surrounding the city began to be built in the 12th century; the castle pulled down by Timur in 1386 was rebuilt by Lala Mustafa Pasha who had arrived at Kars under the edict of the Ottoman Padishah Mahmud III in 1579. It was renovated twice in 1616 and 1636 and new constructions were built in the centrum. The outer facade rampants of Kars Castle are made of cut-basalt-stones and are surrounded by supporting walls. It has three gates. They are Sukapisi or Ceribasi Gate (on the west), Kagizman Gate (Ortakapi), Behram Gate or Bayrampasa Gate.
It is a splendid palace located on the northwestern edge of Ani Ruins. The crest gate with rich mosaics is embellished with geometrical motifs at the main entrance. It is a great building complex with several roams, galleries, stores and fountains inside the palace.
Beylerbeyi (Pasha) Palace
The palace on the foot of the castle was made to be built by Lala Mustafa Pasha in 1579. It is a two-floored building with an entrance gate from the facade through a round arch. It was used as the Kars Government House until 1918 and it was devastated by Armenians in the same year. Only its walls survive today.
MOSQUES AND LODGES
Lacin Bey Mosque
The mosque, one of the constructions of the 17th century Ottoman buildings, is made of clear-cut basalt stone with a square plan. The interior part lost its original characteristics as it was renovated. The mosque is available for worshipping.
Ulu Mosque in the Subdistrict Kaleici was made to be built in 1643 by Dilaver Pasha, the chief ruler of Kars, during the Ottoman Padishah Sultan Ibrahim. It was devastated during Russian occupation and became unavailable. Restoration began in 1997. It shows characteristics of the 17th century architecture.
Yusuf Pasha Mosque
The mosque made to be built by Yusuf Veli Pasha, the chief ruler of Kars, in 1664 is one of the Ottoman constructions in the city. Its minaret was rebuilt after the Republican Period.
Haci Seyfi Mosque
Haci Seyfi Mosque is one of the mosques built in the name of Haci Seyyid in the 16th century. The minaret of the stone square-planned mosque made of basalt was built afterwards. The mosque is available for worshipping today.
Buyuk Abdi Aga Mosque
The mosque built by a person called Abdiaga in the 17th century is one of the Ottoman constructions in the city. There is a construction marble on the eastern wall of the mosque renovated in 1969.
Evliya Mosque and Hasan-i Harakani Lodge
Evliya Mosque is in the central Kaleici Subdistrict in Kars. In the yard of this mosque, there is the lodge of Hasan-i Harakani, one of the Horasan Saints and spiritual leaders of Anatolia. Naming after him, the mosque was named as Evliya Mosque. There are another 21 tombs except that of Hasan-i Harakani. This person who was born in the small town Harakan in Horasan and educated in Bayezid-i Bestami died a martyr in Anatolia before the arrival of the Seljuk Civilization. The Mumyali sarcophagus and epigraph was discovered during the construction in 1579 and his lodge was made to be built by Serdar Lala Mustafa Pasha. The lodge of Hasan-i Harakani is rectangular-planned with sizes of 3.80x5.80 meters. It has three small windows and an epigraph on the gate with sizes 100x200 cm. There is another epigraph on the garden gate indicating the year 972.
Celal Baba Lodge
It is behind the main entrance on the south inside the Kars Castle. It was built for Celal Baba who was supposed to die a martyr during Kipcak-Gurcu occupation in the 12th century and accepted as the spiritual owner of the castle and it was made to be renovated by Lala Mustafa Pasha after 1579. While the lodge was tile-domed, it was devastated by Russian invaders after 1878. It is a one-floored construction having stone walls and directed towards southeast and its wooden roof is covered with zinc. The southeastern wall is the rampant wall of the castle.
Menucehr Mosque (Ani Ruins)
It is located in the Antique City Ani. Built by Ebu Suca Manucehr from Seddatogullari tribe in 1072, the mosque draws attention as the first building to have been constructed in Anatolia by Seljuks. It was reconstructed in the 17th century as a sand-roofed mosque as the first mosque was pulled down in 1579. It is named like this because of the lodge in its yard. It is among the most splendid works of Anatolia Seljuks with its colorful stones of the view of mosaics and rich geometric decorations on its ceilings.
Ebul Muammeral Mosque (Boz Minare- Ani Ruins)
At the center of the city Ani, the mosque was constructed by Sahan Shah, the latest Seddatlı Sultan. The minaret of the mosque that has been devastated has been fallen over to one side.
It is located on the right of Taskopru. It is known as Muradiye Bath today. Relief works and decorations bear the characteristics of the 18th century. It is still used. The domes of the bath are very high and lively. In terms of plan, it resembles to Mazlumaga Bath.
The bath on the left of Taskopru was built in 1579. It has high and lively domes. It was devastated by Armenians in 1918. The bath that used to be recently used is no more available.
It is known as Asri Bath. It is located by the bank of Brook Kars and on the left of Ataturk Bridge. It has architecture of classic Ottoman architectural style in the 17th century. It has not got an epigraph. In terms of plan, it resembles to Ilbeyoglu Bath.
It was made to be built by Sultan Murad III in 1579 during the restoration of the city. The current bridge was built in 1719 on ancient feet as the first bridge had been torn down. The stone bridge with three nodes is still used today.
Kecel Church (Aziz Pirkitch Church - Ani Ruins)
The church was made to be built by the son of Abugremrizents Daklavini, the grandchild of Gregor in 1034-1036. It was restored in 1173 by Priest Tridot, and a belfry was added to the main construction in 1291 and the dome was restored in 1342. As a result of lightening struck, it survives today in a half-demolished state.
Sirli Church (St. Gregor Church - Ani Ruins)
It was constructed in 1215. A great part of the main structure drawing attraction with its adornments on the inner sections of the dome has been devastated.
Abughamrent Gregor Church (Ani Ruins)
It was made to be built by Ani King Gagik XI in the name of Gregor in 998.
Guvercinli Church (Genc Kizlar Church - Ruins)
This great building thought to have been built in the 12th or 13th centuries was perched on a steep rocky area by the bank of Arpacay.
Kemserakanli Kilise (Ani Ruins)
Only a single wall of the church built in 922 which is adorned with the motifs of primitive men survive today.
Meryem Ana Cathedral (Fethiye Mosque - Ani Ruins)
The construction of the cathedral in the centrum of Ani City started in 1010, during the reign of Sembatat II and it was completed during Gagik I. period. After 1064, when Alpaslan conquered the province of Ani, it was used as a mosque for a certain period of time. It was damaged by the earthquake in 1319 and it was restored by the Architect Tiridot. It is still among the constructions in Ani that have been well-preserved.
Arak' Eltos Church (Ani Ruins)
The church constructed in 1031 was built as a patriarchate. Upon the invasion of Ani by the Seljuks, the church was converted into a caravanserai in 1064.
Havariler Church (Kumbet Cami - Merkez)
The church, on the southern slope of the Kars Castle in Kaleici District, has been well preserved so far. It was made to be constructed by King Abbas of Bagrat who announced Kars as the capital city between the years 932-937. After it was used as a church for many years, the construction was converted into a mosque by Seljuks in 1064 and it was used as church in the following years. It was restored by the Russians in 1878. The belfry built adjacent to the church in 1890 was demolished in 1918. The church was central-planned and has a right-angled place getting wider with four niches, reminding of four-leaved clover. The pulley section composing the dome has a long, conical shape and niches under the dome are round-shaped inside and pentagon-shaped outside. The main entrance of the church is in the western direction. Moreover, there are another 2 gates on the southern and northern directions.
OTHER TOURISTIC, NATURAL AND CULTURAL ASSETS
Sarikamis Skiing Center
It is located on the southeast of the centrum of town Sarikamis in Kars in the Eastern Anatolia Region. It is at a 55-km distance to Kars and 40 minutes far from the airport and at the Mount Camurlu in the town Sarikamis. Sarikamis Skiing Center, surrounded by pine trees, is one of the five centers of Turkey having first-degree priorities with its high-quality snows. Cibiltepe spread over an area of totally 12 km with tracks of 5 laps and situated at a height of 2500 meters above sea level has fascinating natural scenery. The fact that Cibiltepe is covered with crystalline snow makes it seem more attractive in the eyes of skiers.
The skiing ground is among yellow pine forests at a height of 2100–2634 meters. Under normal winter conditions, snow at a height of approximately 1,5 meters is very suitable for skiing and it has crystalline snow that takes place only at Alps. The best time for skiing in Sarikamis is between the 20th of December and the 20th of March. The terrestrial climate is dominant in the area. The direction of the dominant wind is from the south-west direction.
Sarikamis and its neighborhood have very convenient conditions for Alp discipline and north discipline. Moreover, it offers convenient conditions for ‘skiing safari’ and ‘excursion with toboggan’ and snowboard can be done to a certain extent.
Accommodation places, two of which are state guest houses are available in the Skiing Center. Skiing teachers and skiing equipment for rent are supplied from the facilities. First-aid, security and health services are offered. It is also possible to benefit from accommodation places and hospitals in the town Sarikamis.
Two chair lefts and a teleskis facility furnish services in Sarikamis Skiing Center. Sarikamis Skiing Center has a 2400 persons/hours capacity and the other chair lift has an 800 persons/hours capacity. Moreover, two quartet teleskis have been built by Ministry of Tourism and Culture at Cibiltepe in Sarikamis.
The area surrounded by forests is famous for its natural features and beauties. Natural, black, hard volcanic glasses called obsidian are frequently seen around Sarikamis. Wandering by phaetons drawn by horsed-toboggans in winter months in Sarikamis streets can be a romantic winter memory.
After 1877-1878 Ottoman-Russian War, Kars was under the occupation of the Russians for 40 years. The Russians carried out new architectural studies since 1878 until 1918 in the city.
During the new architectural studies in Kars that was announced to be a military province, the Russians had engineers exported from the Netherlands in 1980’s realize a new city plan, the center of which is Yusufpasa and Cumhuriyet Subdistricts today by leaving the area in the Kaleici Subdistrict settled during the Ottoman period and accelerated the architectural studies.
The new city plan was composed of streets with grill plans cutting each other vertically. One-floored, two-floored and rarely three-floored buildings made of clear-cut basalt stones in Baltic architectural style were constructed since 1890 until 1917 in these streets. The entrance facades of these buildings are embellished with artificial pillars and bordure-relief stones and the inner sections are generally composed of rooms and saloons opening inside one another around a long corridor. Another interesting feature inside the buildings is the heating systems called PEC in a fireplace type. In this system, after coal in PECs in the saloons of the buildings is burnt down, the whole of the building is heated through pumps inside the walls of interior sections. Today, 101 of these buildings built in a Baltic architectural style are recorded and under preservation. Most of them are individually-owned and they are still used as houses.
The waterfall on the Susuz-Ardahan highway has water flowing from the highest place. There is not a facility around the waterfall. It is suitable for tours for a day.
Lake Cildir is at a 1-hour distance to the centrum of the province Kars and at a height of 1956 meters above sea level. It is a fresh-watered lake on an approximately 25- km² area. The surrounding of the lake is quiet naked. The asphalt road passing by the lake enables the connection of the town Cildir with outside. It is possible to eat yellow fish in Lake Cildir.
Lake Deniz (Cengilli)
It is located on the slopes overlooking the town Kagizman in Aladag. There are plentiful fish in the lake. The surrounding of the lake is fairly arid and it lacks any accommodation facility.
Lake Kuyucuk is a small lake and it is on the Kars-Akyaka highway. The lake is at the heart of a smooth champaign. The lake lacks fish as its water is saline. However, the lake is the nourishment and sheltering area of the waterfowls. 12 species of waterfowls shelter in the lake.
Akyaka Thermal Springs
Akyaka Thermal Springs are on almost 1 km east of the town Akkaya. As the pools are open air pools, it is used only in summer months.
Susuz Thermal Springs
The water of the thermal spring at a 2 km distance to the town Susuz and in a river and in open air is warm.
Kagizman Thermal Springs
It is a drinking water on the Kars- Kagizman and at a 65-km distance to the centrum of the province and it is good for indigestion. Moreover, Kotek Roofed Thermal Springs are good for dermatitis and rheumatism diseases. Its water is very hot.
CRAFTS AND FOOD CULTURE
Besides its famous pale yellow cheese made of sheep's milk and honey, Kars has a rich and colorful kitchen. Dishes peculiar to the area are umac halvah, apple stuff, horre (flour) soup, evelik dish cooked from a plant called evelik, bread dish cooked by pouring hot butter and yogurt over bread, pisi, kuymak, hengel (meat pastry), hasil cooked from split-wheat, bozbas, piti which is a kind of soup cooked from partial and bony meat, pilaf cooked with sultani grape and Kars pastry. It is offered that you should have a substantial breakfast composed of honey, cream, a pale yellow cheese made of sheep's milk and Gruyére cheese.
Kars carpet and rugs woven natural-painted cotton, hair, silk and worsted and adorned with interesting local motifs are admired a lot. Silver belts, headscarves and various silver jewelries are among authentic commemorative goods that can be bought from Kars. Down pillows made of geese feathers are very healthy. And famous pale yellow cheese made of sheep's milk and honey of Kars are very delicious.www.kars.bel.tr www.kars.gov.tr