Operating between Türkiye’s capital city Ankara and Kars, one of the country’s most eastern cities, the ‘Eastern Express’ offers incredible urban and natural vistas, especially in the winter. Two separate train lines; the Eastern Express and the Touristic Eastern Express operate on the route, enabling travel enthusiasts to enjoy an unforgettable journey…
Natural beauties, ancient history, culture and rich cuisine are just a few of the reasons that Türkiye is a preferred destination for travel. As autumn ends, Türkiye transforms into a ‘winter tourism paradise’ with snow-covered urban and rural landscapes. In addition to the country’s renowned ski resorts, Türkiye offers winter travellers special experiences amid historical cities that are even more evocative under a blanket of snow. One of these remarkable experiences is the famous Eastern Express, which departs from the capital, Ankara, and passes along beautiful cities, majestic mountains and dramatic valleys to Kars, the magical winter city in the easternmost part of the country.
Dreamy Atmosphere, Enchanting Journey
Starting from the heart of Anatolia and stretching 1,310 kilometres to the easternmost part of Türkiye, the Eastern Express track is known for its breathtaking views. Considered among the ‘best four train routes’ in the world by travel writers, the Eastern Express completes the fascinating journey between Ankara and Kars in about 25-26 hours. After departing from Ankara, the train passes through the provinces of Kırıkkale, Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan and Erzurum and arrives at Kars, the final station.
Passengers on the Eastern Express, the favourite of Türkiye’s nostalgic routes, can experience historical train stations, local specialities and stunning otherworldly landscapes. The train, which includes Pullman and couchette cars, also features a dining car with fourteen tables and seating for 56 diners. In addition to onboard dining options, some passengers bring their electric stoves and kettles on the train and set up pleasant tables.
To meet the increasing demand of recent years, two separate train lines are provided, the Eastern Express and the Touristic Eastern Express. The Touristic Eastern Express, which includes a sleeping car, stops at 29 stations. As well, the train stops for two and a half to three hours in the direction of arrival and departure. The more leisurely Eastern Express does not have a sleeping car and stops at 50 stations on the train line, with more limited breaks on the trip.
Last Stop: Kars with its Unique Beauty
The final destination on the Eastern Express is the fascinating winter city of Kars. Set in one of the easternmost parts of Türkiye, the city is one of the oldest settlements in Anatolia. Shaped by numerous cultures throughout history, Kars takes visitors to another time. Starting from the Urartians, these lands have hosted many civilizations some of which are the Persians, East Romans, Seljuks and Ottomans. The area is also on an important trade route where the famous Silk Road once met.
Here also is the ancient city of Ani, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that once hosted a population of almost 100,000 people. The ancient city is believed to date from 5000 BC. Well-preserved to this day, Ani is an extraordinary gift bestowed by Kars to its visitors. Other historical structures and sites in the area are Kars Castle, around the Kars River, while structures such as bastions and Second Stone Bridge serve as observation terraces of Kars. The Ebu’l Menûçehr Mosque, St. Prkich Church, Tigran Honents Church, Nuns Monastery and the Kars Museum are other compelling sites.
The beautiful winter snow in Kars ensures that the city’s famous ski centre, Sarıkamış is also filled with holidaymakers during this period. Sarıkamış Ski Centre, renowned for its powder crystal snow and offering the third highest altitude ski track in the world, is also preferred for its Alpine and northern skiing sports. Çıldır Lake, on the Kars-Ardahan border, is another special route you can experience in Kars. Visitors can stroll on the frozen lake, ride in horse-drawn sleighs and observe fishermen ice-fishing for mirrored carp.
The flavours of Turkish cuisine are also highlighted in Kars. This city in the easternmost part of the country is a gastronomic paradise with its unique tables. Especially famous for its kashar and gruyere, honey and goose meat, Kars stands out with a variety of local tastes. If you come across ashiks sparring during your meal, consider yourself fortunate. This ancient tradition – tales performed by musicians and troubadours – often turns into a spirited competition that is great fun for both performers and spectators. The ashik tradition, included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List in 2009, is an important art form embedded in the cultural memory of Anatolia. ///nCa, 16 January 2023 (in cooperation with Embassy of Türkiye in Turkmenistan)