Photo courtesy of the Grand Ani Hotel.

Thunder rumbled above me as I gathered my bags out of the back of the minibus that brought me from Erzurum to Kars. Dropped in the center of the city, I knew my hotel, the Grand Ani Hotel, was somewhere nearby and with raindrops starting to fall, time was of the essence.

I walked less than a block and went to turn onto what I believed to be Ordu street, a fact confirmed by several of the taxi drivers on the corner, one of whom pointed out the Grand Ani’s large white sign in the distance – something I may not have otherwise noticed as I was trying to pull out my umbrella to combat what had quickly become a torrential downpour.

Just a couple minutes later and I strolled into the welcoming lobby of the Grand Ani, greeted by two friendly smiles behind the reception desk. After staying at a series of hotels in eastern Turkey of questionable quality, I could tell immediately that the Grand Ani would be different.

Photo courtesy of the Grand Ani Hotel.

Just opened a few years ago, everything about the hotel felt Western and new. Key card entry, flat screen TV, gorgeous bedding with four wonderfully fluffy and thick pillows, free bottles of water and even an electric kettle with free tea and coffee packets. Probably the only thing that didn’t feel new was the vacuum cleaner style hair dryer in the bathroom (who makes those? How do they even work?).

Oh, and my view of the mountains surrounding Kars was pretty sweet too.

The location was perfect, in the center of town and within easy walking distance of most of the sights in Kars, particularly the castle and several mosques, as well as old Russian architecture featured on the other end of Ordu street.

The next morning I eagerly headed to the restaurant to check out the buffet breakfast, which the manager, Metin Yandakci, had bragged to me included over 50 different items. After nearly two weeks of traditional “Turkish” breakfasts consisting of nothing but tomatoes, cucumbers, bread and cheese, I couldn’t wait to see what the Grand Ani had to offer. I was not disappointed as I perused not just the standard Turkish offerings, but also sausages, fried eggs, spicy sausage omelets, a huge variety of dried fruit, yogurt and, of course, the cheddar cheese and honey for which Kars is famous.

Before I left Kars, I had the pleasure of joining Mr. Yandakci for lunch. His passion for hospitality and tourism was evident as he spoke of wanting all of his guests to feel like family while they were in Kars. He also firmly believes in not nickel-and-diming people which is why pretty much everything at the Grand Ani is included: buffet breakfast, wi-fi, swimming pool, sauna and fitness center, parking and even a free shuttle to and from the airport. His philosophy is refreshing in a world where some four and five star hotels try to charge $15 a day or more for wi-fi access.

If You Go

The Grand Ani’s website is only in Turkish at this time, but you can contact the hotel at

Thanks to the Grand Ani Hotel for hosting me for three nights. While my room was complimentary, all opinions above are mine and mine alone. And while I normally would use all of my own photos in a review, my camera malfunctioned causing me to lose some photos, which I didn’t discover until after I left Kars.

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