Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ankara to Kars by train

Most of you know that I love trains and I had read on Seat61 that the train trips to the eastern part of Turkey were spectacular, so I duly booked tickets.

This is not the exact route for the train but close enough to give you an idea. The journey takes a bit over 24 hours each way.

The departures board in the Ankara waiting room. The train is known as the Dogu Express and used to run from Istanbul but the the Istanbul to Ankara section is now traveled by high speed train.

My compartment that I had to myself. The back of the seat folds down and there is your bed. Very simple to operate. If there are two of you you pull down the top bunk.

The seat depth is a little short but still comfortable and as you can see, there is plenty of room.

Yes, a refrigerator. The chocolate, water and juice are complimentary. I should have brought a six pack of beer.

A power outlet by the seat.

When the train left most of the compartments were empty. However most of them were used during the journey. The carriage has an attendant who collects your ticket and gives it back to you just before it is time for you to leave the train. They don't speak English.

The carriages are clean and the windows are washed.

The train left on time. Fortunately the window was on the north side of the train so I did not get oo much window glare to impede taking photos. For an apartment block, I though this was more interesting than most.


I would estimate that 50% of Turkish houses use solar hot water. They do get plenty of sun.

In less than an hour we were out into the rugged countryside.

Old and new methods of communication. The white towers are the tops of minarets.

The original routes were planned and built by German engineers and the story goes that since they were paid by the mile. they made sure there were plenty of curves.

Shortly after I boarded the train I met the other passenger in the carriage who spoke English. He was a Croation journalist who had lived in London for the past twenty years. We arranged to have dinner together.

The menus. Many of the items are not available but at least I could get a beer. 

   US $1 = 2.5 TL
AU $1 = 2 TL

Nothing wonderful but filling.

The Croation bloke had retired as well but he did longer trips than what I was doing being away for months at a time. He was another who told me that I should go to India to ride their trains.

The bed. It was comfortable and I slept well.

Deserted station just before I went to bed. 

The next morning was the 100 year anniversary of the landing by the Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli. I set my watch to wake at dawn which was when they landed and I thought about them for a while.

Then began a day of magnificent scenery. There are a lot of photos but I would have to say that this particular day in the train was perhaps the most spectacular I have ever seen.

Enjoy the photos and enjoy life.

The first class sleeping carriage is the last in the train but it rode very well. I think it is last for security reasons so that other train passengers can't wander through.


The leaves had not turned yet. I suspect in late September and October, the colours would be spectacular.

An oddity. A Turkish cemetery without trees.

This is Euphrates River which eventually wends its way through Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf

I have no idea what the factory was, but the smoke was a change.

The start of a series of dams.

A new dam, obviously producing hydro electricity. I reckon Turkey could become a big producer of solar energy.

For a while the train follows a narrow gorge. The moon and star to the right are frosted onto the carriage window.

This reminded me of the glacier fed rivers in New Zealand.

Old concrete sleepers. Turkey is doing a lot to upgrade its railways.

There always seem to be snow capped mountains.

Blurry photo, but just to show that there were herds of animals, usually looked after by a shepherd.

Even out in the middle of nowhere most of the people live in these apartment blocks.

I think Vatanin means homeland.

The further east, the more rubbish beside the track. Western Turkey is mostly quite clean.

There are quite a lot of military installations in Turkey. I reckon it would be a difficult country to invade with all the mountains.

More hoodoos. They are not just in Cappadocia.

The train stopped for a couple of minutes and this farmer drove off with a woman standing on the back of his tractor. Click on the photo to see more detail.

The spectacular scenery doesn't stop.

A rubbish tip covered with snow.

I don't know why so many buildings are covered with blue tarpaulins.

The sun set just as the train pulled into Kars a few minutes late about 7 pm.

It costs about US $40 each way ( including sleeper) for one of the world's most spectacular train journeys.


  1. I love this post! Thanks for the detailed information and stunning photos. This has just helped me decide on taking this with my family later this year :) One question, what month did you travel? I see snow as you neared Kars. We are planning to travel mid to late December from Ankara to Erzurum, over to Trabzon and then finally to the Georgian border and across to Georgia and Armenia. I am slightly concerned we could get heavy snow. What is your experience of this?

  2. I traveled in late April before the heat of summer. If you look at the wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kars you will see that it will probably be below freezing in December. Days would also be short and the train would arrive well after dark. I have no idea about snow levels but since the elevation is 1768 m (5800) feet, snow would have to be a distinct possibility.

    Whatever the weather, do try to visit Ani even though it will probably be windy and very cold.

    Perhaps the new train to Georgia will be available when you travel.