Train travel is the best way to get around a country in my opinion, so when presented with the opportunity to take a sleeper train across the length of Turkey from Istanbul to Ankara, and then onwards to Kars in Eastern Turkey to get into Georgia, I jumped at the chance.
If you love train travel and visiting Turkey and also thinking about going to Georgia then check this journey out.
If you are short on time then flying would be faster, but add two to three days more and you can do it this way.
Flying into Istanbul should be around the same price as flying direct to Georgia or cheaper (it’s a big regional hub) and taking the train won’t cost that much.
I was actually on the way to Georgia from Kyrgyzstan but found out it wasn’t that much more expensive to fly to Istanbul and take trains across the country.
When travelling you have to find random ways to get to places if you have the time as it makes things more interesting.
Anyway, from Istanbul you can take one of the new high speed trains to Ankara taking that take around five hours.
From Ankara onwards is the best part as you can ride a sleeper train for 24 hours all the way to the east of the country to the small city of Kars.
Right now you can easily jump a bus from Kars into Georgia, but I said in the title a train all the way into Georgia and that should be true very soon as they are finishing a railway from Turkey into Georgia (please update me if you do this journey and the train is now running to my email: email@example.com).
This is an article where they say the train between Kars and Georgia should be running by the end of 2019.
At the end of the line near Kars you can explore an ancient capital of the Armenian empire, Ani. It’s a beautiful place to visit and worth the journey just for that.
If you’re starting in Istanbul and have a few nights there you can find a place to stay in Istanbul here:
Train Journey Istanbul – Ankara – Kars – Georgia
The sleeper train has a few different options, from simple seating, to your own sleeping compartment.
Don’t be cheap on this one as it’s a 24 hour journey so treat yourself to the sleeper.
It’s great value for money at around $35 for your own cabin. The cabin has two seats that fold down for your bed.
The seats are comfortable enough but it’s so much more cozy to rest on the bed watching the scenery go by.
You pass through mountain scenery, follow rivers, head through gorges.
It’s a very cool way to get to Georgia from Istanbul (Ankara).
There is not much to do in the city of Kars itself when you get there, except climb the medieval castle for the view.
But it’s good to spend two nights in Kars so you can go and explore nearby Ani for half a day.
Ani is one of the best sights in Turkey and I can say that after travelling and exploring a lot of Turkey.
The Ani Ruins in Turkey
There is not much left of this city that used to be home to 100,000 people in it’s heyday 1000 years ago.
Many earthquakes and invasions saw to the destruction.
But they are restoring some of the buildings and the scenery alone is worth the visit.
Some small churches perch on the side of gorges.
This is some good info on the practicalities of visiting Ani from Kars.
Take The Train to Georgia!
So if you are planning on visiting Turkey and then heading into Georgia don’t bother flying if you have the time, take the train across Turkey.
It’s the best!
Useful links for train travel in Turkey and Georgia:
Seat61 is the best site in the world to plan and get information on train travel.
This is Seat61’s Turkey section for loads of info on the practical side of this train journey.
The Lonely Planet Turkey (Travel Guide) is great to help plan your journeys in Turkey.
You can see how the trip to Georgia (and Armenia) was in my post about it here.
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