Located at the northeastern end of Turkey, Ardahan, the border province, is neighbored by Georgia and Armenia. From this perspective, Ardahan is among the cities that are strategically crucial for not only East Anatolian Region, but also for the whole country. Day by day, Ardahan has been turning into a rising center of attraction among the cities in the region thanks to its border gates opening to Middle Eastern and Caucasian countries and its increasing trade volume. The health investments, the activities within the context of cultural and winter tourism and the facilities of stockbreeding contribute greatly to the development the province. In addition to the facilities of organic farming in the city, the production of kashkaval cheese and Caucasian honey, which are world-renowned geographically marked products, is among the primary source of income for the region of Kars-Ardahan. Though it has only been 10 years since its establishment, the most important factor for the city to catch up with the innovations of the time is Ardahan University, which takes firm steps forward in proving itself.
In addition to the city center, Ardahan, is comprised of 5 counties, 1 town (Köpülü) and 227 villages and 39 districts located within the counties. The city central population of Ardahan reaches to 21587 while the county and town populations are respectively as Damal (2993), Göle (3911), Hanak (2924), Çıldır (2598), Köprülü (2214) ve Posof (1954). According to the same source, the total population living at the city and county urban centers reaches to 38181, the total population living in rural villages and towns is 60154. According to this data, the province has the total population of 98335.
The Counties within Ardahan
Çıldır is one of the oldest settlements of Ardahan. Located at the southeastern part of the city, the county has a high touristic potential. Aşık Şenlik Tomb, Kale Castle, Kurtkale Castle, Devil’s Castle and Bird Island in the Lake Çıldır are crucial tourism attraction centers of the county, which also annually hosts International Lake Çıldır Festival.
Located 2100 meters above the sea level, Damal, another county, is covered by snow for almost seven months. The world-famous “Atatürk’s Silhouette”, which appears annually on the Mountain Karadağ during the period between June the 15th– July the 15th, adds uniqueness to Damal in attracting domestic and foreign tourists. Another source of publicity and income for the county is “Doll of Damal”.
Located at the south of Ardahan, Göle is another county that attracts domestic and foreign tourists. The province is mostly covered by forests with their specific scenic beauty and many archeological sites can be found within the region. Among the touristic attraction centers of the county, there are Kalecik Castle, Castle of Uğurtaşı Village, the historical remnants of Castle of Dedeşen Village and the archeological remains of many mosques, churches and chapels. Furthermore, the county annually hosts International Göle Festival of Culture and Kashkaval Cheese.
Located at the north of Ardahan, Hanak is another county that has distinctive historical and natural beauties. Especially, the ruins around Çayağzı Village, the archeological remains of churches, Sevimli Castle and Kırnav Castle are among the outstanding touristic attractions centers of Hanak. Another characteristic of the county is that it is highly convenient for camping and hunting tourism.
Posof, a county totally verdant, is one of the prominent settlements of Eastern Anatolia Region with regard to its natural beauty. Also, capercaillie, which is an endemic bird species, is observed only in Posof and Artvin across the country. Cak Castle, Savaşır Castle, Kol Castle and Mere Castle are the primary archeological sites of the region.
In addition to the cultural and natural beauties in its counties, the distinctiveness of Ardahan’s geographical structure also attracts attention. Specifically, the lakes within the region turns the city into an attraction center within the context of cultural and natural tourism. Lake Çıldır, which is the second largest lake within the Eastern Anatolia Region following Lake Van, lures the visitors with its unusually nice scenery. Lake Çildir is a freshwater lake, which is fed by the springs and snow. The lake is partially surrounded by sandy beach. During the winter, the surface of the lake is covered by ice. The most important islands of Lake Çildir are Kamervan island and Akçakale (Kuşadası) Island, which is shaped by being parted from a peninsula. On the islands there live such bird species as scuacco heron, black cormorant and seagull. Lake Çıldır is pretty rich in fish populations. The trout can be spaciously found at the stream mouths within the lakesides. Common carb is the most frequent fish within the lake. It is also possible to find European chub within the water.
Within the borderlines of Ardahan, apart from Lake Çıldır, there locate other lakes such as Lake Aktaş (Hozapin), Lake Ayi, Lake Karagöl (Vakla), Lake Arile (Lake Balik), Lake Ayaz, Lake Sülüklü, Lake Kamışlık and Lake Davar.
As a border province at the northeastern corner of Anatolia, Ardahan has been home to various civilizations including Urartian, Med, Persian, Roman, Sassanian, Seljuk, Ilkhanid, Karakoyunlu, Akkoyunlu, Safavid and Ottoman civilizations. The historical and cultural heritage of the region is constituted by many castles,mosques, towers, bridges, chapels, churches, fountains and baths that have survived until today from these civilizations. Additionally, the legends, myths, mythical signs and symbols that have been blended into daily and cyclical practices have diversified the cultural wealth of the province. Ardahan, the touristic potential of which is rising day by day through its long-standing history, innumerous natural beauties and authentic products, substantially contributes to the economy of the region.