Map of the tour
Notes and suggestions
Day 2. Yerevan city tour - Echmiadzin - Zvartnots - Yerevan
After breakfast, the city tour of Yerevan begins with Victory Park, which houses the statue of Mayr Hayastan (Mother Armenia) and from which can be admired the best view of the city. Continue to the Cascade complex, a monumental staircase that houses the modern art collection of Gerard Cafesjian. Walk through the center of Yerevan crossing the Armenian Opera Square and continuing along Northern Avenue, the pedestrian shopping street, to Republic Square, surrounded by the most beautiful buildings in the city, where Stalinist style meets Armenian architecture, and where the dancing fountain show takes place every evening in summer. Visit of the State Museum of Armenian History, one of the best museums of the former Soviet Union, which gives an in-depth insight into the culture and history of Armenia through the display of more than 400,000 objects covering a period beginning in the 3rd / 2nd millennium BC until the present day. Departure for Echmiadzin, a UNESCO World Heritage city which is nicknamed "the Armenian Vatican" because it is the seat of the "Catholicos", the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Visit of the Mayr Ator Cathedral commissioned by St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first cathedral in the Christian world, and of the church of Saint Hripsime, which houses the tomb of the holy martyr in the crypt. Return to Yerevan and, along the way, visit the ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage Site), built in the 7th century and destroyed in the 10th century by an earthquake, famous for the fine bas-reliefs that combined Christian and pre-Christian symbols and built on a previous site from the urartic era. Visit of the memorial of the Armenian Genocide on the hill of Tzitzenakaberd, a complex dedicated to the 1.5 million Armenians who died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 3. Yerevan - Khor Virap - Areni - Noravank - Qarahunj - Goris
After breakfast, departure towards south-east to visit the monastery of Khor Virap, dominated by the snowy profile of the grandiose Mount Ararat, in a suggestive position near the border with Turkey. The fortified monastic complex houses inside the well-prison (Khor Virap means "deep well") in which in the fourth century St. Gregory illuminator, the evangelizer of Armenia, was imprisoned for thirteen years. Continuation to the wine region of Vayots Zor, whose landscape is characterized by jagged gorges and wild peaks, and arrival at the village of Areni, where we will make a stop for a tasting of local wines. Continue to the Noravank monastery, the work of the architect Momik, surrounded by rugged gray and red rocky mountains, with the two-storey church of Surp Astvatsatsin, richly decorated with bas-reliefs. After passing the Vorotan Pass, the view opens onto the clearings surrounded by high mountains of the Syunik Region, the southernmost of Armenia. Before arriving in Goris, stop for the visit of Qarahunj, the "Stonehenge of Armenia", a megalithic site formed by 204 menhirs arranged in a circle and along wide curved lines that stands on a hill surrounded by mountains, scattered with tombs dating back to to a period ranging from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Arrival in Goris and overnight.
Day 4. Goris - Trekking in Khndzoresk - Tatev - Trekking to Tatevi Anapat - Goris
After breakfast, departure for Khndzoresk, a troglodyte village abandoned in the 1950s with houses and stables excavated from the 5th century on the slopes of a hill east of Goris. The trek starts from the viewpoint over the valley, descending the long wooden staircase, passing the suspension bridge and continuing through the old abandoned village to the new village of Khndzoresk, on the opposite side of the gorge. The journey continues west to visit Tatev Monastery, which will be reached from Halidzor with “The Wings of Tatev”, the longest cable car in the world (5.7 km 11 minutes journey). The monastery is of fundamental importance for the knowledge of Armenian medieval art and culture, it was the seat of a famous university and is located in a spectacular position on a spur of rock overlooking the valley of the Vorotan river. From Tatev monastery, start of the trek to Tatevi Mets Anapat, the great Hermitage of Tatev, which is located on the right bank of the Vorotan river, at the foot of Mount Tatev, in a valley with rich vegetation covered with woods. It was built largely in the second half of the 17th century and the main construction of the Hermitage is the church of St. Astvatsatsin, a three-nave basilica with a gavit on the western side. The Great Hermitage of Tatev also had a school and a library and remained standing until the end of the 19th century. Return to Goris and overnight.
Day 5. GORIS - TREKKING in Yegheghis - Selim - Noratus - Sevan
After breakfast, departure for the Yegheghis valley. Trek to Smbataberd Fortress, one of the most impressive natural-historical sites in the Vayots Dzor, with the ruins that stand out on the mountainside against the backdrop of the Lesser Caucasus valleys. The walls of Smbataberd, partly in ruins, tell more than 15 centuries of history (the first fortified settlement dates back to the fifth century) and of the resistance of the population of this area to the Turkish, Mongol and Persian invasions. The trek continues to Tsakhats Qar Monastery, a monastery built in the 10th century which, although small and partially in ruins, is of great beauty and interest with its two churches: Surp Hovhannes (St John), built in basalt in 989, and Surp Karapet, also from the 10th century, both characterized by a mixture of ocher, orange and black tones typical of Armenian tuff. Around the two churches, the ruins of the convent buildings, the cemetery and its Khatchkar (the richly decorated Armenian crosses) make the site even more fascinating. Departure towards the north of Armenia with a stop at the Selim pass to visit the Orbelian caravanserai, a three-nave basalt block structure used by the caravans that traveled the ancient Silk Road. Continue to the village of Noratus, located on the shores of Lake Sevan, famous for its monumental cemetery full of khatchkars dating back to a period ranging from the 9th to the 17th century. The journey continues along the southern shore of Lake Sevan, the "Emerald of Armenia", one of the highest freshwater alpine lakes in the world that alone occupies one-thirtieth of the entire surface of Armenia. Overnight in a hotel near lake Sevan.
Day 6. Sevan - Lake Parz - Trekking to Goshavank - Ijevan - Akhtala - Haghpat
After breakfast, departure for the visit of Sevanavank Monastery, which stands on a peninsula overlooking the lake, from where spectacular views of the surrounding mountains open up. Arrival in Dilijan, a town located in the center of the National Park of the same name, in an area rich in woods and streams, nicknamed "the Switzerland of Armenia" for the splendid natural landscapes that surround it. Departure for Lake Parz, a small mountain lake a few kilometers east of Dilijan surrounded by a dense green forest, from which a trek that goes into the forest and crosses the Areguni chain, leads to Goshavank Monastery, rebuilt on the remains of an older church destroyed by an earthquake in 1188. Its reconstruction was commissioned by one of the most important men in Armenian history, Mkhitar Gosh, a scholar and statesman author of the first Armenian legislative code whose tomb is located a short distance away from the monastery. Lunch at the home of an Armenian family in Ijevan and continue north to visit the fortified church of Akhtala, built on a rocky outcrop surrounded by high and deep canyons, famous for being one of the few churches in Armenia with interior walls covered with murals, executed between 1205 and 1216, counted among the best examples of Byzantine art outside the Byzantine Empire. Visit of Haghpat Monastery (built in the 10th century and now protected by UNESCO), which was the most important spiritual center of Medieval Armenia in the 12th century. Its university was very famous throughout the Armenian world and its school of copyists and miniaturists was among the most renowned in Armenia. The famous Armenian poet, composer and storyteller Sayat-Nova spent 20 years of his life here. Overnight in Haghpat.
Day 7. Haghpat - TREKKING to Sanahin - Rya Taza - Byurakan
After breakfast, departure for the Monastery of Sanahin, which will be reached with a trek that starts from the village of Haghpat, which crosses the valley that separates the two villages and which will also allow you to visit the fortress of Kayan Berd. The trek will also give the possibility to enjoy the beautiful views of the Debed valley. The Monastery of Sanahin is the second monastery in the Debed Valley to be protected by UNESCO. The monastery, which for centuries rivaled that of Haghpat in importance and prestige, was in medieval times a center for the production of manuscripts, and was famous for its academy in which the "liberal arts" of the Middle Ages were taught. The monastery is also known for its vast three-nave gavit, a unique example in all Armenian architecture. The journey continues south with a stop in the village of Rya Taza to visit the ancient cemetery of the Yazidis, semi-nomadic Kurdish shepherds who profess a unique religion derived from Zoroastrianism and mixed with Islamic and Christian beliefs. Stop at the Park of Letters, a modern monument dedicated to the Armenian alphabet codified by Saint Mesrop Mashtots in the 5th century. Arrival in Byurakan, a village on the slopes of Mount Aragats, for the overnight.
Day 8. Byurakan - Lake Kari - Trekking to mt. Aragats - Yerevan
Mount Aragats is the highest in Transcaucasia, an extinct volcano that dominates the entire central Armenian plateau, which can also be seen from Yerevan. It is made up of 4 peaks, the highest of which is the northern one (4090m), while the lowest is the southern one (3879m). The ascent to the northern peak requires serious preparation, while the western and southern peaks can also be reached by non-professionals. According to some scholars, the name Aragats is associated with Aramanyak, one of the sons of Hayk, the mythical progenitor of the Armenian lineage, while according to another version, Aragats takes its name from the ancient Armenian divinity Ara, and probably means Throne of Ara. Wake up early in the morning and, after breakfast, depart for Kari Lake, the base point for the start of the trek that ascends to the southern peak (and the western peak, if the level of preparation of the group allows it). Return to Yerevan and overnight.
Day 9. Yerevan - Gilan - Trekking to Havuts Tar - Garni - Geghard - Yerevan
Early in the morning, after breakfast, departure for the Kotayk region and towards Garni from where, by 4x4 vehicles, we will reach the small village of Gilan, in the Khosrov Reserve, and from where we will begin the trek that will first lead to the Church of Saint Stepanos and then to Havuts Tar, a monastic complex located on the top of a mountain on the left bank of the Azat river, an important cultural and religious center of medieval Armenia. The route then leads to the Azat river gorge, nicknamed the Symphony of the Stones for the columnar basaltic formations in the form of organ pipes that line the canyon walls. The end of the trek will be in the village of Garni where we will visit the temple of Garni, a Hellenistic Roman temple of the first century and the only one to survive the destruction of pagan temples after the Christianization of Armenia in the 4th century AD. Lunch in a local restaurant where you will have the opportunity to watch the preparation of Lavash, the Armenian unleavened bread named intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO. Continuation to Geghard rock-cut monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site), beautifully located in a narrow gorge and partially carved into the rock. The name of the Monastery, Geghard, in Armenian language means "spear", as the spear that pierced Christ's side on the Cross was kept here for centuries. Return to Yerevan and overnight.
- Trekking routes and their travel times depend a lot on the possibilities of travelers, on how much and how they are willing to walk and must also take into account the weather conditions.
- The program may be subject to changes in the event of adverse weather conditions and the routes may also be shortened at the request of travelers. In any case, it will be unquestionable choice of the instructor to decide how to do or how to possibly modify the program so that the excursions can be done in total safety.
- The trip is suitable for medium-level walkers and does not present particular difficulties for those trained to walk in the mountains.
- It is advisable to bring trekking shoes, trekking poles if needed,and clothing that takes into account the temperature variations especially in the regions outside Yerevan, even in summer.
- Any lunches during the excursions will be organized in peasant houses, with villagers or in small inns. On some days, if times require it or if it is not possible to find a town nearby, a packed lunch will be organized.
- The Vernissage market is open every day but can be visited at its maximum extent only on Saturdays and Sundays.