What to see in Armenia

There are multivolume encyclopedias to list all the sights of Armenia. For the centuries of its existence, this country has firmly grown into the Armenian Highlands, having accumulated a solid “baggage” interesting for almost every guest.

We will try to highlight the brightest points of Armenian roads.

Nature
In many ways, its diversity and safety is determined by the landscape. The mountains! The body of the country, its borders, dividing and connecting chains, road and route signs. Even for those who travel by plane, acquaintance with Armenia begins with all above mentioned, starting from the sky. Before landing to Zvartnots Airport (Yerevan) it openes to you the view of the mount Ararat, and if you are landing to the airport “Shirak” (Gyumri), you will see the view of Aragats.


You should also pay attention to other beautiful mountain ranges, from where you can enjoy stunning views. It is Geghama Mountains with Azhdahak volcano and mountain lake Akna; the mount Khustup – one of the main symbols of Syunik region; the mount Ara, which is in neighborhood with the mount Aragats and small mountain Armagan, from where it opens to you a delightful view of Lake Sevan.

Colorful rocks and passes, which have breathtaking beauty, dizzying serpentines and roads, running over the clouds, lava fields and unique valleys, narrow gorges and plateau under the sky… It is already an adventure simple moving around the country.

Armenia also keeps its other natural miracles. First of all, the famous lake Sevan with deep clear water at an altitude of 1900 meters above sea level.

There are smaller lakes hidden in the forests: Parz Lake and Gosh Lake in Dilijan national park, Tsakhkunyats Lake in the eponymous ridge. Few large lakes are located on the slope of Aragats, the most picturesque is Kari, Stony Lake. It is located near the southern peak of the sleeping volcano.

Rapid waters of Armenian rivers forced their way through valleys and created gorges of the rivers like Kasakh, Hrazdan, Vorotan – breathtaking sights. Another deep gorge formed by the river Azat, also listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While visiting Garni, it is a must to go down through the gorge, to the hexagonal basalt columns, the famous “Symphony of Stones”. Kasakh, Jermuk and Shaki waterfalls are also gifts from the river gods of ancient Armenia.

In this part, it singles out Hunot from Artsakh, gorge of river Karkar: there is a natural monument – an unusual waterfall “Mamrot Kar”, also known as “Umbrellas”. In Artsakh you can also see the Plane of Skhtorashen (Tnjri), which is more than two thousand years old. It is the oldest tree in the territory of the CIS. If you are a great nature lover, we encourage you to join our photo tours in Armenia or on walking tours.

History

The earliest monuments of human habitation here belong to the Acheulian culture. People have moved here starting from the emergence from Africa, during the existance of civilization. However, the most vivid and accessible sights are from later historical epochs. Not so far from the modern capital of Armenia, there is located the cave Areni. It is a complex of caves, where people lived and worked for millennias. In Syunik there is a megalithic complex of the 3rd millennium BC called Zorats-Karer (“stone army”), or Carahunge (“speaking stones”).

In the same area, on the slopes of the mountain Ukhtasar, it was found a large number of petroglyphs – rock inscriptions and drawings of 5th to 2nd millennium BC. Large number of ancient fortresses has survived, including Cyclopean ones, built of huge hewn boulders that have been preserved in Armenia. The treasures and artifacts, which were found during excavation, adorn the collections of Armenian and foreign museums, but stone foundations and walls still stand in their places, like thousands of years ago. Among them, for example, there is a complex located near the village Lchashen, on the shore of Lake Sevan, built in the 3rd millennium BC. Several similar monuments are located in Yerevan, the most famous is the Urartian city of Erebuni.

Also, there is a museum in the territory of pre-Urartian settlement Shengavit, on the shore of Yerevan Lake. Not far from the capital, there is located an archaeological complex called Metsamor (5th millennium BC) with an ancient observatory, as well as the historical and cultural preserve Agarak (4th millennium BC). On the southern slope of Mount Aragats stands the fortress Amberd (7th century) with a ramified network of underground tunnels descending into the spacious gorge with amazing beauty. In Vayots Dzor region, the Fortress Smbataberd is surrounded by the most beautiful mountains.

In Artsakh it is worth to visit Tigranakert, built in the 1st century BC. Among interesting facilities, one should also note (and visit) the well-preserved fortress of 10th century Kakavaberd, located in the Khosrov Forest State Reserve, built in the 18th century to protect the city of Shushi Mayraberd and Shush Fortress (Artsakh), a monument to the Russian imperial period, the Black Fortress (Gyumri).

Architecture

The architecture of Armenia is not limited to defensive construction. It is a land with an original town-planning history. Various regions of the country while experiencing external influence, they were experiencing also their own epoch-making events, developed independently of each other in this respect, but retaining the national features that are reflected in the modern appearance of large cities. They do not look alike , but they all are certainly Armenian. The center of the capital, has a unique appearance: it was built in a single ensemble in national style, using traditional elements for the country, invented by architect Alexander Tamanyan.

Relatedly, Gyumri and Goris were settled down in the 19th century. The central part of Gyumri is built up by low houses of black tuff – rarest preservation monument of the architectural art of those times. In the south of the country, city Meghri, the Small Quarter, which is a sample of “terrace” residential building of three centuries ago, is partially preserved.

Old quarters can be found in Yerevan as well. One can easily get lost in Kond and Sari tagh, then suddenly find their selves in someone’s yard and end up drinking Armenian coffee with the owner. This is a great pleasure.

Not far from Goris, in a deep gorge, it stands the cave town of Khndzoresk, which is not inhabited today. The shallow caves were adapted, refurbished, completed to be comfortable for the dwellings of that time. A few decades ago people lived here, and Khndzoresk used to be the most populous village in the Syunik region.

Religion

Many national urban and architectural traditions are born in the context of Christian culture. During pagan period Armenia had its own pantheon of mighty gods, and it is also known as the most ancient Christian country. From pre-Christian religious buildings, a pagan temple has been preserved, which was built in the Hellenistic style as part of Garni palace ensemble. Another important place, the history of which is intertwined with the formation of Armenian Christianity. It is Khor Virap monastery, built on the slopes of Mount Ararat, above the underground chamber where Grigor the Illuminator languished for over 15 years. He was the first Armenian Catholicos.

The main cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the residence of the Catholicos – Echmiadzin, is one of the most ancient Christian cathedrals of the world. It was built in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 5th century. There is a museum near the church, where unique relics are kept, including Saint Geghard, Longin’s spear. Not far from the cathedral, there are located the churches of St. Gayane and St. Hripsime (7th century), dedicated to the early Christian martyrs, whose names are associated with the baptism in Armenia.

Monasteries, temples and chapels are everywhere in Armenia: strict, stony, sometimes like a part of a landscape, like a lost treasure, ingrown into that landscape. Some fortresses, also old ones, are located in inaccessible places: the cave monastery Geghard, carved out from a rock, located over the river Gokht; Noravank, surrounded by pink mountains, on the ledge of the gorge of the river Arpa;


Tatev Monastery located in Syunik, over the stormy river Vorotan River, with an underground passage to Big Desert of Tatev at the bottom of a deep gorge.

Sagmosavank and Ovanavank, situated at the very edge of the formidable canyon, over Kasakh; Haghpat and Sanahin – these two monasteries, which are located in Lori region, played a big role not only in the religious life of the country, but also attracted a large number of sciences and art lovers, with their educational activities;

On the top of the “mountain of treasures”, above the village of Vank, the mystical Gandzasar; attractive Dadivank, plunged into green foam of a wooded hill, founded in the 1st century above the grave of Dadi, the apprentice of the apostle Thaddeus;


Strict Sevanavank, blown by the severe winds of the cold Armenian sea; noisy and lively Kecharis in the loop of the road to Tsakhkadzor;


Goshavank, peacefully and gently embracing Tavush mountains; bright, shining Haghartsin – a precious pearl on the soft palm of the Ijevan ridge; and soaring Makaravank, hiding behind the trees; founded by Grigory The Illuminator; Artsakh monastery of Amaras. Here began thespreading of Armenian writing in the 5th century.

Among a long, long series of different, but with traditionally similar architectural structures of Armenian churches, singles out and breaks with traditions the ruins of unusual Temple of the Watching/Celestial Angels – Zvartnots. Surviving columns of its lower tier are like pillars, supporting Ararat soaring in the distance.

Following the adoption of Christianity in Armenia, a new form of art began to develop. Today it is recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind. Khachkars – stone crosses, the symbol of national Armenian culture.

The largest cemetery with ancient khachkars is in Noratus, on the shores of Sevan. Pilgrimage tour to Armenia is very popular to study the history of religion in Armenia.

Writing

The preservation and development of the Armenian original culture, despite any changes and catastrophes, is the merit of the national writing. There exists a real cult of knowledge and education in the country. The Armenian alphabet is honored along with its creator, one of the most important saints of the Armenian Church – Mesrop Mashtots. The grave of Mashtots is in the eponymous church in the village of Oshakan, which is pilgrimage destination not only for tourists, but also for locals. And near the city of Aparan, in the open air, there is a monument to Armenian letters – huge stone symbols carved from Armenian tuff.

The anthem of education, writing and books is Matenadaran, one of the largest repository of ancient manuscripts in the world. The traditions of cognition are cultivated here and today. Educational institutions are the most interesting among modern objects, even from the point of view of external attraction. For example, Dilijan International School is a new sight of the city.

Health

In Armenia, active tourism is also developed. There are ski slopes in Tsakhkadzor and Jermuk. In Tavush, in the village of Enokavan there was opened an extreme entertainment park. Rafting lovers raft along the rivers Kasakh, Tartar, Debet, Dzoraget. The famous mineral and thermal springs are located in Jermuk, Hankavan, Arzni.


Not all the healing points of Armenia are surrounded by hotels and sanatoriums. Some of them are landscaped by nature itself. Serpentine, which
winds/soars along the bottomless gorge of Vorotan to Tatev Monastery, runs along the Devil’s Bridge, created by the time and lime sediments of hot waters – the last ones had also created the natural “pools” under the bridge. You can watch, touch and swim. And you can fly over this beauty on the “Wings of Tatev” – the longest aerial tramway in the world.

Traditions

Holidays and traditions are preserved for centuries in Armenia. In winter Trndez is celebrated as a holiday for young couples, during which sacred fires are being lighted across the country. One need and must jump through them, especially young couples, lovers, children and everyone who was not allowed to before by law and their own complexes. In summer, people celebrate Vardavar, during which, on the contrary, people sprinkle water on each other.

As centuries ago, they bake here lavash and zhengyal hats, weave carpets and cut out khachkars.

Every year, in September, in the village of Musaler, harisa is cooked in huge boilers/coppers, in memory of the heroic defense of their ancestors during the Armenian Genocide in Turkey. Annually there are festivals of Tolma (in Sardarapat), wine (in Areni and Yerevan), ghata (in Vayots-Dzor), international jazz festival.