14-Day Tour of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh
Group: 2-12 persons
Armenia may seem small on a map, but this nook of land is saturated with millennia of history, and fraught with incredible diversity. We offer you an extensive and exciting two-week trip across the two Armenian republics, just enough time to see all of their riches: from the vineyards of Mount Aragats to the walls of Shushi Fortress, from highland steppes to wooded canyons, from the freshest figs that melt in your mouth to a bowl of rich and nourishing khash soup, from tender sun to refreshing winds—each day we will see new landscapes, taste new dishes and mingle with local historians, biologists, artists, craftsmen, farmers, and winemakers. By the end of this two-week journey, you’ll be able to declare that you have truly seen Armenia.
This trip is almost two weeks long. We’ll spend the very first and last days of the journey in Yerevan, and the rest of our time traveling around the country. Wherever we go, you’ll be sure to enjoy lots of comfort, delicious food, and encounters with extraordinary people.
Day 1. Arrival to Yerevan
We’ll meet all tour participants at the airport, then head to a boutique hotel, located in the city center, to check in and rest a bit. Soon afterward, we’ll go on a walk to show you the lively and cozy city of Yerevan, full of picturesque streets, delicious restaurants and hospitable residents. Dinner is a great opportunity to get to know all of your tour teammates!
Day 2. Trip to Aragatsotn Province
After an early breakfast, we’re off to see the slopes of the extinct volcano, Mount Aragats (which gives its name to the neighbouring Aragatsotn province). We’ll start with a visit to the ruins of Amberd fortress, whose ancient walls seem to cling to the very edge of the gorge. For lunch, we’ll visit the village of Sagmosovan and the home of a local artist; Yerevan bohemians took a fancy to this little village for its relative proximity to the capital and the breathtaking views of Mount Ararat. After the feast we’ll visit Centaur, a center for therapeutic horse riding, where we will talk to the founders, feed the horses, and also ride them. In the evening we’ll travel further down the mountain slopes to visit a small-scale winery called Van Ardi. A few years ago its founder, Varujan Muradian, moved to his ancestral country from California, bringing with him the skills and equipment needed for expert wine production. We’ll complete our day at the winery with a delicious dinner and wine tasting, before returning to Yerevan for the night.
Day 3. Skirting the Turkish Border
We’ll travel along the bank of the Aras River, which demarcates the modern-day border between Armenia and Turkey. Our first stop will be at Sardarabad, the location of a battle fought in May, 1918 against the Ottoman Empire; it was because of this victory that Armenia gained its independence. Today, this fateful plain is home to the vineyards of the Mkrtchyan family, who own a small winery called Voskeni. For lunch we will meet the winemakers, taste their wines and try the local speciality: a calf’s head baked in a tandoor oven. Afterwards, we’ll join a local historian to walk around the majestic memorial dedicated to the century-old battle. Continuing upstream, we’ll come to the province of Shirak. We’ll look out at the ruins of Armenia’s medieval capital, Ani, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stands on the Turkish side of this closed border. Finally, we’ll catch a regular train to Gyumri, modern Armenia’s second largest city, which used to be an important center of the Russian Transcaucasus. Even though Gyumri suffered greatly from the earthquake of 1988, its noble spirit lives on. We’ll dine and stay for the night at a cozy hotel located in one of the city’s pre-revolutionary mansions.
Day 4. Gyumri and Surroundings
In the morning we will explore the center of the city, formerly known as Alexandropol. We’ll visit the Black Fortress, a Russian army citadel that was built in the first half of the 19th century. Afterwards, we’ll take a stroll around the Gyumri bazaar, the country’s liveliest and most colorful market, and complete the program by visiting Berlin Hotel and Gallery to meet with local artists. For lunch expect traditional Shirak province appetizers and dishes: green cheese, baked buffalo brains and kololak lamb soup. Don’t be put off by the dishes’ names, they are all delicious! After lunch, we’ll travel across the foothills of Lori province. We’ll pass two Molokan villages that were settled by the members of a Christian sect from Central Russia. They generally prefer to keep to themselves, but with some luck we may get an invitation for a cup of tea. By evening, we’ll make it to Dzoraget, where we’ll dine at a local haute cuisine restaurant and spend the night at the Tufenkian boutique hotel.
Day 5. Exploring Debed river canyon
Afterwards, we’ll return to Dilijan for dinner at Dolmama restaurant.
Day 6. Visit to Lake Sevan and Karvachar
In the early morning we’ll be off to Lake Sevan, which Armenians call a sea for its great size and beauty. We’ll make a couple of stops along the way, first near the walls of the ancient Hayravank Monastery, and then at the farm of local cheesemaker, Arman, to taste some rare cheeses. Next, the road will take us to Nagorno-Karabakh and its northern region of Karvachar. First, we’ll travel to the republic’s highest-altitude village, Zar, where we’ll meet a family of settlers from Russia, and enjoy a lunch of charcoal-baked fish, accompanied by breathtaking views of a 300m-deep canyon. Next, we’ll travel upstream of the Tartar River to the abandoned spa resort of İstisu, where we’ll bathe in a thermal spring. The day will end with a long feast, and we’ll spend the night in a local guesthouse.
Day 7. Journey to the Capital of Karabakh
In the morning we’ll continue along the picturesque gorge of the Tartar River, going downstream. We’ll make a stop at the village of Dadivank to visit a monastery that was established there during the 9th century, and watch while art restorers carefully reconstruct medieval frescoes. After Dadivank, the road runs through a dense forest that covers the mountain crossing. Before lunch, we’ll make it to the village of Vank and visit Gandzasar, Karabakh’s largest and best decorated monastery. For lunch, we’ll stop at the house museum of Nikol Duman, a hero of the Armenian resistance in the early 20th century. In the afternoon we’ll reach the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert. We’ll drop our luggage off at the downtown hotel and then visit a local winemaker for dinner.
Day 8. Rest in Karabakh
In the morning we’ll stroll through the city streets and visit the local market to buy some souvenirs and try zhingyalov hats, flatbread stuffed with seasonal herbs. Following that, we’ll go up to the ancient Karabakh capital, the fortress town of Shushi, where we’ll spend the rest of the day ambling along the ancient streets and conversing with locals. We’ll lunch at a restaurant with a great view of Stepanakert, visit the Museum of Karabakh Carpets, and climb to the top of the fortress towers. The night will be spent in Stepanakert.
Day 9. Southern Karabakh
We’ll begin our journey at the village of Shosh, where we’ll go down to the gorge of the Karkar River. This narrow canyon, sandwiched between vertical cliffs, hides many amazing things, such as the ruins of an ancient village of millers, waterfalls, springs, caves, and a medieval bridge. After walking around the canyon, we’ll get to the village of Togh, the historic center of Karabakh’s southern province, Dizaq. Here, we’ll visit the Avetisyan family winery, which produces wonderful Kataro wine from the indigenous khindogny variety of grapes. Afterwards we’ll visit the ruins of a castle that belonged to the Yeganyan noble family who ruled this area for decades. On the way back to Stepanakert, we’ll stop to visit one of the planet’s oldest trees, a 2000-year-old sycamore.
Day 10. From Karabakh to Syunik
In the morning we’ll leave Karabakh via the Lachin corridor, the “road of life,” which connected Stepanakert to Armenia during the last war. Right after crossing the border, we’ll visit the cave town of Khndzoresk, where people used to live in houses carved into the rocks right up until the mid-20th century. After Khndzoresk we’ll ride the ultra-modern reverse cableway (also the world’s longest), to get to the Tatev monastery. This convent, which stands at the edge of a deep canyon, was the key religious and learning center of medieval Armenia, complete with a university and a book-producing workshop staffed by outstanding miniaturists. We’ll dine and spend the night at Mirhav Hotel, located in the nearby town of Goris.
Day 11. Lower Syunik
Today We’ll begin our journey back to Yerevan. The first stop will be the “Armenian Stonehenge,” a megalithic complex called Zorats Karer, whose stone structures have been a part of this empty plateau for over 4,000 years. By lunchtime, we’ll be at the resort town of Jermuk. This highland valley with therapeutic mineral springs is full of spas that were built during the Soviet era. After a walk around some resort parks, we’ll take an old trail which follows the narrow canyon of the Arpa River. We’ll stop at Gndevank Monastery, whose ancient walls are still home to a few monks. By evening, we’ll make it to the town of Yeghegnadzor, the capital of Vayots Dzor province. There we’ll spend the night in a small family-owned hotel.
Day 12. From Areni to Yerevan
Our day will start at the village of Areni, the center of Armenia’s principal wine region. Vine cultivation began here as early as the Copper Age, so we’ll visit a local cave where evidence of the world’s oldest winemaking activities were discovered by archeologists. We’ll lunch at a cave tavern, located in the middle of the red rock canyon. After the meal, we’ll walk along the canyon to Noravank Monastery, where you’ll be dazzled by intricate khachkar cross stones and base reliefs produced by the celebrated artist, Momik. The last leg of our journey to Yerevan runs through the Ararat plain, where we’ll take a detour to visit Khor Virap, a medieval monastery that stands on a low-rise rock, and offers a tremendous view of the mighty Mount Ararat, though the mountain itself lies on the opposite bank of the Aras River in Turkey. After visiting the monastery, we’ll drive back to Yerevan, where we’ll dine and settle for the night at the Villa Delenda hotel in the city center.
Day 13. Exploring Yerevan
On this day we’ll leisurely stroll through the capital, visit the local flea market, and take a look at the Matenadaran Museum of Ancient Manuscripts. We’ll also walk around Yerevan’s oldest district of Kond, visit Parajanov’s house museum, and check out the city’s most exciting restaurants. If anyone is interested, we can also organize a trip to the Geghard Monastery located just outside of the city.
Day 14. Homeward Bound
After much adventuring, our journey is over! We’ll say our goodbyes and make sure you get to the airport on time for your flight.
Map of the Tour
If you have some special preferences, we can organize an individual wine tour just for you. All you have to do is get in touch, and we’ll come up with something special.
- Full services of a Caucasus Explorer Tour Leader with local guides and drivers
- All transportation (minivan, jeep, train)
- Meals and tastings as specified (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
- Accommodation throughout (Twin)
- All entrance fees, sightseeing, excursions and activities as per the itinerary
- Nagorno-Karabakh Visa(s)
- Meals / services other than specified
- Armenian visa(s)
- Medical insurance
Booking and Payment
- Single person supplement – $450
- For booking or any questions please contact Dmitry Egorov [email protected]