ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE FROM YEREVAN
9 DAYS | 8 NIGHTS
Discover the delights of Armenia with this fabulous 9 days/8 nights classic tour. Starting and finishing in charming Yerevan, the tour will head to Echmiadzin’s historic churches (UNESCO World Heritage Sites). A lovely drive to the centuries-old cave monastery of Geghard and the Hellenistic Garni Temple, before turning south to the Areni, a wine growing region in the Vayots Dzor Province. Continue north past the ancient Noratus Cemetery along the sandy beaches of Lake Sevan. Of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to indulge in the delicious traditional cuisine and the world renowned Armenian brandy sampling!
Visit the Main Cathedral of Echmiadzin, the oldest state-built church in the world, having been built by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 303 AD (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Attend the colorful service of the Holy Liturgy on Sundays, which attracts a numerous visitors and pilgrims from around the world. Visit the Cathedral Museum, where amongst other relics, you can see the Holy Lance, with which Jesus Christ was pierced on the cross.
Drive back to Yerevan. En route to Yerevan visit ruins of the 7th century Zvartnots Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Zvartnots Cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake in 930 AD, and was lost to history until its discovery in the early 20th century. The Armenian and Arab historians alike marveled at the beauty of Zvartnots, calling it one of the most beautiful buildings ever built. Originally built to be the tallest church of the world at the time, and to last for 1,000 years (a projected date for the second coming of Christ), the Zvartnots Cathedral has been only partially reconstructed.
Return to Yerevan. Start exploring Yerevan, the Armenia’s capital city and one of the oldest cities in the world. Stop at the Victory Park and Mother Armenia monument to get a spectacular view of the Biblical Mt. Ararat with a panorama of central Yerevan.
Take a walking tour of Cascade Complex, with its Sculpture Park and Cafesjian Center for the Arts. See Fernando Botero’s sculpture of “The Black Cat” and other renowned artist’s works decorating the Park. The Cascade is an Art Deco version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a massive white stairway up a hillside of central Yerevan, decorated with green stretches, fountains and waterfalls, that run uphill and crowned with the obelisk of the Revived Armenia.
Visit the magnificent building of the Opera House, the postmodern Northern Avenue and the city’s main Republic Square, the centerpiece of the architect Alexander Tamanian’s master plan for Yerevan. The Republic Square is ringed by the National Gallery, National History Museum and several government buildings. Be sure to return to Republic Square after dark to see the “Dancing Fountains”, a choreographed water show synched with lights and music.
Continue to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex on the hills of Tsitsernakaberd. The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex houses both the Armenian Genocide Museum, and the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial. The museum offers an account of the 1915 genocide in which as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished while Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire. Dinner. Overnight in Yerevan.
Continue to the oldest surviving building on the territory of Armenia, the 1st century Garni Pagan Temple. The Garni Temple was built by the Armenian King Tiridates with the money he received after visiting Emperor Nero in Rome, and was dedicated to Sun God Mithra. After adopting Christianity in 301 AD, the pagan temple lost its significance and the fortress of Garni became the summer residence of the Armenian kings. The temple was destroyed in 1679 in an earthquake, but was reconstructed in Soviet times.
Listen to traditional Armenian wind instrument duduk at the temple. Born in the early eons of Armenian history, the duduk is considered the most “Armenian” of all folk instruments, because of its origins and its ability to express the soul of the Armenian people.
Return to Yerevan. Take a tour of the “Ararat” Brandy Factory, featuring degustation of the two types of Armenian brandy. While Georgia has gained its fame for its wine, in Armenia it’s the brandy that has a solid international reputation. Even Winston Churchill himself was turned into Armenian brandy after Stalin introduced it to him at the Yalta Conference, after which the former British Prime Minister continued to have cases shipped to him until he died. Dinner. Overnight in Yerevan.
Continue to the masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture, the 14th century Noravank Monastery. Set in the spectacular valley of red rocks, the monastery built out of the local stone, blends into the background of the molten red gorge, that contrasts with the stark blue sky. In the 13th–14th centuries the monastery became a residence of Syunik’s bishops and, consequently a major religious and cultural center of Armenia, closely connected with many of the local seats of learning.
Continue in the Vayots Dzor Province, which is Armenia’s most storied wine growing region. Armenia is considered one of the most ancient cradles of grape growing and wine making, as the Bible states: “Noah descended from Mt. Ararat and he planted the first vine, and made wine from it.” Stopover for wine tasting at the local winery in Areni Village, which is famous for its rather delicious dry red wine. Areni is marked by spectacular cliffs and caves, where archaeologists found evidence in one of the caves of the very first winery in the world, along with the world’s first shoe.
Continue to Goris. The endlessly winding roads that leap through the gorges over the mountains of Syunik come to a major junction at Goris, making this an inevitable stop between Yerevan, Stepanakert and the Iranian border. Boasting fine stone houses with arched windows and balconies on tree-lined avenues, a couple of museums and a busy little shouka – Goris is a great place for strolling around. It’s worth making a trip to the cave city on the other bank of the river and equally majestic sets of volcanic pillars, that spear through the steep grassy slopes above town. Goris is also known for its variety of homemade fruit vodkas, including the deliciously potent mulberry and Cornelian cherry vodkas. Check into a hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Goris.
Built on a fairy tale natural fortress of rock on the edge of the Vorotan Canyon, Tatev is one of the jaw-dropping sights in Armenia. According to tradition, Tatev Monastery is named after Eustateus, a disciple of St. Thaddeus the Apostle, who preached and was martyred in this region. His name has evolved to Tatev. In the 14th and 15th centuries Tatev Monastery hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities, the University of Tatev, whose scholars contributed to the preservation of Armenian culture and creed during one of its most turbulent periods in its history.
Drive to Lake Sevan via Selim Pass. Stop at Selim Caravanserai, located at 2,410m above sea level. Tucked up on the Selim Pass, this caravanserai is the best preserved caravanserai in Armenia. The Selim Caravanserai was built in 1332 under the reign of Khan Abu Said II by the prince Chesar Orbelian, and contains inscriptions in both Persian Arabic script and Armenian. It’s not only a unique site, but the location on the pass renders it a spectacular stopping point.
Continue to Lake Sevan. Visit the Noratus medieval cemetery, with the biggest cluster of the early khachkars (cross-stones) on the territory of Armenia. The cemetery is spread over a 7 hectare field containing almost a thousand khachkars, each of them depicting unique ornamentation and telling a unique story. Noratus is presently the largest surviving cemetery with khachkars in the world, following the destruction of the khachkars in Old Julfa, Nakhichevan by the government of Azerbaijan.
Lake Sevan is one of the highlights of a visit to Armenia. The lakeshore is lined with sandy beaches, some teeming with activity and resorts, offering water sports such as sailing, jet skiing and windsurfing, and some quiet and secluded. Lake Sevan’s proximity to Yerevan, coupled with its cooler summer temperatures, outstretched blue waters and historic sights make it one of Armenia’s key places to visit.
Walk up to the 8th century monastery of Sevanavank on Sevan Peninsula, one of Armenia’s iconic landmarks. Sevanavank is perhaps the most photographed part of the lake. The conical towers of the monastery set against the backdrop of the turquoise lake and blue sky may look idyllic, but it was once a place of penance, a place of exile for monks from the religious capital of Echmiadzin who were guilty of sinful acts. Check into a hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Sevan.
Continue to Alaverdi, the largest city in the Debed Canyon, an area rich with historical monuments and natural beauty. Visit the Sanahin Monastery. The moss-covered 10th century Sanahin is a fascinatingly detailed monastery complex, packed with ancient graves, darkened chapels and medieval gallery schools. During the period from the 10th-13th centuries, the monastery was an important and reputable center of learning, where humanitarian sciences and medicine were taught. Scientific treatises were written, paintings and miniatures were created here. The complex of Sanahin is also rich in Armenian khachkars (cross-stones). The most distinguished are Grigor Tudevordi (1184) and the Sarkis (1215) khachkars. The both khachkars are considered to be the finest examples of Armenian medieval sculpture.
Stop by the 9th century Bridge of Sanahin (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Next to the Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries, a part of the heritage is the Bridge of Sanahin, built over the heavy waves of the river Debed. Owing to its firmness and the harmonic construction of all the parts, the Bridge of Sanahin has its unique place among the numerous bridges of medieval Armenia and an outstanding one in the whole Transcaucasia. There are high-reliefs of lions, which seem to have preserved the bridge and guarded the road from the bridge to the monastery for ages.
Visit the 10th century Haghpat Monastery. This pearl of a monastery, perched on the lip of the Debed Canyon, has a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, along with Sanahin Monastery. These two magnificent monastic complexes are among the most outstanding examples of Armenian religious architecture. There is also a number of splendid khachkars (cross-stones) of the 11th-13th centuries standing on the territory of the monastery, the best known among them is the “Amenaprkich” (All-Savior) khachkar, which has been standing there since 1273. Check into a hotel. Dinner. Overnight in Alaverdi.
Stop at the 13th century Saghmosavank Monastery. Saghmosavank (“Monastery of Psalms” in Armenian) was famous for its manuscripts, and the large number of illuminated miniatures were created and copied at this monastery. Like its neighbor Hovhannavank Monastery, Saghmosavank is situated atop the precipitous gorge carved by the Kasagh River. Their silhouettes dominate the adjacent villages and rise sharply against the background of the mountains, crowned by Mt. Aragats.
Dinner at the local village house, featuring traditional Armenian bread lavash making process. Throughout the ages, lavash have not only occupied the highest place in Armenian cuisine, but also acquired the sacramental meaning, symbolizing the soul of Armenian people. In 2014, “Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia” was included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Return to Yerevan. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Yerevan.
Visit Sergei Parajanov Museum. The Sergei Parajanov Museum is a tribute to Soviet Armenian director Sergei Parajanov, and is one of the most popular museums in Yerevan. Parajanov is often rated as one of the greatest film directors of the 20th century and is famous for his surreal and cult-like movies – among them the “Colors of Pomegranates”. This museum is in a house built specially for him and adorned with art pieces created by the master.
Take a tour of an open air “Vernissage” market, where you can buy some gifts, souvenirs, jewelry and other handicrafts made of wood, semi-precious stones, silver and other materials. It is open year round, though only on the weekends, except for a rump vernissage held daily at the end of the usual “Vernissage” venue where it meets Khanjian Street. The “Paintings Vernissage” is located at Martiros Saryan Park, near the Opera House.
Stop at the popular fruit market “Shouka” to buy traditional sweets and dry fruits. You will be greeted by vendors of all types asking you to sample their goods – from delicious homemade dried fruits stuffed with nuts, paper thin fruit lavash and grape sujukh (local walnuts threaded on string and dipped in grape molasses) – right through to fresh lavash bread, an organic fruit and vegetables. Farewell dinner. Overnight in Yerevan.
THE FEATURED TIER PRICE OF 735 USD PER PERSON IS BASED ON GROUP SIZE OF 4 PERSONS IN 3 STAR HOTELS
all transfers according to a program in a 17 seater bus with A/C; accommodation in a DBL room in 3 star hotels (8 nights: 5 nights in Yerevan, 1 night in Goris, 1 night in Sevan, 1 night in Alaverdi); meals HB (breakfasts & dinners); foreign language speaking guide services; local guide services; 1 country map per person; 1 bottled water per person per day; entrance fees to museums and temples; “Ararat” brandy degustation; “Wings of Tatev” cable ride; performance at Geghard Monastery; duduk playing at Garni Temple; wine tasting in Areni; 1 free of charge place for a tour leader.
PRICE DOESN’T INCLUDE
airfare; entry visas; insurance; alcohol during the meals; all additional tours not mentioned in the program; tips.