By Wildfrontierstravel



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Armenia: In The Shadow Of Mt Ararat



  • 18 May
  • -
  • 25 May 2024
  • |
  • 8 days


per person

Availability: 12 places

    Spanning cultures and continents, Armenia lies at the heart of the Caucasus, its ancient monasteries and candlelit churches standing silent sentinel over centuries of conflict and religious devotion. 

    Watched over by the biblical heights of Mount Ararat, its mountains and forests play host to a stunning collection of ecclesiastical treasures, from the beautiful cathedral at Echmiadzin, to the serene majesty of the Khor Virap and Tatev Monasteries. 

    This incredible journey takes us into the heart of this remarkable country, offering us a chance to discover the very soul of Armenia as we travel from its bustling capital and into the remote fortresses, ancient caravanserais and breathe in the spectacular landscapes of the Dilijan National Park and Transcaucasian Trail. Deeply religious, staunchly traditional and steeped in the bloody passage of history, Armenia is emerging as one of Europe’s most fascinating destinations.

    Day 1

    DAY 1: Tour starts in Yerevan

    Our journey begins in Yerevan, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, which can date its origins back to the 8th century BC and the founding of the Erebuni Fortress by King Argisthi in 782. Sitting on the banks of the Hrazdan River, against the impressive backdrop of Mount Ararat, the Armenian capital has been at the heart of the staunch and traditional Armenian Highlands for centuries. Rooms will be available in Yerevan from this afternoon. Those arriving on the group flights will arrive late this evening.

    Day 2

    DAY 2: In & around Yerevan

    This morning we drive a short distance to the UNESCO site of Echmiadzin, the spiritual centre of the country and the home of the head of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church. We’ll visit the city’s stunning cathedral*, one of the oldest churches anywhere in the world and purportedly home to a number of sacred relics, including a piece of Noah’s Ark and the Holy Lance from Geghard. After a chance to observe Sunday mass - a remarkable sight in itself - in this most revered of places, we will visit the 7th century archaeological site of Zvartnots, also UNESCO. We will then return to Yerevan where there will be time to visit the colourful Vernissage Market and the city’s Matenadaran Museum, one of the world’s richest repositories of medieval manuscripts and books.

    *Please note, Etchmiadzin Cathedral is undergoing restoration and is currently closed. There is no official information yet on when it will re-open. It may be possible to walk around the outside of the cathedral and take photographs, but there is scaffolding. The visit to Etchmiadzin will also be comprised of the other churches and monasteries, St Hripsime being the second grandest one there.


    Day 3

    DAY 3: Yerevan – Khor Virap - Norovank – Areni - Karahunj – Goris

    Today’s journey takes us by way of the pilgrimage site of Khor Virap, one of Armenia’s most spectacularly sited monasteries. Credited with bringing Christianity to Armenia, St Gregory is the patron saint and the first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, so this, the site of his incarceration, is held in great respect by the Armenian Christians. This is also the closest point in Armenia to the biblical slopes of Mount Ararat and the majestic views across to the holy mountain add a certain reverence to the setting. From here we then head on to the 13th century monastery of Noravank to view its beautiful stone crosses. Afterwards we will continue to the wine producing region of Areni Village where we will enjoy a short visit to one of the local wineries to sample a variety of wines and discover how they are produced. We will finally take a short walk to and around the site of Karahunj, the Armenian equivalent to Stonehenge, before ending our journey in the traditional town of Goris, set amongst the winding mountain roads of Southern Armenia.

    Day 4

    DAY 4: In & around Goris

    This morning we will visit the magnificently situated Tatev Monastery, taking the cable car across the Vorotan Canyon (at 5.7km, the longest cable car in the world). A former centre for the arts and sciences, Tatev Monastery has been a bastion of culture and learning for centuries and today its extensive grounds hold three churches, a refectory, a library, vault and several residences. We will then travel to explore by foot the fascinating cave village of Khndzoresk whose 400 dwellings were still lived in up to a couple of decades ago. Next we will visit the museum of Axel, an Armenian writer and public activist who was tragically murdered during Stalin’s 1937 assassinations.

    Day 5

    DAY 5: Goris – Selim Caravanserai – Lake Sevan – Dilijan

    Departing Goris we will head north for the shores of Lake Sevan, stopping on route at the well preserved and atmospheric Selim Caravanserai, an important staging point in the 14th century built in 1332 by Chesan Orbelian. We will visit Noratus, the largest cemetery of khachkars in Armenia, and the medieval Sevanavank Monastery located on the shore of Lake Sevan. Next we will drive to the 'Armenian Switzerland' region of Dilijan where we will enjoy a cookery masterclass on ‘tolma’ - the traditional Armenian dish combining minced meat, rice, various herbs and spices, rolled in grape leaves. We will spend the next two nights in this beautiful alpine town.

    Day 6

    DAY 6: Dilijan - Transcaucasian Trail in Dilijan National Park – Dilijan

    Today there is the option to set out on a full day's hike, using the ongoing Transcaucasian trail project. The terrain will vary today from well beaten paths to grassland and scree underfoot. As this is an alpine area, much of the walking will be forested but there will be break points to enjoy some wonderful vistas. On route you will visit Lake Parz, one of Dilijan's most attractive natural sites and the medieval Haghartsin Monastery. The refectory of Hagahrtsin is unique and there are a number of very interesting khachkars (cross stones) in the Monastery. From here you will reach Goshavank Monastery. The Monastery was established by Mkhitar Gosh, the famous scientist and author of medieval Armenia. Approx. 4 hrs walking (Total distance 6kms)

    Day 7

    DAY 7: Dilijan - Garni - Yerevan

    This morning we will head back towards the capital, stopping to visit the 1st Century Garni Temple, Garni Gorge and the Symphony of Stones. We will then head to a local Armenian restaurant where you can tuck into a delicious home cooked meal and can learn how to bake the national Armenian bread, lavash. On arrival into Yerevan we will visit the Memorial to the 1915 Genocide, before heading out for our final dinner.

    Day 8

    DAY 8: Tour ends in Yerevan

    Those on the suggested group flights will have an early transfer to the airport. For all other clients, the tour will end after breakfast.