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|Price range||From £1440|
|Travel partner||Wild Frontiers|
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Armenia: In The Shadow of Mt Ararat
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 deep into the mountain landscapes of Nagorno Karabagh. Along the way we will explore remote fortresses, ancient caravanserais and breathe in the spectacular landscapes of the Dilijan National Park and the Debed Canyon. Deeply religious, staunchly traditional and steeped in the bloody passage of history, Armenia is emerging as one of Europe’s most fascinating destinations.
HIGHLIGHTS • Explore the monasteries of Khor Virap, Noravank and Tatev • Visit Armenia’s spiritual heart of Echmiadzin and its stunning cathedral. • Venture into the disputed mountainous region of Nagorno Karabagh • The stunning landscapes of Armenia’s ‘Switzerland’ and the historic valleys of the Debed Canyon.
- Full services of a Wild Frontiers tour leader with local guides and drivers.
- Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) with mineral water as required.
- All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
- All accommodation
- All entrance fees, as per itinerary
- Visas (if applicable)
- Local airport taxes
- Tips (always optional, but some guidance will be given in the predeparture information pack you’ll receive after booking)
- Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
- International flights
- Airport transfers (unless booking suggested flights through WF office)
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. Lying on the banks of the Hrazdan River, against the impressive backdrop of Mount Ararat, the Armenian capital has sat at the heart of the staunch and traditional Armenian Highlands for centuries. This evening we meet up for our first night in this ancient land. Royal Plaza Hotel (or similar) (no meals)
This morning we drive a short distance to 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 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. Royal Plaza Hotel (or similar) (B,L,D)
Leaving Yerevan this morning we head next for the traditional town of Goris, set amongst the winding mountain roads of Southern Armenia. The day’s journey takes us by way of the pilgrimage site of Khor Virap, one of Armenia’s most romantically 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 some 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, before completing our journey to Goris. Mirhav Hotel (or similar) (B,L,D)
This morning we will visit the magnificently situated Tatev Monastery, taking the newly opened 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. From here we continue on to the ancient observatory of Karahuni, a mystical setting that is believed to predate both the Pyramids and Stonehenge by over three millennia. If this is indeed true, then these ancient stones also predate Babylonian claims to being the first astronomers. Some even believe Armenia to be the birthplace of the zodiac, navigation and possibly the concept of time itself! Our final stop of the day is at the cave village of Khndzoresk, from where we will cross the disputed border to Nagorno Karabagh and make our way up to Stepanakert. Shushi Grand Hotel (or similar) (B,L,D)
Today we head north, to visit the 13th century Monastery at Gandzasar, believed by many to represent one of the high points of Armenian architecture. The monastery’s high walls protect the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, home to some exquisite bas-reliefs and a number of relics that are believed to have belonged to St John and St Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist). The complex also sits amidst some truly spectacular landscapes and before we return to Stepanakert later this afternoon, we will pay a visit to the 17th century Askeran fortress at Mayramaberd and the Hellenistic ruins of Tigranakert. Shushi Grand Hotel (or similar) (B,L,D)
Today we have a long drive towards Dilijian, located amongst the forested landscapes of Dilijian National Park. We’ll travel first via the old Caravanserai at Selim, dating back to the middle years of the 14th century and reputed to be the best preserved of its kind in the country. Then we head next to the medieval cemetery at Noraduz, close to Lake Sevan, which houses the largest collection of khachkars in the country; uniquely decorated cross-stones that were characteristic of the medieval art of Christian Armenia. Passing through the town of Dilijan, we finally arrive at the small village of Yenokavan, nearby which we find our base for the next two nights - a rural getaway in the beautiful mountains of Northern Armenia. Rural Resthouse (or similar) (B,L,D)
Today there will be the opportunity to make the most of this stunning landscape with a chance to explore on horseback, by bike or on foot. Known as the ‘Armenian Switzerland’, the Tavush region is well known for its forests, springs and rich biodiversity. Encompassing an area of national park that covers over 24,000 hectares, it is home to rare species of plants, golden eagles, wolf, wild cat and some 150 different types of birds. There are a number of different trails that we can enjoy, passing up into the alpine meadows along the forest tracks that take us up towards old burial grounds and ancient ruins. Alternatively this is a great place to relax and take in the tranquillity of the stunning countryside. Rural Resthouse (or similar) (B,L,D)
Heading back towards the capital this morning, we pass through the scenic majesty of the Debed Canyon, one of the country’s most picturesque regions. Carving its way across Armenia and into neighbouring Georgia, the canyon’s slopes are covered in woodland and littered with small villages, chapels and churches, including the famous Byzantine monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, World Heritage sites that UNESCO themselves describe as ‘...the highest flowering of Armenian religious architecture’. From here we then make our way back to Yerevan and journey’s end. Royal Plaza Hotel (or similar) (B,L,D)
Those on the suggested group flight will have an early transfer including to the airport. For all other clients, the tour will end after breakfast.
If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration. The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries. Here is just a small sample of what you could do:-
Georgia – why not visit the the beautiful mountains of Kazbegi or Svaneti? Allow 2-9 days. Alternatively the cave towns of Uplistikhe & Vardzia make great extensions. Allow 2-3 days.
Azerbaijan – Continue on across the Caucasus and take a trip further east to see Georgia’s very different neighbour. The Silk Road crossroads town of Sheki and the bizarre capital of Baku are just some of the highlights that await. Allow 4-6 days.
This holiday is booked by phone. Click 'book now' to make a reservation request to our travel partner who will call you back to confirm your booking details and take payment. To speak to a representative now please call 0330 333 6781.