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Off the Beaten Track: Armenia

by Martha Hales

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With its incredible selection of magical churches and medieval monasteries, it's hard to imagine a place more off the beaten path than Armenia. It's a haven for nature enthusiasts with plenty of wide open spaces, stunning mountains and a showstopping high altitude lake. Armenia does not suffer from overcrowding and happily there are plenty of places which have that special sense of undiscovered wonder. Read on for our shortlist of the best places to visit in Armenia and find out why its ancient sites and natural wonders make our travel bucket list...

KnhdzorekOld Khndzoresk Cave village

Carved out of the steep hillside, Old Khndzoresk was created from natural caves which were added to and extended by the local population. The system of caves they chiselled from the rocky landscape remain as they were when they were last inhabited in the mid 20th century. These caves are thought to have been in use since the Bronze Age, and required a complex combination of ropes and ladders to navigate. Unbelievably, the cave village of Khndzoresk was, at its peak population, the biggest village in eastern Armenia. In the 1950s the cave dwellings were condemned as unfit for human habitation and are now stand as a living  testament to Armenia’s long and complex history.

Have a look at the Mountains and Monasteries itinerary idea for more inspiration.

NoravankNoravank Monastery

A medieval masterpiece of elegant proportions, ideally situated in a valley glowing with colourful orange and red rocks, the Noravank Monastery is one of the best sunset spots in the whole of Armenia. In the low evening light the complex’s three churches stand silhouetted against the glowing landscape, offering an awe inspiring sight for any traveller. The monastery itself dates from the 13th century and is  a fantastic example of the Christian building style of the period. It’s home to well preserved ornate relief panels and many decorative khachkars, a type of monumental religious sculpture which is unique to Armenia.

Have a look at the Mountains and Monasteries and Culture & History itinerary ideas for more inspiration.

JermukJermuk spa

Nestled in the southern part of Armenia, Jermuk is a classic mountain spa town overflowing with hot springs and incredible scenery. The forests around the town are dotted with crystalline pools, all laced together with hiking trails, attractive waterfalls and wide open skies. The hot springs of Jermuk (meaning ‘geyser’ in Armenian) sit at around 2000 metres altitude and the mineral rich waters are widely believed to have curative properties. Whether it’s the health benefits or the scenery that draws you there, Jermuk is a great year-round destinations for lovers of the great outdoors.

Have a look at the Mountains and Monasteries itinerary idea for more inspiration.

MountainsHike Azhdahak

Azhdahak is a long dormant volcano and the highest peak in the Gegham mountain range. It stands at over 3500 metres high and has a huge crater lake at its summit. It's a well worn trail and the views from the top are excellent, encompassing the Gegham range, Kotayk Valley and Lake Sevan. As well as being an excellent hiking spot, the Azhdahak mountain is known for its petroglyphs; ancient rock carvings left behind by previous civilisations. Incredibly well preserved, the carvings represent domestic scenes such as hunting and battles as well as more spiritual themes around the sun, the moon and the constellations.  

Have a look at the Mountains and Monasteries itinerary idea for more inspiration.

Areni caves

South east of Yerevan is the cave system of Areni, a brilliant destination for anyone curious about ancient history. These caves have only been under archaeological study since 2007, and so far they have revealed a rich vein of historic artefacts. The cave system has yielded the discovery of what is believed to be the world’s oldest wine distillery, ancient ovens and other artefacts left behind by the caves’ Copper Age inhabitants. It is also a renowned spot for birdwatching, as is the country as a whole.

Have a look at the Birdwatcher’s Paradise and Culture & History itinerary ideas for more inspiration.

Make it happen

Armenia is a tranquil and beautiful place steeped in history and cultural relics. It's a small country making it manageable to explore in a relatively short trip. Our local experts in Armenia are ready to turn your ideas and interests into a tailor made tour. Send them a few details to get the ball rolling today. Alternatively, if you’d like to chat about your travel plans or ask for further information, give us a call in office 0117 325 7898.

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