North of Armenia
9 days / 8 nights
Responsible travel to explore the northern regions of Armenia – Shirak, Lori, Tavush
Responsible tourism can provide an important source of jobs and income not only for small family business but also everyone in the community working with them.
For example, a small village in Armenia which has a Mom-and Pop hotel started to accept tourists who also buy food at their small restaurant. The food is provided by the local community such as bread (from women who bake them in the village), cheese, jam (from the elderly couples who keep cows, collect berries and fruits in the forests to make preserves), honey (from a local beekeeper), wine (made in a small family winery), etc.
A local village artist can sell his paintings, a ceramist can sell his works, many village grandmas can sell their embroidery. The whole community in such cases may depend on tourism.
Income from tourism also helps substantially with the preservation of ancient churches and monasteries around the rural communities, and the conservation of ecosystems in places such as Dilijan National Park and Arpi Lake National Park…..Read more
Our itinerary will cover all Armenia but we are going to spend a bit more time in the most beautiful regions of Armenia in the north of the country – Shirak, Lori and Tavush which are the least affluent.
You will stay in the most beautiful family hotels and guesthouses which are quaint, charming with a local character
You will eat local food which is healthy prepared in a local house or a small restaurant. The food in Armenia is mostly produced in the country, it is mostly organic (As in many areas the farmers can’t afford pesticides) and the Armenians prefer to cook only seasonal produce growing locally in small-scale farms. In Armenia food miles are more likely to be food meters and many people here would be amazed that ‘farm to table’ is not a way of life in some countries but a marketing concept.
You will taste wine in small family wineries and if you don’t drink wine you can taste mountain herbal tea which has a divine aroma. And instead of sugar you will be offered honey which comes directly from the beekeeper.
You buy your tour from a local small Armenian tour company employing local tour guide and driver who will accompany you throughout the tour. They receive fair wages working with us.
Shopping is never included in our tours but you are encouraged to support the locals as you visit a workshop of a ceramist, a wood-carver, a stone-carver, beekeepers and winemakers, etc.
You will visit UNESCO World Heritage sites in Armenia
Rates & Departures
Accommodation at Guesthouses and B&B (8 nights)
Transportation with a comfortable cars with AC
English speaking tour guide
Entrance fees to all visited places
Armenian bread Lavash making in a local house in Garni village
Lunches & dinners
Dinners in Yerevan
Visa to Armenia (if required)
Single room supplement
Bank transfer fees
Airport pick-up and transfer to Yerevan
Today you explore the secrets and hidden gems of Yerevan, the pink “pearl” of Armenia, a beautiful European city mostly built with different shades of local pink stone called “tuf” quarried in Armenia. Founded in 782 B.C. Yerevan is reputedly one of the oldest cities in the world to have been continuously inhabited.
We start the exploration with the “Victory Park” and “Mother Armenia” monument offering a “bird’s-eye” view of the city with the fantastic view of the majestic snow-capped Mount Ararat (5165 m) dominating the skyline. Continue to the colossal monument of Cascade and Cafesjian Center for the Arts which includes a world-class sculpture garden and indoor modern art museum with works from Botero, Chihuly, Arshile Gortky, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynn Chadwick, Barry Flanegan and Jaume Plensa and many others.
Exploring the Republic Square, Abovyan Street, one of the oldest streets in Yerevan which used to be a part of the Great Silk Road, we walk down the Northern Avenue and arrive at the Freedom Square, the home of the Opera and Ballet Theatre (architect A. Tamanian). The design and layout of the building was awarded with Grand Prix in 1936 World Exhibition in Paris.
Tour of “Goom” bazaar of Yerevan, a real museum of food with pyramids of fresh and dried fruits stuffed with different kinds of nuts, honey, cinnamon and other spices, colorful strings of “sweet sujukh”, orange beads of dried peaches(“alani”) stuffed with walnuts, piles of “lavash” traditional Armenian bread, many kinds of cheeses some of them aged in clay pots, pickles, beans and other organic products offered by local farmers.
We will also visit the Vernissage market known as the largest open-air market in the Caucasus of arts & crafts.
Overnight in Yerevan
This morning we visit Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral, the oldest official church in the world built in 301-303 AD. as Armenia became the first country to embrace Christianity as a state religion. Later we will drive to the stunning 5th century Yereruyk Basilica in Anipemza village on the Turkish border. We visit a local stone-carver and his family house.
We see the ruins of the magnificent Ani medieval city from the Armenian side of the border. Ani, “the city of a thousand and one churches” used to be the richest city in the middle ages along the Silk Road, as well as the birthplace of the Gothic architecture…
Continue our trip to the 2nd largest city in Armenia, we explore the soulful and creative Gyumri walking the silent streets of the charming “Old Kumayri” reserve where we occur in the 19th century as we see Gothic churches, old baths and breweries, house-museums of famous poets, art galleries… We visit Aslamazyan Sisters’ Art Gallery, Gyumri Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life. Lunch in Gwoog gastro-yard.
In the evening we can visit Poloz-Mukuch pub for beer and Gyumri jokes after having our dinner in a fabulous fish restaurant.
Overnight in Gyumri
This morning we explore Marmashen medieval monastery in a peaceful surrounding with fruit orchards. Continue to Jajur Pass to stop at the house-museum of an Armenian 20th century artist Minas Avetisyan, Juxtaposition of bright and reserved colors, artistic features of native land and its essential expressiveness were peculiar to his art. He created compositions depicting Armenian rural environment, landscapes, portraits and still life. He was also the artist of twenty unique frescoes. Later we have lunch in the family of a local beekeeper in Mets Sarigyugh village.
We drive to Stepanavan and take a stroll in the beautiful arboretum, home to 500 plant species.
Later we tour Lori Berd Fortress, once a flourishing medieval town set dramatically at the confluence of 2 rivers.
We also stop at an abandoned 19th century fairy-tale Russian Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker… such a haunted place…
Later we visit Ardvi medieval monastery with the most romantic movie setting (Parajanov’s movie Color of Pomegranate episodes were shot here).
30 minutes of free time to meditate at the monastery waterfalls, walk around to pick cherries, wild strawberries and thyme.
Overnight in guesthouse in Odzun village
After a hearty breakfast consisting of so many organic ingredients such as yogurt, honey, secrets behind longevity, we visit the 5th century Odzun Basilica set against the backdrop of emerald mountains. The most special part of it is the unique 8th century monument next to it with so many carvings, a gift to Armenia from an Indian king!
From here we walk to Horomayr monastery perched on cliffs overlooking Debed River Canyon, perhaps the most beautiful and unique scenery in Northern Armenia. After exploring Horomayr medieval monastery, mysteriously attractive, we walk along the canyon and forest. Our next stop is at Kobayr medieval monastery with stunning frescoes under open sky offering breathtaking views of Debed Canyon.
Visit Fairy-tale house for the lunch and learning about Armenian traditions.
Continue to Dsegh village, and visit the house-museum of Hovhannes Tumanyan, the most beloved Armenian poet and writer of the 20th century.
Visit Sanahin UNESCO monastery, one of the most impressive sites in Armenia famous for its school of calligraphy.
Meet a local ceramist and make pottery with him.
Overnight in Haghpat
After breakfast we walk in the beautiful village and we visit the Monastery of Haghpat dating back to the 10th century, astonishingly well preserved with its frescoes, “lace” stone-crosses (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
*If you love rafting it is possible to organize rafting on Debed River this morning!
We continue to the north visiting the marvelous Akhtala Castle and its church completely covered with 800 year-old frescoes which leave us speechless. Lunch in the village accompanies with a cooking master class. Later we drive to Yenokavan village. We stay overnight in a wine-makers guesthouse where we relax all evening looking at the beautiful green mountains enjoying glasses of local wine.
Our hostess will bake “gata”, the Armenian traditional pastry.
Overnight in Yenokavan
Nature walk to the best-kept secret of Armenia – Lastiver caves and numerous waterfalls, one of the most beautiful walking trails in Armenia.
*If you feel adventurous you can try the zip-line in Yell Extreme Park after our hike.
Lunch in Hovq village near Stone Lake lost in the forest.
Here we can rest by the lake and do fishing.
Drive to Dilijan spa town in Dilijan National Park, a protected area renowned for its serene lakes, picturesque hill trails and peaceful villages. Many poets used to say, “If there are woods, mountains, streams and in paradise, it must be like Dilijan”. Due to its forested mountains and mild climate, Dilijan is named “Armenia’s Little Switzerland”.
Visit Goshavank medieval monastery in a picturesque village in walnut orchards.
Take a stroll in Old Dilijan town exploring the historic Sharambeyan street with its shops, woodcarver’s and ceramist’s workshops.
Overnight in a charming local guesthouse in the “hugs of nature”.
Early in the morning we walk to the Hidden Waterfall (3km round trip), following the beautiful trail along the river, hearing to the singing of birds. 30-minute of rest and meditation by the waterfall and river.
Later we visit one of the highlights of Armenia – Haghartsin, a fairy-tale medieval monastery nestled in the middle of a dense forest.
We continue to Parz Lake, a small earthly paradise in lush forests of Dilijan National Park.
Free time to take a boat or simply enjoy the lake. Later on, we visit the reproduction center of the red deer.
Lunch with a family in the exotic village of Fioletovo inhabited by the Russian Molokans. Our charming hosts Misha and Natasha will treat us with their traditional food as well as pirozhki (Russian pie), samovar tea with organic honey and wild raspberry jam.
Afterwards we will head towards Lake Sevan National Park, the world’s 2nd largest highest freshwater lake at 1900 m above sea level and the most beautiful lake of Armenia taking up 4% of the territory of Armenia.
Marvel at stunning turquoise waters of the Lake Sevan and dramatic mountain scenery after climbing up the peninsula hill where we visit the 9th century Sevanavank Monastery (optional, over 240 steps to get there).
Relaxation in a secluded white-sand beach.
Visit the Stone Garden – Noratus, the largest field of Armenian exquisite cross-stones in the world.
Dinner and cheese-making master class in a small village by the lake. Tasting of several kinds of cheeses aged in wine, cognac, spiced with pepper or oregano. Back to Yerevan.
Overnight in Yerevan
Transfer to the airport, departure.