Christian Heritage and Cultural Highlights of Armenia / 9 days & 8 nights

Day 1/2:             Flight to Yerevan

 Meet your private car/driver upon exit from the customs. Transfer to the Hotel of choice.

Later this morning start the sightseeing tour of the city of Yerevan, which will introduce you to the capital of the Republic of Armenia, with its well-designed buildings, squares and streets, open air coffee houses and wealthy museums. The tour begins with a drive from the Republic Square – the heart of the city, a significant site for all major celebrations and the location of many impressive buildings, such as the HistoryMuseum, NationalArtGallery, major ministries and the House of Government. Continue to the Panorama Ground affording a dramatic view of Yerevanwith Mount Araraton the background. Our today’s programme can also include an optional visit to the “Noy-Ararat” factory - one of the oldest wineries in the region, where you can taste 2 brands of 1933 – 1937 wines and 2 of their current brandies (cognac) - needs to be booked before the date of visit. 

Day 3:               Yerevan – Echmiatsin – Yerevan  

Our tour starts with an excursion to Vagharshapat – once a capital of Armeniathis town is the home of the first official Christian Church - the Echmiatsin “Mother Cathedral” and the residence of the Supreme Catholicos of all Armenians. Visit the Cathedral – a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, and its Museum, as well as the Church of St. Hripsimeh Martyria. Return to the capital and visit the ruins of once magnificent Cathedral of Zvartnots en-route. Return to Yerevan and visit the Matenadaran - the depository of ancient Armenian manuscripts (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which houses a superb collection of more than 16,000 manuscripts from the 5th until 15th centuries.

* possible to alter the dates so that we visit the Cathedral on a Sunday for church service.

Day 4: Yerevan – Garni – Gueghard – Yerevan

Today is our excursion to the Fortress and Templeof Garni– a testimony to the Roman influence in Armenia. Then visit the medieval monastery of Gueghard, an architectural treasure carved into a cliff and which is counted as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Return to Yerevanand visit of the colorful fruit and vegetable market and continue to visit the National Museum of Armenian History – one of the most interesting museums of the kind, which possesses a rich collection of archaeological and historical artifacts  the oldest dating to Stone and Bronze ages. Time permitting/optional visit to Art Gallery – the third largest in the former USSR collection of paintings. Afternoon visit to the Weekend Art and Crafts Fair ‘Vernisage’                                    

Day 5 : Yerevan - Khor Virap – Noravank - Via the Great Silk Route onto Vardenyats or Selima Pass – Tsakhkadzor

This morning we check out of our ‘home’ in Yerevanand leave for the North of Armenia via the country’s South. The first sight to visit is Khor Virap monastery - once a royal prison of the early Christians in pagan Armenia and the site from where the light of Christianity spread all over Armenia. A majestic view of Mount Ararat opens from here! Thereafter continue onto the main highway and head in the direction of the Noravank Monastery (10-14th cc. UNESCO Site) - a splendid monastic complex hidden in the pictorial reddish mountains - like a wild flower, or a white dressed bride in the heart of the rocks. The monastery was once the site of the royal princes and a school of famous stonemasons. Spend some time walking leisurely in the vicinity. Optional visit to one of the local wineries in the village of Areni with an opportunity to taste the local wines and buy some if so wished. Our journey then passes through the Selima Pass – once a major junction on the Great Silk Route. Brief photo stop by the Caravanserai here, which by right is considered to be the finest and well preserved ones that have survived till nowadays. We conclude our today’s journey at the local hotel in the spa town ofTsakhkadzor (1 night)

Day 6 :                Tsakhkadzor - Lake Sevan  - Dilijan (Haghartsin) – Vanadzor

Travel through breathtakingly beautiful mountain scenery leading to the famous spa town of Dilijan, called the Little Switzerland of Armenia. Drive along Lake Sevan, one of the largest high altitude lakes in the world.  Stop to visit Sevanavank, a monastery built on an island (now a peninsula) in Lake Sevan in 305 AD on the site of a former pagan temple.  The present day structure dates back to 8th c. This mountainous lake covers approximately 5% ofArmenia’s surface area and is 2000 meters/2187 yards above sea level.  Maxim Gorky said about the waters, that they were like a piece of the sky that had descended to earth among the mountains.

Hidden into the forest, Dilijan has preserved its vivid style of architecture, which differs from what we see in the rest of Armenia with its wooden elements. We offer you to visit Haghartsin – one of the brilliant samples of Medieval Armenian ecumenical architecture. Haghartsin monastery was a major religious and cultural center of Armenia.  It also housed an important school of church music that developed a new system of notation for the Armenian liturgy. Spend some time to leisurely explore the site and enjoy walking in the Natural Reserve. Time permitting visit to Goshavank Monastery. Goshavank was established in the late 12th century by the cleric Mkhitar Gosh. It was here that Mkhitar Gosh first formally codified Armenian law (partly as a defense against the imposition of Islamic shariah law) and also wrote his fables which make moral points using birds as the protagonists. Continue drive and tour briefly the recently restored historic 19th centuryOldTown with its beautiful wooden houses and ornately carved balconies, and visit authentically recreated artisans' workshops. Resume the day at a local hotel in Vanadzor (1 night)

Day 7 :                 Vanadzor - Yerevan

After breakfast we check out and proceed to visit the monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin both listed as World Heritage Sites and protected by UNESCO. These two magnificent monastic complexes are among the most outstanding examples of Armenian religious architecture, and are important not only for the original architecture of the buildings, but because of the tremendous influence they exerted on the overall development of medieval Armenian art and architecture. Head forYerevan via Spitak Pass. Arrive in the capital and check back to your hotel.

Day 8 :                    Yerevan - Ashtarak – Yerevan 

Continue discovery of Armenia: visit the medieval monasteries of Ohannavank and Saghmosavank. Weather permitting visit of the Fortress of Amberd with possible light picnic here. Return to the capital and spend the rest of the day at leisure or to independently visit 1-2 small museums here. Possible suggestions for visits:

Museum of Collages of the world famous film director Sergey Parajanov,

House museum of the painter Martiros Saryan,

House Museum of sculptor Y. Kochar

House Museum of the world known composer Aram Khachaturyan

Day 9: final departure home 

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