Updated: Oct 20
Armenia and the independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2013.
The start of a new trip, this time I was at Brussels Airport check-in around 18.00 for a flight with Austrian Airlines from Brussels to Vienna and connecting true to Yerevan in Armenia where we arrived around 03.30 at night, so the bus took us straight to the hotel to get some sleep.
We slept out and went to breakfast before leaving the hotel around 10.00 for a city tour of Yerevan starting at the Genocide memorial and museum, then to the Art Square and the Manuscript museum. After a nice lunch we went on to the Blue Mosque which is the only mosque left in Yerevan because Armenia is Christian (since 301 AD), the last visit of the day was the National History Museum where unfortunately photography is not allowed at all, by 18.00 we were back in the hotel.
Around 19.00 we had dinner in the hotel but first I tasted the local Ararat Cognac which isn't bad at all. After dinner I went back to the city center to see the Music fountain in front of the National History museum. After a drink in a very nice open air bar I arrived back in the hotel around 22.30.
This morning after breakfast we stopped at the local food market and then went on to the Armavir region for a visit to the Hripsime church, the Echmiadzin complex with its Cathedral (where they have the so called relics of the speer that pierced the body of Jesus on the cross and a piece of wood from the Ark of Noah) and Gayane church. After a good lunch we visited the ruins of the Zvartnots church and then went back to the hotel to rest a bit before dinner. We had dinner in a nice restaurant with traditional food and a live performance of Armenian folklore music. After dinner I went to the city center for some city night shots around the opera and the cascades monument, then a drink and by 23.30 I was back in the hotel.
Today we left at 09.00 to go north but first a short stop a local art and brocante market near a square that has been left derelict since Soviet times. Our first stop north of Yerevan was the Saghmosavank monastery which is located on the edge of an impressive canyon with mount Aragats in the background, at lunch we saw a show of traditional dance and after that we visited the small Karmravor church nearby. On the way we stopped at the Armenian alphabet monument before entering the desolate mountain region to go to the Amberd fort with a church nearby, this very impressive fort is located in a fantastic landscape at 2300 meters above sea level and in its time was one of the strongest forts in the world. After the great fort we went to the observatory of Byurakan, this was built by the Russians in 1946 but because lack of funds and maintenance is in very poor condition, only a few buildings are still in use and some even collapsed, most of the park is overgrown, there are 3 domes with large telescopes and at least one small building with a small telescope where we looked at the moon and some planets. We had dinner in the observatory and finally returned to our hotel by 22.00.
Today we left our hotel in Yerevan and went south, our first stop was the monastery of Khor Virap with a fantastic view on mount Ararat. Then a long drive true the region with deep canyons and high desolate mountains to finally arrive at Noravank church which is located halfway in one of the impressive canyons, next we passed to provincial border at Vorotan pass at 2344 meters, this pass is part of the old silk route, the last stop was at the stone rings of Zorats Kar and then went to our hotel in Goris where we arrived around 19.00. By the time we had finished our dinner it was 21.00 and because there is nothing to see near this place we to bed early.
This morning I woke up around 07.45 take breakfast at 08.00, the hotel looks new but it's clear that in this region they don't know what tourism exactly is yet, the rooms are small, electricity is lost from time to time, no air conditioning and the restaurant looks like what I remember from school but it' s all I need. At 09.00 we left on 2 smaller buses because we were going to the rock houses of Kndzoresk and the roads in that area are not good enough for a large bus, on the way we stopped for a view over Goris and once we arrived at the rock houses we had to walk down the mountain and over a hanging bridge, this place is home to various animals and I found some eagles and vultures, we went back to the hotel to change again to our large bus and go to our next visit. We had lunch in the restaurant near the cable tram "Wings of Tatev", after lunch we took this cable tram of 5752 meters long and 320 meters high to the monastery of Tatev, once we returned from Tatev we went back to the hotel to have dinner and that was the end of this day.
This morning after breakfast we had to pack yet again because this time we had to go to Stepanakert, this city is located in the independent republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, this was a strange experience because this is a country on its own within Azerbeidjan borders but inhabited by Armenians, the land between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh is occupied by Armenians but it is not really a part of Armenia so we had to pass border control, this situation is a stable political one in the form of a cold war so there is no active fighting but no real peace either. After a 2 hour drive we visited the Ghazanchetsots cathedral in Shushi and stopped at some interesting points to see an old derelict Soviet monument, a view on Shushi city walls and a tank memorial with a T72 tank from 1992 when Armenian forces took control of Nagorno-Karabakh. Around 12.30 we arrived in the capital Stepanakert. After lunch it was foggy and cold in Stepanakert so I went shopping a bit and then a bit of internet surfing, I took the time to relax a bit before dinner, after dinner I went out for some night shots and then to the bar for an Ararat cognac before going to bed.
Today we went from Stepanakert to Tigranakert castle which is only 20 km from the border, we passed a desolate landscape with ruined buildings and the remains of tanks that were destroyed in the war of 1992, on the way back we stopped at the fort of Askeran and then went to lunch in Vank. After lunch we passed a place where they have nailed old car license plates from the time when Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbeidjan on a long wall in the center of Vank, next visit was the monastery of Gandzasar, on our way back to the hotel we stopped at the National monument of Nagorno-Karabakh. We had dinner in the hotel and after a drink in the bar I went to bed.
Today we left early because we had a long drive in the mountains ahead of us, we had to go from Stepanakert to the border, then to Goris and then on to Sevan in the north. On the way we had good views of Stepanakert and Goris, we stopped for lunch and after lunch we passed a caravanserai which is an old stopping place to rest and eat from the times of the caravans on the silk route, next we passed over the top of the Selim pass to finally arrive at Lake Sevan where we had 2 final stops at Noratus graveyard and Hajravank church before arriving at our hotel on the shore of Lake Sevan. After dinner I went for a drink in the bar and then to bed.
Today we went north from Sevan true the Sevan pass tunnel and on to Dilijan old village, this is an open air museum with houses built like old Armenian houses looked, on the way in the Debed valley we saw the ruins of old Russian industry, huge complexes now lie derelict in this area, we went to Akhtala monastery, then to lunch and then Haghbat monastery. After this we had another long drive in the mountains ahead of us to finally arrive at Sevanavank monastery to see the sunset over Lake Sevan, we had dinner in the local restaurant and then went back to the hotel for a final drink and a good night sleep.
On the start of our last day we left Sevan in the direction of Yerevan, on the way we stopped on the side of the road to pick up a typical stone of the area, Obsidian, a type of very hard volcanic rock, our first visit of the day was Gaghard monastery which is partly carved out of the rocks, next was a visit to an old temple from Hellenic times, Garni temple, after this last visit we had lunch and this was just about the end of our tour around Armenia. We stopped quickly at the fruit market of Yerevan and then went to the hotel where we would get dinner and then leave in the middle of the night to catch our flight back from Yerevan to Vienna and Vienna to Brussels where we would arrive in the morning.