Yeghegnadzor is a town in Southern Armenia. This small city is located in a good spot to explore the surrounding sites for a few days, and in a fantastic area for hiking and spelunking. The city itself is right by the main North-South highway and has comfortable accommodations and is a very typical town in Armenia for those who want an experience outside of Yerevan. Things to see in the area include the Areni wine country, the spectacular canyon and monastery in Noravank, the impressive Smbatabert Fortress/Tsakhats Kar Monastery area, the old silk road caravanserai of Selim, sitting on top of the world, lot of other monuments and a number of caves and cavern systems.
Vans (Marshutni) to Yeghegnadzor are the cheapest way to get in from Yerevan. It is an hour and a half drive from Yerevan, and taxis will take you for $20-30 as well. Marshutkas (about $5) and shared taxis depart from Gordzaranayin traffic circle, near the subway stop of the same name.
Walking around much of Yeghegnadzor is nice, as is hiking to some of the closer sights. A car or taxi to other sites is quite helpful however. There is only one main highway running to the south of Armenia so it is not a problem to try and hitchhike. Armenians outside of Yerevan are very friendly. If you try to hitch stand on the side of the road a little outside of town on the highway leading to Yeghegnadzor and hold out your hand. Do not be surprised if they driver who picks you up invites you to his home for horovats (Armenian BBQ).
A taxi from the main entrance to the guesthouse area (in the northwestern part of the town) should cost about 500 AMD ($1). A taxi to Shatin or Vernashen is 1000-2000 AMD ($2-4).
Many car owners act as taxi drivers and make a nice conversation. Taxi drivers:
- Aris Gevorgian (tel: 077524535), a 60-year-old retired sports teacher whose son lives in Moscow and makes Armenian music. He'll be happy to play some of it for you. He won't let you overpay even if you insist.
- Areni Wine Country. Just a couple of villages from Yeghegnadzor is Areni, famous for its wine from grapes of the same name. Nice setting and village, with a couple of the wineries in the area offering tastings.
- Noravank Monastery. Hands down the most popular site in the area, this monastery of stunning beauty is in an equally stunning canyon setting. The brick-red cliffs opposite the beige stones of the monastery offer an unforgettable contrast, as does the climb up the stone steps jutting out of one of the churches, to a second story church on top of the one on the first story. The carvings are also very worthwhile, and the monastery has excellent facilities (and maybe food) for visitors as well.
- Selim Caravanserai. If you want to see where silk road traders laid their weary heads a thousand years ago, head up the winding road to Selim Caravanserai. You can see the entrance/bar area, and the large cavernous room the guests would share with each other, and their animals. The room has convenient troughs for the animals to eat and drink from!
- Tsakhats Kar Monastery. Up in the mountains is the Monastery of Tsakhats Kar. A nice hike from the village below, or an offroad drive for those with a serious 4x4. Time seems to have forgotten this place, but you need not. It's across from Smbataberd (see below), and together they make a great outing.
- Smbataberd Fortress. A serious natural fortification with a serious fortress on top. This narrow sheer cape is capped with one of Armenia's biggest fortresses. The views of the valley's are impressive and the sheer drop a bit scary. Impossible to imagine this fortress ever being taken by force.
- Mozrov and Arjeri Caves. These rough caves, found very close to one another, were mapped during Soviet times, but there are no markers, no lights, no facilities, no decent road to them. Not many people know them well either, so finding a guide may be tough, but definitely necessary. Mozrov is only 700m long, but has the nicer formations. Arjeri cave, meaning bears cave, is a very extensive cave system, with some good formations, small pools of water, and both have bats.
- Spitakavor Monastery and Boloraberd Fortress. These two sites are quite close to each other, and a great day hike from Yeghegnadzor. A local guide, topographic maps or a GPS might be handy, but these very off-road sites (also accessible by car, preferably 4x4) are rarely visited.
- Gladzor University Ruins and Tanahati Monastery. Another good day hike from Yeghegnadzor, these adjacent sites are easy to find by following the road up past Vernishen village.
- Yeghegis Village sites. This village, beautifully sited in the canyon below Smbataberd (which may be better accessed from the opposite side of the canyon) has the very unusual triangular shaped Zorats Church, where the congregation is meant to stand outdoors. It also has another nice small church and much rougher one, and ancient Jewish cemetery across the river below, and don't be surprised to stumble upon women baking lavash in the traditional underground tonir over!
- Gnisheek Prime Butterfly Area. This is an area that includes slopes of Ayotsdzor mountain ridge from vicinity of Gnisheek village down to Noravank gorge and provides wide opportunities for butterfly-watching. There are 163 species that can be observed in this area. They include Carcharodus lavatherae, Parnassius mnemosyne, Zegris eupheme, Colias aurorina, Colias chlorocoma, Tomares romanovi, Ultraaricia crassipuncta, Polyommatus dorylas, Polyommatus eriwanensis, Polyommatus surakovi, Polyommatus huberti, Pseudochazara schahrudensis, Hipparchia statilinus, Chazara briseis, and number of others. (for details see Butterfly Conservation Armenia).
Smaller sites if you have the time or are in the area.
- Jrovank - a small cave with water seeping through and a little chapel set up inside.
- Magili Cave - another cave system, in the canyon leading to Noravank. Deep system, but few formations.
- Areni Church - overlooking the village, this nearly thousand year old small church has been immaculately restored.
- Khotakenats Vank Monastery - an interesting little monastery in Khachik Village, overlooking Nakhichevan.
- Martiros rock-cut church - a small and simple church carved into the stone mountain above Martiros Village.
- Arkazi S. Khach Church - very near Tanahati Monastery, plain church said to have a piece of the true cross buried in its walls.
- Moz archaeological site
- Horadis Church
- Canyon Loop Tour. Hire a taxi (or drive) for the whole day in a loop, following the river canyons surrounding Yeghegnadzor. Go up the Yeghegis River past Getap, bearing right at Shatin Village (monastery above), and head to Yeghegis (3 churches, ancient Jewish cemetary), continue up to Arates Monastery, then head back down along the Herher River to Herher Village (with the cool S. Sion monastery and fun little Chiki Vank Monastery) before continuing down to the Arpa river and heading north to Yeghegnadzor.
- Wine. This being Armenia's wine country, you can buy wine in huge jugs on the side of the road, or bottles from a winery. You can also buy young wine, which is not very fermented yet, called majar.
- Yeghegnadzor Buried Cheese. This traditional cheese is made nowhere else in the world. Goats milk and herbs are mixed and sealed in a clay pot and buried in the mountains for 6 months, at which point it is salty and sharp. Cheese connoisseurs love this, and you can buy some to take with you.
There are many barbecue restaurants, many of them with primarily outdoor seating along the highway near Yeghegnadzor, along the Arpa River. In Yeghegnadzor there is a small new restaurant/cafe which opened in 2006 in a central location, with indoor or patio seating.
Wherever you can eat, you can drink in these parts. Drinking means wine, vodka or beer, or homemade liqueurs.
- Remodeled Soviet Hotel. This larger old hotel has been remodeled and is open for business. If you're a very large group, it's your only real choice in town.
- Gohar's Guest House, 44 Spandaryan Street (a little past the football field (skirt around it's left)), ☎ (+374-281) 2-33-24 or 2-33-73 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Extremely comfortable family-run bed & breakfast. The guests have the run of the upstairs, and a very nice garden and outdoor sitting area. Dinner available on request (recommended !!). Free internet. They can organise excursions in the area. The daughter speaks good English. 8000 to 10,000 dram per person including breakfast (dinner is extra).
- Terjanian Guest House, 11 Khachatryan St. (at the top of the hill), ☎ (+374-281) 24837. Stay with the Terjanians when they're in town. A Canadian-Armenian couple with a nice home and a very colorful background, living in Armenia part to full time for years, who know the town and its residents quite well. They speak English, French and Armenian. aterjanian (at sign) gmail.com
- Hotel Arpa, 8/1 Narekatsy St, ☎ 281 20601 20603, . Built in 2009 and opened in 2010. Four singles, six doubles/twins and four double business rooms. All the rooms are equipped with satellite TV, telephone, refrigerator with mini bar, wireless internet connection. Here you can also enjoy Armenian and European cousin.
- Noravank B&B (Varazdat & Heghine Ghazarian), ☎ +374 93 63 10 13, . A cozy family-run guest house near Yeghegnadzor (in the village of Chiva), only 12 km away from the Noravank Monastery. It is a very comfortable, clean and quiet place, with 5 fully renovated rooms. The owners tend a vegetable garden, and all meals are fresh and home-made. They are also very kind and serviceable to visitors, and speak some French as well as Armenian and Russian. The house is placed about 700 m off the main road.
- Gohar's (2) family guesthouse, Spandarian st. 14, Yeghegnadzor, Armenia (From the entrance to town, where the high way meets the city, walk all the way up the hill to the walled football field. Then turn left (don't enter the field area) and walk along the wall till you meet Spandarian St. The house will be on your right.), ☎ (+346) 093733145. checkin: Flexible; checkout: Flexible. Goahr's(2) Family guesthouse is a summer house from the previous century and offer rooms and meals for a cheap price. Russian, Armenian, German and partly English spoken staff. Large, wood panaled rooms with large beds and nice views. The price is a bit better that at the other Gohar's up the road, and includes breakfast and perhaps also dinner if you ask nicely but made with food the family grows in their garden. Note: There are two guesthouses with the name "Gohar" on the same road. This entry is for the one on Spandarian 14 7000.
- Ruzan Karapetyan, Spandaryan nrbantcq 5 (Near the football field), ☎ 094-69-23-63. An Armenian family with a very nice, large home near the center of Yeghegnadzor that can accomodate up to 7 people. The family knows German, French, Armenian and Russian.Free internet They can help organize trips around the area and they are very familiar with the area. Upon request, the family can cook dinner with foods fresh from their garden. Check in and check out times are flexible. Email email@example.com for reservations. 8,000 dram/person/night.
- Ashot & Gohar B&B, village Chiva, 7th street, house 8, ☎ +374 93 700771 or +374 281 66336 (Ashot.Gohar.BB@gmail.com), . The Good Life Family-run B&B in Chiva, Armenia. Friendly, big, clean, airy, extensive accommodation, just what you've been looking for in a Bed & Breakfast. You'll love the facilities, you'll enjoy our breakfasts, you'll appreciate the location so close to the Noravank, the nice mountains. The food is fresh and home-made. Free Internet and Wifi. The son speaks english and russian. The house is located 200m off the main road. 8000 dram per person including breakfast. ("39°45'45.22"N","45°)
- Shushan B&B, Andranik 8. email: firstname.lastname@example.org A friendly guesthouse, breakfast included. Free internet. The son speaks reasonable English. 10'000.
All transport heading north or south in the region passes by Yeghegnadzor on the main highway. Marshutnis and buses can be caught to Yerevan in the north or as far as the Iranian border or Nagorno-Karabakh to the south. Taxis are also a reasonable option and can be easily caught at the bus station by the highway where they wait for passengers.
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