Alaverdi is a city in Northern Armenia. The largest city in the Debed Canyon of Lori, an area rich with historical monuments and natural beauty, Alaverdi is your best bet for refueling, getting supplies or finding other things you'd expect in a town. The town itself has little to offer of historic value, save for the beautiful old foot bridge, since it was built as a mining town, a fact which you won't be able to miss as you go past the massive mining works. The mine once wreaked massive environmental damage, which stopped for a while with the collapse of the USSR, but now it has restarted, albeit on a much smaller scale. You can drive to the Sarahart suburb, which is on top of the canyon cliffs, or you can walk up the ancient foot path which is past the aforementioned bridge. The funnest, and perhaps most dangerous option though is the funicular, which takes the miners to and from work. Sarahart is adjacent to Sanahin Village, with the famous monastery, and the museum to the Migoyan brothers, with their extraordinary accomplishments of worldwide significance.
Although accommodation options are somewhat limited, making the decision to stay a few nights in the area will allow you to much better appreciate and explore what Armenia has to offer, without sitting in a car all day back and forth from Yerevan.
Minibus/vans from Vanadzor depart daily, and almost all transport to and from Tblisi passes through this town. There are taxis and transport to other parts of the country as well.
Taxi, foot, funicular.
- Sanahin Monastery, Sanahin Village (Above Alaverdi in Sanahin Village). UNESCO world heritage site, and for good reason. This wonderland of incredibly well preserved Armenian architecture has stood for almost a thousand years, with little change. You can almost feel how the place must have been buzzing with activity. Sayat Nova, the famous bard, used to sing here.
- Haghpat Monastery, Haghpat Village (6km north of Alaverdi). Part of the same UNESCO site as Sanahin, you'll have a hard time choosing a favorite. The labyrinth of passages, chambers, khachkars and views will leave you wondering how this masterpiece was built.
- Odzun Basilica Church, Odzun Village (8km southwest of Alaverdi). A huge basilica, which has withstood the tests of time for 1,300 years, the church in Odzun is a beauty. There is an interest memorial on the site with carvings telling a story, and a large village surrounds the church.
- Horomayri Monastery, near Odzun. This is an incredibly well camouflaged monastery on the slope of the cliffs, just 1km south of Odzun. To get there, climbing up from the highway along the Debed River is probably quickest, but hiking south across the cliffs from the last switchback to Odzun is easy as well. The tough and quick way is descending the cliffs from 1km south of Odzun.
- Akhtala Monastery, Akhtala Village (20km northeast of Alaverdi). This beautiful fortified monastery has exquisite frescoes, large fortifications, great carvings, and interesting ruins. Not many visit it yet, but that will likely change in time.
- Kobayr Monastery, Kober Village (12km south of Alaverdi). The partially collapsed church once had magnificently exposed frescoes - which are now being covered again as the complex is restored. The setting is really nice, as are the views. Well worth the 15 minute walk up the slippery wet slopes of the canyon.
- S. Grigori Monastery, Just south of Tumanyan town, north of Dsegh village (trail starts at confluence of Debed and Marts rivers.). Trails to Surp Grigori can be accessed from both the highway below it, or the fields above the cliffs. The hike is a little longer from below, but the road is much better, shorter and easier to find. This one has much more of the lost to time feeling, and due to the hike, and the very few that venture out here, you'll likely have it to yourself. If it weren't for the graffiti, the feeling you just discovered beautiful ruins in the jungle would be hard to shake.
- Khorakert Monastery, Jiliza Village. A long, hard trek from Alaverdi, over a mountain dirt road, the peak of Mt. Lalvar, and hitting the Georgian border, this monastery is has a very cool cupola unique to Armenian architecture in a lush forest - nobody makes it this far!
- Khuchapi Monastery. If you make it to Khorakert, you should be able to make it to this soaring, majestic and lost work of architecture, further along the border.
Hike, bike, climb, camp, 4x4, photography...
The biggest market (shuka) between Vanadzor and Georgia is here, but don't expect too much from the selection. Local produce and cheap imports dominate the market.