Armenia Group Tour Holiday - Ancient Armenia


Ancient Armenia

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 10 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

Armenia is the world’s oldest Christian nation with an astounding collection of ancient churches and monasteries which will captivate you. In contrast is the capital Yerevan, a lively and engaging city which embraces modernity yet manages to retain its traditions, and is packed full of some of the best Soviet style architecture to be found anywhere. This is a busy tour with lots of fabulous history, culture and scenery to enjoy. Isn’t it time you learned more about this intriguing region?

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●●● | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ●○○○○

Tour Pace - Busy

Tour Highlights

  • Explore incredible Armenian architecture from ancient and medieval times
  • Try your hand at making traditional Armenian flatbread at a Lavash masterclass
  • Marvel at the views of Mt Ararat from Khor Virap Monastery  
  • Breathe in the pristine air at picturesque alpine Lake Sevan
  • Explore the second city of Gyumri  
  • Plenty of time to take in the diverse city of Yerevan
  • Visit the spiritual heart of the Armenian Church at Echmiadzin
  • Enjoy the beautiful scenery of Dilijan – known as the little Switzerland of Armenia
  • UNESCO sites such as Haghpat and Geghard monasteries

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable mid-range hotels with private bathrooms
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Yerevan
End Point: Yerevan
Transport: Minibus (size of will depend on the group size)
Countries: Armenia

Tour itinerary notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. For very small group sizes the tour may operate with a driver/guide.


Day 1 – Arrival

Upon arrival in Armenia, you will be welcomed and transferred to the hotel in central Yerevan. Overnight Royal Plaza Hotel or similar. No meals.

Note if you arrive early we can provide a quote for early check in and for any extra activities you may wish to do.

Yerevan

Set on the edge of a ravine above the River Hrazdan, Yerevan is a mixture of architectural styles, with some imposing Soviet-era buildings as well as residential homes where different types of stone are used. Concentric boulevards spill outwards from the city centre interspersed with parkland, and this sense of space and greenery gives Yerevan an almost rural feel at times. The main street of bars, restaurants and shops is Abovian, running north from Republic Square. The cathedral of St Gregory the Illuminator was built with money from the enormous Armenian diaspora to celebrate 1,700 years of Christianity in Armenia. The covered market stands opposite the Blue Mosque, which has been recently restored. A range of museums cover everything from art to natural history – one of the most impressive is the Matenadaran, devoted to ancient manuscripts.

Day 2 – The sights of Yerevan - (Approximate driving time 2 hours)

Enjoy a city tour of Yerevan, including Victory Park with its high-scale view point over the city, Cascade and the Gafeschian Centre of Art, The North Avenue, the Opera House and Republic Square. Visit the Genocide Memorial and museum dedicated to the victims of the Great Genocide that took place in 1915 and the memorial with eternal fire. We also have a short visit to Matenadaran - a Museum and Scientific Institute of ancient manuscripts, which houses a unique collection of ancient manuscripts covering such topics as philosophy, law, mathematics, medicine and geography. Later visit the Yerevan Brandy Factory for a guided excursion to the cellars and enjoy a degustation of 2 types of local brandy. End the tour for the day with a visit to a craftsman specialized in khachkars (Armenian cross-stones). Later this afternoon there may be some time for your own exploration. Overnight Royal Plaza Hotel or similar (B)

Day 3 – Yerevan - Lake Sevan – Dilijan – Haghpat - (Approximate driving time is 4 hours)

Journey to beautiful Lake Sevan and take the stairs to the top of the peninsula to enjoy breathtaking scenery of the splendid mountain chain surrounding the glittering surface of the lake. Continue to Dilijan, also known as Armenian Switzerland. Stroll through the picturesque old quarter of Dilijan, particularly Sharambeyan Street, renowned for its pottery, carpentry and other artisan shops. Continue to Haghpat and explore the monastery which is a masterpiece of medieval Armenian Church architecture.  We overnight in a beautiful location near Dedbed Gorge. Overnight Hotel Qefo or similar (BLD)

Lake Sevan and Sevanavank Monastery

Lake Sevan is one of the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes (1900m above sea level) and covers an area of 940 sq. km and is 80km long and 30km at its widest point. The lake supports a healthy fish population, including the endangered ishkhan (prince trout), named for a row of spots like a crown on its head.  Sevanavank Monastery, one of the main attractions of Armenia thanks to its magical setting with distant mountains and Sevanavank, is a stunning 9th century monastery situated strategically on the peninsula which used to be an island.

Dilijan

Also known as the Switzerland of Armenia, Dilijan attracts visitors with its lush forests, fertile meadows, and the rushing rapids of the River Aghstev. The climate is very different to elsewhere in Armenia and enjoys a sense of peaceful nature. During Soviet times this was a known retreat for cinematographers, composers, artists and writers to come and be creative.

Haghpat Monastery (UNESCO)

The monastery of Haghpat was founded in 976 AD during the reign of king Ashot III Bagratouni and used to be a spiritual, cultural and educational centre of the region. Of all the structures only the main church of St. Nishan (967-991) with sculptural images on the outside and frescos (13th-14th centuries) inside, St. Gregory Church (1005), the small dome church of St. Astvatsatsin (12th-13th centuries), the 13th-century cafeteria, the 13th-century book depository, the belfry (1245), and khachkars have survived. The village and the monastery lie over a deep "crack" formed by a small river flowing into the Debed River. Haghpat is now under protection by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

Day 4 – Haghpat – Gyumri - ArmAs Winery - Yerevan - (Approximate driving time is 4.5 hours)

Travel to Gyumri and attend a ceramics workshop. We explore the streets of the old town on foot to try to understand why, since the ancient times, Gyumri has been considered the cultural capital of Armenia and the birthplace of arts and crafts. ArmAs Winery Estate is a picturesque display of agricultural achievement, set against the backdrop of the inspiring Mount Ararat. The 180 hectares of previously desolate and disconnected rock-strewn countryside was diligently transformed into a stunning panorama including vineyards, orchards, and a world-class winery. Here you’ll have a guided excursion though the vineyards and distilleries, as well as a degustation of wines. Later we return to Yerevan. Overnight Royal Plaza Hotel or similar (BL)

Gyumri

Gyumri is the second largest city of Armenia, known for its excellent 19th century Tsarist architecture which suffered greatly in the 1988 earthquake. It is the hometown for many talented Armenian artists, poets and musicians; Gyumri is famous for its museums, galleries, art centres, and churches.

Day 5 – Yerevan - Khor Virap - Areni - Noravank - Goris - (Driving time approximately 4 hours)

Start the day by driving through the fertile Ararat valley to the picture postcard monastery of Khor Virap (4-17c), one of the sanctuaries of the Armenian Apostolic church and an important pilgrimage site. Continue to the monastery of Noravank, surely one of the most majestic monuments of medieval Armenia. We spend time exploring this magnificent place before travelling to Goris for the overnight stay. Overnight in Goris (BLD)

Khor Virap

Standing on a hill in the middle of Ararat Plain and affording glorious views of Mount Ararat, Khor Virap, which translates as 'deep dungeon', is a monastery with great historical significance as it was the place where St Gregory the Illuminator, patron saint of Armenia, was imprisoned by King Trdat III in the 3rd century. Most of the monastery dates from 1661, but in St George's chapel you can still see the cell where the unfortunate monk was held - a pit 6m deep which can be reached by ladder.

Noravank Monastery

Situated in a scenic valley and founded by Bishop Hovhannes in 1105, Noravank (New Monastery) is one of the most spectacular sites in Armenia and should be included on every visitor's itinerary. The complex includes the 13th-century Surp Karapet Church, built next to the ruins of an earlier church also dedicated to St John the Baptist. Attached to this is a small 13th-century chapel dedicated to Surp Gregor; it is home to a carved lion-human tombstone dated to 1300. The main structure is the 14th-century Surp Astvatsatsin Church (1339), built on top of the mausoleum of Burtel Orbelian, who is buried here with his family. Historians say the church is reminiscent of tower-like burial structures created in the early years of Christianity. There’s a wonderful carving of Christ flanked by Peter and Paul above the door.

Day 6 – Goris - Khndzoresk/ Tatev Monastery - Yerevan (Driving time approximately 5 hours)

This morning we drive to the cave village of Khndzoresk. The Village of Khndzoresk is a huge complex with interesting caves waiting to be explored and we will spend some time walking around this atmospheric site. Continue to Tatev Monastery which we will visit before returning to Yerevan. Overnight Royal Plaza Hotel or similar (BL)

Tatev Monastery

An important 9th Century historical monument, Tatev is one of the oldest and most famous monastery complexes in Armenia. During medieval times Tatev Monastery was a vital scholastic, enlightenment and spiritual centre and played a singular role in the country’s history. Here you will see mighty fortress walls upon massive cliffs, an ancient oil mill with stone grinders, pendulous columns with unique medieval structures and ancient frescoes by European masters.

Day 7 – Yerevan – Echmiadzin - Zvartnots – Yerevan (Driving time approximately 2 hours)

Visit Echmiadzin, the spiritual heart of the Armenian Church including the Mother Cathedral A short distance from here we visit the ruins of Zvartnots dating back to the 7th Century.  Later we enjoy a gastronomic master class of Armenian dishes before finishing the day at the Vernissage flea market, a large open air market for handmade souvenirs, carpets, silver and jewellery. Overnight Royal Plaza Hotel or similar (BL)

Echmiadzin

The spiritual centre of the Armenian Church, Echmiadzin was the setting for a series of visions by St Gregory the Illuminator, where columns of fire turned into churches. The first monastery was built, like many others in Armenia, on the site of a pagan temple in the 4th century, rebuilt in the 5th century in a different style and then renovated in the 17th century. The cathedral treasury is a museum of religious relics, and is where the spear from Geghard that is said to have pierced Christ as he hung on the cross is stored. The treasury also contains a piece of wood said to be from Noah's Ark, which came to rest on the summit of Mt Ararat, today situated in Turkey but long part of Armenia.

Day 8 – Yerevan – Garni - Geghard (UNESCO) - Megeryan Carpet – Yerevan (Driving time approximately 2.5 hours)

Travel to Kotayk province to explore Geghard Monastery, astonishingly partly carved out of a mountain. Continue to nearby Garni to visit the pagan temple. Enjoy lunch in the village of Garni in an authentic rural environment with a master-class of baking lavash - traditional Armenian flatbread. Return to Yerevan and visit Megeryan Carpet, a  workshop where we learn about centuries-old traditions of Armenian carpet weaving. Overnight Royal Plaza or similar (BL)

Optional Walk: 1 hour walk in the gorge of the Azat River. with no difficult passages. The walk starts from the village of Garni, taking you down to the Azat river gorge and the famous “Symphony of Stones” basalt columns, located at an altitude of about 50 meters above the ground. Difficulty: Easy to Medium.

Geghard

Geghard means 'spear', and this church set in a narrow gorge is reputed to have once contained the spear which pierced the side of Christ on the cross; the spear now lies in the treasury at Echmiadzin. Built up against a cliff face, the main cathedral was constructed in 1215, but the first monastery on the site is thought to date from the 4th century AD. The monastery is decorated with reliefs depicting animals, crosses and geometrical shapes.

Garni

Garni is a heathen temple which is the only surviving monument of the Hellenistic period in Armenia. The temple is dedicated to the God of the sun Mithra and was built in the 2nd half of the 1st c A.D. during the reign of king Trdat I. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1679, the temple of Garni was reconstructed in the 1970’s and is now made up of both original and replacement masonry and is situated in a splendid location overlooking an impressive natural canyon.

Day 9 – Yerevan

Spend you last full day in Armenia to discover Yerevan at your own leisure, perhaps to take in some museums or shop for souvenirs. Overnight Royal Plaza Hotel or similar (B)

Day 10 – Tour Departure

Bid farewell to Armenia as you are transferred to the airport for your onward journey (B)

Tour inclusions/exclusions

Inclusions:

Arrival and departure transfers

All accommodation

Transportation throughout

Services of English-speaking guide / tour leader

Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)

Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:

International flights

Travel Insurance

Visas if applicable

Drinks

Items of a personal nature

Tips (Discretionary)


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