Armenia trip report

 

Armenia



Armenia is one of three Caucasus countries that emerged as independent states after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The transition away from the USSR was not a smooth one, with both borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan being pretty much closed and heavily militarised over territorial disputes. The border with Georgia is open though, which I how I crossed {by taking a mashrutka from Tbilisi}.

 

Khor Virap

Khor Virap monastery is Armenia's most iconic sight. It's set against a backdrop of Mount Ararat, which is supposedly where Noah's ark landed at the end of the floods.


 

Areni

Areni is a small village near the border that is famous for its wine production. The main draw is on the outskirts, Noravank. It's one of the gems of medieval Armenian architecture, nestled high among the stunning brick-red cliffs in the end of the Gnishik Canyon.


 

Goris

Goris is a cute little town with lot of green spaces. It's surrounded by "the Stone Forest" which are cone shaped rock formations. A few centuries ago, a network of caves and dwellings were carved into the rocks by the locals, which became their living quarters.


 

Tatev

Tatev is a small village floating over lush mountains. It's home to a monastery that is Armenia's jewel of medieval architecture. The road to get there is quite smooth until you reach the "Devil's Bridge" (two riverbanks converging, hence forming a natural bridge). Then you're chugging it up an unpaved road. After a few turns you'll see the monastery, towering on a rock overlooking lush valleys. From the monastery, you can take the cable car "Wings of Tatev". It's the world's longest non-stop reversible aerial tramway, soaring 1,000 feet above the rolling valleys between Halzidor village and Tatev.


 

Nagorno Karabakh

Also known under the name "Artsakh", Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave that is legally part of Azerbaijan, but de facto occupied by the Armenians after a brutal war in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. A ceasefire was agreed in 1994, but tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan are constantly flaring up. No nation officially recognises Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state, but given the fact that the borders with Azerbaijan are sealed, visiting NK is only possible via Armenia. Note that this is considered illegal entry by Azerbaijan, and you may not even be allowed to enter Azerbaijan if you've been to NK. It was a special thrill to be in such an eerie place.


 

Yerevan

There are only few modern cities in the world that are as old as Yerevan. In 2018, the city will celebrate its 2,800th anniversary. It was occupied throughout the centuries by Arabs, Ottoman Turks and Persians - but it was under the Soviet Union that it grew from a provincial town to Armenia's principal cultural, artistic and industrial centre. Yerevan is bustling with cafes, wine bars, chic restaurants and designer shops. Overlooking the city is the towering statue of Mother Armenia that was erected in 1969. The statue replaced a monstrous Stalin statue that killed two people as it was being pulled down, leading to rueful musings that he was still killing people even from his grave.


 

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