After two great tours north of Yerevan, to Aragatsotn and Lori Provinces, I was really excited to see south of Armenia too. My last day trip involved long hours spent in the bus but it was totally worth it as I could see one of some of the best places to visit in Armenia – a spectacular Tatev Monastery, my favourite monastery in South Caucasus – Noravank, as well as Karahunj known as Armenian Stonehange. It was yet another excellent day spent exploring and discovering this fascinating country!
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On the way to the south of Armenia
We left Yerevan at 9am, one hour earlier than all the other tours operated by Hyur. I slept like a baby all the way to our first stop – Noravank – but at least I opened one eye to take a look at another amazing monastery we passed by – Khor Virap. It’s located right at the (closed) border with Turkey, on the footsteps of Ararat – a holy mountain of Armenia. I was lucky to visit this site during my previous trip to that country and I can easily say that Khor Virap is another place that cannot be missed when visiting South Caucasus!
Noravank – my favourite of Armenian monasteries
2 hours after leaving Yerevan we arrived to Noravank. I’ve already been there before but during my previous visit to Armenia this place became my favourite spot in the country (besides Yerevan that I just love!) and I was more than happy to have another opportunity to go there again. Noravank and the surroundings were even more beautiful than I remembered! The complex of monasteries is located at the end of narrow and deep gorge and is reachable by the small, twisting road. Everywhere around there are high peaks full of rocks of improbable orange colour, known as the home of hundred caves. The scenery is just breathtaking, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! The complex itself consists of two churches, a chapel and khachkars dating back to the beginning of 13th century. What makes Noravank so unique is the fact that the Church of Holy Mother of God is actually a two storey structure. Entrance to one church is from the ground level but to get to the second one you need to climb really narrow and steep steps!
I visited south of Armenia as a day trip from Yerevan. If you’re looking for a place to stay in the capital of Armenia I’ve picked the best hotels in Yerevan for you, from budget to luxury! Click here to see them all!
Tatev Monastery – the highlight of (south) Armenia
It was another few hours journey to the next stop – Tatev Monastery – so I napped most of the way and when I woke up the landscape around was already so much different! That’s what I like about Armenia – even if it’s such a small country it’s so diverse and each province varies from the other! South of Armenia is much more harsh but still so beautiful! I was looking in awe at the passing views, so glad for the opportunity to see this part of the country too.
Eventually we arrived to Wings of Tatev – a cable car that goes from the village of Halidzor to the Monastery. It is the longest non-stop aerial tramway in the world, holding an official Guiness World Record. The distance between the stations is 5.7kms, the journey time is around 10 minutes and in the highest point the car is 320 meters above the ground. It was a beautiful journey that I enjoyed a lot but if someone is afraid of heights and claustrophobic it might be difficult to deal with.
The Monastery itself is a spectacular site and no wonder it’s main tourist attraction of Armenia. It was built in 9th century and used to be an important center of political, economic, cultural and spiritual activity, playing a big role in the history of southern Armenia. In the medieval times a famous university was located there, a big number of monks and artisans were living there too. These days it’s mostly a pilgrimage center, so important for Armenia that a lot of newborn girls are named after the monastery. It is a truly wonderful place! Not only the complex itself is amazing, each building full of small, unique details, but also the location is breathtaking, right at the edge of the gorge of the Vorotan River, surrounded by incredible mountains. It’s not hard to fall for this place, I know I did!
Karahunj – Armenian Stonehage
The last stop on this tour was at Karahunj, also known as Armenian Stonehage. It’s the large area full of vertical stones, some of them with round holes inside that make a whistling sound on the windy day. It was stated that Karahunj is the world’s oldest astronomical observatory. Altogether there’re 222 standing stones, some of them reaching almost to 3 meters. When I walked around the area I definitely could feel some magic in the place. The weather was gloomy and windy hence I also found Karahunj a little bit spooky. After all the incredible monasteries I could visit in Armenia this place was a perfect and still amazing alternative! And my last stop in discovering Armenian countryside. After 4 hours journey back to Yerevan it was time to pack and head back to the airport…
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South of Armenia tour details
Unlike other tours offered by Hyur Service, this one departed from Yerevan at 9am due to the really long day ahead – we came back to the capital 13 hours later! This tour seemed to be the most popular one as there were two more buses besides mine going the same route. I shared mine ride with around 20 more people from all over the world. The bus was a little bit packed but it wasn’t that bad considering the long journey. And the size of the group was really fine, not too big so everyone could talk to each other and be in the bus back on time. We had our lunch break in the restaurant next to the Wings of Tatev, overlooking the gorge – eating in such a scenery was a pure pleasure! The price of the tour was really good, 15.000 AMD (~37$ / 27€ / 115PLN) for such a long journey, a cable car trip and a great guide felt like a bargain. It is another of Hyur tours I can easily recommend to everyone visiting Armenia!
Is Armenia on your bucket list?
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If you think of visiting Armenia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- What you should know about Armenia
- Exploring Armenia: Aragatsotn region
- Exploring Armenia: Lori Province
- and more!
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