Arguably the finest assemblage of church architecture lies in the compact yet spectacularly beautiful land of Armenia. Some are poised precariously on hilltops, accessible only by cable car spanning vertiginous gorges or hidden in dense forests. Either way these relicts never fail to impress with their intricate detail and proportions, the surroundings embellished with fabulous intricately carved khachkars (ornate crosses) and we will see highly-skilled craftsman preparing these traditional works. Elsewhere we find the surprise of Hellenistic architecture from a time long past and below windswept passes are ancient caravanserai, that served the former Silk Road. Sit back, sample the brandy and enjoy the green landscapes and rugged mountains.
In the morning we will leave for the religious centre of Armenia; Vagharshapat town where we will visit 7th Century Zvartnots Cathedral, Hripsime church and Etchmiadzin Cathedral. In the afternoon there will be a tour (and taste) at the Ararat brandy museum. Overnight Yerevan.
The Urartian Fortress Erebuni - historical archaeological museum in Yerevan - is one of the oldest capitals of historical Armenia and the location of our first visit. Following on we will see the mysterious Geghard Monastery, rock carvings and the pre–Christian Hellenistic temple of Garni, a remarkable (and singular) monument poised on the edge of Garni Canyon. There will be time to view the unique basalt formations of the canyon too. Dinner will be in a local fish farm that specialises in delicious sturgeon. Overnight in Yerevan
We continue our study of impressive Armenian churches today with first a morning visit to Khor Virap, where the patron saint and first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church spent years imprisoned in late 3th century. There are wonderful landscapes on the way to our next historical site via picturesque mountain passes and beautiful valleys. Here we find a breath-taking canyon and Noravank Monastery surrounded by colourful strata, which are home for wild goats and vultures. This historical site is also famous with its vineyards, wineries and a cave, where the earliest known winery was uncovered. There will be the chance to taste the wine during dinner. Overnight in Yeghegnadzor.
The impressive Tatev Monastery, formerly Armenia’s most famous medieval university and religious centre, is situated on the edge of a plunging canyon, the deepest in the country. To reach it, we will use an air tram, in fact the the longest reversible aerial tramway in the world; Wings of Tatev. There are fabulous views during the crossing from the big windows of the tramway cabin. On the way back to Yeghegnadzor we will visit an ancient observatory - Carahunge prehistoric monument, where ancient standing are arranged in circles and ringed by mountains. Dinner and wine tasting in a local winery. Overnight in Yeghegnadzor.
Armenia was a part of the Great Silk Road and today we are going to visit one of the numerous caravanserais of the country. Orbelian's Caravanserai was founded in 14th Century and hosted caravans for centuries. From here we will drive up to a high pass and continue alongside the biggest fresh water lake of the Caucasus; Sevan Lake, located at almost 2000 m above sea level. There will also be a visit to the 10th century Hayrivank Monastery before we arrive in the pleasant and green Diljan city. Overnight in Diljan city.
Our route to the north of the country passes through the beautiful forests and canyons, taking us to the hidden Makaravank Monastery located in the old forest. 10th century Akhtala monastery is situated on the edge of Debed canyon, the longest in the country and known for its spectacular steep slopes. Overnight in Dzoraget.
Today we will visit three historical sites located in the spellbinding valleys of the canyon, two of which are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This area was the spiritual and educational centre in medieval times with scriptoriums where monks kept their manuscripts, lyceums where they learned science and religion, unique Khachkars - the Cross stones with fine carving. Overnight in Dzoraget.
On the way back to Yerevan we will visit a Master who creates Khachkars. We have a chance to see how those mysterious pieces of art and spirit are made. The last stop of our trip will be by another key medieval site; Ohanavank Monastery. Overnight in Yerevan
Minimum number of participants 8; maximum 18.
Please note if the number of participants is less than 8 the cost may rise.
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