Join veteran Trip Leader Roger Williams on an exciting 10-day journey through the trans-Caucasus region. We begin in Armenia, whose rich human heritage dates back thousands of years and whose landscape is dotted with stone-carved monasteries and frescoed churches perched in dramatic locations. In the 3rd century AD, Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion, and many of its churches predate famous religious buildings in Europe, revealing distinctive cultural treasures (some are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites!). From there, we head to the mountainous and the rarely visited Nagorno-Karabakh, once an ancient province of Armenia, and explore this phoenix of a republic nation—born in the ashes of World War I, continually reshaped by political forces and forever infused with heavy doses of religious culture. Our accommodations are in comfortable hotels and inns, and our meals celebrate the wonderful blend of influences, creating an exhilarating trip that Roger himself has designed from beginning to end.
Yerevan / Erebuni Fortress
The first day will be at your leisure. The following day, we’ll visit the museum of Sergey Parajanov, a famous Armenian filmmaker, one of the greatest figures of 20th century world cinema. The museum’s collection includes installations, collages, drawings, dolls, and hats and showcases unpublished screenplays, librettos, and various artworks which Parajanov created while in prison. We'll also visit Erebuni Fortress, also known as Arin Berd (meaning the "Fortress of Blood") is an Urartian fortified city, located in Yerevan, Armenia, and was one of the most important political, economic and cultural centers of the vast kingdom.
Areni / Noravank / Sisian
The owner of the Areni winery was among a select group of Armenian wine makers who studied viticulture and oenology in California’s Napa Valley, and we’ll stop by their vineyard for a wonderful wine tasting. We then visit Noravank monastery, a 13th century church that is a pearl of Armenian medieval architecture, perched dramatically on a cliff above the Gnishik river gorge. In the quiet country town of Sisian, we visit the Children’s Art School and the Sisavan Church, built in basalt during the second half of the 7th century.
Mt. Tsghuk / Tatev Monastery / Goris
Transferring to 4WD vehicles, we visit (weather and road conditions permitting) a crater lake at 10,800 feet on Mt. Tsghuk to see view impressive Ughtasar petroglyphs inscribed on the rocks around the lakeshore before heading to magnificent Tatev Monastery, set on a fairytale outcrop of rock on the edge of Voronton Canyon and once home to a thousand monks. We continue to the lovely mountain town of Goris, with its 19th century stone houses and leafy avenues. Nestled in a bowl of green hills, Goris is well known for its interesting limestone formations, ancient cave dwellings dating back to the 5th century, and homemade fruit vodkas.
Khndzoresk / Shushi, Azerbaijan / Stepanakert
We’ll begin the day with a visit to the Khndzoresk cave village. This ancient community dates back to 1,000 BC and reveals a land forgotten in time. From there, we’ll cross the Armenian border and venture into the green, rolling hills of Karabakh. We visit Shushi, an ancient walled town set high in the picturesque Karabakh Mountains and continue on to Stepanakert, capital of Karabakh, and explore the capital city, rebuilt after the end of the Armeni-Azeri war.
Gandzasar, Armenia / Dadivank
Set atop a green hill overlooking the village of Vank, we visit 13th century Gandzasar Monastery. Gandzasar, whose name means Mountain Treasure, has been restored to a fully functioning monastery, with monks in residence. From there, we travel through the scenic setting of Martakert Province to magical Dadivank, a sprawling monastery ruin in a forested gorge.
Karahunj / Muradsar / Sevan / Yerevan
Heading southeast to Syunik Province, a vast expanse that stretches all the way to the Iran border, we visit 7,500-year-old Karahunj, the Armenian equivalent of Stonehenge. Later we transfer to 4WD vehicles and head to Muradsar (10,545'), an ancient tomb site set on a mountainous plateau covered with incredible rock fields that are the source of hundreds of fascinating petroglyphs. We continue down in the Lake Sevan basin and visit Hayravank monastery (9th-12th century) located just northeast of the village of Hayravank along the southwest shores of Lake Sevan. We’ll hike on Sevan peninsula to see Sevanavank monastery (9th century) before driving back to Yerevan.
Ashtarak / Amberd / Depart
In Ashtarak, one of the oldest cities of Armenia with numerous historical and cultural monuments, we’ll visit Karmravor Church, then visit the Amberd fortress and church (10-13th century). The church of Amberd is famous for its umbrella-type dome. Transfer to airport for international flights on Day 10.