Saturday, May 4, 2013

Enlinking Caucasus Tour, Armenia

It's a six hour drive from Yerevan to Tbilisi but that is without stopping along the way and missing the sites between.  Aside from their Yerevan location, Envoy Hostel also has a Tbilisi location and they offer a very cool tour called Enlinking Caucasus.  They combine transport to Georgia along with stops along the way at some monasteries in northern Armenia, plus lunch.

Our first stop of the day was in Aparan, Ապարան, about 50 km (31 miles) northwest of Yerevan.

The town has about 6,600 people and is a mix of Armenians and Kurds.
Aparan Alphabet Park

We stopped at a local market and picked up some fresh bread.   

Lavash is the most popular type of bread in Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan.  It's a soft flat bread made out of flour, water and salt.  The dough is rolled out and cooked against the hot walls of a clay oven.

Vanadzor, Վանաձոր, is Armenia's third-largest city.  It's about 128 km (80 miles) north of Yerevan and is home to around 105,000 people.  The city seems to be known for its large chemical plants.

Sanahin, Սանահին, is a village in northern Armenia.  The 10th century Sanahin Monastery complex is the village's most well known site.

Haghpat, Հաղպատ, is another nearby village.  The village is home to around 800 people.  The Haghpat Monastery is another 10th century complex.  In 1996, the monasteries at Sanahin and Haghpat were co-listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We stopped to have a BBQ lunch in Alaverdi, Ալավերդի, not far from the Georgian border.  Everything was really tasty.

Akhtala, Ախթալա, is 186 km (116 miles) from Yerevan.  In 1939, it was upgraded from a village to a city and is home to around 2,800 people.  The 10th century Akhtala Monastery is inactive but among the best preserved sites in the country.

Our guide Hranoush
This combined transport and tour is a brilliant idea.  It would be cool if other something like this was available between other cities.  While different people have joined in on the tours each day there have been two other regulars.  Dan from Gothenburg, Sweden and Heidi from Helsinki, Finland.  So it looks like after exploring Armenia together we'll spend some more time together checking out the Caucasus.  Heidi already has her Azeri visa so if I get mine on time then we'll travel together to Baku on Monday.  I have to give a big 'Thank You' to Hranoush who has been our guide on all of our Armenian adventures.

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