Mountains & Monasteries in Armenia

I took the deluxe travel option to go from Tbilisi, Georgia to Vanadzor, Armenia. I can be a princess when my other choice is finding the bus station for the early (and only) bus.

My private driver took me door to door in four hours.

That included a lengthy stop at the Armenian border as the officer had to write down all the places I’m staying in the next three weeks. But I never felt he was going to deny me entry!

And I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Debed Canyon.

We also made a stop at Haghmat Monastery, as a ‘gift’ to me from my driver.

That was lovely because it saved me going the hour out there and back from Vanadzor.

Haghmat is the one ‘don’t miss’ UNESCO monastery complex in Armenia (though I think they all say that).

It was built between the 10th and 13rd century

And I was fortunate to almost have the place to myself. The bus load must have been eating lunch. I expect there will be a parking lot of buses in high season.

Armenia is known as the cradle of Christianity.

It was the first country to establish Christianity as its state religion in 301 ac.

Hayk Square is the centre of the small town of Vanadzor.

Almost all the buildings in town are made from pinkish tuff, the country’s ‘national’ stone.

Getting the ‘Singing Fountain’ ready to sing.

The town boomed from 1929 to 1987 with multiple chemical engineering and manufacturing. But an earthquake in 1988 destroyed many plants.

Employment has never recovered and the town’s infrastructure feels neglected from lack of funds. But the people and surrounding mountains are lovely.

I enjoyed just walking around, absorbing the feel of everyday life as they worked and shopped. I never saw anyone that looked like a tourist.

The train and bus stations.

The old Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Russian Orthodox) looked very deserted.

The new Surb Grigor Narekatsi Church, an Armenian Apostolic church which is the main type.

The smell of fresh ground coffee!

Vanadzor Palace of Culture sounded like it was worth the walk there, but public access was not allowed when I went. It is listed as a concert hall but when I peeked in, it looked like an office building.

Holy Mother of God was constructed between 1828 and 1830.

And of course there is a new language and currency to learn!

My borscht for lunch was 700 dram (Cdn$2.45) and my lahmajo 300 dram (Cdn$1.00).

Lahmajo is a very thin bread with meat on top, seasoned with lemon juice. Cheese is optional. I ate half before the soup came!

The borscht was excellent too. Three good sized pieces of tender beef with julienne beets, cabbage and cubes of fresh tomatoes.

Pelmeni dumplings of Russian origin. 550 dram (Cdn$2). I saw them in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well. These were stuffed with chicken and mushrooms.

I’m renting an apartment with a kitchen and enjoying fresh strawberries with milk and some cereal sprinkled on top. It’s been a craving after too many hotel breakfasts.

Of course shopping is fun.

Next was a marshruska (minibus) to Dilijan.

37 km, 500 dram (Cdn$1.75)

Dilijan is in a national park, and has more gorgeous green mountains and more monasteries.

Dilijan is known as ‘Little Switzerland’, though I’d say ‘Very Little’ for the small district.


Khachcars are an Armenian carved cross-stone memorial. They are usually stone.

There is a lake in the town valley. And tons of young hikers with all their gear heading out to the trails.

Regular streets away from the ‘old town’

Then a drive in the countryside.

Goshavank Monastery complex (12-13th century) is in the village of Gosh.

A khachcar so beautifully carved by master stonemason Pogho it looked like lace.

Haghantsin Monastery (10-13th century)

Gata bakery on site. Gata are traditional sweet bread. I bought a blueberry and lemon, though was tempted by the apricot and thyme. 1500 dram (Cdn$5)

Patz Lake is a very deep and clear lake

There was a path to walk around the lake. It was very slippery though from a recent rain.

There were also boats, a zip line, rope jungle and places to eat. It’s very popular with families.

Kchuch is a clay pot which is used to bake food. I had the most spectacular lamb shank cooked with honey and native black plums. Savoury and sweet. 5200 dram (Cdn$18 with the vegetables).

Breakfast at my guesthouse. Eggs, crepe blini with meat, crepes with chocolate, cheeses, olives, vegetables.

Then on to Sevan, 40 km south.

It is famous for Sevanavank, a 10th century monastery overlooking Lake Sevan.

Lake Sevan is the largest lake in the Caucasus (1240 sq km) and one of the largest freshwater high-altitude (1900 m above sea level) lakes in the world.

Like the other monasteries, it was also on the top of a huge hill. But for this one you had climb many stairs!

Can you see it way up on the hill? Two bumps? And because it is closer to Yerevan, there were tons of tourists.

Lavash is a thin flatbread. They have shops with a semicircle of equipment. Mixer, roller, conveyor oven. I can’t believe how much they produce, and that it is all eaten!

I had brunch after I arrived in Sevan. Eggs cooked with tomato, roast potatoes and tea. 2650 dram (Cdn$8.50)

Tomorrow I’m off to Yerevan. It’s only 62 km and I’ve found the bus stop but no time table. I read it’s hourly.

So time to edit the photos again. Monasteries do tend to look alike in the photos! Wifi seems good so will post before I leave.

See you in Yerevan!

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