We arrive via budget flight on Wizzair to Kutaisi, from where we set out on minibus to the neighboring country. Our accommodations will be everywhere in high-class hotels, sometimes of four, and sometimes of three stars. Each night we will become acquainted with the excellent Armenian cuisine of a different restaurant, and in Yerevan, live Armenian traditional music. In order to tour the whole country and Karabagh, and to see every important monument, we will have to keep on the move, some 250-300 kilometer per day, apart from a day of rest in Yerevan. But the roads are good – except for the about 70 km long track leading to the north of Karabagh through the Selim Pass – which we will cover slowly – the scenery they lead through is beautiful, and we will stop almost every hour to view a beautiful landscape or a historical monument.
If you want to know more about the region and the road, we recommend you read the “minute by minute” diary of our February tour of preparation, as well as our collected posts on the Caucasus, to whose respective paragraphs and posts the stops of the following route plan are cross-linked.
The participation fee of the one-week tour is 550 euro (bus + accommodation with breakfast + guide), in addition to which you must buy individually your Budapest–Kutaisi–Budapest Wizzair flight ticket. The first tour between 2 and 10 May has been sold out already before being advertised, but you can still register for the second tour between 16 and 24 May. Deadline for registration: 10 March, Thursday, on the usual firstname.lastname@example.org address. The 7-day program consists of:
1. Kutaisi – Haghpat. Monasteries in Northern Armenia
Our flight arrives at the Kutaisi airport at about four in the morning. Here a minibus will wait for us, immediately heading for Armenia. By the time we wake up, we are already near Tbilisi, where we will breakfast. We cross the Armenian border early in the afternoon, which, in our experience, is a trouble-free process, they are really helpful both on the Georgian and the Armenian side. Then we visit the three World Heritage monasteries in the canyon of Debed river, Akhtala, Sanahin and Haghpat and we stop for a short time in the former Soviet industrial town Alaverdi. Our accommodation is in a four-star resort hotel in Haghpat, with swimming pool, sauna and excellent cuisine, next to the monastery.
2. Haghpat – Noratus. The mountains of Dilijan and Lake Sevan
We continue our way in the canyon of Debed river, over which we have a breathtaking view from Odzun. We pass by the Molokan and Yezidi villages of Filoletovo and Lermontovo, and we visit the great monastery complexes of Haghartsin and Goshavank in the mountains of Dilijan. At Lake Sevan, we go to see the monasteries of Sevanavank and Hayravank, as well as the cemetery of Noratus, the largest surviving medieval Armenian cemetery. Our accommodation will be close to Noratus.
3. Noratus – Goris. Karabagh from north to south
On this day we travel through Karabagh. We set out very early in the morning, because even if the way is not particularly long, but the first part, about 70 kilometer, is in very bad condition, we can move forward slowly, but on the other hand we see amazing scenery, as we cross and slowly descend on the Selim Pass on the mountain range separating Armenia from Karabagh. We stop at the great monasteries of Dadivank and Ganzasar, and for a short time in the towns of Stepanakert and Shushi. In the evening we arrive at Goris, where we stay in the city’s best, three-star hotel.
4. Goris – Jereván. From the southern mountains to the capital
With the world’s longest – 15 km – cable car we ride up to the monastery of Tatev lying in a beautiful valley. Then, along the road to Yerevan we stop at the prehistoric menhirs of Karahunj, the Armenian Stonehenge, the World Heritage candidate monastery of Noravank, the richest site of medieval Armenian sculpture, and if the road conditions permit us, we make a detour to Yeghegis, the only medieval Jewish cemetery of Armenia. We taste wine in Areni, the center of Armenia’s best wine region, and at sunset we take photo of Ararat in the background of Khor Virap monastery at the Turkish border. This and the following night we will stay in the three-star hotel Baxos.
5. Yerevan and environs
In the morning we set out for Garni, where we visit the beautifully restored two-thousand-year-old Hellenistic temple. Then we go to see the royal monastery of Geghard, a World Heritage site. In the afternoon, sightseeing in Yerevan, a visit to the Ararat cognac factory. In the evening, dinner with authentic Armenian traditional live music.
6. Yerevan – Haghpat. On the northern military road
On Sunday morning we go to the center of the Armenian church, Echmiadzin, in whose cathedral we hope to also see an Armenian-rite Mass. After a visit in the medieval royal center Ashtarak, and the monastery of Hovhannavank, we head to north along the old military road toward Lake Sevan, lined with medieval fortresses. We stop at the beautiful site of Bjni, in the former center of the Pahlavuni family. After a rest in Dilijan, in the evening we arrive at our first Armenian hotel in Haghpat, near the Georgian border.
7. Haghpat – Kutaisi
In the morning we set out from Haghpat, with a number of stops we arrive at Kutaisi in late afternoon, so that we could possibly visit the famous market in Kutaisi. Dinner and early going to bed, because in the next day we will have to go at 3 a.m. to the Budapest flight.