There is a common myth that Armenian sightseeing is restricted to attending cultural tours and nightlife venues in Yerevan, bathing in the crisp waters of the Lake Sevan and admiring the beauty of Garni and Geghard. Indeed, these are perhaps the top must-see the Armenia sights (among couple of others) which have been almost fully discovered by locals and tourists. It’s time to debunk the myth. If you’ve the spirit of a pioneer, you will be keen on unveiling the hidden gems of Armenian nature, culture and architecture. To help you out, here is a list of less known sights that you may want to explore during your trip to Armenia and Artsakh.
Majestically overlooking the Khosrov Forest State Reserve and picturesque Azat River Gorge, Kakavaberd Fortress is one of the few more or less well-preserved Armenian fortresses dating back to the 9-10th centuries. It stands proudly on the top of a mountain, inaccessible from three sides. Once inside the fortress, you will see ruins of a church and other buildings.
Climbing up the Ughtasar Mountain (Syunik mountains, south Armenia) will be especially rewarding for history geeks. On top of the snow-capped rock, not only will you see a pristine lake and mountaintop valley, but study the ancient petroglyphs (4-7 thousand years old!)- unique examples of ancient rock art. However, bear in mind, that reaching Ughtasar is quite challenging (you need a solid all-terrain vehicle) and the visiting season is short.
Often called ”Armenian Niagara”, Trchkan Waterfall is on the list of miraculous natural monuments and specially protected areas in Armenia. It’s the highest waterfall in Armenia and one of the most full-flowing ones in the country. The area around the waterfall and high-running Chichkan River, rich in trout, boasts staggering landscapes and endemic species of birds and plants registered in the Red Book.
Old Khot, “the Armenian Machu Picchu”, is beautifully set on the bottom and slopes of the mystic Vorotan Gorge (Syunik, south Armenia). It is one of the settlements abandoned in the middle of the last century. Here you will find Mrgadzori Khach Church (“Cross of the fruit ravine”) built by a beauty having run away from the Sheikh-Abbas harem, as the legend says.
Also known as Jdrduz Canyon among locals, Hunot is located in the southwest Shushi (Artsakh). Here, above 250 meters, you can view the fast-running Karkar River. If you’re brave enough to hike down into the gorge, you’ll be stunned by the opening landscape- waterfalls, forests, old stone bridges and stone-age caves. The Hunot Canyon boasts miraculous Mamrot Qar (“Mossy Rock”) Waterfall which is called “zontikner” by locals. The canyon is especially enthralling at the sunrise, touched by the first rays of sun and early birds’ singing.
Another less discovered site in Artsakh is the six-cave complex Azokh. It’s hard to imagine that it used to be a home to stone-age man thousands of years ago! The Azokh Cave is considered one of the most ancient places of proto-human remains in Eurasia.
Armenia is rich in high-altitude rivers and lakes. Once you’re in south Armenia, near the border, you should by all means see The Gogi Lake (also called Kaputan) is the alpine beauty of Syunik region. It’s located in the river head of Qajaran, more than 3200 meters above the sea. (NB: It’s advisable to go to the Gogi Lake with an experienced guide, as the road is quite dangerous).
One would wonder: what is special about a cemetery? Hard to believe but the cemetery is home to 191 old unprotected khachkars (Armenian cross-stones)- unique pieces of Armenian architecture- that you may want to see during your while traveling in Armenia. It’s located near Yerevan, and is the second largest area of cross-stones after Noratus. The oldest khachkars in Arinj Cemetery date back to the 10th century.
If you’re a keen explorer and want to stand out from the crowd of tourists, you’ll want to discover these less beaten tracks and sights in Armenia and Artsakh. We appreciate you to share your experiences and adventures and post your unique images and videos in the comment section below.
Author: Sirvard Amatuni