Armenia, a country in the shadow of Georgia is still sort of being skipped by mass tourism. Actually, it was one of the many reasons why I wanted to see it so much. I’ve been to Georgia twice and I like this country in my own perverse way, although the last visit left no illusions. Tourism in Georgia is becoming a money-making machine and it would be nothing wrong if this country was also betting on the quality of the services offered. Meanwhile, Armenia is an excellent alternative to commercial Georgia. Why is that? Firstly, I won’t hide, it’s cheap, secondly it’s close to us in a cultural way, thirdly it’s authentic, but most of all it’s beautiful! 😉
As a tourist destination, Armenia is mostly famous for its many old monasteries. Anyway, there’s no surprise because it was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion, around 301 AD. For this reason, it is mainly identified with churches and monasteries, which is a bit unfair. Beyond interesting sacred buildings, this country is famous for its wonderful landscapes and other surprising monuments.
First stop – emerald Lake Sevan, also known as the Armenian sea, as Armenia does not have access to any bigger water reservoir. It’s situated at an altitude of over 1900 m above sea level and is among the highest located lakes in the world.
Lake Sevan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia, because it is just over 60 km from the capital – Yerevan. The color of the water has an amazing blue color, and the lake is famous for the so-called Sevan trout, here called ′′ ishxan”.
The best spot to see Lake Sevan is a city of the same name. Although there are many catering points and hotels, not everyone can enjoy this place. At first glance you can see that the city is very poor and the residents live here mainly on tourism, which blooms during the summer. On the other hand, I must admit that Sevan captivated me due to many abandoned buildings and its industrial character 😉
There’s also a true gem near Sevan, an abandoned wagon, located just next to the road along the lake.
On the other hand, the main spot that attracts tourists to Sevan is located right next to the Sevanavank Peninsula, which owes its name to the historic monastery, dating back to the 9th century. It is made of dark volcanic rock, which is why it’s also called the Black Monastery in Armenian.
Its interior is typical of all Armenian sacral buildings. Small windows and dark walls create an interesting atmosphere of this place.
Near the monastery there’s an interesting building, unknown to mass tourism – the Sevan Writer s’ Resort. The building makes an incredible impression, because of its interesting, cosmic look. At first glance, it looks as if it were an abandoned, unfinished, modern construction. Meanwhile, the beginnings of the House of Writers date back to the 30’s in 20th century. At the time, two outstanding architects of soviet avant-garde: Mikael Mazmanyan and Gevorg Kochar, built the first part of the building. The appearance of the house was so capitalistically awfull that Stalin decided to send them to Siberia. However, the architects did not give up, after returning from the gulag, after Stalin’s death, they finished the construction in 1965. This time, they designed an even more futuristic project – a flying saucer hung over the lake.
The building doesn’t look like futuristic anymore, it reminds more socialism times. On the other hand, it’s worth to look there, because the saucer houses a restaurant, which is maybe not so much famous for its great food, but amazing views 😉
Driving south of Sevan Lake, the road is getting windier, and the countryside is becoming increasingly mountainous. The scenery of the Vardenis mountains in the distance and the space are impressive. The route leads through the Selim Pass, which is considered one of the most spectacular car routes in Armenia.
However, amazing views are not the only reason why you should go there. Slightly below the highest point of the pass – Vayots Dzor, you can visit Orbelian’s Caravanserai, also known as Selim Caravanserai, built in 1332. Caravanserais are buildings known especially from Arab countries and former Persia. In Persian, the word caravanserai means a caravan inn. In the old times they were some kind of caravan shelters located on commercial routes. Currently, the caravanserai is an abandoned building. While entering there I felt the thrill, primarily because the entrance resembled me an old catacomb.
However, this was just a good introduction of what I could see inside. Desolate, dark, raw interior with excellent acoustics, creates a rather psychedelic vibe.
Heading further south towards Nagorno Karabakh, which I wrote about here, it’s worth taking a look at Karahunj, also known as the Armenian Stonehenge. I remember this road to this day, amazing mountain landscapes, small lakes and interesting compositions of clouds, it was something incredible.
Karahunj is located near the city of Sisjan, right next to the M2 route. However, Armenian Stonehenge is not a popular tourist attraction at all. There is no tourist infrastructure on the spot, like parking, ticket box or gift shop, anyway, for sure you won’t see there a living soul as far as the eye can see.
Karahundj is also known as Zorac (Zorats) Karer, which means ′′ stones full of power “. It consists of a dozen decorated rock blocks. The mystery of this place has not been discovered yet. However, some researchers say that it may have been used as an astronomical observatory or an ancient necropolis. Whatever the purpose of this place was, it’s still impressive.
To be continued…