THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION

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Archaeological Tour (11 days, 10 nights)

Route: Yerevan (city sights), Ararat region (Khor Virap), Vayots Dzor region (Noravank, gorge Amaghu, Areni), Vayots Dzor region (Jermuk), Gegharkunik region (Sevan, Sevan, Noratus, Ayrivank) Tavush region (Dilijan, Goshavank, lake Parz, Agartsin), Artsakh – District Karvachar (Handaberd, Dzhermadzhur, Dadivank), Martakert region (the village Vank, Gandzasar, fortress Ruzana) Askerasnky area (Askeran, Tigranakert Mayraberd, Stepanakert), Shushi (Kazanchetsots church, castle Shushi, gorge Unot) Hadrut region (village Toh, Gtchavank), Syunik region (Selim caravanserai, Goris, Zorats Carrere, Tatev), Armavir region (Echmiadzin, Zvartnots).

Description

The centuries-old history of Armenia conceals in itself the unexplored and mysterious. Being the “cradle of civilization” this region attracted travelers, artists, diplomats and interested conquerors for centuries.
The rich history of the region is preserved in the architectural structures, the ancient fortresses, in cultural monuments and various household items.
During the trip you will get acquainted with the rich history of the great palaces and temple complexes, unique monuments of early medieval Armenian architecture, encounter the history of the castles, ruins and the Armenian cross-stones.
 
Day 1
 
 
Arrival at the international airport “Zvartnots”.
Meeting with representatives of the “Land of Noah”.
Transfer and accommodation at the hotel in Yerevan.

Lunch Time.
Armenia – the world’s first Christian state, one of the oldest countries on the planet. The picturesque, romantic Armenia is located in the north-eastern part of the Armenian plateau between the rivers Kura and Araks.
The State Museum of History of Armenia was founded in 1921 and is part of the Museum complex on the Republic Square, occupying the first two floors. The museum has a collection of approximately 400,000 exhibits. A permanent exhibition covers the entire history of the Armenian people – from the time of primitive society to the present day.
The museum displays artifacts found during excavations of monuments from different eras – things of Armenian culture from the Paleolithic to the end of the XIX century. Things like tools of the primitive man, weapons and utensils from the Urartu times and other Armenian states, sculpture, jewelry, handicraft products as well from various historical regions of Armenia. The museum has a rich library (about 50,000 volumes), many of which are unique editions: among them – the first printed Armenian book “Urbatagirk” (“The Book of Fridays”), published in 1512 in Venice.
Sightseeing tour in Yerevan – the Opera House, North Avenue, the “Cascade” complex, Sculpture Park, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of the History of Armenia and the house-museum of the director Sergei Parajanov, Republic Square and the “singing fountain”.
Dinner at the hotel. Overnight.
 
 
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Day 2
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Departure from Yerevan with luggage.

Transfer to the monastery complex of Khor Virap (IV – XVII centuries).
A trip to the Ararat valley.
Tour of the monastery of Khor Virap, which translated from Armenian means “deep hole”, in which for many years was locked up the future first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church St. Gregory the Illuminator. The monastery is located opposite of Mount Ararat (5165 m.), where the state border between Armenia and Turkey lies. From the walls of the monastery you are offered panoramic views of the majestic mountain.

Drive to Vayots Dzor region, in the picturesque gorge of Amaghu.
Near the village of Areni is a cave complex located at 1,080 meters above sea level.
In one of the caves researchers found several cultural layers, including the complexes of the copper era and the Stone Age with adobe buildings, dating from 4200 – 3500 BC.
The earliest cultural layer belongs to the V-VI centuries BC and the most recent to the XII – XIV centuries. Areni – a karst cave, also known as the Bird’s cave is on the south-east of Armenia, 12 kilometers from the town of Yeghegnadzor. The cave was built in the limestone rock formations of the valley of the Arpa River. It has three rooms. In ancient times it was a significant settlement, which is referred to by the Vth century historian Yeghishe.
On adjacent uplands in ancient times were the castle and fortress, the ruins of which have survived to the present day.
The cave was discovered by a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences archaeologist Boris Gasparyan. The cave had a lot of bird nests, so it was called the Bird’s cave.
During the excavation in the pit depth at a depth of 45 cm ancient shoes were found that were perfectly preserved thanks to a special microclimate (cool and dry) found in caves. It has been discovered that the age of the finding is around 5500 years old and refers to the period from 3627 to 3377 BC it turns out that shoes date 400 years before the Stonehenge and almost a thousand before the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Up to that time samples of ancient shoes were found that were made of twine, but the shoes from Areni cave were made of treated skin. It is also characterized by the production technology and style.
Thanks to the special microclimate of the cave large jars were also found, with remains of grape skin and seeds, metal knives, seeds, more than 30 kinds of fruits and seeds of different crops, rope, clothing, straw, grass, reeds, even the dried prunes.
Lunch at the gorge in a natural rock grotto.
Visiting the Monastery of Noravank (IX-XIII centuries).
The beautiful Noravank monastery complex was built on the narrow ledge that winds the gorge of the Arpa River near the town of Yeghegnadzor. The gorge is famous for its steep red cliffs, towering behind the monastery. Noravank, thanks to the magnificent creations of medieval architects and its location in the beautiful landscape, leaves a lasting impression. In 2002 the church was completely restored and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Transfer to the resort town of Jermuk, famous for its mineral water – a visit to the gallery of mineral springs, a walk along the picturesque gorge and viewing the waterfalls.
Jermuk is located at an altitude of 2080 m above sea level. Therefore, the opening here of the surrounding mountains with snowy peaks and a deep gorge, near which it is located is very beautiful.
Next to Jermuk waterfall is Tsolk. This waterfall in Jermuk two-thirds consists of healing mineral water. Since time immemorial, this water is famous for its miraculous properties.
Check in at hotel.
Dinner. Overnight.

 
 
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Day 3
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Departure from the city Jermuk with luggage.
Moving to the city of Sevan.
Excursion to Noratus (cross-stones).

The city of Sevan is located on the shores of Lake Sevan. It is a miracle of nature, the most beautiful of alpine lakes, located in the enormous mountains at an altitude of 1916 meters above sea level. Its water is clear and clean, according to legend, only the stars and gods drank from it…
There are several hypotheses for the origin of Lake Sevan. Most likely, this lake was born a few thousand years ago due to volcanic processes occurring in the surrounding Geghama mountains. On the southern slopes to the lake are dozens of geometrical circular craters filled with fresh water. 28 rivers flow into Sevan, all small, the largest – Maerik – is less than 50 km long. From the lake flows only the river Razdan. On the western shore of Lake Sevan, near the town of Ghawar.
Sevan, a climatic resort in Armenia. One of the centers of recreational tourism in Armenia. The landscapes are distinguished by the beauty and diversity – mountain steppes pass into alpine meadows and mountain forests. The mountain peaks are covered with snow until the early summer.
Noratus is famous because of this cemetery, the oldest part of which holds more than 800 khachkars (cross-stones), hewn in the IX-XVII centuries.
Here are the cross-stones of different stages of development of this art, which are grouped into three main periods: IX-X, XI-XII and XIII-XVI centuries. The field with khachkars in Noratus – the second largest after the historic cemetery with 2500 khachkars in Julfa (Nakhichevan) where they were from the years 1998 to 2005, systematically destroyed by Azerbaijan. Some of them remained in the courtyard of the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin. After the destruction of the cemetery with khachkars in Julfa, Noraduz has become the largest collection of cross-stones in the world.
The harsh and peculiar beauty of Lake Sevan is remembered for a long time. Especially because it is surrounded by numerous temples built in a very unique style of Armenian architecture.
Visiting the Monastery Ayrivank (IX c.), which offers a magnificent panorama of the mountain lake.
A trip along the Lake Sevan.
Accommodation at the hotel by Lake Sevan.
Dinner. Overnight.
 
 
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Day 4
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Moving to the Tavush region on a scenic road through the territory of Dilijan sanctuary.
The Dilijan Reserve – a huge protected area where a wonderfully scenic landscape merges mountains, forests and mineral springs. Dilijan national park was founded in 1958 and is located in an area of 24 thousand hectares.
Located in the basin is Aghstev Getik at 1100-2800 meters altitude. Within the reserve there are 102 species of trees, 35 species of mammals, reptiles, and reptiles, 120 species of birds.
One of the best and the most picturesque places of Dilijan Reserve is the Agartsin gorge. Within the reserve are Lake Parz, Haghartsin, Goshavank, Dzhuhtakvank and Matosavank.
A drive through the village to the plateau Yenokavan Lastiver, hiking (simple walking route 30-40 minutes) to the medieval cave settlement Lastiver Anapat.
Lunch Time.

Visiting the two-story cave Lastiver located in the gorge of the river Khachakhpyur 3 km from the village Yenokavan.
A rough river, tall trees and steep cliffs make the fabulous nature of the gorge.
In the cave, during the Mongol invasion of the XIII-XIV centuries, the local population took refuge.
In Armenian “Last i ver” means “up the raft.” The cave is located on the slope of a steep ravine, and to get to the cave, people had to build a ladder made of logs laid out on each other. This design is reminiscent of a raft, and the people and nicknamed the cave – “Lastiver.”
On the walls of rooms an unknown artist left bas-reliefs of amazing beauty, perfectly preserved to this day. You may notice that they depict the scene of a wedding celebration. The cave is often called “Anapat” (desert).
Just below the caves are the beautiful waterfalls creating noise, which is an integral part of the nature of the gorge.
A visit to the monastery complex Haghartsin (X-XIII c.);
Accommodation at a hotel in Dilijan.
Walking through Dilijan, a visit to the ethno – complex “Old Dilijan” with workshops (master wood carvers, potters), an art gallery and a gift shop.
Return to the hotel. 
Dinner. Overnight.

 
 
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Day 5
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Checkout with luggage.
The scenic road runs along Lake Sevan, absolutely not being tiring, and its very quality makes it possible not to be distracted from the azure beauty of the lake.
Moving to Artsakh.
The history of Artsakh-Karabakh dates back to time immemorial. In different periods of the history primary sources called the land: Urtekhe, Urtekhini, Orkhistene, Artsakh, Khachen, Karabakh. On the territory of the region are recorded about 10,000 historical and architectural monuments, including dozens of monasteries and hundreds of churches.
Karvachar district occupies the north-western part of the NCR. There are numerous monuments of architecture, showing the role played by this corner of Artsakh in Armenian history. Among the most famous monuments include the Monastery Dadivank and Handaberd fortress, in the village Zar.
A famous monument of the Armenian culture is Dadivank Monastery (IV-XIII century) in the north of the Martakert region. The etymology of Dadi is connected with the legend according to which one of the disciples of the apostle Tadeo, Dadi or Dado was martyred in Artsakh for preaching Christianity. It is known that the first preachers of Christianity in Armenia appeared in the 1st century AD And the first sanctuary-Martyrium monastery was built in the early Middle Ages over the grave of the preacher Dadi, who died in 1st century.
On the territory of Karvachar region are numerous hot springs, among which the most famous are in the village Dzhermadzhur (at 12 km. From Karvachar) and Zuari village (22 km from the monastery Dadivank).
The first is known for its healing properties. The geyser near the village of Zuari is a natural “Jacuzzi” of limestone deposits with a diameter of about 2.5 meters and a depth of more than a meter in the center of which the source has hot mineral water.
Moving to the Martakert region in the village of Vank on the left bank of the river Khachen.
Accommodation at the hotel. 
Dinner. Overnight.

 
 
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Day 6
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Visiting Gandzasar Monastery, an outstanding monument of Armenian culture and active monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
According to legend, the monastery received its name from the mountain, which locals call Gandzasar, because of the silver mines in it. Located on the left bank of the river Khachen, near the village of Vank in Nagorno-Karabakh. Gandzasar was first mentioned by the Armenian Catholicos Ananias in the middle of the X century. It is a recent and now known temple to be built by Prince Hasan Jalal Dawla “A pious and God-loving man, humble, an Armenian by origin” on the site of the old temple mentioned in the X century and consecrated on July 22, 1240.
According to legend, the temple buried in the tomb of Herod the severed head of John the Baptist, brought here from Cilician Armenia during one of the Crusades, because of that the church was named St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (St.John the Baptist).
Lunch at the hotel.
Departure to the city of Shushi.

Excursion to Askeran fortress (Mayraberd) at the southern edge of the town of Askeran. It has thick walls, surrounded by the valley of Karkar, from ancient times it was also known as Mayraberd and was an important strategic object of the 18th century.
Visiting the excavations of the ancient city of Tigranakert founded by Tigran II in the Ist century BC. And the Museum of finds.
The city of Tigranakert is one of the most significant archaeological monuments founded in the Hellenistic period (1c. BC), by the Armenian king Tigran the Great (95-55 BC)
Tigranakert was at the time (the city existed in the Middle Ages) a flourishing and lively settlement, which played an important role in the life of the region.
Visitors will be able to see and walk the streets not only of the Karabakh Pompeii – Not far from Tigranakert a Christian monastery was found, which used to be a pagan temple, later turned into a church (this church was founded in the middle of the 1 century AD and is one of the oldest on the planet).
Next to Tigranakert are very well preserved castles. From the 18th Century Shahbulah and on a mountaintop above Tigranakert is located the Vankasar monastery from the 6-7th centuries. All these monuments are included in the reserve “Tigranakert”.
Sightseeing tour of the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh Stepanakert.
Moving to the city of Shushi.
 
 
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Day 7
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Karabakh – Artsakh has been inhabited since time immemorial. This is evident not only by architectural monuments, but also by the traces of different cultures and tribes, on the basis of which the Armenian people were formed. Artsakh gives an opportunity to literally touch the origins of the history of the Armenian people.
In the summer months archaeological expeditions work in many parts of Karabakh and they offer the opportunity to observe Artsakh as an ancient land with a lot more puzzles in store to reveal their secrets.
The amazing ruins of the ancient history of the Armenian people that can be called barrows (beg. Of the 1st millennium BC.), have been excavated by archaeologists in the walled city of Shusha the pearl of Karabakh. Not far from Shusha are the fortresses of Karkar and Shosh, in which also excavations were carried out.
City tour of Shushi.
The city of Shushi is located on the inaccessible stone plateau. It has been inhabited since ancient times, but a full-fledged castle was founded here in the XVIII century. Then the city became the capital of the Karabakh khanate, and later, in the XIX century, with the arrival of the Russian crown – the center of the same district and a major cultural and economic hub of all the Caucasus. The rapid economic growth of the early twentieth century stimulated an urban development boom that has defined the unique architectural face of the city. This intimate flavor in the form of old houses, cobbled streets, arches, springs and squares is still present in the city. Shushi – a place with a unique energy.
Return to the hotel.
Dinner. 
Overnight.

 
 
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Day 8
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
A visit to the Museum of History of Stepanakert.
Tour of the capital of Artsakh.
Lunch Time.
A trip to the village of Azokh, famous for its cave, which is one of the oldest sites of prehistoric man in the world.
This home of ancient man has many entrances and exits, six large rooms, like a maze, the largest of which covers an area of three thousand square meters.
For the first time in the so-called Acheulian layer archaeological culture was found, stone hunting tools of the primitive man who lived here more than three hundred thousand years ago, drawings on the walls, showing his first attempts to understand the world through art and fossils of the plant and animal world of that time.
In the late 19th century in the cave was also found statue of a woman in traditional dress, roughly carved from stone. And a colony of bats of great scientific interest (about 200 000 individuals) living in the maze of the caves of Azokh, there are five species, some of which are not found anywhere except in Azokh cave.
“The Cave of Treasures” has not yet revealed all its secrets. This large settlement of primitive man is still systematically studied by the Armenian-English-Spanish archaeological expedition.
Next we will go to the village of Toh, which was the center of the historic province Dizak and patrimony of the Eganyan people whose descendants live here today.
Near the village Toh, on the northeast slope of Mount Chgnavor (Mountain of the Hermit), among dense forests, is one of the medieval political and spiritual centers of Artsakh – the monastery of Goshavank.
Goshavank complex in terms of architecture is one of the most interesting monuments of the centuries-old Armenian culture. The monastery consists of the main church with the older than the church itself porch, and the second church, adjacent to the porch to the north. In the western part of the complex are the ruins of dwellings and defensive walls.
The complex preserved magnificent khachkars (cross-stones), the oldest of which date back to the IX century.
According to its architectural merit and exceptional role in the cultural life of Artsakh the monastery of Goshavank ranks the same with such masterpieces of Armenian architecture as Gandzasar and Amaras.
Next, a visit to the Selim caravanserai – one of the many preserved caravanserai in Armenia, providing lodging for caravans laden with goods, to keep up the way through Armenia to Europe and the East. (A caravanserai is a rest stop for caravans that occurs in Central-Asia, North-Africa and the Middle-East).
An inscription over the entrance mentions the date of construction of the caravanserai (1326-1327). The construction was ordered by Prince Orbelian Chesar and his brothers. The two bas-relief sculptures on the facade of the building are the emblem of the dynasty of Orbelian.
Close to Selim Pass at an altitude of 2400 meters are preserved medieval stone building hotels of the XIII century, it was a place of lodging for merchants traveling along the Silk Road. The water in this “hotel” came from a spring through clay pipes, and living quarters were heated with braziers. In the caravanserai it was always twilight: The light source was a small opening in the wall during the day or oil candles in the evening, a safety precaution to protect guests from the robbers. Curiously, the routes of caravans have not changed for centuries, so the preserved caravanserai still stands since the IV-V centuries.
Transfer to the town of Goris.
Check in at hotel. 
Dinner. Overnight.

 
 
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Day 9
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Check with your luggage.
Tour of the city.

Goris – one of the oldest cities of the Syunik region, located in the valley of the mountain river Vararak, in the southern part of the Syunik volcanic plateau. There are cliffs surrounding the city, known as the “Goris stone forest”. They are an amazing maze of colored columns, pyramids, cones and towers. These figures combine the play of light and shadows and leave a lasting impression.
Goris boasts a unique location: it is on the bottom of a deep valley, surrounded by pink sharp rocks – the result of weathering of volcanic tuff. In these cave cities people lived right in the spiked cones, benches were made out of tuff. These dwellings were organized as bird nests: the roof of the lower house could simultaneously serve as input for the top.
Travel through the valley of the river Vorotan on the longest cable car in the world “Wings of Tatev” to Tatev Monastery (IX-XIII c.).
The monastery was named in honor of St. Eustache (Evstatios-Statevos-Tatev) – disciple of the Apostle Thaddeus, who preached like his teacher, Christianity, and a martyr who died for the new faith in Syunik. And “Tatev” translated from old Armenian means “give wings”. Located at a great height Tatev extends upward to the sky, the walls seem to be a natural extension of the rock that raises it so high.
Among the unique works of architectural and engineering in Armenia is the iconic monument – “Gavazan” (Staff) erected in 904 in the courtyard near the monastery premises. This octagonal, built of small stones, post, is 8m high, finished with ornate cornice surmounted by a cross-stone.
Lunch in a town inn near the monastery.
Visiting the prehistoric megalithic complex Zorats Carrere or Karahunj, an analogue of the British Stonehenge.
The complex forms a bizarre circles of sharpened stone blocks and covers an area of 7 hectares.
Return to Yerevan.
Check in at hotel. 
Dinner. Overnight.

 
 
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Day 10
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
A trip to the ancient capital of Armenia Vagharshapat.
Tour of the Catholicos territory – the residence of the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, a visit to the St. Echmiadzin Cathedral (St. Echmiadzin, 303 AD), whose name translates as “The Descent of the Only-begotten,” which means “The Place of the descent of Christ.”

Visiting the museum “Treasury of Echmiadzin.”
Acquaintance with the monuments of Armenian architecture – the church of St. Hripsime (VII c.), and the Temple of Vigil Forces Zvartnots (VII c.).

Lunch Time.
A trip to the fair in Yerevan “Vernissage”.
It is interesting that at the Yerevan “Vernissage” you can buy anything, not just the picture, as one would think, based on the title. Of course, there are also the wonderful paintings by local artists, national souvenirs and icons, Cezve Coffee and coffee makers, cheap crafts and expensive Antiquities, jewelry and other handicrafts made of wood, precious stones, silver and other materials. And remember – a bargain at the “Vernissage” – is a tradition!
Visiting the Oriental market.
Free time.
Return to the hotel.
Dinner. 
Overnight.

 
 
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Day 11
 
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Free time depending on the time of departure.
Transfer to the airport “Zvartnots”.
Departure from Yerevan.
 

The price includes:

  • All transfers (In comfortable modern minibuses);
  • Staying at the hotel (accommodation in double rooms);
  • Full board: Breakfast (hotel), lunch, dinner (restaurant / menu); and drinks – coffee, tea, water are available on request throughout the trip;
  • Excursions in the program with a professional guide;
  • All entrance fees (museums, galleries, participation in various events);
  • Entry to the Nagorno – Karabakh Republic (Artsakh);
  • During the trip you will be accompanied by a group representative of the
    “Land of Noah”.

The price does not include:

  • Insurance;
  • Personal and other expenses not covered by the program (souvenirs);
  • Airplane ticket (we can help you find the best and most convenient ticket);

Notes:

  • Excursion program first and last days, will depend on the time of your arrival and departure, as well as days of the week;
  • If you wish, you can choose any other hotel;
  • The tour can be started from any desired address in Yerevan;

At 6 people the price of the tour per person will be €1687, when there are less than 6 people, the price per person will increase – when there are more than 6 people the price per person will decrease.

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