MOUNTAIN MONASTERIES, CRUMBLING TOWNS, LEGENDARY HISTORY AND TROUBLED PRESENT
Yerevan – Tatev – Stepanakert – Shushi – Gandzasar
Regular monthly departures: this tour is offered regularly once a month. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the ask-us button below and we will match your preferences with the relevant scheduled group departure. If you are unsure about the month you wish to travel in, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will provide you a range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
The following itinerary involves a visit to one or more separatist provinces and/or contested territories. Our tours are aimed to an educated clientele animated by a genuine cultural and historical interest for the little-known regions we offer within our portfolio of post-Soviet destinations. By no means we endorse and support political parties, ideological movements, armed factions and interest groups involved in the military and diplomatic conflicts afflicting the regions we travel to. Specifically we do not support territorial separatism and we strongly reject any form of violence. De facto independent but the de jure unrecognised states shall be fully considered as constituent entities of the country they seceded from. We firmly believe in true dialogue and unbiased fact-checking as the only viable path for a durable peace and stability in the region. In this regard our tours shall be seen as an instrument of knowledge and awareness for the erudite clientele we cater for. Political activists, propagandists and biased publicists of any sort are not welcome to join our tours.
Day 1 - Yerevan
In the morning you will meet our tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in the Caucasus.
Central Yerevan walking tour: Opera House, Cascade Sculpture Park, Republic Square, Soviet Victory Park and Mother Armenia Statue.
Traditional Armenian lunch.
Temples and Monasteries: after lunch we'll drive to the nearby village of Garni the impressive ruins of a 2000-year-old pagan temple and the stone monastery of Geghard, an architectonic gem entirely carved out of a mountain.
Memorial: once back in Yerevan, we'll head to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, one of the most significant places in the whole country. We'll learn about the tragic fate millions of Armenians endured during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, visit the Soviet-style concrete monumental complex and admire stunning sunset views over resilient Yerevan.
Dinner and overnight in Yerevan.
Day 2 - Goris, Tatev and Noravank
We will leave Yerevan early in the morning for the 8-hour-long journey to the internationally unrecognized but de-facto independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the long haul twice: in Areni to admire the ancient monastery of Noravank, set against a background of flaming red mountains, and in Goris, to visit the curious stone pillars surrounding this pretty little Soviet town and take a vertigo-inducing cable car ride to the magnificent Tatev monastery.
Border Crossing: before dinner we'll cross the border into Nagorno-Karabakh. Unrecognised states are much safer and friendlier than you might think and we will take care of all the border formalities; however, this is a very sensitive area and you shall strictly follow the (rather simple) instructions your guide will brief you about. After entering the Republic we'll head straight towards its capital: pleasant and lively Stepanakert.
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
Day 3 - Shushi and Stepanakert
Stepanakert walking tour: Stepanakert Dramatic Theatre, Martyrs Museum, Karabakh Cultural Centre, Parliament, Central Bazaar, Soviet-era amusement park, Sport Complex, WWII Memorial and other socialist architectonic gems.
Traditional Karabakhi lunch.
After lunch we'll drive to the nearby town of Shushi, which witnessed one of the fiercest battle during the recent conflict against Azerbaijan. We'll visit the ruins of the ancient part of the town, some melancholic Soviet remains, a newly built impressive church and the abandoned central mosque. We'll also have the unique chance to meet with a local veteran, who will guide us around town and tell us more about the bloody war that lead to the unrecognised independence of this narrow strip of land.
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
Day 4 - Agdam, Gandzasar, Vank and the Minefields
After a morning pilgrimage to the national symbol of Nagorno-Karabakh, the oddly looking Tatik-Papik (We Are Our Mountains) monument, we'll drive to Agdam or the "Hiroshima of the Caucasus", a once thriving and now completely abandoned town located directly on the frontline with Azerbaijan. This is an extremely sensitive area so you shall strictly follow the instructions your guide will brief you about.
Along the road and in the area surrounding Agdam we'll catch the sad glimpse of the minefields dotting the fertile but unusable pastures of Karabakh.
We'll then head north stopping by in Tigranakert to visit the local fortress and in some pretty villages along the route to admire the natural rhythms of rural life and enjoy a hearty lunch with a local family.
Finally we'll visit the majestic Gandzasar Monastery, the biggest in the country, and the nearby village of Vank, where an eccentric Armenian oligarch built a Titanic-shaped hotel, a surreal amusement park and an exotic zoo.
Dinner and overnight in Stepanakert.
Day 5 - Didavank, Lake Sevan, Noratus, Hayravank and the Sevan Peninsula
We'll start the day early and head to back to Armenia.
We'll enter Armenia by the backdoor through a little-used but very scenic mountain road.
Before crossing back into Armenia we'll stop at the ancient Dadivank monastery, close to the contested border with Azerbaijan.
Once in Armenia we'll find ourselves in Vardenis, a rather desolate Soviet town near the mighty Lake Sevan.
We'll drive along the rocky shores of the lake and slowly head to the Sevan Peninsula.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the long haul twice: in Hayravank to visit a not-to-be-missed lakeside monastery and in Noratus, a thousand-year-old cemetery located in one of the most beautiful area of the whole country.
In the afternoon we'll finally arrive in Sevan, an archetypical Soviet town, which we'll briefly tour before heading the world-famous namesake peninsula (formerly an island).
On the peninsula we'll enjoy stunning views over the lake while admiring the gracious shapes of the Sevanavank monastic complex and the modernist and constructivist architecture of the House of Recreation for the Writers and Artists of Soviet Armenia.
Dinner and overnight on the Sevan Peninsula.
DAY 6 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Armenian-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to Yerevan International Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the local train/bus station.
End of the tour.
4 to 9 participants: 680 €
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euro/night), private transport in the region, entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure (35 euros/ride), visas if required, entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility.
Please note: It’s advisable to arrive in Yerevan one day before the actual tour begins. You should notice, however, that you’ll have to take care of your accommodation for any day and night preceding the actual start date of the tour. Without any additional charge we will readily and gladly reserve a room for you at our hotel of choice and you’ll be able to pay for it by cash or credit card once you check-in. If your flight lands on the same day as the tour begins and you prefer to rest a bit before going out sightseeing, you will then meet your tour guide and the rest of the group at the designated hotel in the late afternoon.
Airport pickup/transfer in Yerevan is available for just 35 euros per ride.
Disclaimer: the designations employed and the presentation of the material on this website do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of our company concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region is internationally recognised as integral part of Azerbaijan. Regardless of your/our position on the issue and for all travel-related intents and purposes, however, the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region is no longer under the control of Azerbaijani authorities.
WHERE THE HECK AM I TRAVELLING TO?
BELOW YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENT TOUR STAGES MARKED ON A MAP OF THE REGION YOU ARE GOING TO EXPLORE WITH US
POSSIBLE TOUR COMBINATIONS FOR THIS ITINERARY INCLUDE
Soviet Georgia and/or Soviet Armenia