Historical Western Armenia - Return to Lost Homeland (7 days)
Tour Duration 7 days, 6 nights
Tour Brief This is a journey to celebrated Armenian cultural monuments on the other side of river Araks (in the territory of Turkey), walk in the streets of Kars and medieval Ani, rest on wonderful Akhtamar island, see miraculous Mount Nemrut and Mush Valley, admire the tallest “khachqars” cross-stones by Yerznka.
Early in the morning we will depart Yerevan to drive to the Armenian-Georgian border. We will pass through the town of Gyumri, cross the border at the Bavra point and enter Javakhq, a county in historical Gugarq princedom that is now a part of Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia. On the way from the town of Akhalqalaqi to Akhaltsikhe we will come across Khertvisi fortress (founded in the 2nd century BC) towering above the convergence of Parvana and Kura (Mtkvari) rivers, said to be the most favorite fortress of Tamara, the queen of Georgia in the 12-13th centuries. Continuing the way we will reach the town of Akhaltsikhe, the center of this region of Georgia. After a short rest in Akhaltsikhe we will leave for the Georgian-Turkish border. From here we will enter the Ardahan region and pass the beautiful mountains and forests of the Arsian mountain range. We will arrive in Kars, check in the hotel, and go out for a city tour. We will walk its narrow streets where many 19th century buildings of Russian and Armenian architecture can still be found. We will see the medieval stone bridge of “Vardan”, the remnants of the house, where Yeghishe Charents, a celebrated Armenian writer lived, and the imposing Church of Apostles (10th century). We will ascend to the royal fortress of Kars, once the stronghold of the Armenian capital, the seat of Bagratouni kings, and the witness to numerous wars in this region. For the night we will stay in Sarikamis/Kars.
In the morning we will leave Kars to visit legendary Ani, the magnificent capital of the mighty Armenian kingdom of the 9-11th centuries, which was once called “the city of one thousand and one churches”. Located on the Great Silk Road Ani used to be the largest religious, trade, and cultural center on this Europe and Asia crossroad. We will experience the power of the medieval city walls and towers, glorious cathedrals, palaces and mosques that are still standing after a millennium. Then we will head to Dogubayazit (Bayazed), on our way after passing the town of Igdir we will enjoy a panoramic view of Mount Ararat from the opposite (southern) side. In old Bayazed we will see the unassailable fortress of Daroinq, the Arshakouni kings’ (1-5th centuries AD) treasury and stronghold. We will explore the magnificent 17th-century palace of Ishak Pasha, a fortress-palace-mosque complex where Persian, Arabic, Ottoman and Armenian architectural styles are intertwined in peculiar harem rooms, deep dungeons and cozy courtyards. From here our route lies to the city of Van, historical Vaspourakan princedom. On our way we will stop and rest by the beautiful waterfall of Berkri (Muradiye). In the evening we will arrive in the city of Van and stay there for the night.
In the morning we will visit the ancient Urartian fortress of Tushpa/ Van (9th century BC) that has impressing cuneiform inscriptions of King Sarduri. Passing through the town we will stop by the rock-cut door of “Sasna Tsrer” legend’s hero Junior Mher. If interested we may visit the Van cat nursery to see a breed of cats native to Van only noted for their different colored blue and yellow eyes. We will then drive up the Varaga mountain to Varagavanq church complex (which locals call “Seven Churches”), the archbishopric seat of medieval Vaspourakan Kingdom. Then we will head to the turquoise Lake Van and take the boat to Aghtamar Island. The latter hosts the unique Sourb Khach cathedral (10th century) that is considered to be the most beautiful monument of the Armenian (as well as universal) religious architecture, all covered with magnificent Biblical relieves outside and frescoes inside. We will taste the famous “Vana tarekh” fish, the only fish specie found in Lake Van, and enjoy swimming and resting on the beach. We will return to Van for overnight accommodations.
We will take the route toward the town of Tatvan. Passing it we will drive up Mount Nemrut, a volcano, whose latest eruption happened only three hundred years ago. Up the serpentine drive we will enjoy wonderful views of Nemrut crater lake on the one side and Lake Van on the other, weather permitting we may observe Mount Sipan in the north. We will see interesting rock formations that according to the legend are called “The Army of Nimrod” as well as stones called “Tears of Semiramis”. After resting by the beautiful and crystal clear crater lake we will drive down to the town of Bitlis. It is nestled in a gorge in Taurus Mountains and used to be the center of medieval Aghdzniq princedom and later of a Kurdish Emirate of 13-19th centuries. We will see the impregnable fortress here, the founding of which is ascribed to Alexander the Great. From Bitlis we will enter the fascinating Moush valley, Taron county in historical Tourouberan princedom, through which Eastern Euphrates (Aratsani) flows. Arrival and accommodations in Moush.
In the morning we will hike up the hill to visit the legendary Apostles (“Msho Araqelots”) Monastery of Mush. The latter was founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator in the 4th century on the relics of three Apostles, Peter, Paul and Andrew that he received from Rome. Afterwards we will drive to the medieval Murat/ Souloukh bridge on the Eastern Euphrates, an important site related to the Armenian national-liberation movement against the Ottoman Empire where one of the leaders, Gevorg Chaush, died. We will then visit the remnants of “Msho Soultan” Sourb Karapet cathedral, once the second important (after Ejmiatsin) religious center of the Armenian Church with wonderful architecture. Now it is all in ruins inside a Kurdish village, the houses of which are built from the fine-cut cathedral stones. We will return to Mush to tour the old town, see the remnants of old churches, and walk up to the “castle park” for the picturesque view of the town and the Mush valley. Overnight accommodations in Mush.
Leaving Moush we will pass over Bingol and Palandoken mountain ranges, a historical region called Highland Armenia. Reaching the Western Euphrates and driving up Pakhra (Karagel) mountains we will find ourselves at the magnificent monastery of Aprank/ Apranits. We will see the perfectly preserved Church of St. John (17th century) and the Chapel of St. David, as well as the highest in the world, over 6-meter tall (!) cross-stones (“khachqars”, cross-bearing carved stones) of the 12th century. Then we will continue our way to Erzurum (historical Karin), the largest city in Eastern Anatolia. We will visit the Byzantine Theodoupolis fortress (5th century) that was several times conquered by the Russian army and Armenian volunteers in the wars of the 19-20th centuries, the renowned medieval medreses (theology schools) of Yakutiye founded by Mongols and Chifte Minare. We will see the 19th-century building of the Sanasarian Armenian College. Leaving Erzurum we will drive toward Kars. By the road to Kars we will observe the medieval fortress of Basen (Hassan-Kala), passing which we will make a stop by the old “Shepherd’s Bridge” (“Hovvi Kamurj”) at the confluence of the Araks River tributaries. In the evening we will arrive and stop overnight in Sarikamis.
Before going back we will visit the town of Ardahan located on the Kura River in historical Gugarq princedom. The ancient castle here used to belong to Armenian then Georgian branches of Bagratouni (Bagrationi) royal dynasty, in the 16th century it was invaded by the Ottomans and later by the Russian army. From Ardahan we will drive to the Turkish-Georgian border. In Georgia we will pass through Akhaltsikhe and Akhalqalaqi, and cross the Georgian-Armenian border. Then through Gyumri we will return to Yerevan.
29 Jun. 2019
5 Jul. 2019
2 Aug. 2019
8 Aug. 2019
9 Aug. 2019
15 Aug. 2019
16 Aug. 2019
22 Aug. 2019
14 Sept. 2019
20 Sept. 2019
23 Sept. 2019
23 Sept. 2019
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