GEOGRAPHY ∞ CULTURE AND HISTORY ∞ ARMENIA
THE VAYOTS DZOR PROVINCE
VAYOTS DZOR LIES IN THE SOUTHEASTERN END OF THE COUNTRY AND IS THE MOST SPARSELY POPULATED ARMENIAN PROVINCE. THE CAPITAL AND LARGEST CITY IS THE TOWN OF YEGHEGNADZOR
Vayots Dzor is a mountainous region. It is mainly divided in three mountain ranges: the Vardenis mountain (3522 m.) on the northern side, Arpa (850 mt.) in the centre and Vayk with the Vayots Sar mountain (2586 m.) south. Vayots Dzor has many rivers, mountain springs and areas with mineral water springs. The Arpa is the main and most important river, it originates in the northwest hillside of Syunik plateau at a height of 3260 meters, flows for 92 km in the territory of Vayots Dzor and flows into the Araks river. It has a number of tributaries that form waterfalls such as the Jermuk Waterfall and the Herher Waterfall. The Yeghegis river is the main tributary of Arpa. It flows into a valley that is a government protected wildlife sanctuary.
The people of Vayots Dzor celebrate religious and traditional festivals, including Trndez and Vardavar. A key celebration is the harvest festival, celebrated every year in Yeghegnadzor on the second Sunday of October. Locals from all villages take part in the parade on decorated cars bringing their own crops and products typical to their territories. Shows and concerts are being held during the festival. Another popular celebration is the wine festival, which is celebrated annually during the month of October in the village of Areni. Food plays an important role in Armenian culture. The apricot is the national fruit and Prunus Armeniaca, "Armenian Plum" is the scientific name of the most commonly cultivated apricot species.
A significant historical province, Vayots Dzor was first mentioned in Armenian history by Movses Khorenatsi, a 5th century historian and author of the “History of Armenia”. Sites and objects were found that date back to the Paleolithic Era and the Bronze Age. The Areni cave complex and the 6100 year old Areni winery discovered in excavations, revealed that the region was already inhabited during the 5th millennium BC. The winery consists of fermentation vats, a wine press and storage jars and is believed to be the earliest known winery in history. Many churches, monastic complexes, bridges and caravanserais (notably the well preserved Orbelian's Caravanserai) were built between the 10th and 13th century.
HIKING IN ARMENIA
Noravank ("New Monastery") is a 13th century monastery, located in a spectacular narrow gorge near the town of Yeghegnadzor. The most famous building is the two-storey Holy Mother of God church, last work of the sculptor Momik, whose tomb is next to the church. Surb Karapet Church is equally worth a visit with its gavit, the intricate decorations and the Saint Grigor chapel. A number of Khachkars (Armenian cross stones) complete the artistic offering of this stunning location.
Gndevank (“Round cathedral” in Armenian) is a 10th century monastery on the bank of the Arpo River, in the Vayots Dzor Province, built by Princess Sephia of Syunik. Over time, the monastery was expanded with a gavit and monks’ living quarters and fortified with walls. A canal – still in use - was built to ensure water supply. The church is dedicated to Saint Stephen and features four altars and a few preserved wall paintings, including a noteworthy depiction of Mother Mary.
The Tatev Monastery is a 9th century Apostolic monastery in south eastern Armenia, on the edge of a gorge of the Vorotan River. Tatev played a significant role in the history of the region as a center of economic, political, spiritual and cultural activity, hosting one of the main Armenian medieval universities. The complex includes three churches -Saints Paul and Peter, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and Holy Mother of God, a number of administrative buildings and living quarters.
YEGHEGNADZOR REGIONAL MUSEUM
A center for cultural and scientific research in Vayots Dzor that strives to promote greater awareness of Armenian cultural heritage through exhibitions, educational and cultural events. The Yeghegnadzor Regional Museum in Vayots Dzor was established in 1968. The collection features ethnographic and archeological artifacts ranging from Bronze and Stone Age onwards. Tools, jewelry, and pottery, rugs, ceremonial vessels, and agricultural tools give a hint of the daily life in the region over the centuries. Some of the most important objects date back to the Urartian period (7th century BC). The Museum also houses a wide range of objects dating back to the Middle Ages. These help the visitor visualise the lifestyle, the culture, and the architecture in Vayots Dzor during that time. Among the most important artifacts is an intricately carved khachkar by the master Momik (1300 / 1312), one of the three known khachkars of its kind which makes a visit to this Museum quite special.
HIN ARENI WINERY
Winery in Areni, was founded in 1994 and fully renovated in 2014 with the introduction of French and Italian systems in a combination of local tradition and modern equipment. The winery was designed by the renowned Argentinean winery design expert Mario Japaz. The name translates as “Old Areni”. The winery has 32 ha of vineyards located in the historical terroir of the village of Areni at altitudes of 1215-1250 m asl. The vineyards are located on a plateau around the village, the soil is stony, well drained and with a high content of limestone. The main grape varieties are Areni Noir and Voskehat. The vineyard uses modern agricultural methods and makes limited use of pesticides. Red wines are aged in oak barriques from Karabakh and France. The winery processes approximately 300 tons of grapes per season and currently produces approximately 150000 bottles of wine per year.
Family owned and operated since 2018, Momik Wines offers an immersive and authentic Armenian wine experience. Visit our WineCube, nestled beneath the mountains that surround Areni village, to taste fine wine, enjoy locally-sourced food, and learn the ancient craft of khachkar (cross-stone) making. Nver and Narine are both Areni natives, and have been producing their own wine for 20 years. They named their wine brand and WineCube “Momik” after the 14th century architect who built their village’s church and the nearby Noravank Monastery. Narine is also a descendant of Momik and a sculptor herself. In 2017, Nver and Narine were approached by ONEArmenia and WineWorks to participate in their Farm-To-Bottle project, which gave local grape-growing families like theirs access to WineWorks’s facilities in Yerevan to produce high-quality wine, as well as WineCubes, small tasting rooms designed by DZ Architectural Design Studio where they can showcase and sell their wines to guests.
TRINITY CANYON VINEYARDS
Established in 2009 by three partners (therefore named Trinity) in the close vicinity of the oldest winery ever discovered, Trinity Canyon Vineyards produces a medium-wide range of red and white wines under different labels. Trinity Canyon has 4,5 ha of own vineyard on the Aghavnadzor plateau, at an altitude of 1300 m asl. The two main tendencies in the Trinity production are, on one hand, a classic European wine making technique, based on local grapes – and in some cases a blend of local and international grapes. Trinity is the only producer in Vayots Dzor that grows international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot next to the local Areni Noir and Voskehat. On the other hand, we find the re-discovery of the traditional Armenian wine making technique in karasi (amphoras) buried in the ground. In 2014, Trinity Eh Areni Noir was awarded a Gold medal at Mundus Vini International Wine Award.
OLD BRIDGE WINERY
Established in 1998, Old Bridge Winery is a family business. The production originates in 3,5 ha of own vineyards near the tiny village of Arpi, on the hillsides of the Arpa valley at an altitude of 1200 meters asl. The main grape is Areni for red wines, which are 100% Areni Noir blends. The grapes are hand harvested and carefully selected before fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 15-20 days, followed by malolactic fermentation i.e. the process whereby the tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. The wine is then aged in 350 l Caucasian oak barrels for twenty-four months. In recent years, the Voskehat grape was introduced to produce a white wine with late grape harvest and therefore high sugar content and unique taste. Their wines, throughout all production phases, combine traditional Armenian and modern winemaking technologies and equipment with a strong link to the 6000 years old Armenian tradition.
HORSEBACK RIDING IN ARMENIA
Armenians have been breeding and domesticating horses for millennia. According to research, in fact, Armenia may be the cradle of horse domestication – Armenian petroglyphs dating back to 3000 BC show the oldest depictions ever found of horse chariots. The Armenian horses and the ancient Armenian cavalry have been praised, among others, by Greek historians Xenophon and Strabo. The Persian kings used to acquire Armenian horses for their army and this great tradition perpetuated throughout the centuries. Fast forward a few thousand years, today Armenians still breed beautiful horses. What better place for a day (or two) spent horse riding in the wonderful local nature? Whether you are a novice or a seasoned horseman, this is a most recommended experience. Pick a hiking trail and saddle up!
THE ARCH TRAIL
The Arch Trail is a short and easy 5 km hike from Gomk to a spectacular basalt arch, with a small river flowing through the arch. The hike will lead you through nature and past ancient khachkars (cross-stones) and burial sites.
THE ARCH TRAIL
The Arch Trail is a short and easy 5km hike from Gomk to a spectacular basalt arch, through which flows a small river. The hike will lead you through nature past ancient khachkars (cross-stones) and burial sites.
THE KAPUYT LOOP TRAIL
The Kapuyt Loop Trail is a challenging 15km hike, which follows the direction of the ancient Silk Road. You will walk up a canyon with natural water springs and plenty of wildlife to the top of the canyon, where the views are incredible.
THE GOMK TO MARTYROS TRAIL
The Gomk to Martiros Trail is a medium difficulty 12km hike that will lead you from Gomk village to the Monastery of Old Martiros. You will walk past lakes and through valleys behind the peak of Mount Karhan. Climb to the peak if you still have energy, it’s a small detour in the valley.
THE NORAVANK GORGE TRAIL
The Noravank Trail is a medium difficulty 3km hike in the stunning Gnishik River Canyon and leads to the Noravank Monastery. It’s a protected area, home to hundreds of local species of plants and animals. There are useful informative signs along the trail.
THE OLD BANDIT ROAD TRAIL
This trail connects the villages of Gomk and Artavan. You may notice that this trail overlaps with the Stairway To Heaven trail, but there’s a vital turnoff that takes you to the village of Artavan from Gomk, and vice-versa. While hiking the Old Bandit Road, you’ll find yourself on man-made stone steps that switchback up the mountains dividing the two villages. This section of the trail is thought to have been part of the Silk Road! Continuing up, you’ll traverse a scenic cliff-ledge pathway along rock outcrops. Near Artavan, ancient trails have been restored in a beautiful forest, where you’ll notice old Silk Road bandit camps, without the bandits, they’re long gone. This trail is part of the Transcaucasian Trail route that goes through the Vayots Dzor Province.