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Other interesting places to visit

here are many tours and short trips that you can take from the Armenian capital to interesting places in the republic. Here are some of the many places you may like to see.

Etchmiadzin - is situated 20km from Yerevan, in the very heart of the Ararat valley. It was founded 2,000 years ago by the Armenian king Vagarsh, who made this place his residence and gave it his name Vagarshapat. Etchmiadzin is rich in wonderful architectural monuments, among them the Hripsime Church (618~one of the finest examples of medieval Armenian architecture, the Gayane Church (630) and the Shogakat Church, both built in honour of the first disseminators of Christianity in Armenia.

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral, completed in 303 A.D., is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. For seventeen centuries Etchmiadzin has been the Holy Seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Church.

Two kilometres from Etchmiadzin are the ruins of the three-tiered Zvartnots Church (7th century), palace and other structures. The remains of the church, the carefully gathered stones and also the archaeological findings, the drawings and plans of the original buildings shown in the museum on this site present a comprehensive picture of the monumental proportions of this unique historical complex.

If you drive along the road-leading southwest of Etchmiadzin to the city of Oktemberyan (53 km from Yerevan) and then turn left you will find yourself in the centre of the Ararat valley. On one of its plateaus, now the site of the memorial complex Sardarapat, erected in 1968 to commemorate the victory of the Armenian people over Turkish invaders in 1915. 

A group including the architect R. Israelyan and the sculptors A. Arutyunyan, A. Shaginyan, and S. Manasyan designed this memorial. At the entrance to the memorial park stand two winged bulls, symbolizing the might of the people. Staircases lead up to a platform where a 35-metre stone belfry towers over the landscape. To the left, toward the Wall of Victory, leads an alley of flowers with stone eagles, symbolizing the invincible spirit of the heroes of Sardarapat. In the centre of the Wall of Victory is an arch through which can be seen in the distance majestic Mt. Ararat, silent witness of the heroic past of the Armenian people.

The memorial complex culminates in the originally designed building of the museum and the domed refectory "Vardavar", in which motifs of medieval Armenian architecture are featured.

Travelling 21km southeast of Yerevan you reach one of the most picturesque spots in Armenia, the site of the ancient Garni Temple.

The history of the first settlements in the vicinity of Garni goes back to 3,000 B.C. The remains of the walls of an impregnable fortress, built of huge monolithic blocks weighing dozens of tons each, are relics of that remote period.

In the Middle Ages this picturesque spot attracted the attention of Armenian kings, who set up their summer residence here. Palaces were built and parks were laid out.

The territory of the fortress is now a real archaeological museum. Its most interesting feature is the pagan Garni Temple, the only monument of Hellenistic culture in Armenia extant. Built in the 1st century A.D. by Trdat I, founder of the Arshakuni dynasty, the Garni Temple was considered one of the finest in the ancient east.

In 1679 this unique monument was reduced to ruins by an earthquake. It was restored to its original form and is a exquisite example of Armenia’s priceless monuments and ancient culture.

From Garni the road climbs upward for a distance of about ten kilometres to a smalt hollow in the hills. Here you will see one of the most unique ancient structures - the Keghart Monastery - a whole group of cave buildings consisting of a two-storey church, monastery cells and chapels, all carved out of the rock. Still higher can be seen the entrances to other caves.

According to an old legend for a long time there was preserved here a spear ("Keghart" in Hebrew) with which a Roman legionary pricked Christ on the crucifix to see whether he was still alive. Hence the name of the, monastery, Keghart.

Another interesting tourist route takes you along the scenic highway connecting Yerevan with Tbilisi. At the 56th kilometre marker on this highway a right turn puts you on the road leading to the summer resort settlement of Tsakhkadzor, which means "valley of flowers" situated among dense forests at the foot of Mt. Tegenis.

Today the name of this resort is more and more associated with modern tourism, recreation and sport. Winters here are mild and snowy, summers are warm. Everything is fresh and green in spring and golden in autumn. Most of the days of the year are fair and sunny.

One of the most interesting things in Tsakhkadzor is the sports complex. It has everything needed for all forms of sport and recreation for both sportsmen and tourists.

In the winter season, which lasts about four months, there is the added opportunity to indulge in all forms of winter sport. Nature has been generous in providing wonderful courses many kilometres long, for mounting skiing. A 7.5km chair cableway has been built for taking mountain skiers to the top of Mt. Tegenis. From its height of 3,100 m. there is a beautiful view of the surrounding mountainous country. There are skating-rings and paths covered with ice for those who prefer this winter sport.

While in Tsakhkadzor you can take an excursion to the Kecharis Monastery, a wonderful example of medieval Armenian architecture. It is only a short walk of about fifteen minutes from the sports centre.

The monastery group, which stands on the edge of a forest, took its present form in the l1th-l3th centuries. It consists of several churches built at different times.

Coming back to the Yerevan - Tbilisi highway from Tsakhkadzor and continuing on it for about half an hour you come to the shores of Lake Sevan.

In remote times it was called Siunna - a Lake country hidden in the Gegam Mountains. Sevan ... On clear, sunny days, from whatever direction you approach it you will see the thrilling panorama of this lake, one of the largest mountain lakes in the world.

As the Russian writer Maxim Gorky once said, before your eyes there opens the boundless expanse of its blue surface, like a piece of the sky which has dropped down on this spot amidst the mountains.

The lake is 63km. from Yerevan, at an altitude of almost 2,000m. above sea level. It consists of two bodies of water Large and Small Seven, which form a lop-sided figure 8 and are connected with each other by a strait 8.5km wide. The maximum length of the lake (up to the point where its water is directed toward the power station) is 75km, and its maximum width-37km. The greatest depth of Small Sevan is 100 m., of Large Sevan 50 m.

Not far from the picturesque lake is the town of Sevan, founded in the second half of the l9th century.

A distinctive feature of the locality of Lake Sevan is the abundance of sunshine, a feature in which it rivals Termez and Alexandria. The mean temperature from July to August is 32 °C, while the temperature at the surface of the water ranges from 17 to 19 °C. The cool, pure water of Lake Sevan is very pleasant for bathing.

Lake Sevan is not very rich in fish but the local sort of trout, called Ishkhan (Meaning “Prince” in English, belongs to the Salmon family) is a great favourite.

A mild climate, lovely though rather austere scenery, and golden sandy beaches all make Lake Sevan an attractive place for rest and recreation. In the summer you can do water skiing and/or go on a boat excursion on the lake. In the winter there is skiing on the mountain slopes surrounding the lake.

Leaving Lake Sevan behind, you now drive for a while along a level stretch and then begin the climb to the Sevan Pass, the highest point of which reaches an altitude of 2,122 m above sea level. Suddenly a gap seems to open before you and you glimpse the Gorge of Dilizhan. Here, nestled in the green of pine and leaf-bearing trees and of apple, pear and plum orchards is the famous mountain health resort "Dilizhan" (102km from Yerevan). People come here for treatment and rest from all parts of the region. In recent years many international conferences, symposiums and forums have been held in this resort.

Not far from the resort is Lake Barz-lich (Transparent Lake). When you look at the calm, clear water of this lake it seems to be a piece of pure crystal.

There are many monuments of ancient Armenian architecture in the forests around Dilizhan. Particularly interesting is the group of buildings of Agartsin ensemble, dating to the 11th-13th centuries.

If you travel north west from Dilizhan, driving through the most forested part of Armenia, you come to Kirovakan, a rapidly growing city with a big future.

High mountains ring Kirovakan with densely forested slopes. The Vanadzor Gorge, which is very near the city, is very beautiful.

Situated in this gorge are the second highest in altitude botanical gardens in Armenia (1,500m. above sea level) and the resort "Armenia". A mild climate, pure air, and picturesque scenery are the factors, which have made this resort so popular.

Another tourist route will take you to the historical monuments of Sanain, Akhpat, Odzun which are located not far from the city of Alaverdi (178 km from Yerevan) among wooded hills.

Two kilometres from Alaverdi is the Sanain group of buildings.

. Eleven kilometres from Alaverdi on a large, high plateau framed by deep gorges, is the group of buildings called Akhpat. The main group, ringed by fortress walls, consists of four churches, two chapels, a refectory, a library, a belfry, and tombstones. This group was built up in the l0th-13th centuries.

Seventeen kilometres from Alaverdi is the well-preserved Odzun church, dating from the 12th century. Its distinctive feature is the presence in its design of Early Christian elements of Armenian Church architecture.

Updated 30 August 1999 ..
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