Itinerary in Brief:
Day 1: Arrival - Yerevan city tour
Day 2: Echmiadzin - Winery Tour - Yerevan
Day 3: Khor Virap - Noravank - Areni Winery - Yerevan
Day 4: History museum of Armenia - Cooking class - Yerevan Ararat Brandy-Wine Factory
Day 5: Sevan - Dilijan – Goshavank - Haghartsin - Tsakhkadzor Ski resort - Yerevan
Day 6: Garni - Geghard - Armenian traditional bread-lavash baking - Yerevan
Day 7: Departure
Day 1. Arrival. Transfer to hotel in Yerevan. Hotel check in. Rest.
Yerevan City tour by evening: Yerevan is the pink “pearl” of Armenia, the capital of this ancient country. This beautiful European city is mostly built by different shades of the local pink stone called tuff quarried in Armenia. Founded in 782B.C. Yerevan is reputedly one of the oldest cities in the world to have been continuously inhabited. It’s 29years older than Rome.
We start our exploration with the Republic Square with it magnificent buildings enhanced by singing fountains. Walking down the Abovyan Street, one of the oldest streets in Yerevan which was on the Silk Road, Norhtern Avenue, Opera House. Visiting the Collosal Monument of Cascade. Continue to the 18th century Blue Mosque. Time to kick off your culinary adventures with a visit to the “Covered” Bazaar known as “Pak Shuka” on Mashtots Avenue. It’s a real museum of food. The entrance is an amazing artwork in its own right, a massive semicircular iron structure with intricate detail – a masterpiece! Passing through this work of art you step inside to discover another world! You are greeted by vendors of all types asking you to sample their goods – from delicious homemade dried fruits stuffed with nuts, paper thin fruit ‘lavash’, ‘sujukh’ (local walnuts threaded on string and dipped in grape molasses! Simply yum!) right through to fresh ‘lavash’ bread and organic fruit and vegetables and stalls selling herbs and spices you will use during the cooking class.Welcome dinner with wine at a traditional Armenian restaurant.
Day 2. WINE TASTING IN SUNNY ARMAVIR…
Today we embark on our journey to the lands of ancient treasures of Christian history…Vatican city of Armenia, Holy Echmiadzin with its world’s earliest Christian churches included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visit Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral. It was originally built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator in 301-303A.D., when Armenia became the first officially Christian state in the world. It’s the most luxurious Armenian cathedral covered by stunning frescoes painted in the 18th century. Continue to St. Hripsime and St. Gayane churches built in 7th century. These churches are considered masterpieces of early medieval Armenian architecture. They are named after Christan virgins martyred for the sake of Christianity. After a hearty lunch (tatsing dishes typicla to this region) we’ll continue to Lenughi village in order to enjoy a wine tasting tour at “Map” wine and brandy factory founded in 1924 - 1944. Now the factory is well equipped with modern winemaking machinery, various high capacities, French, Cyprian and Bulgarian tuns, reinforced concrete tanks and highly qualified specialists. The aim of the company was to use local wine base (Kharji, Voskehat, Garan Dmak, Rkatsiteli grape varieties) sorts. Later other grape sorts brought from the other regions of Armenia and Georgia, like Mskhali, Kakhet, Areni, as well as various new sorts produced in the result of interbeeding, such as Nerkeni, Tigrani, Muscadine, Yerevanian and many others.
Day 3. TO THE CRADLE OF WINEMAKING…
A day dedicated to exploration of Southern Armenia combining the magic of Armenia's finest mediaeval architecture with stunning landscapes. The first stop of our trip is Khor Virap, the most sacred pilgrimage destination in Armenia not only because it’s the only place in Armenia where you’ll get the best view of the biblical Mount Ararat (the highest mountain in the world from its base, about 17,000feet high) within Armenian borders, but this is where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years by the King Tiridates III for preaching Christianity. Guided by the remote majesty of biblical mount Ararat, we explore the site, its underground chambers, elegant chapels and are captivated by the ascetic atmosphere of the site. We continue to the south driving through the agricultural heart of Armenia, Ararat Plain offering a fantastic scenery of fruit orchards, endless vinyards at the foothills of Ararat Mountain where the Noah’s ark landed. As soon as the we pass the Ararat Plain we can experience the untamed beauty of Southern Armenia - surreal red rocks providing an eerie echo, honey-coloured villages sandwiched between them. Our next stop is the Monastery of Noravank, an architectural gemstone nestled among brick-red cliffs, just above a deep gorge. It’s only here where you can see a bas-relief with the representation of Father God with almond-shaped eyes which look far ahead. Lunch at Noravank refectory enjoying the view of the huge red canyon. After the hearty lunch we’ll drive to Areni village, the cradle of viticulture! This is where world’s ancient winery was discovered recently (6000years old)! Winery tour and wine tasting (about 11 varieties including pomegranate and cherry wines). Visiting Areni 1 Cave where the world’s ancient winery has been excavated. Visiting a carpet showroom on the way back (time permiting).
Day 4. COOKING CLASS & YEREVAN ARARAT BRANDY-WINE FACTORY TOUR.
Today we’ll have a fascinating journey through the Armenian History with a visit to the History Museum of Armenia, one of the best museums in the world. The museum represents an integral picture of the history and culture of Armenia from prehistoric times (one million years ago) till our days. Here you can find the world’s oldest leather shoe (5500years old) found only 3years ago!There’s a huge exhibition dedicated to the Armenian carpets. The world’s oldest carpet is an Armenian carpet (2500years old) currently at Hermitage Museum.
Lunch and a cooking class. Our cooking class is focused on one of the traditional Armenian meal – Ghapama at the professional kitchen of the famous - Ararat Hall Restaurant with Sedrak Mamulyan, a well-known chef, leader of Armenian Cuisine Revival Association. Ghapama is a stuffed pumpkin with rice and dried fruits. While preparing the dish, we can sing a song dedicated to ghapama: “Hey jan, ghapama, hamov, hotov ghapama (hey dear ghapama, with flavor and aroma ghapama)…”
“It is not accidental at all that people have created this song, we will taste ghapama and you can test and see how tasty it is”
After this delicious lunch we’ll visit the oldest winery in Armenia, YEREVAN ARARAT BRANDY-WINE FACTORY founded in 1877 built on the place of the destroyed Yerevan fortress. During the tour you’ll visit the distillation department, the cooperage department, the museum, the wine-cellar in the basement where you can see a wall from Yerevan fortress and its secret passages. Tasting two wine varieties from 1924 and 1944 and two cognac varieties of 10 and 20 years’ maturity.
Day 5. TRIP TO PARADISE…
After breakfast we are off to the most beautiful forested area of Armenia, Dilijan National Park driving by the fascinating lake Sevan located at 1900m above sea level, the 2nd largest high altitude lake in the world. Words alone can’t describe the natural beauty of Dilijan. Many poets used to say, "If there are woods, mountains, streams and mineral waters in paradise, it must be like Dilijan”. As a climatic balneal health centre of medium-mountain zone, Dilijan is characterized by mild, moderate warm summer, sunny warm winter and dry warm weather during the whole year. Due to its forested mountains and mild climate, Dilijan is named "Armenia's Little Switzerland". Take a stroll in the most beautiful part of the town, Old Dilijan Complex on historic Shamambertan street. Here we experience the town as it was in the 19th century. Then we continue our journey through Dilijan National Park, a protected area renowned for its serene lakes, picturesque hill trails and peaceful villages, visit to Haghartsin and Goshavank, fairy-tale monasteries set amidst flower-filled meadows. Founded in the 12th century both monasteries were very important spiritual, cultural and educational center in the medieval Armenia.
On the way to Yerevan visit the town of Tsaghkadzor, the biggest ski resort of Armenia with forests. In the summertime, people go there to get away from the city life of Yerevan, and the heat, for the fresh air in the mountains. In the winter, the town is completely overtaken by skiers and people who just want to relax and enjoy the snow and scenery. The modern rope-way will take you to the top of Teghenis Mountain, where the greens of land and the blue of the sky get in fusion. The town was the main training ground of the USSR Olympic Games’ sportsmen for winter sports.
Leaving the frantic pace of the city we are heading towards Garni Pagan Temple, the only Hellenistic Temple in the Caucasus. The Pagan Temple of Garni is the only pagan temple currently standing in Armenia. Gracing the hillside the pagan temple was dedicated to the God of Sun, Mithra. It was built in 77A.D. by the Armenian King Tiridates I. Proceed to Geghard Monastery carved out of a huge monolithic rock. Geghard is an incredible ancient Armenian monastery, partly carved out of a mountain. It is said that the Holy Lance that pierced the body of Christ was kept here. The architectural forms and the decoration of Geghard's rock premises show that Armenian builders could not only create superb works of architecture out of stone, but also hew them in solid rock. It is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Visiting a local farmhouse for lunch in Garni. Traditional Armenian bread-lavash baking in tonir (underground earth-stove). Barbecue preparation in tonir.
In Yerevan visit Vernissage Arts & Crafts Open Air Market where you can find all kinds of artwork, carpets and rugs, jewelry and other typical Armenian souvenirs. This is the biggest market in the whole Caucasus, a perfect place for last-minute shopping!
Day 7. Hotel check out. Transfer to airport. Departure.