5 Days in Artsakh

  • Historical-Cultural


The Nagorno – Karabakh Republic

Artsakh is like an elegant canvas by an unknown artist, a land of invulnerable fortresses. Here every stone has its own meaning. The proud cliffs, deep canyons, noisy rivers, cold springs and the centuries-old monasteries are the evidence of the past and the present of the steadfast people of Artsakh. Being in this land for once, Artsakh will settle in your hearts forever.

Driving through the provinces of Ararat, Vayots Dzor and Syunik, we’ll reach the heart of the Armenian Highlands, a part of historical Armenia – The Nagorno – Karabakh Republic. Before becoming a separate republic, Artsakh was one of the 10 provinces of the Armenian Kingdom. Currently, both names – Nagorno – Karabakh and Artsakh, are widely used.

Meeting at the “Zvartnots” airport, transfer to the hotel in Stepanakert. You’ll have free time.

After the dinner we’ll start to explore the heart of Artsakh – Stepanakert. From the height of the mountains of Artsakh we can see the capital, formerly known as Vararakn, with its beautiful scenery at a glance. The city was designed by the great Armenian architect Alexander Tamanyan in 1926. Artsakh people are very patriotic, they love and honor their city and keep it clean. In 2016 Stepanakert was listed among 10 cleanest cities of the world. In this quiet and picturesque city you can feel real Armenian hospitality.

We’ll start our walk from the Renaissance Square, where all the state institutions are situated: the Presidential Palace, buildings of the Government and the National Assembly. Then we’ll head to the Stepan Shahumyan Square, where stands the statue of the revolutionary Shahumyan. The capital is also named after Shahumyan. The city park is one of the favorite places of both townspeople and guests, it’s always full of life. In the summer evenings the singing fountains and flashlights lighten the city, which invites everyone to his arms.

Following the route, we’ll visit Artsakh State Historical Museum. It’s the only cultural center in the NKR, where the centuries-old history of Artsakh from the time of its formation till our days is presented. Here are collected material and spiritual values representing the life and culture of the nation.

Then we’ll stop at the memorial «Bed of Honor». The first burials were made here during the World War II. Here you can see monuments dedicated to the victims of the Sumgait tragedy and also a sculpture symbolizing the sorrow for the victims of Spitak earthquake.

We’ll see the famous majestic monument of red tuff – “We Are Our Mountains”, which is blandly called “Grandpa and Grandpa” by the Artsakh people. The image of grandfather with a beard and grandmother in a national dress became a symbol of Artsakh. The monument symbolizes the people of Artsakh firmly standing on their land such as their tough and proud mountains.

We’ll return to the Hotel. You’ll have free time.

After having breakfast at the hotel, we’re heading to Tigranakert.

Today we’ll explore the Archeological reserve of Tigranakert. Tigranakert is an ancient town in Artsakh, one of the ancient Armenian towns with the same name, founded nearly in the first century BC by Armenian king Tigran II the Great and boring his name. The archaeologists identify this city with the Antiquity and Middle Ages. The ruins of the reserve have been found in 2005. At the place of ancient city have survived stone sculptures carved into the rocks of the structure, churches.

Following the route, we’re heading to the Askeran town and its pride – the fortress of Mayraberd. The fortress of the XVIII century has survived in its original form due to the thickness of the walls. We’ll also visit the preserved Ethnographic District of the XIX century, which demonstrates how the people of Artsakh lived in those days. In the territory if the district the house museum of the Armenian fedayee Nikol Duman is situated. We’ll have lunch here.

Then we’ll visit the Gandzasar Monastic Complex.

The pearl of Artsakh – Gandzasar, stands proudly on a high hill on the left bank of the river Khachen. The external structure of the church is focused on the dome. The architecture and the decorations inside and out of the church form an organic whole, which makes the church one of the brilliant achievements of the Armenian culture. The Gandzasar Monastic Complex bas built in 1238 and is famous with a legend, telling, that the head of John the Baptist is buried here. The complex is located near the village Vank. According to the popular legend the monastery was given this name in honor of a mountain, which is called Gandzasar by the locals due to the silver mines inside of it (arm. “gandz” – treasure, “sar” – mountain). Gandzasar is a treasure for the courageous people of Artsakh.

We’re returning to Stepanakert.


Gandzasar monastery

After the breakfast, the first thing we’ll see in Shushi is the “Winner Tank” memorial. The 9th of May is a double celebration for Armenia. On this day we celebrate both the victory in the Great Patriotic War and the Day of Liberation of Shushi. The operation of liberation of Shushi was named “Wedding in the Mountains”: when Vazgen Sargsyan (at that time the Military Minister of Armenia) saw the plan of capture of Shushi, he said it’s impossible. Furthermore, he promised to get married after the capture of the city. On 9th of May at dawn Shushi was liberated.

Then we’re heading to the St. Ghazanchecoc Cathedral of Christ the Holy Savor, a white church decorated with bas – relief images of angels. The church was built in the second half of the XIX century. During the Nagorno – Karabakh war, when the Azerbaijani forces captured the church, it was badly damaged. After its liberation by the Armenian army the cathedral has been repaired and renovated. The cathedral has become the symbol of the rebirth of independent Artsakh.

Then we’ll visit to the Geological Museum of Shushi, which houses the most unique natural and artificial stones of Armenia and Artsakh.

The next stop is the fortress of Shushi.

One of the sights of the city, the walls of the citadel built in the XVIII century, has preserved to our days almost completely. The walls of the fortress with 2.5 km length are starting from the high rock massif and down to the steep slopes of the gorge. The walls, as well as the towers with 8 meters length, are built from the rock: they seem to grow out of the rocks and merge them. The Gates of Gandzasar are one of the 4 fortress gates, which have survived almost intact.

We’ll have a chance to have lunch in the walls of the fortress.

Further on, we’re heading to a reserve – the Hunot Gorge. The view of the cave gorge, with the lenght of 3 km and the depth of about 750 meters, is indescribably beautiful. The slopes are covered by dense forests, the mountains and the hills are stretching to the skies.  For the easy transportation, an arched bridge was built here in 1720, which is used by the locals even nowadays. Once in the reserve, looking around, it seems you’re in a green, clean and untouched little world.

We’re summing up our day, visiting the ministry of culture of NKR in Shushi. Previously, the only women’s gymnasium in Caucasus operated in this building.

We’re returning to the hotel in Stepanakert.

We’ll have breakfast at the hotel.

Today, besides exploring history of Artsakh, we’ll explore its nature. We’ll start from the village of Skhtorashen in the Martuni Province, where the most famous and the oldest oriental plane tree grows. The tree is more than 2000 years old. In Soviet times a passport was issued to the tree, as it was the highest (more than 54 meters) and the oldest tree. The hollow of the tree is 44 sq. m., the circumference is 27 meters. According to a legend, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, St. Mesrop Mashtots, and famous Armenian poet and musician Sayat-Nova have visited the tree.

Then we’ll stop at the Amaras Monastery. In the V century the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, St. Mesrop Mashtots, established here the first school in Artsakh. The monastery is the burial place of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s grandson, St. Grigoris. Amaras was repeatedly subjected by invaders, but even in the most difficult times the school was operating in the monastery. In the second half of the XIX century Amaras became a fortress with strong defensive structures.

We’ll have lunch in the village of Togh, where the two – storied palace of the Melik Yeganyan princes is located.  We’ll have the chance to enter the palace and explore its history.

We’re returning to the hotel in Stepanakert.

After having breakfast, we’ll spend the final day of our trip in the Shahumyan Province, in order to see the ancient monastery of Dadivank.

The architectural complex of Dadivank is located at an altitude of 1100 meters on the slope of a wooded mountain. Dadivank Monastery, built in the I century, is an evidence of the fact, that Christianity came to the Armenian land still in the I century. The monastery was founded in the I century on the grave of St. Dadi, who was the disciple of Thaddeus the Apostle. St. Dadi spread Christianity and sacrificed his life for his faith on this holy place. Dadivank is also famous for its delicately carved khachkars (cross – stones).

We’re returning to Yerevan. You’ll have time to get prepared for the departure.

Transfer to the “Zvartnots” airport.