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7 Days in Artsakh

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  • Historical-Cultural

Description

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’ll explore the hero city of Shushi. A very eventful day is waiting for us.

At 10 kilometers from Stepanakert is situated the soul of Artsakh, the historical town of Shushi. The city – fortress surrounded by stone walls is the pride of the country.

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.

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.

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

Following the route we’re going to the Museum of the History of Shushi, where you can see and learn a lot. The museum is located in a beautiful detached house of mid – XIX century. It houses very important artifacts, which tell us about the century – old history of the city – fortress of Shushi. Here household and handicraft items of the local masters are collected. Special attention should be payed to the diorama devoted to the military operation of liberation of Shushi, which reminds us of the story of the battle in details.

Through the narrow alleys and sidewalks we’ll come to the ruins of a fabulous architectural structure – the Realschule of Shushi, which operated till the beginning of the 20th century. In those times even foreigners came to study in the school. Unfortunately, only ruins remained nowadays.

Next to the Realschule was located the first women’s gymnasium in Caucasus. Today the Ministry of Culture of NKR is situated in the building.

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 our walking tour will begin.

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.

Through the Jdrduz plain, leading to the gorge, we’ll reach the Mamrot Kar waterfall (arm. the Moss stone), also known as the Umbrellas. This is an indescribably beautiful place, where we can hear the symphony, created by the nature, and forget absolutely everything. When looking on this idyll, a man’s soul sings and dances.

We’ll walk to the Karin Village through the gorge. It’s a place filled with harmony and grace. It’s hard to imagine, that during the Nagorno – Karabakh war fierce fighting took place in this area.

We’re returning to Stepanakert.

After having breakfast at the hotel, we’ll continue exploring Artsakh. We’ll visit villages, communicate to the locals and explore their way of life, we’ll discover a new Artsakh for ourselves.

We’re starting from the Martuni Province.

First, we’ll visit the Skhtorashen Village, 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’re changing the direction to the Hadrut Province.

We’ll have lunch in the village of Togh, where the two – storied palace of the Melik Yeganyan princes is located.  There are also two churches in the village: St. John and St. Stephan.

Further on, we’re heading to the Azokh Cave. This ancient settlement refers to the Stone Age. The cave occupies an area 2000 m². During the excavations a splinter of jawbone of Neanderthal was discovered by the archeologists, as well as stone tools of primeval men. But the cave hasn’t opened all its secrets yet, therefore archeologists from various countries come here with the hope to discover the secrets of Azokh. There are a lot of entries and exits in the cave, as well as 6 large rooms like labyrinth. At the end of the XIX century a statue of a woman dressed in Armenian national dress (taraz). A huge interest is the flock of bats living in the labyrinths of the cave. There are species, living in Azokh only.

We’re returning to Stepanakert.

After a hearty breakfast we’ll be tested for sharpshooting, as we’re going to a shooting range.

We’ll have breakfast in Stepanakert. Then a very exciting experience is waiting for us.

In the second half of the day we’ll star exploring the Sarushen village. Here a master class in making the famous mulberry vodka will be demonstrated for us, which of course will finish with degustation. We’ll find out a lot about the technology of making the healing mulberry vodka.

We’re returning to the hotel in Stepanakert.

After having breakfast we’re heading to 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.

We’re going to the Martakert Province.

First, we’re heading to the Archeological museum located in the walls of the reserve of the XVIII century, where we’ll see artifacts discovered during the excavations of ancient Tigranakert. On foot, by the mountain Vankasar, we’ll go to the church of the VI century. This lonely and proudly standing church has not kept its name and became known as Vankasar, in honor of the mountain. Going along this path we’ll reach the place, where the excavations of Tigranakert have started. Finishing our tour in Tigranakert, we’ll take a rest in the “Royal Springs” park, among the mulberries. Here we’ll have lunch.

On our way back we’ll visit the pottery of Askeran, where we’ll see unique works of the local architects and a master class will be demonstrated for us. We’ll also have the opportunity to practice. Going on with our tour, we’ll come to our today’s final stop – 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 come back to Stepanakert. You’ll have free time.

Tigranakert

After having breakfast in Stepanakert we’re heading to Kachaghakaberd.

Kachaghakaberd is a mountain – top fortress in the Martakert Province.

The invulnerable fortress stands on the top of the ridge, surrounded by dense forests. The fortress gained its name due to its height (1700 m): “kachaghak” in Armenian means magpie, that is to say – only birds can access the fortress. From the height of the fortress, surrounded by 50-60-meters high steep cliffs, opens an amazing view over the mountains of Artsakh and the Tartar River.

It’s 7 kilometers from the Kolatak Village to the highest point of the fortress.

We’ll have lunch in wild conditions, on the top of the fortress, admiring the expanses of Artsakh, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the silence.

We’ll spend the night in the Vank Village, on the left bank of Khachenaget River. Due to the pure air, ecologically clean water and food, the village is famous for its long – livers.

After having breakfast, we’ll spend the final day of our trip in Gandzasar. The pearl of Artsakh 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.

Further on, we’re heading to the Shahumyan Province, to see the Dadivank Monastery. We’ll explore the area after having lunch.

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).

And finally, the striking natural wonder of Artsakh!

Karvachar Gorge.

Karvachar is a natural hot tub, an indescribable grace. The temperature of the healing water in the pond sometimes reaches up to 70 degrees. Overcoming long distances, many people come to this balneary to dip into the hot spring, beating from the subsoil of the Earth, in order to be healed.

We’re returning to Yerevan. Transfer to the “Zvartnots” airport.

Gandzasar monastery

Dadivank