Armenian wine festival

5th October, sunny, even hot. In the Vayots Dzor village of Areni, there was a massive wine festival this weekendIMG-20191006-WA0004. It is an annual event, featuring all kinds of food, the fruit of Armenia –and of course wine! Dry, semi-dry, sweet, red and white, from wine producers, small and big from all over Armenia. Pay only 3000 AMD for an empty glass,  and you taste as much wine as you want, visiting the stalls of all our wine producers. As the day goes on, people become increasingly merry– dancing, singing, eating,  and just enjoying their time together in the beautiful outdoors. Don’t worry. No-one gets aggressive or out of control–I was quite surprised by this myself., All the food and fruits for sale were very cheap. I bought a great bunch of grapes for just 200 AMD. Everything is very well organized !

Hire me as your driver for next year’s festival. We can start the day by visiting Noravank monastery and exploring the ancient cave Areni 1 where evidence of wine-making from 6000 years ago has been excavated. This is also where the ancient shoe you can see at the Armenian history museum in Yerevan was found. At the festival, I will stay completely sober and drive you safely home.

Not able to visit Armenia in October? Don’t worry. At any time of year I can arrange visits to the Old Bridge and Trinity Canyon wineries in Vayots Dzor. Learn the history of our Areni noir grapes, drink some excellent wine, and enjoy some great food and hospitality in the company of our wine-makers. I will arrange the whole thing.

Travel with  Goris Tours to explore the best of Armenia,  its people and traditions. Thanks to Alex and his family from Alaska for having me as their designated driver this weekend!

Check out this video about the wine festival. See you next year. 😉

Walking Tour of Goris

2017-04-18 07.56.19Short of time in Goris? Visiting on a Monday when the Tatev ropeway is closed? Why not join me for a one-hour walking tour of Goris?

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We will start at a lavash bakery, learning how Armenia’s famous flatbread is made and learning a little about our traditional oven–the tonir. We will stop by the Axsel Bakhunts museum–a great way to learn about home life in Armenia in the 1930s, as the house showcases much of its original furniture and contents. Bakhunts was a writer whose own story has a sad ending. He was killed on Stalin’s orders in 1937. But the beautiful garden he planted has been preserved and is worth a visit. (Note: the museum does charge to enter).

2017-12-25 16.51.28Walking towards the center of town, we will see the stone buildings built in a style unique to Goris and featuring the arched windows and doors that are typical of this area. We will also learn about the large porches or balconies that are features of many houses here.

In the center of the city, we will drink from the water fountains in the park, and stop to admire the large square with its statue of 14th century philosopher and Apostolic priest Grigor Tatevatsi.goris1

Depending on your interests, we might visit the theater, a small, local museum, an art gallery, the chess club, or the church of St Gregory the Illuminator. Perhaps you will want to buy a jingalov hats–the flatbread stuffed with herbs which is a popular local snack, or stop to watch the old men of the  town play nardi–our word for backgammon.

The tour will finish at the Tur Baza cafe which serves traditional Armenian food and offers a great view of our famous needle rocks.

This tour can be extended to include the church of St. Hripsime and an exploration of the needle rocks. Alternatively, you can choose to do this short tour by car if that would be more comfortable for you. 

 

Travel to Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh)

A trip to Nagorno Karabakh / Artsakh / is a special one for me, because I am proud to tell to foreigners the truth about this historical Armenian  land, and its distressing history including the 1992-1994 war. You will also see its amazing nature, including the oldest tree – Tnjri – in land that used to be part of the Soviet Union. It’s more than 2030 years old.

 

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We will visit to Hunot gorge and see the natural umbrella waterfall. Bring your hiking boots !

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We will visit recently excavated site of the ancient city Tigranakert founded on the 1st century B.C.

All of this is possible in just one day trip from Goris.

Perhaps you think that Karabakh was only founded in 1991 as a result of a referendum held after the collapse of the USSR?  In fact, the name Karabakh first was mentioned in the 14th century, and the history of the territory stretches back 3000 years. There are two versions about how Karabakh got its name. First, Persian invaders named their lowland territories as Bakh i safid / white garden / and the mountainous part as Bakh I sayid / black garden /. Then after many years the Turks kept the name Karabakh, which in Turkish means black garden. In the second version Karabakh comes from the name Bakhaberd, ‘‘berd’’ in Armenian is fortress, so foreigners just translated into their language only a part of the name ‘‘ kara – fortress’’. Then further, during the Russian invasion in the 19th century they added Nagorno – in Russian it means mountainous. So in the name “ Nagorno Karabakh “ we have Persian and Russian components. Since 1988, at the beginning of the Soviet Union collapse, local people and all Armenians are using again the ancient Armenian name Artsakh. It dates from the 4th century BC at the time when the territory was part of Great Armenia, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean sea.

It takes about two hours to drive from Goris to Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh. If you are able to spend a few days exploring this ancient territory with me, we can visit the cave of Azokh, which dates from the ancient Stone Age (Paleolithic) ,about 500-100 thousand years ago.  This is where the Neanderthal man’s jaw was discovered. At the Gandzasar monastery take a picture with the lion rock.

Lunch on Jingalov Hats, the local flatbread made with 18 different kinds of herbs. The Artsakh version is even better than the type you will find in Armenia.

Artsakh has a fascinating and troubled history.  Today not even Armenia recognizes its independence. I will explain the sensitivities as we drive through the mountains and gorges of this beautiful, little-known part of the world.

Welcome to Artsakh / Nagorno Karabakh / !

Talk to me about a one-day trip or plan to really explore and stay two or three days. Let me know how much walking is comfortable for you and I will design an itinerary that suits you.

Make the most of your journey to or from Yerevan: Khor Virap, Norovank, Areni wine–and also Zvartnots and Etchmiadzin cathedrals

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Norovank. Picture credit Thong Do

You can start in Goris or Sisian and end your day-trip in Yerevan or at Zvartnots airport–or do the journey the  other way around. Either way, we will take in the monasteries at Khor Virap and Norovank, and visit Areni, home of Armenia’s finest wines–and the place where the world’s oldest shoe was discovered. (You can see the 5,500 year-old shoe in Yerevan at the History Museum of Armenia, but the site where it was found is also worth exploring). Enjoy stunning views of Mount Ararat (if the day is clear), and gorges and mountains of amazing colours. Take part in a wine-tasting and learn what makes Armenian wine so special. Learn the legends of Gregory the Illuminator, and Momik the Architect, and speculate about the history of  our world-famous shoe. This day-trip combines history, archaeology, opportunities to photograph fabulous landscapes, and great food and wine. Depending on the time of  year, feast on apricots, apples, or walnuts sold by the side of the road–and take home a bottle or two of our beautiful  wine as a momento of your trip.

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Upon request, this trip can be extended to include a visit to Zvarnots Cathedral, an ancient site just outside Yerevan, and to Etchmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 

From Goris to Jermuk

This day-trip winds through the mountains of Syunik Marz and the rocky slopes of Vayots-Dzor to the spa town of Jermuk. Depending on the time of year, we will see eagles soar across our path.  We will count numerous wild flowers–and discover the reason why the honey sold by the roadside is so good. Stop to pick apricots and admire volcanic rock formations along the way. In Jermuk, visit the gallery and drink mineral waters that bubble from the earth at a range of different temperatures. Walk around the lake and pose beside giant busts of Armenia’s great writers and artists. Enjoy an Armenian coffee on the floating cafe–or strip off and take a dip in the famous hot pools. We will visit Jermuk’s Waterfall, Armenia October 2017 2017-10-17 13.22.07and take a ride on the funicular to get great views of this beautiful region. You can pick wildflowers and breathe the clear mountain air. If you would like to have a spa treatment at one of Jermuk’s luxury hotels, let me know–I will make your appointment. The town has great restaurants, but you may like to order a picnic lunch to enjoy by the river. My wife will be happy to feed you!

 

 

Karahunj (Armenia’s Stone Henge)–> Vorotnavank Monastery–> Vorotnaberd Fortress–> Melik Tangi Bridge–>Shaki Waterfall

2017-10-19 12.23.49This day-trip explores some of the most beautiful and ancient sites of Armenia, in the area of Sisian. See the 7500-year old sharp stones at the Armenian Stone Henge and see if you can unlock the secret of the perfect round holes in the stones. Visit the monastery complex built by one of Armenia’s ancient Queens, and hear the legend of the snakes of Syunik. See a fortress dating back to at least the 4th century, and marvel at the rock formations beside the Vorotan river. Climb an ancient monument dedicated to two brothers who took on the Persians, and walk amongst khatchars–Armenian cross stones. Finish your day at the Shaki Waterfall, one of the great sights (and sounds) of Syunik Marz. Depending on the time of year, buy honey, mushrooms, cabbage, aveluk or apples from local families.

Depending on the time of year, you  may wish to extend your day-trip to visit the Hamo Sahyan museum in the village of Lor. A picnic lunch can be provided upon  request.

Goris–>Devil’s Bridge–> Halidzor Cable Car–> Tatev Monastery–> Swinging Bridge–> Cave Village Old Khndzoresk

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Picture credit: Karissa Kresge

This day-trip takes in all the most famous sites of the Goris region, allowing you to ride the world’s longest reversible tramway from Halidzor to Tatev, and cross the 160-meter swinging bridge over the gorge to visit the cave village of Khndzoresk where my father was born. Marvel at the beauty and history of Tatev Monastery and walk through the stream at Devil’s Bridge to see the stalactites and stalacmites in the underground caves. Benefit from my local knowledge and contacts to have a truly enjoyable day. For example, I will call Wings of Tatev to book your tickets for the Tramway, so you do not have to wait.

Upon request, a picnic lunch and dinner at my home can be added to this tour. You may also wish to talk to me about hiking Tatev gorge and seeing Mets Anapat, an abandoned monastery from the 17th century.