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. 

 

Birdwatching in Armenia

https://www.armenia.travel/en/tourism/bird-watching-in-armenia

I love to spend time outdoors and am always eager to learn more about the natural world. Although I am not an ornithologist, I would be pleased to take you bird-watching. Check out the information below (from armenia.travel) and let’s pack our binoculars and go. I am patient, quiet and curious and can pack a picnic for us to enjoy in the outdoors. Of course, birdwatching can also be combined with some of  my other cultural, historical and food and drink tours

A Rewarding Destination for Every Keen Birder

Armenia is located between the Black and Caspian Seas, an ideal bio-geographic bridge between Europe and Asia, and, therefore, home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Worldwide, there are approximately 9,700 species of birds, 350 of which have been reliably recorded within Armenia, 245 of which have been proven to breed here, and around 170 have been found in winter. This may not seem like a lot, but by comparison, the whole of Europe has 550 species and the entire landmass of the former Soviet Union has only 750!

red fronted serin
Red -fronted Serin

The richness in birds and other wildlife in addition to the famous hospitality of the locals, the delicious cuisine, numerous ancient historical and cultural sites and some of the most impressive landscapes in the Western Asia, makes Armenia an amazing and rewarding destination for every ambitious birdwatcher.

​​The country lies on the main migration route between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Following a major flight path, more than 180 species pass through Armenia on the way to and from their wintering grounds that spread from the Middle East to South Africa. With its diverse terrain and vegetation zones overlapping in such a compact area, Armenia attracts diverse bird species that would otherwise not be found so close together. Thus, it is possible to observe desert and forest birds, waterfowl, high plains and alpine species living in the same area – sometimes even within the same square mile.

A Variety of Bird Species

caspian snowcock
Caspian Snowcock

You can find the world’s largest breeding colonies of Armenian Gull near lakes Sevan and Arpi. Arpi lake is also famous for holding a small population of the well known Dalmatian Pelican species. Glossy Ibis, Pygmy Cormorant, Marbled Ferruginous and White-headed Ducks found their home in the Ararat plane due to the location of fish farms there.

Ménétries, Moustached, Paddyfield and Savi Warblers can be found throughout the reeds and the scrub in this area. White-tailed Lapwing breed is mostly found in the nearby salt planes. White-winged, Whiskered Terns and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters all inhabit the banks and canals of this area.

The forests of the mountainous areas are full of big variety of birds. Among this huge variety of species you’ll be able to spot the Lesser-spotted Eagle, Black, Green and Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, Samamisicus Redstart, Greenish Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Red-breasted and Semi-collared Flycatchers.Caucasian Grouse, Magna Bluethroat and Radde’s Accentor all found their home in the slopes that are covered with scrub from above the treeline. Meanwhile, the mountain springs in the alpine meadows are inhabited by the Horned Lark, Caucasian Twite and Red-fronted Serin. Crags and scree adjoining the alpine meadows are home to Caspian Snowcock, Crimson-winged Finch and Wallcreeper.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Armenia for bird watching falls between the months of May-July as well as September-October. In order to get the full experience by getting most of the country’s species you should plan your trip for at least 8 days, 12 ideally. An important thing to note is that you must consider the weather conditions of the mountains even during the hot months of summer. While looking at high montane species you must consider bringing warm clothes with you.

If you’re still hesitant about visiting Armenia for bird watching purposes, you must know that certain parts of Armenia still remain underwatched. You as a birdwatcher have the exclusive chance to make new discoveries and share with the world. Once done with your expeditions you can enjoy all of the other things Armenia has to offer to you, from the mesmerizing landscapes of the countryside all the way to the active urban life of the capital. You won’t have to limit yourself to just one activity.​

The petroglyphs mountain Ughtasar

I am not afraid to say that the petroglyphs mountain Ughtasar is one of the world’s truly amazing and memorable sites. Only accessible in summer, you will be glad you have made this off-road trip and will wish you could come back again and again to marvel at the petroglyphs and enjoy the supernatural beauty and mysterious silence of the deep and dazzling lakes. Ughtasar – a mountain 3300 meters high above sea level, is snowy even in high summer, even though it is only about 30 km far from Sisian. In 1968, thousands of petroglyphs—ancient rock drawings—were found there, but this magical place still remains unexplored because it is so remote.

 

The people called the place Ughtasar (Camel Mountain), because the mountainous area between Black and Al lakes looks like the hump of a camel.

More than 2000 scattered rock paintings have been found at the base of this mountain, around the small lakes of the volcanic crater, and in the valleys . Most pictograms are engraved on horizontal or vertical surfaces of copper and black cliffs with depths of 2-6 cm, with a width of 2-20 mm.

 

There is Huge variety in the rock paintings. They include hunting, the nature surrounding man, charming family scenes, and cosmic interpretations that suggest sun worshippers once lived there. The oldest rock images show crop and vegetable farming, and are thought to date from the BC. V-IV millenniums. Large images of deer and predators are stamped on the massif cliffs

We will use an off-road vehicle to get to the petroglyphs and, will have an unforgettable lunch there—I’ll bring pork kebabs to barbecue there. It is a great place to eat your first Armenian khorovats. Bring your hiking boots! It will be one full day in total. Because our ability to visit Ughtasar depends on the weather conditions, please plan to visit Camel Mountain in the summer and book your tour well in advance. I will do my best to make it happen.

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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.