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Best of Armenia
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Best of Armenia

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 10 day(s)
Group Size: 1 - 12 people
Destination(s): Armenia  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey   Archeology/History  
Season: January - December
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 990 Euro (EUR)
Maximum Per Person Price: 990 Euro (EUR)

Tour Dates for 2011:
- January, 13 - 23
- February, 17 - 27
- March, 3 - 13
- April, 15 - 25
- May, 12 - 22
- June, 2 - 12
- July 22 - August 1
- August, 12 - 22
- September, 1 - 11
- October, 14 - 24
- November, 3 - 13
- December, 9 - 19.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Treasures of Yerevan. In the morning meet other group participants and tour leader, brief pre-tour orientation meeting. The day starts with a visit to the History Museum housed by Yerevan City Hall. Providing an excellent introduction to the history of the city, the museum is an ideal place to start your exploration of Yerevan, new and old. Continue with a walking tour of Yerevan exploring various layers of its history - medieval shrines hidden behind imposing Soviet-style façades, Closed Market and Blue Mosque on Mashtots Avenue, Republic Square, Cascade and Mother Armenia, Opera House and ambitious projects of independent Armenia.

A cultural showcase not to be missed is Matenadaran, one of the world's oldest repositories of Greek, Persian and Arabic manuscripts. Our next stop is Genocide Memorial situated on the hills overlooking the city, a solemn reminder of the first genocide of the 20th c. On a lighter note we can make an optional excursion to Ararat Brandy factory. Overnight: Hotel in Yerevan. Includes: (B).

Day 2: Classical Armenia. Breakfast at hotel. Today we continue our exploration of Armenia with a visit to the Vatican city of Armenia, Holy Echmiadzin. Experience a fascinating journey through time, descend to the ruins of the pagan sanctuary beneath the altar and pay tribute to the Treasury of Mother Cathedral with striking collection of relics of Christianity. On to Zvartnots, a temple consecrated in the presence of Emperor Constantine of Byzantium, it stands out as one of the most prominent creations of medieval architecture. Drive east to the magnificent Temple of the Sun at Garni and the legendary Monastery of Spear at Geghard.

Explore the mosaic ancient baths and ruins of the royal palace, immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this mythical place and examine remarkable cross stones carved into sheer rock. Back to Yerevan. In the evening we offer you to enjoy the cultural life of Yerevan. An exquisite performance at National Opera or a concert at Classical Music Chamber will offer you the best of what is available at the time of your stay (optional). Overnight: Hotel in Yerevan. Includes: (B).

Day 3: Amberd Fortress. Early start today with a trip to the highest peak of Transcaucasia, Mount Aragats (4,090 m), an extinct volcano. The first stop of our trip is Saghmosavank (Monastery of Psalms) perched on the edge of picturesque Kasakh canyon. Acclimatizing gradually as we ascend the beautiful countryside, we reach Amberd Fortress on the southern slope of Aragats. Breathtaking views of the fortress and citadel, snow covered peaks of Aragats, sun scorched grasslands dressed in wildflowers combine to provide an unforgettable experience this morning.

If we come here during summer months we can visit high-mountain camps of friendly Yezidi tribes who tend their sheep under the towering peaks of Aragats. We will discover the traditional way of life of these people of the mountains, visiting their tents, trying fresh cheese and yogurt. A unique option this evening is a guided visit to Byurakan Observatory founded in 1946; star observations using 2.6 meter telescope, the second largest in Europe, explanations by the team working at the observatory. Overnight: Hotel in Byurakan. Includes: (B).

Day 4: Lori, Northern Armenia. This day takes in some of the less traveled routes of Northern Armenia, the largest of Armenia's 11 provinces. The first stop is the village Lermontovo, home to Molokan Russian community where villagers adhere to their traditional ways of life. Molokans (Milk Drinkers) are a sect of Russian Old Believers who broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 16th с. With our local guide serving as a translator, we learn first-hand about the unique cultural and religious traditions of the community, on foot on in a horse-driven molokan cart we explore the surrounding area, beautiful nature and worship sites.

Open air molokan-style lunch at a beautiful nature spot. Continue to Stepanavan, a charming town nestled in the mountains. Check in at hotel, short rest. Continue our exploration with a visit to the ruins of one of feudal Armenia's main fortresses, Lori Berd situated on a naturally fortified plateau between two river gorges. Explore the site and take in the beauty of mountain scenery. In the evening we have time to walk and relax in Stepanavan Dendropark, a huge botanical garden founded in 1931, on site explanations by the team at the park. Overnight: Hotel in Stepanavan. Includes: (B), (L).

Day 5: Northern Armenia. After breakfast we continue our exploration and start with beautiful Kobayr monastery situated on the edge of a narrow ravine. Superb frescoes and unique atmosphere make Kobayr a jewel in the crown of Northern Armenia. We continue our trip to sleepy Alaverdi, once an industrial town and rise to our next destinations - Haghpat and Sanahin. Severe and majestic design and marvelous bas-reliefs justly rank these sites among the celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Optional lunch at one of many riverside restaurants before heading to Ijevan, a small city of quaint appeal with its beautiful cypress-lined streets. Evening free to wonder in shuka, the local market or an optional visit to Ijevan wine factory. Overnight: Hotel in Ijevan. Includes: (B).

Day 6: Dilijan National Park. Today starts slowly, with time for leisurely breakfast before our journey through Dilijan National Park, a protected area renowned for its serene lakes, picturesque hill trails and peaceful villages. Visit to Haghartsin or Goshavank, fairy-tale monasteries set amidst flower-filled meadows. Continue to Dilijan in a deep wooded gorge. Take a stroll in the old town where strangers are greeted with smiling curiosity. Newly-opened Old Dilijan Complex on historic Shamambertan street is our next stop today. Here we experience the town as it was in the 19th c. and observe the weaving of carpets by local women at Tufenkian Carpet Showroom.

Afternoon drive through the picturesque pass to come to the shores of Lake Sevan. Check-in at your chalet-style hotel right on the beach, rest. Enjoy the scenery, visit romantic Sevanavank Monastery and Stone Garden at Noraduz with unique collection of exquisite khachkars, Armenian cross-stones (weather permitting optional boat trip). Overnight: Hotel at Lake Sevan. Includes: (B).

Day 7: Lake Sevan and Silk Road Adventures. Lake Sevan, one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world - the tranquil majesty of its ever-changing waters, stunning mountains silhouetted against the blue sky, all this inspired its name The Pearl of Armenia. Start the day with a 20-minute walk to the top of Akhtamar Trail for the best photographic views of the Lake and romantic Sevanavank Monastery. Proceed to a heart-pumping southward trip through the rugged Selim Pass. Climbing steep paths and enjoying the views of Lake Sevan below, we reach the amazingly intact Selim Caravanserai, an important trading post on the Great Silk Road where little has changed since the fourteenth century.

Our next stop will be at Shatin observation point to see Bezoar Goats on the opposite side of the gorge. The afternoon offers a real off-the-beaten-path experience as we walk to discover Fortress of King Smbat, one of the best-preserved medieval citadels in Armenia, Zorats Cathedral and the Church of St. Catherine with romantic stories attached to its history. Overnight: Hotel in Vayk. Includes: (B).

Day 8: Tatev Monastery and Southern Armenia. A day dedicated to exploration of Southern Armenia combining the magic of Armenia's finest mediaeval architecture with stunning landscapes. The first visit is to Karahunj, Armenia's Stonehenge, an ancient observatory that has caused sensation in astronomical circles. Our next visit is Tatev Monastery, an architectural masterpiece dating from the 10th century. Drive through a narrow ravine so deep that the sun hardly reaches the bottom, later ascend to a high-mountain plateau with striking views of jagged mountains and gorges.

On the way back soar above the gorges in the world's longest aerial tramway, a must-see attraction opened in 2010. The whole journey to Tatev takes 4 hours and is a totally absorbing and unique experience. Transfer to Goris crossing and off to Khndzoresk cave town. Walk down the gorge to explore the mysterious caverns cut in the face of rocks by people seeking refuge from persecution in the natural protection of high cliffs. Drive to Goris surrounded by mountains. Take a stroll in the narrow tree-lined streets and charming old town. Dinner is at your leisure, before you sink into a good night's rest at your hotel. Those taking Karabagh and North-Western Iran extension start their tour next morning after breakfast (see Karabagh and North-Western Iran extensions below). Overnight: Hotel in Goris. Includes: (B).

Day 9: Wine Route, Southern Armenia. After a hearty breakfast consisting of so many fresh and home-made products we leave Goris. Driving back to Yerevan we have the last chance to experience the untamed beauty of Southern Armenia - surreal red rocks providing an eerie echo, honey-coloured villages sandwiched between them. We are in the agricultural heart of Armenia and do not miss the chance to sample some of the fantastic produce: private wine touring in maran (cellars) of a small winery in Aghavnadzor, visit to a cheese farm to see the process of cheese making and taste cheeses at various stages of maturation.

Visit Noravank, the masterpiece of medieval architect Momik situated above an awesome gorge. The next stop of our trip is Khor Virap, the site of royal prison where St. Gregory the Illuminator was held for thirteen years before converting Armenia into the first Christian nation in 301. 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. Back to Yerevan. Overnight: Hotel in Yerevan. Includes: (B).

Day 10: Farewell to Yerevan. Free day on your own for a last chance to enjoy Yerevan. Visit Vernisage, the huge arts & crafts market, the best place in the Caucasus to buy souvenirs. Open only on weekends it is a lot of fun to wonder in. Explore the treasures of the cultural life of Yerevan, ramble in the oldest part of the city or just relax in shady parks or busy outdoor cafes, enjoying the young and lively atmosphere of this ancient city, the contemporary of Babylon and Rome. Overnight: Hotel in Yerevan. Includes: (B).

Note: Extensions of the tour available upon request.

Notes:
Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- Accommodation for 10 nights
- Meals as specified in the itinerary
- Tour leader/driver, local guides
- All activities as per itinerary with all entry fees
- All transfers in comfortable, air-conditioned vehicles
- Welcome to Armenia information kit.

Price Excludes:
- Optional activities.

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