Stonehenge No Longer in England
10 days/ 9 nights
Tour code: 2C/4
Is it hard to believe that Armenian Karahoonge (Stonehenge) is older than
Stonehenge in England?
It has been proved that Karahounge astrological observatory was in active use more than 7,500 years– in the 6th millennium B.C. which means 3,000 years before the Egyptian Pyramids and 3,500 years before the famous Stonehenge in England.
“kar” in Armenian means “stone” and “henge” is a variation of the “hoonch”, meaning sound in Armenian from the word “hnchyun” while “henge” in English has no meaning.
So welcome to the country of
“Speaking Stones” and the country of the oldest civilization.
Day ½: Arrival – Yerevan city tour
Arrival in Zvartnots airport. Meet and greet transfer, accommodation at the hotel. Breakfast at the hotel. City tour around Yerevan. The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC. A little part of the capital city's 3,000-year history has survived: Central Yerevan was once dominated by huge Soviet-style buildings, but now, due to the nowadays active constructions, many modern-style buildings appear and are going to appear. While your tour you will see the Republic Square which is designed in the traditional Armenian architectural style and includes the Government House Republic square, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Post Office, the National Art Gallery. You will also see Opera house, Victory Park with Mother Armenia statue, the Sports and Concert complex, Kievyan Bridge, Baghramyan Avenue, the Presidential Palace, Academy of Sciences, National Parliament, Writers Union and the fruit market. Lunch in a local restaurant. Visit to the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial park and museum of the victims of Genocide. In the second half of the day your main attraction will be Armenian History Museum, here the important archaeological collection from Stone Age through Medieval periods is dark and almost unlabeled, but should not be missed. Welcome dinner and overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Day 3: Yerevan - Khor Virap –Areni village- Noravank –Goris
Sightseeing tour to Khor-Virap monastery 4- 17th cc. 45 km. from Yerevan the monastery of Khor-Virap has a very rich history, both religious and secular. Khor Virap was built in Artashat during the reign of the Arshakids dynasty. At that time it was used as a pit- dungeon for convicts. In the 60s of the 4th century Artashat was ruined by Persian invaders. It is situated in the Ararat valley against the biblical Ararat Mountain, were Noah's arch cast anchor. The importance of it is connected with Gregory the Illuminator, who introduced Christianity to Armenia and is considered to be the first Armenian catholicos. Here you will also have an opportunity to take a lit candle from the pit like His holiness Paul II did while his visit to Khor Virap. Continue tour to Noravank monastery - a great religious and cultural centre of 12th c. On the way visit Areni wine factory to taste local wine made from special sorts of vines. Noravank (“New Monasterey”) is 122 km away from Yerevan and is located in an inaccessible location throughout the stunning nature. The oldest structure of the monastery is the church of St. Karapet (9-10 c) that has not survived. The principal church is known as St. Karapet as well, which was built in the 13th c. The church has an atrium, which was rebuilt by the famous architect and sculptor Momik and is decorated with bas-relives on religious themes. Lunch in a local cave cafe. Drive to Syunik region to the town of Goris. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Goris.
Day 4: Goris – Khndzoresk – Tatev monastery
Start the tour from Goris to explore the city, visiting the exciting Dig Dig stones – natural monument. Nestled in a bowl of green hills and mountains, with interesting formations and many previously inhabited caves in them, Goris has some of the nicest overall Armenian architecture in Armenia. Excursion tour to Khndzoresk which is a cave village and there are many signs of past settlement throughout the valley which are just waiting for discovery. You will see that many of the caves have been carved out by man and they served as houses for people. Continue to explore a monastic complex of Tatev (Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO) which is an architectural masterpiece dating from the 10th century and is often called a monastery built on the edge of nothing. On the way to this monastery there is a strange natural bridge called the Devil’s Bridge. The journey takes about 7 hours and is a totally absorbing and unique experience. Dinner and overnight in Goris.
Day 5: Karahunge -Selim Carvansarai-Noraduz – Lake Sevan
After breakfast start tour to Karahunge (Stonehenge), ancient observatory 6mil B.C. It is located at 1770 m. above sea level and occupies 7 hectares of territory. The monument consists of about 223 basalt slabs of which 84 have 4-5cm long openings in them (which, for Stone Age, have been rendered with incredible smoothness). In 2001 in the vicinity of Karahoonge many rock – paintings were discovered consisting of drawings that represent themselves a great astronomic interest. Drive to Lake Sevan through Selim Pass visiting the caravanserai (XIV c.). The Selim caravanseray was built in 1332 by Prince Chesar Orbelian, according to an inscription in Armenian and Arabic, this used to be an important trade point in the famous Silk Road. Visit also to Noraduz, ancient cemetery with medieval khachkars (cross-stones) dating back to 6th c.. About 70 miles north of Yerevan sits lake Sevan. This huge mountain lake which takes up to 5% of Armenia's surface area and is about 2,000 meters above sea level is one of the highest among the freshwater lakes in the world. Dinner and overnight at the hotel Avan Marak Tsapatagh in Sevan.
Day 6: Sevan – Dilijan-Goshavank - Haghpat – Sanahin Monasteries-Dzoraget
Start tour from Sevan to the North of Armenia through spectacular forested region of Dilijan, where you can walk through a museum street, with the buildings preserved from 19 c. with the ceramics workshop and woodcarvers’ studio. Visiting of Gohsavank complex situated in the woodlands of Dilijan that represents an indescribable example of blend of nature with architecture. It was founded in 11-13 th centuries. Continue tour to the architectural complexes of Sanahin (966 AD) and Haghpat (976 AD) which are among the outstanding works of medieval Armenian architecture and are inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list. The architectural details and decoration of the monuments, which belong to the same epoch, have much in common and are even exactly alike in some cases, which gives us ground to presume that they were created by craftsmen of the same school. Dinner and overnight at the hotel Avan Dzoraget.
Day 7: Dzoraget – Saghmosavank – Amberd fortress - Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory Yervan
Leave Dzoraget and set off to visit Saghmosavank medieval monastery, situated in the breathtaking site, at the deep canyon of Ashtarak. Tour to Fortress of Amberd, 9th century, 6 km from the village of Byurakan, stands halfway up Mt. Aragats, at the height of 2300m. The fortress stands on a rocky cape formed by the rivers Amberd and Arkhashen. There are also vestiges of a fortified three-storied palace, a church built in 1026, a palace bathhouse with two domes, a central heating system, water tanks, a water-supply system, and a secret passage to a nearby cleft, and other buildings. Drive to Byurakan village where the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory is situated. Founded in 1946 by Viktor Ambartsumian, it was one of the main astronomy centers of the USSR. The observatory has discovered special star clusters and hundreds of galaxies. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the observatory fell into hard times. It has been the site of two major conferences on SETI, and is recognized as the regional center for astronomical research. Return to Yerevan. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Day 8: Etchmiadzin – Zvartnots - Vernissage
After breakfast at the hotel departure to Echmiadzin which is mere 20 km from Yerevan. On the way visit to St Hripsime church which is considered to be one of the 7 wonders of Armenia. Etchmiadzin Cathedral is known as the center of the Armenian - Gregorian Church and appears to be one of the world's first Christian churches. Legend has it that it was here that Jesus Christ descended from heaven to show were he wanted a church built. So Echmiadzin means “The only-begotten descended”. The Church was built between the years 301 - 303 AD under the Armenian king Tiridates III and the first Armenian Catholicos, St. Gregory the Illuminator. Return to Yerevan with stop at the ruins of Zvartnots temple - the pearl of the 7th c. architecture(inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list). Lunch in a national restaurant in Yerevan city. Visit open air market Vernissage that bustles with hundreds of vendors selling a variety of crafts on weekends. The market offers woodcarving, antiques, fine lace, and the hand-knotted wool carpets and kilims that are a Caucasus specialty. Optional visit to Yerevan Brandy Factory. Dinner in a national restaurant and overnight at Yerevan.
Day 9: Matenadaran - Garni – Geghard
Visit to the depositary of ancient manuscripts the Matenadaran which contains historical documents from all over Europe and Asia throughout many centuries. There is also the first copy of the Bible in Armenian and the Gospels that fascinate with their beautiful miniatures. Departure to Garni Temple. The citadel and pagan temple of Garni is a picturesque monument of the Hellenistic period and an impressive piece of ancient Armenian architecture. It was built in the first century A.D. by the Armenian King Tiridates and it is dedicated to a heathen god, probably to Mithra, the god of the sun whose figure stood in the depth of the sanctuary. After proclaiming Christianity as a state religion in Armenia in 301, the temple was probably used as a summer residence of the kings. Lunch at a local house in Garni where you will have opportunity to watch Armenian national bread “lavash” baking and barbeque making process in the underground stove called “tonir”. Northeast of Garni, higher up the gorge of the Azat river, there is a magnificent monument of medieval Armenian architecture - Geghard monastery inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list. Geghard is another incredible ancient Armenian monastery, partly carved out of a mountain. The meaning "the Monastery of the Spear", originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus during his crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now the historical spear is displayed in the Etchmiadzin treasury. Though the monastery of Gueghard was around before the 4th century, the main cathedral was built in 1215. The entrance of the compound is surrounded by high walls on three sides and mountain on the other. Outside the monastery complex there are some caves which have a bunch of little cave rooms and are quite interesting. Return back. Farewell dinner and overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Day 10 : Departure
Transfer to the hotel and departure home