Alaverdi (Armenian: Ալավերդի) is a city in Northern Armenia. The largest city in the Debed Canyon of Lori, an area rich with historical monuments and natural beauty, Alaverdi is your best bet for refueling, getting supplies or finding other things you'd expect in a town. The town itself has little to offer of historic value, save for the beautiful old foot bridge, since it was built as a mining town, a fact which you won't be able to miss as you go past the massive mining works. The mine once wreaked massive environmental damage, which stopped for a while with the collapse of the USSR, but now it has restarted, albeit on a much smaller scale. You can drive to the Sarahart suburb, which is on top of the canyon cliffs, or you can walk up the ancient foot path which is past the bridge. The funnest, and perhaps most dangerous option though is the funicular, which takes the miners to and from work. Sarahart is adjacent to Sanahin Village, with the famous monastery, and the museum to the Migoyan brothers, with their extraordinary accomplishments of worldwide significance.
Although accommodation options are somewhat limited, making the decision to stay a few nights in the area will allow you to much better appreciate and explore what Armenia has to offer, without sitting in a car all day back and forth from Yerevan.
- 1 Bus station.
There are taxis and transport to other parts of the country as well.
- 2 Train Station.
The town is built along the Debed River, with some suburbs above including Sanahin and Sarahart which are accessible by road or cable car.
There is funicular from Alaverdi centre to Sanahin suburb.
Usefull marshrutka routes:
- Marshrutka #3 runs from the train station through the entire city along the Debed River.
- Marshrutka #5 - from the bus and train stations to Sanahin suburb (every 15-30 min, 100 dram).
- Marshrutka #063 - from Alaverdi to Haghpat
To get to Odzun catch a bus going to Vanadzor (every round hour) or hire a taxi for 1,500 dram.
Also it's possible to charter a taxi to Haghpat Monastery and Akhtala Monastery together for 5,000 dram. Or to Odzun church and Kobair Monastery together for 5,000 dram.
- 1 12th-century bridge of Sanahin. From this bridge you can walk up to the top of the canyon and further to Sanahin monastery.
- Church of Saint Gregory of Narek (Narekatsi church) (By the post office near the bottom of the cable car.). New town church completed in 2001.
Sanahin and Haghpat
- 2 Sanahin Monastery, Sanahin Village (Above Alaverdi in Sanahin Village, take marshrutni #3 from Alaverdi). UNESCO World Heritage site, and for good reason. This wonderland of incredibly well preserved Armenian architecture has stood for almost a thousand years, with little change. You can sense how the place must have buzzed with activity. Sayat Nova, the famous bard, used to sing here.
- 3 Museum to the Migoyan brothers (downhill from Sanahin monastery). Artyom Migoyan the famous aeronautical engineer, designer of the MIG fighter series, while his brother become Premier of the USSR. 200 dram.
- 4 Kayan Berd (between Haghpat and Sanahin, follow the road to Akner N of Sanahin and then take small trail to the fortress). Ruins of a small black fortress built in 1233.
- 5 Haghpat Monastery, Haghpat Village (6 km north of Alaverdi). Part of the same UNESCO site as Sanahin, you'll have a hard time choosing a favourite. The labyrinth of passages, chambers, khachkars and views will leave you wondering how this masterpiece was built.
One of the oldest and famous villages in Armenia. It boasts of the basilica church with its ethnographic museum, as well as Karasun Mankats church (12th century) and “Sirun Khach” cross stone. In the village cemetery there are lots of other cross stones, memorials and ruins of a small 7th-century basilica church.
- 6 St Grigori Monastery, south of Tumanyan town, 2 km north of Dsegh village. Surp Grigori can be accessed from the highway below it (this trail starts at confluence of Debed and Marts rivers), or from the fields above the cliffs. The hike is a little longer from below, but the road is much better, shorter and easier to find. This one has much more of the lost to time feeling, and due to the hike, and the very few that venture out here, you'll likely have it to yourself. If it weren't for the graffiti, the feeling you just discovered beautiful ruins in the jungle would be hard to shake.
- 7 Tumanyan’s house-museum. Dsegh is birthplace of Armenian writer Hovhannes Tumanyan’s (1869-1923) and this museum is devoted to him.
- 8 Odzun Basilica Church, Odzun Village (8 km southwest of Alaverdi). A huge basilica, which has withstood the tests of time for 1,300 years, the church in Odzun is a beauty. There is an interest memorial on the site with carvings telling a story, and a large village surrounds the church.
- 9 Horomayri Monastery, near Odzun (this is an incredibly well-camouflaged monastery on the slope of the cliffs, just 1 km south of Odzun. To get there, climbing up from the highway along the Debed River is probably quickest, but hiking south across the cliffs from the last switchback to Odzun is easy as well. The tough and quick way is descending the cliffs from 1 km south of Odzun). The monastery is built in part at the top of the cliff, in part halfway down. At the top, there is a three-chambered chapel. Below, the walls of the canyon form one of the four walls of the structures. There are caves within the monastic complex, khachkars and carvings. St Mark's Church was built by the Princes Zakare and Ivane Zakarian in 1187. The other buildings were built by Abbot Samuel in 1206.
- 10 Ardvi Monastery (St Hovhannes Monastery), Ardvi Village (5-6 km from Odzun village, 9 km from Alaverdi). Monastery built in 8th-17th centuries consists of two small churches and a belfry surrounded by low-height walls. There is also a tetrahedral monument, khachkars (cross stones) and ruins of dwellings.
- 11 Kobayr Monastery, Kober Village (12 km south of Alaverdi). The partially collapsed church once had magnificently exposed frescoes - which are now being covered again as the complex is restored. The setting is really nice, as are the views. Well worth the 15-minute walk up the slippery wet slopes of the canyon.
North of town
- 12 Akhtala Monastery, Akhtala Village (20 km northeast of Alaverdi). This beautiful fortified monastery has exquisite frescoes, large fortifications, great carvings and interesting ruins. Not many visit it yet, but that will likely change in time.
- 13 Khorakert Monastery, Jiliza Village. A long, hard trek from Alaverdi, over a mountain dirt road, the peak of Mt. Lalvar, and hitting the Georgian border, this monastery is has a very cool cupola unique to Armenian architecture in a lush forest - few makes it this far.
- 14 Khuchapi Monastery. If you make it to Khorakert, you should be able to make it to this soaring, majestic and lost work of architecture, further along the border.
Hike, bike, climb, camp, 4x4, photography...
- Hike from Sanahin and Haghpat. Get the free app maps.me (navigation works offline) and follow any of the paths from one monastry to the other. The shortest trail with least distance on paved roads is 6 km and takes about 2 hours. It takes you through the steep gorges, a small mountain river and the village Akner.
The biggest market (shuka) between Vanadzor and Georgia is here, but don't expect too much from the selection local produce and cheap imports dominate the market.
If you are arriving from Georgia directly, exchanging money or finding an ATM might be an issue. In Sanahin village, there is no ATM, but one shop at the main square next to Sanahin Bridge exchanges money (at a poor rate). Down in Alaverdi seems to be a bank. However, US dollars and euros seem to be accepted also by hotels.
There are a couple of places to eat in Alaverdi, plus almost all hotels and B&Bs have their own restaurants.
- 1 Restaurant (reached by crossing the highway bridge towards Sanahin, but turning left after the bridge rather than right, and driving to the end of the short road.). Meal sets which includes soup, kebab, salad, etc., for 2,600-3,100 dram.
- 2 Tavern (A few kilometres before Alaverdi on main the road, before turning to Haghpat). Fully-functioning restaurant.
- A few cafes near 12th-century bridge of Sanahin serving some simple snacks. Nice views over the river. Cheap: coffee is 200 dram.
- Barbecue resturants along the highway.
- Sanahin bridge Hotel has a lounge bar.
There are not so many hotels inside the city (just one, Lalvar Hotel) all the rest lie in nearby villages and suburbs, however getting there is quite easy as there are lots of public marshrutkas plying the area.
- 1 Lalvar Hotel, Engelsa st., 5. 20,000 dram double room, 16,000 dram deluxe.
- 2 B&B Iris (Irena Israyelyan), Baghramyan st. 65 (3 km east of town, marshrutka #3 will get you there), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Friendly, family-run B&B. Comfortable, clean but smallish rooms with shared bathrooms. It is also possible to camp. The owners can help arranging transport (mashrutka to Tbilisi 4,000 dram, private taxi to Tbilisi 20,000 dram), and they also organise dinners parties gathering all guests together. Nice setting and fantastic views over the river. Excellent meals. Can be a bit noisy. Double room 15,000-20,000 dram; lunch 3,000 dram, dinner 4,000 dram.
- 3 Parisis B&B, Jravazan st. 2 (city centre of town, next to Alaverdi hospital), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Parisis B&B is in the ccentre of Alaverdi, in residential building (apartments). Historical sights, such as Haghpat, Sanahin, Akhtala, Odzun, Ardvi and Kobayr are easily accessible by public transport. Free WiFi is provided in all areas. The bed and breakfast has a sun terrace and views of the mountains. You will find a shared kitchen and 24-hour reception at the property. Alaverdi Central station is located within a 2-minute walk from the property. Next to Parisis B&B are located Alaverdi Hospital, VTB and Ardshin banks and also ATM. From street side, take the last entrance. Single room 7,000, Double room 12,000 dram, lunch 2500 dram, dinner 3000 dram.
- 4 Anna Maria Hotel, ☎ . Simple hotel run by friendly owner. It occupies the first floor of a 5-storey building. A bit rundown from the outside and very cheap. Inside simple rooms, a common dining room. Dinner and breakfast in vast amounts for 3500 dram. Beware there are no radiators inside, so in winter the rooms get cold and only electric portable heaters heat the air in the rooms. Free WiFi included. 5000 dram.
- 5 Sanahin Bridge. A hotel with lounge bar opened in 2014. Modern design. Only 4 rooms. Charming lobby. Extremely nice personnel. WiFi. 20,000 dram double room.
There are several B&Bs scattered around the village, including: Odzun B&B, ☎ . 8,000 dram per person. , Vahagn Davtyan B&B, ☎ . 8,000 dram per person. , Alvard Nersisyan B&B, ☎ . double room 12,000-15,000 dram. , Amalya Nalbandyan B&B, ☎ . 6,000-7,000 dram per person. .
- 6 Odzun Hotel, Odzun Village (Above the village 2 km away from it, past the cemetery), ☎ . A Soviet rest house built in 1971 that has been renovated. Offers large modern rooms and cottages. Open-air swimming pool, billiards, tennis, volleyball and football fields, children playground. For some it's proven to be a very cheap and convenient spot to rest, with breakfast included. Surrounding forest and splendid views over the mountains worth a visit on its own. Transfer from the city is free of charge. Single 8,000 dram, double 12,000-16,000 dram, also serve food for 2,000 dram set meal for 2 person.
- 7 Flora Simonyan B&B (Right next to the parking lot of Haghpat Monastery), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Family run place with simple but quite decent rooms. Can prepare some meals. 10,000 dram per person without meals.
- 8 Gayane Hotel, ☎ . Quite good rooms. Nice owners. Fantastic view of Debed river canyon, 5-10 min walk from Haghpat monastery. There is also a restaurant with delicious national food very moderately priced. Single 8,000 dram, double 16,000 dram.
- Hotel "Qefilyan" (outside the village, 20 minutes walk to Haghpat monastery), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: Single 15,000 dram, double 22,000 dram, triple 27,000 dram. Clean hotel surrounded by nature, with beautiful views. Restaurant.
- Aleksan Qocharyan B&B, ☎ . Shared facilities: kitchen, washing machine, tea/coffee maker. 8,000 dram per person.
- Karo Yerznkyan B&B. Double 10,000 dram, meal 3,000-4,000 dram per person.
- 9 Eteri Guesthouse, ☎ . A few new rooms. If you need to find an owner, she works in Akhtala monastery. 3,000 dram per person.
- 10 Guest House Artemi, Tumanyan st. 2 build. 5, Tʼumanyan village (14 km from Alaverdi). Nice modern rooms in a private house 20,000 dram.
- Anoush Hotel, Vanadzor-Alaverdi Highway, 21st km, ☎ , , . A beautiful little complex, started as a barbecue restaurant, it quickly became a dependable fixture of the area. Right by the highway and overlooking the Debed River and the forests beyond, the building is built in the traditional local style and is a fun place to watch life go by in this region.
- Lori Rest House (From Vanadzor 16th km to Alaverdi turns right), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cold water, toilet, bathroom and hot water in some rooms. Satellite TV set, telephone in the lobby. FB meal is included in the price. Playground, parking lot, café, shop. Café, tennis, billiard, football, volleyball 6,000-10,000 dram per person. Discounts for children. Cash only.
- 11 Tufenkian Dzoraget, Dzoraget Village, Vanadzor-Alaverdi Highway (Big new basalt hotel, across river from highway, 19 km from Alaverdi). Luxury western hotel, with excellent comfortable rooms, design, views. Luxury prices as well. There is also a restaurant with a full (and expensive) menu. 54,000 dram.
Internet can be found in most of the hotels and B&Bs. Otherwise use mobile 3G which signal is quite good here.
There are 2 mobile operator stores in town, VivaCell MTS and Ucom, both located near the bus station. Beeline sim cards can be bought from the grocery store nearby.
- Noyemberyan (NE 52 km)
- Stepanavan (W 50 km) - town famous mainly because of the ruins of the walled city of Lori nearby
- Tbilisi, Georgia (N 120 km) - Georgian capital
- Vanadzor (S 50 km) - Armenia's 3rd largest city.