Stepanavan (Armenian: Ստեփանավան) is a city in Northern Armenia. It is the main city in the large Dzoraget River valley area, which is separated from the rest of Lori by high mountains. It's famous mainly because of the ruins of the walled city of Lori located nearby. There is also a rather big museum of Stepan Shahumyan in town and nice Dendropark 12 km south of town.
The two ways into the Dzoraget river valley region (aside from the Georgian border crossing) are over the mountain from Vanadzor, or through the pass at Dzoraget Village along the Debed River Canyon near Tumanyan.
Minibus/van or taxi from Yerevan or Vanadzor, car rental, or getting a driver are your options for getting transport to this area, aside from hiking or biking in, which are both great options for those with some time (or a bike).
There are 6 buses per day to Yerevan (1,500 dram), 5-7 ones to Vanadzor (400 dram , 40-60 min), one to Tbilisi (3,000 dram), 2 to Alaverdi (600 dram), one to Gyumri (1,200 dram) and number of other buses to local villages nearby (2015). For details see Transportation schedule [dead link].
1 Bus station. It's actually just a square where buses wait for passengers. There is no real station per se where a person can buy tickets. At the same time, there are a few kiosks selling tickets for a long distance buses heading to Russia, e.g. cities of Sochi, Volgograd, Moscow, etc.
Same as the options to get in, with local public transport based out of Stepanavan.
Taxis are ready to deliver you any place you want, some taxi fares: around the town 500 dram, to Lori berd 1,000 dram, to Stepanavan Dendropark - 2,000-2,500 dram return with 1 hr waiting.
- 1 Dzoraget Canyon. A popular recreational destination with some exceptional views over the river and mountains.
- 2 House-museum of Stepan Shahumyan, main square of Stepanavan. Built around Shahumyan family's house. Exhibition is mainly dedicated to the life of Shahumyan, however there are a few interesting findings from Lori berd exhibited as well. Besides, second floor is entirely occupied by local art. 400 dram.
- 3 Stepan Shahumyan Statue. Statue of Stepan Shahumyan flanked by two orange-coloured tufa stone pillars.
- Surp Nshan chapel (Follow Surb Nshan Street, then continue on the small footpath leading uphill). Overlooking the city from the adjacent hill.
- 4 Surp Sarkis Church.
- 5 Communist Caves. Served as a secret meeting place for revolutionary Stepan Shahumyan. No admission fee.
In the vicinity of the town
- 6 Lori Berd Fortress (cross river from main part of town, turn right, go 4.5 km). Once a huge bastion on a piece of land that juts out surrounded by rivers and protected by cliffs. Enough of the walls remain to show what massive fortifications once stood here, and enough of the ceramic underground piping to know they had hot water long before modern times. Entrance free.
- 7 Hnevank Monastery. Very far down the Dzoraget River, approaching where it hits the Debed Canyon, Hnevank is a nice monastery with interesting black and cream stone patterns, which has undergone recent renovations.
- 8 , Gyulagarak Village (12 km from Stepanavan, just outside the village of Gyulagarak, 2,000 dram by taxi from Stepenavan). 11:00 - 19:00. Dendropark is in a surprisingly good shape now. The family caretakers have managed to make a serene landscape here, with interesting plants from different parts of the world. A nice place for walking and relaxing. Founded in 1933 by Polish researcher. There is a restaurant a few hundred metres before the park, there is also a hotel close to the park entrance. Entrance free of charge.
- 9 Kurtan’s village museum, Kurtan village. There is no regular hours of operation, and in order to access it contact information centre in Stepanavan beforehand. Various utilities used in every-day life in 19th century can be see in this museum.
- 10 Sverdlov Village Church, Sverdlov Village (10 km north of Stepanavan). A cute old Russian church.
- 11 Church of St Nicholas, Amrakits village. Russian Church founded in 1846.
- 12 Khuchapi Monastery (12-15 km east northeast of Privolnoye Village). A stunning monastery that is almost impossible to access via Armenia (road goes through Georgia), a hiker could make it to this gorgeous piece of architecture on foot, and would be amply rewarded by the soaring architecture, the stairwells inside the walls, the carvings, the colours of the stone, the setting...
- 13 Khorakert Monastery (5 km east of Khuchapi). If you make it as far as Khuchapi, you'd be crazy not to continue your hike to Khorakert, a beautiful monastery in a lush forest setting, with a masterpiece of a cupola unique to Armenian architecture.
- 14 Kuybishev Lake, near Stepanavan. Hidden in the heart of Lori's alpine meadows. The lake is covered with lilies and bulrushes.
This is a hiking, biking, camping wonderland, as there are no fences, few cars, lots of back roads and trails, and very friendly people.
- Rafting. Dzoraget River is the only Armenian river suitable for rafting. The commonest rafting route begins at the Dzoraget bridge, near the town of Stepanavan. Rafting on the river is concentrated in the Dzoraget Canyon, which is in some places as deep as 300 metres
- 1 Cafe Park, intersection of Sayat Nova and Milion St. The park where all the cafes are, where people go to see and be seen, to drink, to eat sunflower seeds and enjoy good weather.
- 2 Central Square fountains. They turn on them every day from 19:00 to 22:00, and accompaned by loud music. This is the time and place when all locals met.
There are a few places to eat in Stepanavan, some barbecue restaurants on some of the highways and food at some of the hotel/resorts (e.g. SH Resort, Anahit Holiday Hotel).
- Kilikia Bar. Khorovats, beer, friendly, cheap, soviet atmosphere.
- Market Restaurant, Njhdeh St. Traditional Armenian fare, khorovats, central, often scene of parties and weddings.
- 1 Carahunge, Milion Street, ☎ . Beautiful mountain chalet style cafe with great food options and drinks.
Drinks are found where food is served, plus a few cafes in the summer in Stepanavan.
- 1 MM Hotel, 9 Garegin Njedh str. (town's central square, in the building of VTB bank), ☎ , . Nice 2 room suites with TV, fridge, WiFi. They allow to cook in their kitchen, use kitchenware. Double 12,000 dram incl. breakfast.
- 2 Lori Hotel, 11 Garegin Njdeh str. (town's central square), ☎ , . Amenities: hot/cold water, TV, fridge. Some rooms are good with balconies, some are very basic. On-site gym & swimming pool. Single 10,000 dram, double 12,000 dram, triple 15,000 dram, incl. breakfast.
- 3 SH Resort, 145 M.Baghramyan st., ☎ , . Single 14,000 dram, double 18,000 dram.
- 4 Vahagn Resort, 55 Antarayin Str., ☎ , . The hotel has swimming pool, table tennis, billiard, childrens’ playground. Rooms come with TV and free WiFi. Double 24,000 dram.
- 5 Anahit Holiday Hotel, 1 Antarayin Str., ☎ , , . Simple rooms although having one big advantage: located in a forest. Amenities: Hot, cold water, bathing facilities, TV set, phone. Facilities include tennis, billiards, swimming pool, playground. Rooms 7,500 dram per/person (3, 4, 5 places. Restroom, TV, cold water, balcony) 8,500 dram. Cottages 12,000 dram per/ person (3,4 person 2 bedrooms) cold, hot water, refrigerator, bath, restroom) 10,000 dram. Catering – full board meal.
- 6 Lori berd Cottages, 22 Avetisyan str., ☎ , . 8,000 dram per person.
- 7 Laura's B&B, 14/8 Ruminakan st. (Across the bridge), ☎ . Great place to feel the Armenian hospitality, get information about the whole area, enjoy the fresh air, scenic views of the mountains and still be close from the city centre and Lori Fortress. Dinner can also be provided upon request. Tours can be organized if requested in advance. 7,000 dram per person, breakfast included.
- 8 Ruzanna's B&B, 9 Milioni str., ☎ . House has two rooms available with a balcony and a small garden. 7,000 dram per person, breakfast included.
Out of town
- 9 Sochut Resort, next to Stepanavan Dedropark entrance, ☎ . Bar, billiard, sauna, Double from 25,000 dram incl. full board.
- 10 Paradise Motel (Draght), Amrakits Village, ☎ , , , . Amenities: cold, hot water, TV. Restaurant, sauna, billiards, tennis, a small lake for fishing. 5,000 dram per/person (meal is not included).
- 2 [dead link] Tourist information office (central city square). 10:00 - 20:00. Friendly English-speaking staff can help with accommodations and trip itenaries. Although it was closed in July 2015.
- Alaverdi - the town itself has little to offer of historic value, but there several beautiful monasteries in the vicinity of it: Sanahin Monastery, Haghpat Monastery
- Gyumri - Armenia's 2nd largest city which once dwarfed Yerevan. Small old town area still shows earthquake damage from 1988.
- Vanadzor - Armenia's 3rd largest city with Soviet industrial architecture, although it has a few nice churches