Yeghegnadzor is a town in Southern Armenia. This small city is a good spot from which to explore the surrounding sites for a few days, and in a fantastic area for hiking and spelunking.
The city is right by the main north-south highway and has comfortable accommodations and is a very typical town in Armenia for those who want an experience outside of Yerevan. Things to see in the area include the Areni wine country, the spectacular canyon and monastery in Noravank, the impressive Smbatabert Fortress/Tsakhats Kar Monastery area, the old Silk Road caravanserai of Selim, sitting on top of the world, lot of other monuments and a number of caves and cavern systems.
The name Yeghegnadzor consists of two Armenian words: yegheg (Armenian: եղեգ) meaning cane, and dzor (Armenian: ձոր) meaning valley. Thus, the name of the town means "valley of canes".
The settlement was first mentioned as Pondzatagh during the 5th century, however the had been settled long before this. The remains of the Urartian fortress near the town dates back to the 7th century BC.
During the Middle Ages, the Silk Road passed through the area. Part of it still links the town of Martuni with Yeghegnadzor. Many significant churches, monastic complexes, bridges and caravanserais were built in the region between the 10th and 13th centuries, when Yeghegnadzor was part of the Kingdom of Syunik under the rule of the Siunia dynasty.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Eastern Armenia fell under the Safavid Persian rule. Between the 16th and 17th centuries the region was a frequent battlefield between Turkic and Iranian tribes. As a result, many significant monuments and prosperous villages were destroyed and the population was displaced. In 1747, Yeghegnadzor became part of the newly-formed Nakhichevan Khanate. By the beginning of the 19th century, Yeghgnadzor was known as Keshishkend.
Following the end of the Russo-Persian War of 1826–28, it became became part of the Russian Empire. Between 1918 and 1920 it was part of short-lived Republic of Armenia. After the Sovietization of Armenia, the town became one of the predominant centres of the resistance against the Soviet rule and formed the unrecognized Republic of Mountainous Armenia. However, after falling to the Bolsheviks in July 1921, it became part of the Armenian SSR.
The town was known as Keshishkend until 1935 when it was renamed Mikoyan after the Bolshevik leader Anastas Mikoyan. On 6 December 1956, the town was renamed Yeghegnadzor, restoring its historical name.
During the Soviet period, Yeghegnadzor was one of the industrial centres of the Armenian SSR, but today the economy of the town is based on the construction sector and food-processing industry.
Yeghegnadzor straddles both banks of the Gladzor River, a tributary of the Arpa River, by the main north-south highway. Located at 1,194 metres above sea level, the surrounding the lower and medium highlands are mainly semi-deserts. The town is immediately bordered by the village of Gladzor to the north.
The town has a hot-summer humid continental climate with average annual rainfalls of 400 mm and mountain-valley winds. The average air temperature in January is 5-6°C, with a coldest temperature of -22°C and highest of +35°C in July. The climate is mild with snowy winters and warm summers.
All transport heading north or south in the region passes by Yeghegnadzor on the main highway.
Marshrutka and share taxis from Yerevan to Yeghegnadzor leave between 08:00 and 18:00 from a street close to the Gortsaranayin metro station. If you’re coming from the Yerevan city centre, it’s one stop beyond Sasuntsi David, the metro station for the main train station.
Once you get off at Gortsaranayin, exit the metro and head right. Continue walking straight ahead along the road pictured below until you hit a roundabout. Once there, go left across the street, and you should see some marshrutkas lined up across the street. There is a cafe and several small convenience store stalls here as well. You’ll most likely have drivers asking you if you’re looking for Yeghegnadzor once you’re in the area. Marshrutkas typically leave every hour, but it’s more likely they leave once mostly full. It is best to get there before 11:00, otherwise there may not be more.
The ride should cost you 1,200 dram and take 1½-2 hr.
Buses and marshrutkas to other destinations in the south of Armenia (such as Goris or Stepanakert), depart from a bus station on Sevan St adjacent to Yerevan's Sasuntsi Davit metro station. These will have to pass Yeghegnadzor, and some may be willing to drop you off for the normal fare to Yeghegnadzor or for an extra 200 to 300 dram, instead of paying the full fare to the ultimate destination.
In Yeghegnadzor, marshrutka to Yerevan (1,200 dram) leave when full from by the triangular intersection of Mikoyan Street (H47) with the main highway. There is a bus station 100 m away on Mikoyan Street but it is not used by the marshrutkas.
Marshrutkas heading from Yeghegnadzor to southern destinations such as (Goris) operate from the main highway on the other side from its intersection with Mikoyan Street (H47). There are often a couple of people standing and waiting, and some taxi drivers as well.
Marshrutkas to Goris, Stepanakert and Meghri will start driving past Yeghegnadzor around 09:30 each day. There will be several marshrutkas each hour 10:00-13:00. After 13:00, things slow down. There likely won’t be any more marshrutkas after 14:00.
When you see a marshrutka coming, flag it down and ask if it is going in your direction. Do not be disheartened if they do not stop—it is because they do not have enough space.
Make sure to show up a little early to ensure you have time to catch one that still has space. The earlier, the better. A marshrutka from Yeghegnadzor to Goris will cost 2,500 dram. The journey is approximately 2 hr.
The M-2 Motorway that connects Armenia from north to south, passes through the town. On the other hand, Yeghegnadzor is domestically connected with other parts of Vayots Dzor through the H-40 and H-47 Roads.
It is a 1½-hr drive from Yerevan.
A private taxi is 100 dram/km. Taxis charge 12-15,000 dram to Tatev or Goris.
Walking around much of Yeghegnadzor is nice, as is hiking to some of the closer sights.
Marshrutka and shared taxis from local village destinations arrive at the bus and taxi stop in Yeghegnadzor at the top end of Narekatsky St in the morning, carrying people from the region who work in town. They return to their destinations in the late afternoon.
Hourly marshrutkas to Vayk (200 dram) and one 14:00 bus to Jermuk (700 dram) also depart from by the intersection of Mikoyan Street (H47) with the main highway.
A car or taxi to further afield sites is quite helpful however.
Taxis can be found by the intersection of Mikoyan Street (H47) with the main highway. A taxi from the main entrance to the guesthouse area (in the northwestern part of the town) should cost about 500 dram.
Taxis cost 3,000 dram one way, 5,000 dram wait and return to Noravank; 7,000 dram to Yeghegis, 12,000 dram to Jermuk, 1,000-2,000 dram to Shatin or Vernashen.
Many car owners act as taxi drivers and make a nice conversation.
There is only one main highway running to the south of Armenia so it is not a problem to try and hitchhike. Armenians outside of Yerevan are very friendly. If you try to hitch stand on the side of the road a little outside of town on the highway leading to Yeghegnadzor and hold out your hand. Do not be surprised if they driver who picks you up invites you to his home for horovats (Armenian BBQ).
- 1 Areni Wine Country. Just a couple of villages from Yeghegnadzor is Areni, famous for its wine from grapes of the same name. Nice setting and village, with a couple of the wineries in the area offering tastings.
- 2 Arjeri and Mozrov Caves. These rough caves, found very close to one another, were mapped during Soviet times, but there are no markers, no lights, no facilities, no decent road to them. Not many people know them well either, so finding a guide may be tough, but definitely necessary. Mozrov is only 700 m long, but has the nicer formations. Arjeri cave, meaning bears cave, is a very extensive cave system, with some good formations, small pools of water, and both have bats.
- 3 Gladzor University Ruins and Tanahat Monastery. Another good day hike from Yeghegnadzor, these adjacent sites are easy to find by following the road up past Vernishen village.
- 4 Noravank Monastery (There is no public transport to Noravank. Marshrutkas between Yerevan and Yeghegnadzor (or points further south) can drop you at the turn-off on the highway. From here, a 7.5 km long paved road leads to the monastery, which you should be able to hitchhike. Or hitchhike the whole way. You can also visit it on a travel-agency organized day tour from Yerevan (117 km, 90 min by road) or by taxi from Yeghegnadzor (21.5 km, 20-min by road). Expect a return taxi from Yeghegnadzor (including waiting) to cost 5,000 dram. Parking costs 200 dram.). 07:00-21:00. Hands down the most popular site in the area, this monastery of stunning beauty is in an equally stunning canyon setting. The brick-red cliffs opposite the beige stones of the monastery offer an unforgettable contrast, as does the climb up the stone steps jutting out of one of the churches, to a second story church on top of the one on the first story. The carvings are also very worthwhile, and the monastery has excellent facilities (and maybe food) for visitors as well.
On site there is also a museum (500 dram), a gift shop and a restaurant (which is open from 09:00 to 21:00).
- 5 Selim Caravanserai. If you want to see where silk road traders laid their weary heads a thousand years ago, head up the winding road to Selim Caravanserai. You can see the entrance/bar area, and the large cavernous room the guests would share with each other, and their animals. The room has convenient troughs for the animals to eat and drink from!
- 6 Smbataberd Fortress. A serious natural fortification with a serious fortress on top. This narrow sheer cape is capped with one of Armenia's biggest fortresses. The views of the valley's are impressive and the sheer drop a bit scary. Impossible to imagine this fortress ever being taken by force.
- 7 Spitakavor Monastery and Boloraberd Fortress. These two sites are quite close to each other, and a great day hike from Yeghegnadzor. A local guide, topographic maps or a GPS might be handy, but these very off-road sites (also accessible by car, preferably 4x4) are rarely visited.
- 8 Tsakhats Kar Monastery. Up in the mountains is the Monastery of Tsakhats Kar. A nice hike from the village below, or an offroad drive for those with a serious 4x4. Time seems to have forgotten this place, but you need not. It's across from Smbataberd (see below), and together they make a great outing.
- 9 Yeghegis Village sites. This village, in a beautiful site in the canyon below Smbataberd (which may be better accessed from the opposite side of the canyon), has the very unusual triangular shaped Zorats Church, where the congregation is meant to stand outdoors. It also has another nice small church and much rougher one, and ancient Jewish cemetery across the river below, and don't be surprised to stumble upon women baking lavash in the traditional underground tonir over!
Smaller sites if you have the time or are in the area.
- 10 Areni Church. Overlooking the village, this nearly thousand-year-old small church has been immaculately restored.
- Arkazi S. Khach Church (Very near Tanahati Monastery). Plain church said to have a piece of the true cross buried in its walls.
- Horadis Church.
- Jrovank. A small cave with water seeping through and a little chapel set up inside.
- Khotakenats Vank Monastery. An interesting little monastery in Khachik Village, overlooking Nakhichevan.
- Magili Cave. Another cave system, in the canyon leading to Noravank. Deep system, but few formations.
- Martiros rock-cut church. A small and simple church carved into the stone mountain above Martiros Village.
- Moz archaeological site.
- Canyon Loop Tour. Hire a taxi (or drive) for the whole day in a loop, following the river canyons surrounding Yeghegnadzor. Go up the Yeghegis River past Getap, bearing right at Shatin Village (monastery above), and head to Yeghegis (3 churches, ancient Jewish cemetery), continue up to Arates Monastery, then head back down along the Herher River to Herher Village (with the cool S. Sion monastery and fun little Chiki Vank Monastery) before continuing down to the Arpa river and heading north to Yeghegnadzor.
- Wine – This being Armenia's wine country, you can buy wine in huge jugs on the side of the road, or bottles from a winery. You can also buy young wine, which is not very fermented yet, called majar.
- Yeghegnadzor Buried Cheese – This traditional cheese is made nowhere else in the world. Goats milk and herbs are mixed and sealed in a clay pot and buried in the mountains for 6 months, at which point it is salty and sharp. Cheese connoisseurs love this, and you can buy some to take with you.
There is a large food court/buffet restaurant on the northern side of highway about 150 metres to the east from its junction with Momilk St.
There are many barbecue restaurants, many of them with primarily outdoor seating along the highway near Yeghegnadzor, along the Arpa River. In Yeghegnadzor there is a small new restaurant/cafe which opened in 2006 in a central location, with indoor or patio seating.
Wherever you can eat, you can drink in these parts. Drinking means wine, vodka or beer, or homemade liqueurs.
- Remodeled Soviet Hotel. This larger old hotel has been remodeled and is open for business. If you're a very large group, it's your only real choice in town.
- Antoine's Guest House, 11 Khachatryan St (ask any taxi, they know), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Owned by a Canadian-Armenian couple with a very colorful background. Additional email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gohar's Guest House, 44 Spandaryan Street (a little past the football field (skirt around it's left)), ☏ (Armenian), (English), ✉ email@example.com. Extremely comfortable family-run bed & breakfast. The guests have the run of the upstairs, and a very nice garden and outdoor sitting area. Dinner available on request (recommended !!). Free internet. They can organise excursions in the area. The daughter speaks good English. 8,000-10,000 dram per person including breakfast (dinner is extra).
- Gohar's (2) family guesthouse, Spandarian st. 14, Yeghegnadzor, Armenia (From the entrance to town, where the high way meets the city, walk all the way up the hill to the walled football field. Then turn left (don't enter the field area) and walk along the wall till you meet Spandarian St. The house will be on your right.), ☏ . Check-in: Flexible, check-out: Flexible. Goahr's (2) Family guesthouse is a summer house from the previous century and offer rooms and meals for a cheap price. Russian, Armenian, German and partly English spoken staff. Large, wood panaled rooms with large beds and nice views. The price is a bit better that at the other Gohar's up the road, and includes breakfast and perhaps also dinner if you ask nicely but made with food the family grows in their garden. There are two guesthouses with the name "Gohar" on the same road. 7,000 dram.
- Hotel Arpa, 8/1 Narekatsy St, ☏ , . Opened in 2010. Four singles, six doubles/twins and four double business rooms. All the rooms are equipped with satellite TV, telephone, refrigerator with mini bar, wireless internet connection. Here you can also enjoy Armenian and European cousin.
- Noravank B&B (Varazdat & Heghine Ghazarian), ☏ . A cozy family-run guest house near Yeghegnadzor (in the village of Chiva), 12 km away from the Noravank Monastery. It is a very comfortable, clean and quiet place, with 5 fully renovated rooms. The owners tend a vegetable garden, and all meals are fresh and home-made. They are also very kind and serviceable to visitors, and speak some French and Armenian and Russian. The house is about 700 m off the main road.
- Ruzan Karapetyan, Spandaryan nrbantcq 5 (Near the football field), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. An Armenian family with a very nice, large home near the center of Yeghegnadzor that can accommodate up to 7 people. The family knows German, French, Armenian and Russian. They can help organize trips around the area and they are very familiar with the area. Upon request, the family can cook dinner with foods fresh from their garden. Check in and check out times are flexible. 8,000 dram/person.
- Shushan B&B, Andranik 8 (less than 10 minutes walk from where the marshrutkas and taxis operate from on the main highway), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A friendly quiet guesthouse hidden behind a large hedge. Free internet. Shushan who owns the B&B in conjunction with her husband speaks sufficient English to get by, while their young son speaks excellent English. They can provide a home-cooked evening meal at a reasonable price and also offer a taxi service to nearby attractions. 6,000 dram for private room with shared bathroom (breakfast included).
- Terjanian Guest House, 11 Khachatryan St. (at the top of the hill), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with the Terjanians when they're in town. A Canadian-Armenian couple with a nice home and a very colorful background, living in Armenia part to full time for years, who know the town and its residents quite well. They speak English, French and Armenian.
- Goris — the last major town in Armenia for travellers continuing to Nagorno-Karabakh and also entering point to Tatev Monastery.
- Jermuk — spa town where much of the country's mineral water comes from.
- Kapan — not the most interesting town. Vahanavank Monastery is in its close proximity.
- Sisian — good base for visiting Ughtasar mountain and thousands of petroglyphs on top of it.