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Exploring the Aragatsotn Province

Exploring the Aragatsotn Province

Armenia is referred as a mountainous country for most of the people, and the Aragatsotn province is a great example proving it.

The Aragatsotn Province back in the days had an important role in international trade affairs. It was located on the network of routes on Armenia’s Silk Road. Noteworthy to say that the province is a home to the country’s tallest mountain, Aragats, a four peaked extinct volcano of 4090 meters. However, the province has certainly a lot to offer both for nature and history and archaeology lovers.

Catch the best destinations worth to visit in Aragatsotn:

The city of Aparan, located on the Yerevan-Spitak highway, is one of the prominent cities in Aragatsotn. There are several eye-catching sites here that visitors should check out when passing through.
One of them is the Kasagh Basilica (also called as the St. Khach), built in the late 4th century, it is one of the fewest basilic churches in Armenia and a great place for a religious tour. Next must-visit in the town of Aparan is the “Renaissance” monument, consisting of three separate monuments built in memory of the Armenian Genocide, the heroic battle of Aparan (May 21 of 1918), and of the victims of World War II (1939-1945).

The city of Ashtarak is considered to be the capital of the Aragatsontn province. It is located on the bank of the Kasagh River at an altitude of 1100 meters above sea level. For those of you who aren’t aware, the town of Ashtarak is a home to 7th century renowned twin churches of Spitakavor and Karmravor. Another must see place in the town is the Kasagh three-arched, stone-built bridge of 1664 right on the Kasagh river. Noteworthy to say that Kasagh along with Talin was often mentioned as Casala, (the Hellenized version of Kasagh), and Talina (now Talin) by Ptolemy, during the reign of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, back in the 12 CE.

On the southwest of the town of Ashtarak, there is a major village of Oshakan, also worth to pay a visit. It is known as the site of the grave of Mesrop Mashtots (buried in 443), who was the creator of the Armenian alphabet. Another very interesting site in Oshakan, especially for archeologists and historians, is the hill of “Didi Cond.” Which is a home to dozens of mausoleums and monuments. One of them is a 0.25-hectare fortress dating back to the 6th-5th centuries BC.

Beside the cultural tours the town offers wide range of a recreation tour right in the stunning Kasagh Gorge.

Right on the edge of the Kasagh Gorge, in the village of Saghmosavan, you can see an astonishing monastic complex of Saghmosavank or Psalm Monastery of 13th century. Most of the monasteries in Armenia used to have academic schools, the Saghmosavank is not an exception here as well. Another prominent spot in the Aragatsotn is the Hovhannavank Monastery of 13th century. The Hovhannavank and Saghmosavank monasteries are situated within walking distance from each other, hence you can easily make a day trip out of this.

Another spectacular place to give a visit is the Mount Aragats, which is one of the most iconic mountains not only in the Aragatsotn region but in all of Armenia and the Caucasus. The mountain is easily noticeable due to its four peaks. We are happy to announce that the Mt Aragast is not only a favorable hiking location but also an entire archeological site.  Here, right in the slopes of the Mount you can find a 4th century Arsacid (Arshakuni) dynasty’s mausoleum, which was originally transferred from the Ani-Kamakh by Vassak Mamikonian who was the supreme commander of the armed forces in ancient and medieval Armenia.  Near the royal mausoleum you can find a church constructed adjacent to the site in the late 4th – early 5th centuries,

Amberd Fortress located right in the slopes of the Mt Aragats, is one of the most iconic and underrated historic attractions in Armenia. Translated to “fortress in the clouds,” Amberd Fortress is a 10th-century fortress located at an altitude of 2,300 meters above sea level. According to some sources, the Amberd Fortress was a holiday residence for the Armenian monarchs. Even though the fortress was captured and destroyed by the Mongols in 1236. It was left untouched until the 20th century when it was reconstructed. Now the Amberd fortress greets its visitors with all its glory. Near the fortress you can find the Vahramashen Church, built in 1029 by the Prince Vahram Pahlavuni.

Another must-visit place for a nature lover is the Gegharot waterfall, which may be one of the most underrated spots of Aragatsotn. It’s located about 12 km away from Aragats village.

Another perfect spot especially for archaeologies is the town of Talin, it is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the region. It was inhabited back in the 2nd century BC. The renowned Talin Cathedral of 7th century is also situated there. It is considered to be one of the most typical examples of Armenian church architecture from the early Christian period. However, noteworthy to mention that the dome has collapsed and the cathedral is inactive. Beside the cathedral and archaeological sites, Talin has a Political Café, so make sure to spend your time there.

There is no trip to the Aragatsotn province without visiting the Armenian Alphabet Monument, a monumental tribute to every Armenia letter. It is one of the most visited places in Armenia, and you can see both locals and tourists walking around, finding the letter that corresponds with the first letter of their name, and taking pictures of it.

The Aragatsotn province is not only a perfect location for history and nature lover, but it also an excellent spot for astronomers and overall astronomy fanatics, since the main astrophysical observatory of the country, Byurakan built during the Soviet period (1946) is located right in this province. Aside from scientific study, the observatory engages in educational activities by hosting amateur tours and lectures.

Beside the Byurakan observatory you can easily find the Radio Optical Observatory ROT-54 (also known as Orgov Radio-Optical Telescope), which is a huge aantenna and radio receiver that detects radio waves from astronomical radio sources and is mostly utilized in radio astronomy.  It is located at the RRI Aragats Scientific Center in the town of Orgov in Aragatsotn.

The Aragatsotn Province is a home to number of water resources. One of the most underrated of them is the Aparan Reservoir, which is an artificial reservoir. Nearby, you can check out the ruins of church St. Poghos Petros, built in the 4th-century, and the nearby ancient tombs.

Another treasure of the province is the mountainous Kari Lake. The lake is situated at an altitude of 3,200m and is surrounded by ice, the water is very cold year-round, even if you’re are planning to visit in the hot summer months.  

There is no trip to the Aragatsotn province without visiting the Armenian Alphabet Monument, a monumental tribute to every Armenia letter. It is one of the most visited places in Armenia, and you can see both locals and tourists walking around, finding the letter that corresponds with the first letter of their name, and taking pictures of it.

The Aragatsotn province has a lot to offer its visitors, so make sure to add it on your travel bucket list, when you are in Armenia.

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