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Hidden Gems of Armenia: Unveiling the Lesser-known Treasures

Armenia, a land of ancient traditions and captivating landscapes, has long been celebrated for its historic landmarks like the iconic Mount Ararat and the UNESCO-listed monasteries of Geghard and Tatev. However, amidst these well-known attractions lie hidden gems waiting to be discovered by intrepid travelers. In this blog post, we invite you to join us on a journey to unveil the lesser-known treasures of Armenia. Get ready to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations that will leave you awe-inspired and longing for more.

Dilijan: The Jewel of Armenia's Forests

Tucked away in the picturesque Tavush Province, Dilijan is a tranquil town known as the "Armenian Switzerland." Surrounded by lush green forests, Dilijan offers a peaceful retreat for nature enthusiasts. Take a stroll through the charming streets of Old Dilijan, visit the Haghartsin Monastery built between the 10th and 13th centuries, much of it under the patronage of the Bagratuni Dynasty, which is nestled in the forest, and according to the tradition received its name as an eagle was soaring over the dome of the main building at its dedication and thus it became commonly known as the monastery of the playing (or soaring) eagle ("Hagh" means a game while "Artsin", a form of "Artsiv", means eagle in Armenian). The local cuisine known for its organic ingredients and traditional flavors will also not let you indifferent.

Khndzoresk: A Step Back in Time

Venture into the depths of southeastern Armenia to discover Khndzoresk, an ancient cave village suspended between towering cliffs. Connected by a swinging bridge, the village offers a glimpse into the past, where people once lived in caves carved into the rocks. Khndzoresk is widely famous for its canyon with picturesque rock formations and ancient cave settlement. The artificial caves, some of which are currently used as stables and warehouses, used to be inhabited till the 1950s. In the bottom of the gorge there is St. Hripsime church, dated back to 17th century. On a spur beyond on the right side of the gorge there is Anapat (hermitage) with the tomb of Mkhitar Sparapet. The cave church of St. Tatevos can also be found nearby. Explore the narrow stone pathways, visit the small chapel perched on a cliff, and admire the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Jermuk: Nature's Healing Oasis

Nestled amidst the scenic mountains of Armenia's Vayots Dzor Province, Jermuk is a natural spa town renowned for its healing mineral waters. Immerse yourself in the therapeutic properties of the local hot springs and enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding nature and indulge in the renowned Jermuk honey and herbal teas. Hike to the stunning Jermuk Waterfall, visit the ancient Gndevank Monastery, a monastery built in 936 AD by Princess Sophia of Syunik. She stated the purpose of her building the monastery as: "Vayots Dzor was a ring without a jewel but I built this monastery as the jewel for the ring". Priest Sargis was the first abbot of the church. Priest Yeghishe was entrusted the responsibility for its construction. In 999 AD it was expanded with a gavit, a narthex or entrance to the church. In subsequent years the monastery was fortified with walls around it, under the orders of Abbot Petros (Peter).

The monastery, which was damaged during an earthquake, was refurbished during 1965 and 1969. Further renovations were done during 2013. In 1875, several items of religious paraphernalia were found in a secret chamber in the church.

Areni: Where Wine and History Unite

Located in the Vayots Dzor region, the village of Areni is a haven for wine enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Explore the ancient Areni-1 cave, which houses the world's oldest-known winery, dating back over 6,000 years.

As if making the oldest known leather shoe wasn't enough, a prehistoric people in what's now Armenia also built the world's oldest known winery, a new study says.

Undertaken at a burial site, their winemaking may have been dedicated to the dead—and it likely required the removal of any fancy footwear.

Near the village of Areni, in the same cave where a stunningly preserved, 5,500-year-old leather moccasin was recently found, archaeologists have unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds, the study says.

"This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production," said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

"For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years," he said.

Engage in wine tastings at local vineyards and learn about the traditional winemaking techniques passed down through generations. Don't forget to savor the rich flavors of Areni wine, celebrated for its unique characteristics.

Smbataberd: Fortress in the Clouds

Perched high on a mountain ridge, Smbataberd fortress offers a captivating glimpse into Armenia's medieval past. Hike through the rugged terrain to reach this majestic fortress, which boasts panoramic views of the surrounding valleys. Explore the well-preserved walls, towers, and let your imagination run wild as you envision the ancient battles and stories that unfolded within these stone walls.

Smbataberd is an impregnable fortress of the 5th century, surrounded on three sides by steep slopes, which go down into the gorge, where the rivers Artabuyn and Yeghegis flow.

During its entire existence, Smbataberd Fortress was captured only once, and only because of a cunning plan: the horses were fed with salt and let out to pasture around the fortress. Thirsty animals began to look for water and found a pipeline, cutting off the water supply to the fortress. The defenders were thus forced to surrender.

Armenia's hidden gems are a testament to the country's rich history, diverse landscapes, and warm hospitality. By venturing off the beaten path, you'll discover a side of Armenia that remains relatively untouched by mass tourism. Dilijan's lush forests, Khndzoresk's cave village, Jermuk's healing waters, Areni's ancient winemaking traditions, and Smbataberd's towering fortress all await your exploration.

Remember, the true beauty of travel lies not only in the destinations we visit but also in the stories we uncover and the connections we create.