Armenia is located between the Asian and European plateau, situated right atop the Middle East. Its lands are replete with natural spring water, lush mountainscapes, and ancient sanctuaries. Its culture spans thousands of years of art, music, literature, dance, and craftsmanship, although its history is entrenched in suffering and hardship. After thousands of years (and due to countless invasions), the national cuisine is a fusion of traditional fare and influence from surrounding nations. But fear not enthused travel! This guide is for those of you who choose to explore off the beaten path in a new country. Those who avoid tourist traps and instead, yearn for authentic, genuine experiences with locals. Those who seek the unseen, the unadvertised, and the mysterious. These are for you!
KHOSROV FOREST RESERVE
Although currently small in size, Armenia was the northernmost center of the preeminent Fertile Crescent. Its geography is both lush and resilient, with prominent alpine mountain ranges, biodiverse ecosystems, and varying climates. The Republic of Armenia has over 25 national parks, state reserves, and wildlife conservatories. These ecosystems provide a natural habitat for over 1,000 different species of plants and hundreds of animal species. Near the Ararat valley, you’ll find the Khosrov Forest State Reserve, one of the oldest protected natural areas in the world.
Located in the Ararat Province, the reserve area contains multiple cultural heritage monuments, including the temple of Garni and the Kakavaberd fortress. The terrain is extremely biodiverse, home to one-third of the flora in the entire Caucasus. And it’s also only 20 kilometers (a mere 12 miles!) from Yerevan.
The Khosrov Forest’s about 1700 years, founded around 330 A.D. by 4th century King Khosrov Kotak, grandfather to Tiridates III the Great. Khosrov is said to have planted over one million trees in order to ensure the preservation of Armenian flora and fauna. More than a millennium later, the famous Silk Road passed through the forest’s territory. In September of 1958, the Government of Armenia declared it a reserve zone and established procedures to conserve the grounds.
Curious about how to explore the national reserve’s sprawling 23,000 hectares (roughly 56,800 acres)? You can take tours, hike various trails, even go horseback riding.
If you happen to love archeology, history, and - most importantly - a challenge, consider stopping in Sissian, a town in the Syunik mountain range. There, at the top of Mt. Ughtasar, you’ll be able to view preserved remnants of a primordial Armenia. It won’t be easy getting there, however! Trips can only be made from July to September since this extinct volcano’s usually covered in snow. Here, you’ll discover over 2,000 rock carvings, known as petroglyphs, from the Paleolithic Era (roughly 12,000 BCE). Uncovered in the early 20th century, the carvings weren’t properly studied until an expedition in 1967. The petroglyphs are memorials meant to commemorate the life, mainly scenes of primitive society and ritual.
As the Armenian Highlands was one of the first centers of animal domestication and agriculture, many etchings show cattle-breeding and agronomics.
Often called the “Armenian Niagara Falls”, the Trchkan waterfall is just 33 kilometers (20 miles) away from Gyumri, the country’s second-largest city.
SARDARAPAT MEMORIAL & SARDARAPAT ETHNOGRAPHY AND LIBERATION MOVEMENT HISTORY MUSEUM
Approximately 47 kilometers (29 miles) from Yerevan, you’ll find an astonishing, larger than life memorial built out of traditional Armenian tufa commemorating the 1918 Battle of Sardarapat.
BYURAKAN ASTROPHYSICAL OBSERVATORY
Armenia has an extensive record concerning the astronomical study. Over the past several thousand years, Armenians accumulated astronomical knowledge in forms of petroglyphs (rock carvings), ancient observatories, medieval sky maps, and records of astronomical events.
Published March 12, 2018
Article by Satine Iskandaryan