Khor Virap is one of the most popular destinations in Armenia for a number of reasons, primarily because it is where Grigor Luisavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) was imprisoned for 13 years before curing King Trdat III of a disease. This caused the conversion of the king and Armenia into the first officially Christian nation in the world in the year 301. To this day you can visit the underground chamber which he was imprisoned in, located in the nondescript St. Gevorg Chapel apart from the main church. The large St. Astvatsatsin church at Khor Virap was built in the 17th century and is typical in design, but with a lack of virtually any decorative carving, or elements. It is located in a fort like complex with a nice courtyard. For most Armenians this is a very important site, and is easily accessible from Yerevan for a half day trip, or even better as a stop along the way to Southern Armenia or Karabakh.

Areni is one of the ancient villages of historical Syunik. The Areni-1 Cave Complex has proven to be a treasure trove of Copper Age artifacts including the oldest shoe, brain, and winery in the world!

First investigated by archaeologists in 2007, the ever-giving Areni caves consist of a number of burial sites dating back to 5000-4000 BCE. The miraculous finds began almost as soon as digging begun. Among the artifacts the Armenian-Irish excavation teams discovered were a series of clay pots, each containing the skull of a pre-teen corpse. Remarkably, one of these skulls still held a piece of well-preserved brain tissue, making it the oldest example of the Neolithic brain ever discovered. But the amazing finds didn’t stop there. In 2010, excavators discovered a sewn leather shoe dating back to the Copper Age. While sandals and other primitive footwear have been discovered from era’s farther back, the foot wrap is the oldest example of its kind in existence. Shortly after finding the ancient footwear, the researchers then discovered what seemed to be an ancient wine press. The wine-making site is, unsurprisingly, also the earliest proof of wine-making ever found.

Tying all of these discoveries together, the archaeologists have theorized that since the wine was likely made by stepping barefoot on the grapes, the leftover shoe was a result of this, and the winery’s proximity to the burial site in turn lead them to believe that the libation had a sacred component to it. Although it is clearly a practice unrelated to Christianity’s similar penchant for wine. We will have a tour and wine tasting in the factory “Old Areni” and will have our lunch, where together with all the tasty dishes, we will also be offered the wine. Since 2009, the traditional, annual Armenian "Wine Festival" has been held in the village.

Noravank (meaning new monastery) is a 13th century monastery, located 122 km from Yerevan in a narrow gorge made by the Darichay river, nearby the city of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia. The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs, directly across from the monastery. The monastery is best known for its two-storey S. Astvatsatsin church, which grants access to the second floor by way of narrow stones jutting out from the face of building. The monastery is sometimes called Amaghu-Noravank, Amaghu being the name of a small recently destroyed village above the canyon, in order to distinguish it from Bgheno-Noravank Monastery, near Goris. In the 13th-14th centuries the monastery became a residence of Syunik's bishops and, consequently. A major religious and, later, cultural center of Armenia closely connected with many of the local seats of learning, especially with Gladzor's famed university and library.

Duration 8  

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