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Just recently, I visited Georgia ( Caucasus Region) for a few days. Within those few days, I allocated a day to take a glimpse to its neighbouring country Armenia and chance to get another stamp for my passport. 😂
Armenia is increasingly becoming a popular tourist destination because of its rich history and culture. Aside from that, it’s just a bus ride away from Georgia. Known as the first nation to adopt Christianity with stunning monasteries all over the country.
My trip started at 08:30H when my guide picks me up at my hotel. Oh yes! The travel agency where I booked the trip offers a hotel pick up and drop off. I checked-in in the agency had some coffee and voila off we go.
Three more travellers joined me together with Giorgi our guide and the driver. The trip from Avlabari, Georgia to the border was an hour or so and we pass the two borders for approximately 15 minutes each. You would not notice time as you travel by car because of the view.
It feels like your on a time machine when you look out the window because of the drastic change of view from Georgia to Armenia. The weather was cold during my trip. It’s the time of year when the weather is transitioning from fall to winter. The trees when we left Georgia was yellow-green, yellow, yellow-orange, orange to brown and as you pass the border the trees lessen and the view was almost brown. Why? Fewer trees. A vast brown canyon ahead is waiting for you as you drive-thru. The road is less cemented and more of a rocky or pebbled.
As you near the border, you will see street vendors ( or small kiosks) around the area selling some tropical fruits and washing powders. The kiosk was one after the other popping up everywhere selling tons ( exaggerated maybe tens or hundreds) of washing powder. Why? It’s because “washing powder is cheaper in Georgia than in Armenia” so people from Armenia will come in that area and stock up there washing powders.
A question from the Italian guy popped up “But why is it that there are a lot of them?”
“In Georgia, when one man finds success, his neighbour becomes jealous and must try and replicate that success. Then he opens his own washing powder business.” Says our guide Giorgi or he preferred to be called Young Stalin.
Crossing the border was faster than we have expected. The process involved passing through the Georgian Exit and Armenian Entry point. As I exited Georgia they just check my passport then put the exit stamp. We waited for our car, took a ride for a minute or two then alight to Armenia’s entry point. Filipino Citizens are eligible for a visa on arrival in Armenia. Check here for more details.
You will need local currency for the visa, hence, I only have US Dollar and Georgian Lari, I had to exchange my cash first. Near the visa office, is an ATM if you run out if cash. And just the opposite is a machine to exchange your cash.
I had no trouble getting my visa. I was greeted with a big smile. Paid 3,000 Armenian Dram and was asked how many days will I stay – told the visa officer it was just for a day which he replied “Why and told me he will still issue me 21 days to stay in Armenia”. ( will be visiting again soon with an Azerbaijan stamp, let’s check the difference passing the border)
The province ( marz) that were about to visit is Lori, located in the northern part of Armenia bordering Georgia. Home of the Countries two of Unesco’s World Heritage Site and beautiful monasteries.
Our first stop was Akhtala Monastery – The fortress is standing high up on a cliff who plays a major role in protecting the north-western region of Armenia. It’s a 13th Century Georgian Style church. The monastery was famous for its well preserved and beautiful frescoes, surrounded outside by copper smelting caves and copper smelting factory.
After a few minutes, we hop in our service car and headed to our next stop Haghpat Monastery – a Unesco World Heritage Site. Yes! Though it was a short visit I was able to explore two of Unesco’s World Heritage Site. Beautiful medieval masterpieces. The outstanding design and architecture are impressive that is all made of stones. The monastery was founded by Queen Khosrovanush (wife of the Armenian King Ashot III the Merciful) in AD 976. It was once the largest centre of Science with a rich collection of manuscripts, a place of copying and studying, a cafeteria and a university.
Upon arrival at Haghpat Monastery – young Stalin told us about a challenge that we should try if we want our wish to be granted. Giorgi removed his jacket, showed as the wall and embark in crossing the wall using the narrow ledge at the bottom part where you can step on and countless holes you could use as grip.
As expected Giorgi completed the challenge. My fellow traveller from Jordan tried a couple of times but failed. Our Italian friend tried and succeeded with the help of Giorgi. And of course, I tried to the best of my ability. (huh! proud of myself) 🤣 almost at the last part but was wavering until our guide helped me out. Yes! I completed it.
It looks pretty simple when you are watching someone do it, but doing it yourself is a different story.
After visiting both monasteries we stopped by a local restaurant and had our lunch. We had some meat, cheese, vegetable dishes and black coffee for me. A great way to energize for the remainder of the day ( still, a sleepy head when inside a moving car). We had some chit chat and a chance to get to know everyone on the group.
We then dropped by in front of an old, rustic and l abandoned looking building. The Copper Smelting Factory. Despite the look’s of it, the factory is still working until now. ( copper is still one of Armenia’s main sector of Economy)
On the opposite side is the Alaverdi-Sanahin Bridge – it’s a 12th Century bridge right at the foot of the factory over the Debed River. It may be faded however, the carvings are still there to be seen. It’s a good spot to take some time off the road.
We then proceed to see the Aircraft MiG 21 at Mikoyan Museum. It’s a small museum which hails a full-size MiG 21. Given by the state together with a monument due to the contribution of Mikoyan Brothers in Soviet’s political and military history. Artyom Mikoyan ( youngest) who hails from Alaverdi cocreated (along with his partner Mikhail Gurevich, abbreviation – MiG) the generation of MiG fighter aircraft which served the Soviet Union and its allies from World War II until the Cold War.
Our next stop was the Sanahin Monastery the second Unesco Heritage Site that we will visit today which is one of the most beautiful monasteries from the 10th century.
Sanahin translates in Armenian as “this one is older than that one”. It’s famous for more than 50 khachkars (cross-stones) are preserved, amongst which the most valuable are the khachkars of Grigor Tuteordi (on the northern wall of St Harutyun Church, by Mkhitar Kazmich) and Sargis (on the western wall of St Astvatsatsin Church).
These khachkars are considered among the best examples of medieval Armenian sculpture. ( source https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/777/)
It’s used to be the educational centre of Armenia. The monastery has academies where they held lectures, libraries, scriptoriums and schools where books were copied.
I’m in awe of how well preserved the monasteries and frescoes on every site that we visit. It depicts how Armenian’s value their religion, culture and tradition that is inherent until today.
Our guide Giorgi was also remarkable as he explained every tiny bit of details of the site we visited adding his personal touch and views. He balances the tour with knowledge, lecture and good laughs.
We drive back to Tbilisi and as the conversation with the Italian tourist and Giorgi started I dozed off. 😴
Woke up near the border. Exited Armenia and entered Georgia and the conversation is still ongoing. Dozed off again until they drop me in Freedom Square, Tbilisi.
Package Inclusion: Guide Transportation Water
What to Bring: Passport ( no passport no entry😉) Cash for Lunch ( around USD 10 ) Cash for Visa for required countries(around 7 USD) Camera
Ciao and Happy Travels!