Agro-Village Tours

Baking lavash in Armenia

Price/Person

150$

Duration

2 days

Highlights

Areni, Noravank, Eghegis, Smbataberd castle

Languages

English , Russian , Polish

Included

All facilities for activities, all mills, Stay in Hotels and shelters

Excluded

Air tickets, insurance, alcohol

In 2007, an Armenian-Irish team decided to do test excavations in the cave site of Areni 1. Two test trenches in the front and rear galleries revealed Chalcolithic Age and Early Bronze Age layers dating back to 5000-4000 BCE. The cave has offered surprising new insights into the origins of modern civilizations, such as evidence of a wine-making enterprise. Archaeologists announced the discovery of the earliest known winery, the Areni-1 winery. The winery, which is over six-thousand years old, contains a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups. Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, commenting on the importance of the find, said, "The fact that winemaking was already so well developed in 4000 BC suggests that the technology probably goes back much earlier."

But lets see what awaits us.

Day 1

On our first day we start from Yerevan. We are off to the south, and Areni will be our first stop. Not only first, but also extremely important. As we mentioned before, Areni has centuries of history and tradition in winemaking. This is the very place where the oldest winery in the world was excavated. Today it is still a very active wine producing center for Armenia and the whole Caucasus region. There can't be a good agro tour without tasting and experiencing the wine producing process right in front of your own eyes :) Professional winemakers will make a presentation on wine making for us to give us an insight on their secrets of producing their top-notch wine, rich in aromas.

Wine from this region is usually red, dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. The unique dry climate of the village makes local Areni grapes extremely valuable. This kind of grapes has been cultivated here. It' believed that their taste is way better than in any other village in Armenia. The homeland of Areni grapes is Vayots Dzor region of Armenia, in particular the Areni area. Areni has a shade of dark amber. Thanks to its pleasant, slightly sour and very specific taste, the best wines are made from Areni grapes. Areni is an aborigine sort and in the course of centuries it has been adapted to the dry climate of Vayots Dzor. And finally yes! We will try this legendary wine and about which we have already heard so much, voila!

There is something else we need to mention. Every year a traditional Areni Wine Festival is organized in the village. It is a truly wonderful opportunity to discover Armenia During the festival organizers invite winemakers and connoisseurs of culture and traditions. Within the festival you are given an opportunity to taste the best Armenian wines, fruit, sweets, and cuisine, listen to traditional Armenian music and dance with local dance groups. If you arrive to Armenia during this period, we you will have a chance to participate in this wonderful fest.

After visiting Areni we head to the famous Noravank Monastery. Noravank means New Monastery in Armenian. Built in 13th century, the monastery is a lovely example of the ornate architecture of this period. The site is comprised of three surviving churches, each decorated in intricate designs and religious reliefs. The sculptor of Noravank was a man by the name of Momik, who created the lovely stonework that survived till today. He also carved a number of uniquely Armenian religious monuments known as khachkars (cross-stone), which are usually depicted an image of a cross surmounting a circular symbol. The sculptor is buried in a simple grave at the site.

After contemplating amazing monastery, indulging in its wonderful surroundings, and learning its history from our guide, we will head to Yeghegnadcor , which is a regional center, a small town located on red rocks. We will stay for the night here in a local style house.

Day 2

Next day a rooster may wake us up, so that we would start our day activities on time :)

We will have our village breakfast made from fresh, local products right at our house. Then Artabuynq village is waiting for us with its cliffs, nice view of the river in the gorge and hospitable people. We will have a chance to witness lavash baking (traditional flat bread), which is a nearly sacral process for Armenians. By the way, lavash has made it into UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage for Armenian culture. It’s not only the bread’s unique role in Armenian cuisine, but also the unusual technique for producing it coupled with the role lavash plays in the community that has influenced the local culture.

You can read about this more here lavash - the preparation meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia

Not only is the lavash bread an integral part of Armenian cuisine, a household staple that can even be kept up to six months, it also plays a ritual role in Armenian culture. At weddings, the flatbread is placed on the couple’s shoulders as a lucky charm to bring about prosperity and fertility. But its not only the superstition behind the bread that plays a role in the local community, but also the fact that lavash has to be prepared as a group makes it a tool to strengthen family and community ties, where young girls serve the older women as aides in the bread making experience. While the women are in charge of making the bread, the men are charged with building the clay ovens and oval cushions, where these making skills are passed down from father to son traditionally.

After this unique experience, we will head to Smbataberd. Smbataberd is one of the largest and oldest fortresses of Armenia and Syunik. Smbataberd Fortress is situated on top of a mountain, southeast of Artabuynk village. The real name of the fortress is unknown today, but local people call it Smbataberd (Smbat’s fortress), as King Smbat is buried in the village nearby. According to another version, the fortress was named after Smbat, Prince of Syunik. The masonry suggests that the fortress dates back to the 9-10 cc., but its beginnings may possibly go back to as early as the 5th c.

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Price/Person

190$

Duration

3 days

Highlights

Dilijan, Parz lake, Haghartsin, Achajur

Languages

English, Russian, Polish

Included

All facilities for activities, all mills, Stay in Hotels and shelters

Excluded

Air tickets, insurance, alcohol

Day 1

First on our way lay Dilijan, beautiful town between mountains covered with forests. Dilijan is fast growing resort, educational and financial center of Armenia. There are two international schools in relatively small town. We will walk along town’s streets visiting historical Old Dilijan. Then we will move to Parz lake. Carefully “hidden? in Dilijan, Parz Lich (Lake Clear) appears like a yet unpolished diamond surrounded by natural crystals the overall combination of which creates a timeless image. While Parz Lich is a smaller-in-size lake, it has much to offer to each of its visitors. After some walking around lake and breathing fresh air of this mountainous area, no doubt that appetite of each of us will raise to max, so don’t worry here we will have our lunch. There is a high-class restaurant at the lake, which serves delicious Armenian cuisine. The wooden chairs and tables will make every visitor feel as if dining out in the nature accompanied by the sweet sounds of the lake’s water. The restaurant itself appears as if a typical Armenian country house with its modest appearance and furnishing.

After Lunch we will continue to our first village. It is Haghartsin with old traditions of agriculture. Here the house of hospitable Voskanyan family will accept us, will invite us for tan(Armenian national drink from sour yogurt) and show how to bake gata(traditional sweet bread ). There are many variations of gata and typically specific towns or regions will have their own version. One popular variety is gata with koritz (khoriz), a filing that consists of flour, butter and sugar. Gata can have other fillings such as nuts, most commonly walnuts.Some variations include placing a coin inside the dough before the gata is baked, and it is said that whoever receives the piece with the coin is to be blessed with good fortune.

The cheeks of the woman standing behind the counter are rosy due to the winter sun and wind, while her hands have been coarsened. She asks us – a group of journalists visiting from Yerevan – to smell the wonderful aroma of mountain herbs, which she is selling, explaining their usefulness for health and offering to buy a heap of herbs at just 500 drams (about $1).“This is thyme, and this is mint. This one is a bunch of different mountain flowers. Here is another useful herb, the chamomile. Use them and you will be healthy,? says Nina Babasyan, a resident of the village of Gosh (118 kilometers northeast of Yerevan), in the Tavush province. Gosh’s thyme has a unique taste. It is reminiscent of aroma of mountains and their cool breezes, while for those, who have ever been to Armenia, the thyme is reminiscent of the country’s aroma. Amiryan is sure that the herb can become the ‘brand’ of Gosh.

Than we move to Gosh village, where is the famous Goshavank Monastery, which carries the name of well-known Armenian fabulist Mkhitar Gosh. This beautiful architectural construction makes the village attractive to tourists visiting Armenia. The village houses are built on a slope, like on a staircase. From a higher position it seems as if the village has hugged Goshavank. You will have the opportunity to buy local herbs from open market in the center of the village only paying 500 dr(1$) for package. The cheeks of the women standing behind the counter are rosy due to the winter sun and wind, while their hands have been coarsened. They usually asks tourists to smell the wonderful aroma of mountain herbs, explaining their usefulness for health and offering to buy a heap of herbs as I mentioned at just 500 drams (about $1). Thyme, mint, chamomile dried rosehip and much more you will see here. And here we will have our first night stay in the hotel.

Day 2

Next day having our breakfast we will move to even more north trough Ijevan villages, forests and mountains our road will bring us to Achajur. The village of Achajur is one of the oldest settlements of the region, and being second only to Koghb in population, its establishment at its present location having been recorded since the 16th century. The name Achajur (Eye-waters) comes from the old location of the village, a geographic point at which the people lived where two streams had an eye-shaped confluence. Achajur has always been noted for its population growth; the present village of Haghartsin was founded by people having relocated from Achajur. There are plenty of examples of monasteries, churches, khachkars and other places of historical interest in both the present and old location of the village. The 12th-century monastery of Makaravank is located seven kilometers from the village, at a height near woodland. Noted for its unique architectural style, it is partially in ruins.

In Achajur people grow different crops, cultivate fruits, vegetables, but one think especially important for this village, its beekeeping. We will be invited by the family who will tell us the secrets of this nearly culture, will show some details of working with bee. And of course after we will try ourselves unmatched taste of honey.

After workshop and tasting we will move to Makaravank Monastery which is only 5 km from village. Makaravank is a 10th to 13th century church complex, located on the slope of Paitatap Mountain. The monastery was surrounded with walls; its gate was decorated with columns. Numerous residential structures were situated in the enclosed territory. Among them were architectural pavilions housing mineral springs. Makaravank’s structures are built of dark-pink andesite and red tufa, with occasional greenish stones. Passing through the gate in the circuit wall, the gavit is on the left. The facade of the gavit, which was built with a donation from Prince Vache Vachutian in 1224, bears sculptures of a sphinx and a lion attacking a bull. Inside the gavit, one reaches the earliest church, of the 10th or 11th century.

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