Armenia day 6 – Ashtarak Spitak Vanadzor Debed River Canyon Sanahin Hagepat monasteries

Armenia day 6 – Republic Square Yerevan, Armenian Genocide Memorial, Ashtarak, Spitak, Vanadzor, Debed River Canyon, Sanahin and Hagepat monasteries.

Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide memorial

673 - Tsitsernakaberd (or Dsitsernakaberd, Dsidsernakaberd) - The Armenian Genocide memorial.

Day 6 – visit Republic Square in Yerevan early am, then the Armenian Genocide memorial (Tsitsernakaberd), then do trip from Yerevan > Ashtarak > Spitak > Vanadzor > Kurtan (navigation error, turn around) > Vanadzor > Debed River Canyon > Alaverdi with the UNESCO listed Sanahin and Hagepat monasteries nearby > back to Yerevan. Detours via mountain passes and pretty country roads that turned out to be pretty awful country roads.

Incongruous was a word that came to mind today. And stuck. Armenia is incongruous. Things look out of place, out of harmony. The mountain scenery is spectacular and then you drive around a corner into a town or village that looks incongruous in that setting. Well, from a distance they didn’t look so bad but up close they aren’t picture postcard towns.

The morning started with visiting a couple of places I wanted to get early morning photos of – Republic Square, and the Armenian Genocide memorial which is up a hill overlooking Yerevan and Mt Ararat in the distance.

Then tried to find my way out of Yerevan, in a NW direction. Succeeded after a couple of wrong turns and possibly an illegal U-turn. I say possibly because the cop who pulled me over immediately after I chucked a ewey, gave me directions instead of a ticket when he saw me holding a map. He didn’t say anything about any wrong-doing I might have done, and I saw him do a U-turn on the same road a couple of minutes later.

Signposts are very rare in Armenia, sometimes in Russian only (presumably old ones that haven’t been replaced yet). So even with a reasonable map, navigating around is a bit of guesswork or stopping occasionally to ask for directions … in Russian. Forget finding anyone to speak English out in the sticks.


Republic Square (renamed from Lenin Square after independence) panorama

628 - Republic Square (renamed from Lenin Square after independence) panorama, early morning.

Republic Square, looking Mashtots Ave direction, Marriott Hotel on left

639 - Republic Square, looking in Mashtots Ave direction, Marriott Hotel on the left

Tsitsernakaberd The Eternal Flame in the center of the 12 concrete slabs

811 - Tsitsernakaberd The Eternal Flame in the center of the 12 concrete slabs.

  • The Armenian Genocide memorial – The tall pointy bit represents the dispersion and unity of Armenians. The 12 slabs of concrete standing in a circle represent the 12 Armenian provinces that are now in Turkey?
Armenian Genocide memorial from museum roof

859 - Armenian Genocide memorial and roof of museum

Roadside cafe on Yerevan to Spitak road

865 - Roadside cafe on the right, along the road from Yerevan to Spitak. With BBQ and outdoor fine dining area.

Armenia countryside panorama NW of Yerevan, near Artashavan on Spitak road

884 - Panorama of Armenian countryside NW of Yerevan, road to Spitak, near Artashavan.

Armenian alphabet statues on Ashtarak Spitak road

893 - Armenian alphabet soup on the hill, NW of Yerevan, on the highway between Ashtarak and Spitak, near Artashavan.

  • Armenian alphabet statues are a highlight of many organised tours. But when you get there, you go hmmmmmm … why? Then take a photo and drive on.
Hazards of driving offroad without 4wd in Armenia

910 - Hazards of driving offroad without 4wd in Armenia - on the Yerevan to Spitak highway.

Cloudy Mt Aragats in Armenia, and Tsilkar town near the Pamb Pass

928 - Mt Aragats in the clouds (the highest mountain in Armenia, 4,092 meters). Picturesque (until you get up close) Armenian town or village of Tsilkar near the Pamb Pass.

Pamb Pass, Armenia, road down towards Spitak

935 - The road down from Pamb Pass into Spitak in Armenia

Aluminium or tin church in the town of Spitak, Armenia

943 - The town of Spitak, Armenia ... has a tin or aluminium church. How hot does that get inside in summer?


  • 959 – Spitak also has a red stone church
  • 973 – Coming into the city of Vanadzor, a nice setting in a valley …
  • 982 – … but an ugly town, at least from what I could see. It was common to see derelict abandoned buildings like this in many places.
  • 001 – Up over the Pushkin Pass (with a name like that I had to go see it for myself), although there is a tunnel that saves time. At the top is the first Armenian wind farm, a high point, so to speak, of many tourist itineraries. The Pushkin Pass road is somewhat derelict with trees overgrowing it from the side, and rockfalls not removed. Kind of eerie to drive on what seems to be an abandoned road.
  • 011 – And down the other side, with a distinct change in vegetation from mostly grass, to more forested areas (with picnic tables). Then found the turn-off to cut across between two highways along what I thought would be a scenic drive along a pleasant country lane. At the village of Kurtan, only 10km from the highway I wanted, the road started looking grim. I stopped to ask for directions and after a few minutes it seemed like half the village was gathered around to see who this lunatic was who wanted to drive a tiny city car on a road meant for big grown-up 4wd monster cars. They strongly suggested I turn around (which would mean driving 70 km or 1 1/2 hours to get to the spot that was 10km away from where I’d stopped). I wept, and reluctantly turned around.
  • 036 – Back through Vanadzor, which didn’t appear to be much of a tourist destination, but is easy to get lost in … as I discovered.
  • 045 – It has a church (probably several).
  • 049 – And through the Debed river canyon, a very scenic drive …
  • 082 – … punctuated by occasional not so scenic buildings, although the bricks used are a nice shade of red. For example these ones with the town of Alaverdi in the distance.
  • 085 – Debed river canyon again.
  • 097 – Sanahin Monastery (not a working monastery). A UNESCO World Heritage Site. So is the nearby Hagepat Monastery (well, on the other side of a canyon) but I didn’t visit it as it was getting late and I had a 3 hour drive back to Yerevan.
  • 139 – Sanahin Monastery inside.
  • 157 – Sanahin Monastery outside.
  • 167 – Sanahin Monastery outside.
  • 176 – View of canyon towards Hagepat Monastery.
  • 181 – For sale, lifestyle residence with great views. Enjoy country living at its finest with peaceful solitude. Property is well-established and has that cosy, comfortable, “lived-in” feel about it.
  • 185 – Sanahin Monastery outside and view across another canyon.
  • 194 – View back towards Vanadzor along Debed River canyon and road.
  • 234 – Scenic canyon setting for a stunning looking hotel (Avan-Dzoraget Hotel with a presidential suite for US$200 per night). So now the smart hotel looked incongruous, because it looked too smart to blend in with the derelict factories and … erm … very “lived-in” looking apartment buildings along the canyon road.
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