Travel to Armenia
with Rozalia Shaybekyan
Fram promises a lot of unique routes guided by leading historians, archaeologists, ethnographers, naturalists and the best travel companions – like-minded people developing the most advanced Russian and global projects.
September 30
The stone alphabet and a fortress in the clouds
This country is antiquity itself, and the legends from the times of the Old Testament are still alive here. It was here, on the Armenian Highlands, near the ranges of the Lesser Caucasus, that Noah's ark saved the world. And it was here, at the Ararat volcano, that the raven flew out of the ark to search for land. It was the first Christian country across the world and it is the abode of scientists and books written in one of the most ancient alphabets in the world. The plentitude of temples and monasteries rivals the world's largest book museum in wisdom. The beauty of the local mountains can be compared to the gold of local apricots that Pliny called the Armenian apple.

It's just one day, but the impressions you'll get will last for life.
Rozalia Shaybekyan is a born traveler: she dropped her diplomatic career in favor of being a tour guide (Rozalia speaks six languages!). She was born in Georgia, lived in Russia and Spain but she always returned to Armenia. She believes people in Armenia have been looking for the harmony of nature and civilization for thousands of years — they built monasteries in scenic, remote places so as to preserve written legacy there during the conquests. Rozalia knows what kind of harmony she is talking about — she traveled across Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East, she rode camels in a desert of Morocco and flew a paraglider. She sees many contrasts in Armenia. European and Oriental cultures, paganism and Christianity coexist here. She loves the orange mountains and vibrant sunsets of Vayk, the blue Lake Sevan and the air of Dilijan.
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In the morning, we will drive from Yerevan to the village of Saghmosavank, where the 13th century monastery is located - one of the richest and most famous spiritual centers of medieval Armenia. The legend says, Saghmosavank was founded by Gregory the Illuminator, who noticed this place from the top of Mount Aragats and built a church on this place.

The next stop is the brainchild of the great educator Mesrop Mashtots, the Armenian alphabet, or rather, a monument to him, the famous Alley of Letters. All 39 letters are made of orange tuff. The alphabet itself is one of the most beautiful writing systems in the world and remains unchanged since it was created in the 5th century.

Further we will go to the Amberd fortress on the slope of Mount Aragats, the highest mountain in Armenia. The fortress, or, better to say, the complex, consists of the castle of the Armenian princes of the 7th century and the church of the 11th century. It has everything that is decent to an old castle to have: several floors (once, obviously, richly decorated), a complex plumbing system and underground passages leading down into the gorge.

After that, we are having lunch at the winery and going to Ashtarak, one of the most charming places in Armenia. It has been mentioned in written sources since the 9th century, but, apparently, it has a much longer history. Mongols, Turkomans, Seljuks and Lezgins came to war here, the armies disappeared, but the city still exists. "Ashtarak" means "tower", but it is well known not for its fortifications, but for its churches. One of the most remarkable is Tsiranavor ("Orange"), a temple of the 5th century on the rocky bank of the Kasakh River. Finally, we will return to Yerevan full of impressions.
Amberd fortress
transport, tickets, English-speaking guide and wine-testing included
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