Southern Armenia

Tatev Monastery

Southern Armenia is in Armenia. This area is full of tall mountain ranges, valleys, gorges and forests. One main highway takes you from top to bottom, with dramatic changes in elevation and scenery. The many types of attractions include hot springs and spas, dramatic cliffs and scenery, monasteries, caravansarys and fortresses, petroglyphs and Armenia's "Stonehenge", natural caves and cave cities, Armenia's favorite wine region, and more.

Most visitors do not venture past Goris and Tatev, so the very south is almost wholly undiscovered. Goris is the last town on the highway leading to Karabakh, so many visitors just pass through and don't enjoy what the area has to offer.

Regions

Southern Armenia is defined here as Syunik Province (the southernmost) and Vayots Dzor Province.

Cities

Understand

This whole part of the world is known for its hospitality, and the parts of Southern Armenia which see few tourists are even more so than others. Venture into a village for directions, and you can find yourself at the receiving end of a feast, homemade fruit oghi (vodka) being drunk and them making you spend the night. Refusing hospitality is often challenging, but don't bother as the experiences are sure to be memorable.

There is one main highway going through this region, which leads to Iran at the southern end. You'll see Iranian trucks coming and going, as well as a decent number of barbecue restaurants along the highway.

Talk

Aside from the universally spoken Eastern Armenian, Russian is almost universally spoken. English, French and German are languages that many have studied in school, but few have had a chance to practice. The youth are your best bet for English proficiency. Most signs are in Armenian and often in English and Russian as well.

Get in

Almost all of Southern Armenia's visitors drive down the highway from Yerevan. You can also enter from the Lake Sevan Region, or from Iran. Depending on your budget and your plans, you can enter by tour van, private taxi/van, shared taxi, rent a car, or take public transport - either a bus or a van (marshutni) that's heading to or past a town you want to get to. You can also try hitching. It's not as popular as it used to be, but it's still perfectly acceptable, although unaccompanied women might find themselves getting more attention than they'd like. The only major town not on the North-South highway is Jermuk, so catching a bus or van going directly there is your best bet, unless you really do want to hitchhike or try and find a taxi in one of the towns along the highway. Public transport is cheap, and often crowded. Have some smaller change on you and ask a fellow passenger the fare to have it ready.

Get around

Most tourists arrive in Southern Armenia on a tour van. You can also arrange a private tour with guide with most companies, or just negotiate with taxi drivers in Yerevan to take you around. A taxi might be cheaper than renting a car, and easier than driving one.

Getting around in the South can be tough with public transportation, unless you're sticking to the main highway. From there, taxis or hitching are your best bets. On the main highway, buses and vans are frequent, and as long as they're heading in the right direction (north/south) it's tough to go wrong.

If you're not depending on public transport, just have wherever you are staying arrange a cab for you for the day. Taxis are reasonably priced in Armenia and usually cost 100 drams (35 cents US) a kilometer. There are no car rental agencies in the south, although you can rent a car in Yerevan and drive down.

See

Noravank
Ughtasar
Old Khndzoresk
Tsakhats Kar
Smbataberd

Other sites

Smaller sites if you have the time or are in the area.

Do

Gnishik or Noravank Gorge, Vayots Dzor Province

Eat

The main highway is sprinkled with barbecue places. Few have menus, although prices are usually reasonable and asking avoid any potential for problems in the end. The menus consist of barbecued chunks of meat (khorovats), kebabs, and whole vegetables with pig fat. Strained yogurt, olives, greens and lavash are also normally brought to the table.

For anything close to fast food outside the main towns you usually have to go to a grocery store for the ingredients to make a sandwich.

Drink

The specialty in this area wine in the Vayots Dzor state and mulberry vodka (tuti oghi) in Syunik. Home made fruit drinks (compote) are usually very nice.

Sleep

Budget options: many towns have old Soviet hotels which are cheap, sparse accommodations. The cleanliness and prices can vary greatly. As for a mid-range - there are quite a few choices at almost every city. And there is nowhere to splurge yet in Southern Armenia!

Stay safe

Don't hike very close to the border with Azerbaijan without checking first with villagers about safety. Most tourists will never get close to the border, but if you plan to, then find out what you need to know first.

Go next

You can get out of Southern Armenia by heading up to Central Armenia, heading east to Karabakh, or heading south to Iran. Again, buses and vans (marshutnis) heading north (to central Armenia) and south (to Iran) are fairly frequent. Some buses go all the way to Tehran. From Goris and points north, vans or taxis can be caught to Karabakh, and taxis to Yerevan can be caught from anywhere in the South, though going to a bus station might yield some fellow passengers to split a ride with.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, November 11, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.