From Yerevan, you can go south to the Ararat region. Here, 30 km southeast of the capital of the country, is the ancient city of Artashat. It was founded in the 2nd century BC. e. King Artashes I. Under the rule of the Artashesid dynasty for the next 5 centuries after its foundation, Artashat was the center of Greater Armenia. The city was located at the crossroads of trade routes and became an important economic center of the region. The Romans called Artashat “Armenian Carthage”, because according to legend, the place of foundation of the capital was suggested to Artashes I by the Carthaginian commander Hannibal. The fortress was built on the hills of Khor Virap, and to this day, south of modern Artashat, near the village of Khor Virap, traces of the fortress walls can be seen. Here is one of the most revered holy places in Armenia – Khor Virap Monastery.. It is believed that it was in these places that the preacher Grigor Lusavorich (Illuminator) was imprisoned for the spread of Christianity, who subsequently convinced the Armenian king to accept Christianity as the state religion. In 642 a chapel was built in Khor Virap, and in 1662 a monastery with the same name was founded. It is believed that the Khor Virap hills offer the most beautiful view of the biblical Mount Ararat, which is now located in Turkey, but is still considered a symbol of the Armenian people. Also from here you can see numerous vineyards and orchards that surround Artashat.
A little north of Artashat is the medieval capital of Armenia (4-13 centuries) – Dvin. The city was founded in 335, from 428 it became the residence of the Persian rulers, from 640 – the Arab caliphs, and in 1236 it was finally destroyed by the Mongols. In the center of Dvin, the remains of a 7th-century cathedral, the 5th-century Catholicos palace, a church (6th century), a 6th-century caravanserai building and the ruins of a fortress have been preserved.
Of particular interest are trips from Yerevan to the east to the picturesque mountainous area, where the ancient fortress of Garni and the monastery complex of Geghard are located.. Garni fortress began to be built in the 3rd century BC. From the moment of its appearance and up to the 4th century AD. the fortress served as the summer residence of the Armenian kings and the place of residence of the troops. The fortress stands on a triangular cape surrounded by the Azat River. From three sides it is protected by the rocks of the gorge of the Azat River. From the side of the plain, in ancient times, a powerful fortress wall 315 m long and up to 2.5 m thick was erected, which had 14 towers. At the top of the cape stands the ancient temple of the sun god Mithras of the 1st century AD. This is the only pagan monument preserved in Armenia. The temple was destroyed in 1679 as a result of an earthquake, but in 1966 – 1976 it was restored.
According to PICKTRUE, the area surrounding the fortress of Garni is truly picturesque. Here, in the canyon of the Azat River, you can see hexagonal basalt columns that hang over the river bed and look like organ pipes. Along the bottom of the canyon, you can reach the ruins of buildings of the 10th century: the Havuts-Tar monastery and the Kakavaberd fortress. Also in the gorge of the Azat River, 12 km northeast of the fortress of Garni, there is a rocky monastery complex Geghard of the 12th-13th centuries. The monastery was carved directly into the rocks in the 4th century AD. at the source, which was considered sacred even in pagan times. Initially, it was called Ayrivank, but later it was renamed Geghard, which means “spear”. The monastery got its name from a sacred relic kept in it for a long time – a spear with which the centurion Longinus pierced the body of Jesus Christ, crucified on the cross. Now the spear is stored in a silver ark of the 17th century in the treasury of Etchmiadzin. In the 9th century, the monastery was completely destroyed by the Arabs, and in the 12th-13th centuries it was restored by princes from the Proshyan family. The oldest building in the complex is the chapel of St. Gregory the Illuminator; it is believed that it was built no later than 1177. In 1215, the main temple of Katoghike was erected here, in the 40s of the 13th century – the Avazan cave church, in 1283 – the Astvatsatsin church and the tomb of the Prshyan family, and later – cave cells. All the buildings of the monastery inside and outside are richly decorated with reliefs and ornaments, and on the territory of the monastery you can see more than twenty khachkars of various shapes and sizes (traditional Armenian stones with carved crosses).
In the vicinity of Yerevan in the region of Aragatsotn, located northwest of the capital of the country, there is another ancient city – Ashtarak. It has preserved such historical monuments as the ruins of the churches of Tsiranavor of the 5th century, Karmravor of the 7th century and Spitakavor of the 14th century. In addition, Ashtarak is the birthplace of the classic of Armenian literature – Perch Proshyan (1837-1907). In the house where the famous writer was born and lived, a museum was founded in 1937.
Not far from Ashtarak, on the southern slope of Mount Aragats, at an altitude of 2300 m, stands one of the most beautiful fortresses in Armenia – Amberd.. The construction of the castle began in the 7th century and later became the family property of the Pahlavuni princes. The church built in 1026 has been best preserved from the buildings of the fortress. Also on the southern slope of Mount Aragats, it is worth visiting such places as the Church of Surb Mesrop Mashtots in the city of Oshakan, which was erected in the 19th century on the site of an ancient church of 442 built at the grave of the creator of the national alphabet – Mesrop Mashtots, the monasteries of Hovhanavank of the 5th century and Saghmosavank13 century and the 7th century Katohike Church in the city of Talin.
In addition to the historical sights of the environs of Yerevan, the resorts nearby are world famous: the balneo -climatic Arzni and the ski resort Tsaghkadzor . The Arzni resort is located 20 km north of Yerevan in the gorge of the Hrazdan River at an altitude of 1250 m. Arzni is famous for its carbonic hydrocarbonate-chloride sodium mineral waters, which have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. The construction of sanatoriums based on healing springs began in 1925. The profile of local sanatoriums is the treatment of diseases of the cardiovascular system and the digestive system. Treatment is carried out with the help of baths, drinking and inhalations, a favorable climate and clean mountain air have a special healing effect. The Arzni resort operates all year round.
About 20 km north of Arzni, on the slopes of Mount Teghenis at altitudes from 1900 to 2100 m, there is a modern ski resort Tsaghkadzor .. The resort has grown on the basis of summer children’s camps, rest homes and the All-Union Olympic Base, which was built here in 1967. The resort of Tsakhkadzor is year-round: dozens of rest houses are always waiting for tourists, and from mid-November to mid-April, ski slopes begin to operate, which are suitable for skiers of any level of preparedness. In the vicinity of Tsaghkadzor there is a medieval religious center of Armenia – Kecharis monastery of the 11th century.
The surroundings of Yerevan can also boast of their natural attractions. First of all, this is the main peak of the country – the extinct volcano Aragats 4090 m high, which is located in the northern part of the Aragotsotn region. The Aragats volcano has four peaks, between which there is a volcanic crater 350 m deep and 2.5 km wide. The slopes of the volcano are dotted with gorges, the most famous of which are Gekhovit and Amberd, up to 500 m deep. Here you can see sheer cliffs, mountain valleys covered with alpine meadows, numerous rivers, waterfalls and lakes. On the slopes of Aragats, at an altitude of 3207 m, there is Lake Kari (Stone Lake), which is the starting point for hiking along the volcano and camping site. Climbing Aragats, depending on the complexity of the route, can take from one to three days. The best times for climbing are July and August. The main routes start at Lake Kari, while longer routes start in the village of Aragats and the city of Artik.
The nature protection zones of the environs of Yerevan are interesting. South-east of the capital, on the border of the regions of Kotayk and Ararat, there is the smallest of the reserves of Armenia – Erebuni. The reserve was established in 1981 on an area of 89 hectares to protect wild grain crops (mainly wheat and rye). There are 293 plant species here, including over 100 varieties of wheat. The reserve is home to such mammals as fox, weasel, stone marten, wolf and badger, numerous rodents, 17 species of reptiles and about 50 species of birds.
In the Ararat region, in the spurs of the Geghama Range, at altitudes from 850 to 2300 m, the Khosrov Reserve is located.. According to legend, at the beginning of the 4th century, King Khosrov Kotak ordered the creation of a protected forest here for hunting animals and birds, which is now part of the Khosrov Reserve and is called the Khosrov Forest. In total, forest communities account for about 16% of the territory of the reserve (the total area of the reserve is 29,200 ha). Basically, communities of upland xerophytes covering the slopes of the mountains are protected here: Asteraceae, grasses, legumes, cruciferous, labiales, carnations, rosaceae, umbrellas, burrows, borage and lilies. The reserve is inhabited by 55 species of mammals (Transcaucasian brown bear, wild boar, broad-eared hedgehog, Armenian mouflon, bezoar goat, wolf, fox, Persian leopard, as well as endemic mountain lynxes and Syrian bears), arachnids (tarantula, scorpions, cross-spider), 30 species of reptiles.