Southern Armenia is the least-visited part of the country. That is a pity and is largely the consequence of visitors giving themselves inadequate time. There is spectacular scenery with roads zigzagging up and down over mountain passes. Two of Armenia's best-known monasteries are here, one visited by almost every tourist on a day trip from Yerevan, one requiring an overnight stay in the province. Other monasteries are to be found in remote settings allowing the possibility of walks through wonderful countryside to reach them. Petroglyphs, cave villages, Armenia's best-known megalithic site and one of the world's best-preserved caravanserais are other gems.
Armenia’s remote southern regions, between Karabakh to the east and the Azeri enclave of Naxchivan to the west, are linked to Yerevan by a single, vital highway. Vayots Dzor (Gorge of Woes) centres on the headwaters of the wine-growing Arpa valley. The name comes from a history of ruinous earthquakes across these mountainous valleys and cliffs. It’s a great area to explore off-the-beaten-track trails by foot, horse or 4WD Jeep.
Many visitors come to Vayots Dzor on a day trip from Yerevan principally to see the Monastery of Noravank - but it is not really possible to see much else in this province unless you are prepared to stay for a few days. Vayots Dzor is crowded with interesting historic sites, all attractively situated, and a few days here are well justified.
For the most part, Vayots Dzor certainly lives up to the dzor ('gorge') part of its name. Visitors travelling from Yerevan cross the Tukh Manuk Pass and then descend to the Arpa River. The gorge here is at times narrow and spectacular, notably between Areni and Arpi and even more so beyond Gndevank.
In the south, Syunik is full of ancient churches and monasteries, rustic villages making home-made fruit vodkas, forests, high pastures and stunning evidence of much older human cultures in the rocks of Zorats Karer and Ughtasar near Sisian. The 19th-century town of Goris is a great base to visit Tatev or Karabakh or as a break before the long haul to Iran.
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