The main road passes through Martuni where the road over the Selim Pass (2,410m) branches off right and goes south into Vayots Dzor province, being the only road linking northern and southern Armenia which avoids the capital. It has been upgraded and can now be used by all vehicles although it is impassable during much of the winter because of snow. Upgrading has taken away some of the pass's charm and has also reduced sightings of steppe eagles, black vultures and griffon vultures which were characteristic of the rolling uplands on this northern side. One of Armenia's most interesting sights, the intact 14th-century Selim caravanserai, is adjacent to the road but over the provincial border in Vayots Dzor. On the north side of the pass within Gegharkunik there is at Geghovit, the first village south from Martuni, a ruined 5th-century church dedicated to St George, and there are petroglyphs on Mount Sev Sar to the east of the road.
Martuni acquired its present name in 1926: Martuni was the nom de guerre of Alexander Miasnikian, the first prime minister of Armenia in Soviet days. The renaming of towns here manages to create particular confusion as there is another Martuni, also in Gegharkunik province but in the Getik Valley north of the lake. It is always necessary therefore to specify which Martuni one means: the northern one seems usually to be called Martuni Krasnoselsk region even though Krasnoselsk (Russian for 'red village') has officially reverted to its former name of Chambarak. lust to add to the confusion there is a third Martuni in Nagorno Karabagh.
Beyond Martuni the road swings east. After about another 20km it crosses the short channel which links the hydro tunnel bringing the water from the Arpa River to Lake Sevan and immediately afterwards the village of Artsvanist lies to the south of the road. Of the two roads into Artsvanist, the easternmost one is better and shorter. In a gorge on the southern side of the village is the secluded and appealing Monastery of Vanevank. It's probably best to park at the post office and walk down the track which is initially on the right-hand side of the river, then crosses to the left. The main church, dedicated to St Gregory and at the left-hand side, was built in 903 by Prince Shapuh Bagratuni together with his sister Miriam, the same Miriam who was also responsible for other churches in the district already mentioned. It was restored at the end of the 10th century by King Gagik I Bagratuni when the surrounding wall was built, parts of which can still be seen, notably on the hillside above and behind the monastery. The rather plain church building is itself basalt but the octagonal tambour is of contrasting red tuff. The right-hand church is barrel-vaulted and without a dome. It has a somewhat elongated appearance and is also built of basalt but has contrasting red tuff at the top of the gable ends. The gavit between the two churches was added at a later date. It has a bell tower and in the east part is what appears to be a burial vault.
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