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This small resort town with population of 7000 people, 2080m above sea level on the upper Arpa River, was popular in the USSR as a vacation spot for mineral-water treatments and hot springs, some of them very hot. Jermuk, whose name is one which every visitor to Armenia is likely to learn since it is the source of much of the country's mineral water. Some of the sanatoria have been renovated and are combining this role with that of a modern hotel. The town is gradually losing its previously rundown air although some unattractive concrete buildings remain.

In the centre of the town is a row of urns, each of which has water of a different specified temperature pouring from a tap. Visitors bring their mugs, jugs and vacuum flasks to fill them at the taps and in high season, late July to mid September, queues build up. Down by the river is a waterfall near a cafe which has been built under a natural land bridge. The statue, as one approaches the town just before the main bridge, is of Israel Ori (1659-1711), Armenia's first diplomat. From 1678 onwards, he travelled throughout Europe and Russia trying to establish contacts with the leaders of the Christian powers. Seeking protection for Armenia against the Persians and Turks, he met with Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1700; Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, in 1701; and Pope Clement XI in 1704. In 1709, he headed the Armenian delegation to the Persian shah.

The spa business gets most of its customers in the July and August holidays, and largely hibernates outside this season. Some of its sanatoriums have immersion pools and treatment areas. The spa attendants take their job seriously – in the old days people would sign up for 18-day courses with medically supervised immersions in Jermuk’s waters.

Open to the public is the Gallery of Waters, with a fasade of archways and a pleasant view. Water runs into stone urns from pipes set in the wall and the temperature of the water is printed next to its pipe. The various waters are said to have different properties, good for curing stomach and liver problems, heart disease and cancer.

The Armenia Hotel and Health Spa (working hours 9am-5pm) has hot baths, mud treatments, sauna, hydrotherapy rooms and various other treatment rooms. Even better, try the Jacuzzi at the Olympia Health Spa across the road.

The landscape around Jermuk is very pretty, excellent for walks and hikes. It would be a good centre for walking but there are no detailed maps or marked trails. A ski lift was built at the entry to the town in 2007. It goes from an altitude of 2,100m to 2,500m and the total length of ski slopes is 2.6km. The resort is low key and very much in its infancy although skis and accessories can apparently be hired in some of the larger hotels and there is a cafe at the chair-lift terminal.

Orientation & Information - The town is entered via a bridge spanning a deep gorge high above the Arpa River; turn left at the end of the bridge, and a few hundred metres along is the taxi and bus stop that serves as a main square of sorts. Just north of the taxi stand is the Armenia Hotel and Gallery of Waters. South of the taxi stand is the short main road with shops and an internet cafe.

Getting There & Away - Jermuk is 177km from Yerevan, about two hours by the main highway, and then 26km off the main highway on a spur road. In the low season there is one marshrutka to Yerevan each day (2,5 hours) at 7.30am. At 8am there is a bus to Yeghegnadzor (one hour) and at 4pm a bus goes to Vayk (30 minutes). More buses and marshrutkas operate in July and August.

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