Northern tourist route
The route begins in Stepanakert, crossing the country to the north, reaching Sotk mountain chain. The route runs along the main north-south highway to the village Vank, then turn onto the road Martakert-Vardenis. The road is wonderful opportunity to visit cultural and historical monuments. It drives along the picturesque countryside with healing springs, waterfalls Krmker, famous reservoir Sarsang. Across the northern tourist route one can find numerous large and small temples, churches, medieval castles, and, of course, the famous monasteries of Gandzasar and Dadivank.
2 km to the north-south of highway is the village Astkhashen. It got its name from the common fossils of water lilies in a shape of five-pointed stars. The village is famous 0.1-1.5 centimeter fossilized remains of five-pointed star-shaped water lilies, whose history dates back to the age of the Middle period of the Mesozoic era (between 161-175 million.BCE).
To the west of Astkhashen is a picturesque village of Patara. Patara village is located 6 km from the highway north-south, in the picturesque mountainous terrain, and is considered one of the most favorite places for the people of Artsakh and guests. Ice-cold springs, beautiful forest landscapes, alpine meadows, mountain streams – a long list of attractions of the village has not end.
Going back on the highway, we reach the village Tsahkashat located 20 km away from Stepanakert, where the house-museum of Nikol Duman and Ethnographic District are founded. Walking through the site, you can learn a lot about life of the people of Artsakh in the nineteenth century.
To get to the monastery of Saint Gevorg (Ptkes Berk) we need to go back to the highway, continue on to the village of Khachen about 4 km to the northeast. The monastery was built in 1263, but in different periods was rebuilt over and over again. The main temple of this complex consists of a three-storey east chapel with three basilicas
Turning 6 km west of the road, you can visit the village Kolatak. Hakobavank (Church of St. Hakob) is located on the right bank of the river Khachen. In the historical literature it is also referred to under the name Metsaranits. The date of foundation of the monastery is unknown, but one of the oldest khachkars, built into the wall, dates 853 year. Subsequent notes of the monastery refer to the 1212th year, when queen Khorishagh started the reconstruction.
Kachaghakaberd. From the south-western slope of the mountain Gevorgasar located near the village, a beautiful landscape is viewed. Far away, in front of the Church of St. Hakob, on top of the ridge, covered with thick forests, is Kachaghakaberd. Historical sources mention the ancient fortress called Khachen fortress of 9th century.
Returning to the highway, we reach the village of Vank, situated in the picturesque valley of Khachen. Before reaching the village, one can be amazed by panoramic views, opened from the bridge over the river Khachen - extending to the west valley of Khachen, mountain scenery on the east side.
Gandzasar Monastery stands proudly on a hill on the left bank of the river Khachen. Over the centuries it embodies the Christian traditions and national wisdom for the people of Artsakh. construction of the monastery was started in 1216 and completed in 1238. On the day of the great feast Vardavar (Sunday, July 22), in the presence of a large number of people, including about 700 representatives of the church, the ceremony of consecration of the church was held.
Church of St. John the Baptist (Hovhannes Mkrtich) is known throughout the Christian world because of the head of John the Baptist, buried under the altar of it.
Sarsang reservoir. The reservoir was built in the early 1970s (the length is 12 km, the width is 2 km, the water surface area is 24 square kilometers, the volume is 612 million cubic meters, the maximum depth is 90 m, the barrier height is 125 m) on one of the largest rivers flowing through the AR territory - the river Tartar. This is the highest man-made dam in the South Caucasus.
Charektar Monastery perched high on a hill and visible from the highway already, is one of the most significant monuments of Artsakh Verin Khachen. It is located on the border of Shahumyan (Karvatvhar) and Martakert regions on the territory of current Shahumyan region, high on a hill on the right bank of the river Tartar, in the village of the same name. The main church was built in 1260 year and was named after the Virgin Mary.
Dadivank monastery is located on the left bank of the river Tartar, at a distance of 95 kilometers north of Stepanakert. This beautiful piece of architecture, surprisingly harmoniously interact with the environment. The church, with its numerous buildings is located at the foot of the wooded mountains on the south side. Dadivank was founded in the first century on the site of the grave of St. Dadi - a preacher of Christianity, who fell a cruel death.
The jewel of the complex is the Church of Arzu Khatun (XIII century). Murals, some of which were created by the queen Khachen, are preserved on the walls of the church. The complex also includes a dining room, recreation rooms of the archpriest, manuscript room, where wonderful miniatures were created for manuscripts, monastic cells. Initially, the bell tower of the complex was a separate structure. Two carved khachkars, dated of 1283, were placed in the belfry. Khachkars now considered the most famous monuments of the complex.
2 km from the monastery Dadivank, on the right bank of the river Tartar is a monastery Kusanats Anapat (Blessed Virgin). The complex consists of 9 buildings of various purposes. The main church was built in 1178. The ruins of the monastery impressively arose at the confluence of history and nature. In this part of Tartar river, from the highway to the monastery is stretched the original hanging bridge.
Turning off the main road to the south at a distance of 22 kilometers, we reach the village of Zouar, where there is a natural landmark - the so-called source of "Hot Water". "Hot Spring", a natural "Jacuzzi" about 2.5 meters in diameter and one meter depth, is formed from calcareous sediments. Hot mineral water erupts at the very center. The water temperature is so comfortable in the "Jacuzzi", that even in the cold weather you can take a bath without the risk to catch cold. This tourist site provides some services, offers pavilions, guest house, parking, etc.
The city of Karvachar is located in the north-western part of the Artsakh Republic, 128 km away from Stepanakert, on the height of 1550 meters above sea level. A unique in Artsakh open-air museum exhibits khachkars, tombstones, and petroglyphs.
Village Tsar. Medieval Armenian chroniclers praised immortalized by the history of royal or princely village Tsar, calling it "blessed village Tsar." This famous village is located in the upper flow of the river Tartar, on a high plateau at an altitude of 300-310 m, surrounded by rocks, and only one side is the way to the village.
The hot mineral pool "Jermajur" is located on the banks of the river Tartar at a distance of about 20 km from the town of Karvatchar. The road to the source Jermajur passing along the river Tartar, through the rocks and woods impresses highly. Mineral water has healing properties. You can enjoy a long dip in the pool, which was built near a natural spring.
Large and Lesser lakes Al of volcanic origin are located on the eastern outskirts of Vardenis mountain range, 20 km away from the village of Tsar. A merging border of new and old lava flows forms a small valley like a canyon, which connects the lakes so that water of the Lesser Al flow into the Large Al.
Fortress Handaberd. After a rest in this wonderful valley, we return back to the highway, heading to the village Knaravan, where the fortress Handaberd is situated. Fortress, known with glorious historical past, is constantly mentioned in the history of Armenia. It was founded in the IX century.
Northern tourist route ends at the border with Armenia, near the village Sotk. Here ends the journey over picturesque Artsakh. Martakert-Vardenis road leads directly to the lake Sevan, the largest in Armenia, and the second of the highest fresh water lakes in the world. On the border with Armenia there is a custom checkpoint.