South tourist route
Welcome to the Southern tourist route which starts in Stepanakert from the bridge "Mazi Kamurj"! The route is followed by landscapes and exquisite nature. But this is not the plot twist. You are going to witness monuments and attractions lying on the route which are considered to be the pearls of Artsakh cultural heritage of Artsakh and the entire Armenian world. Travelers will have the chance to visit the oldest archaeological site Karkar, Azokh caves, the Royal palace of Togh’s Meliks, famous monasteries Gtchavank, Kataro, and many other interesting places along the way. Plus, climbing the mountain Dzitapayt will take your breath away. Let the adventures begin!
Karkar archeological site
Archeological sites are common in Artsakh due to its rich heritage. Almost 5-km west the road, you will find the excavation area "Karkar". Recently discovered archaeological site "Karkar" refers to the antiquity and the early Middle Ages. It shows the ruins of a city beautifully located on the left bank of the river Karkar, on the very top of a rocky plateau. The locals call this place "the Tagavoren tegh" ("King's place"). It occupies an area of about 20 hectares. The walls stretched over a distance of about 1 km to the south-east and north-west. The land ramparts and ditches, artificial impassable pits separating the castle have a defensive purpose which are so eye-catching.
State Historical-Natural Reserve Hunot
Just 1 km east of the highway, we reach the State Historical-Natural Reserve "Hunot" with its unparalleled and thrilling canyon. Nature has been extremely lavish here. This place is so loved by many. Walking along the canyon, you are going to enjoy the breathtaking views of waterfalls, lush forests, residential caves of the Stone Age, rural ruins of village Hunot, ancient bridges - all framed by high mountains and a river, patiently breaking through the hard rock. Hunot is definitely a must-visit when you come to Artsakh.
Artsakhian villages are unique in their content. Almost every village offers something typically outstanding. One of these villages is Avetaranots, an open-air museum, located 3 km west of the line. In the Middle Ages, especially during the reign of meliks of Varanda, the settlement was surrounded by strong walls, some parts of which have survived to this day. This has been a chosen place for meliks. The village Avetaranots was the seat of meliks Shakhnazaryans. According to a legend, king of Aghvank Vache II (V century AD), became a hermit, settled down and devoted himself to God, therefore, the village became known as Avetaranots.
Getting back on the road, on the 22nd kilometer we reach the village Sarushen. Right next to the road stands a thousand-year basil church "Pirumashen." It is interesting to note that during the construction of this church, pre-Christian pagan-era temple tombstones were embedded into the walls. Pagan era is an undeniable part of both Artsakian and Armenian heritage. Unfortunately, many records, monuments and evidence have not been preserved.
Just 2 km north of the road you will see the legendary 2-thousand-sycamore "Tnjri". Near the village Skhtorashen stands a giant sycamore that has been issued a certificate of the oldest and tallest tree of the former USSR. Tree trunk hollow has a surface area of 44 square meters, which can easily be accommodated over 100 people. The height of the tree is 54 meters; the shadow of the tree covers 1400 square meters. Don’t forget to take some amazing shots here. So worth of capturing!
Turning off the highway at 12 km to the northeast, give yourself the luxury of visiting the monastery of Amaras - a man-made miracle. This famous cultural and religious centre of medieval Armenia, is located in the province Mews Aband of historical Artsakh. According to Pavstos Buzand, an Armenian historian of the VI-V century, the church of Amaras monastery was founded by Gregory the Illuminator at the beginning of the IV-th century. Amaras became famous in the middle of the IV century, when there was buried a grandson of Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop Grigoris, who built all the local churches, up to Atropatena (now the Iranian province of Azerbaijan). Bishop Grigoris died in 338 and was buried in the eastern part of the church.
State Historical-Natural Reserve Azokh cave
State Historical-Natural Reserve “Azokh cave” is located near the village Azokh, considered one of the oldest and best-known places of residence of prehistoric man. The State Historical-Natural Reserve is established here from 2014. This is so exciting to see and feel the prehistoric traces of first humans. The housing of ancient humans has a plurality of entries and exits, six rooms connected like a maze, the largest of which has an area of 3000 square meters. Here, for the first time, in so-called offshore fossil layers there were found stone tools for work and hunting, cave paintings of primitive man that show the first attempts to study the world through culture, and also the remains of flora and fauna of the period.
Village Mets Tagher
3 km north of the highway is the village of Mets Tagher, a center of trade, arts and crafts of Hadrout region since ancient times. At the center of the village you can see the church of Surb Amenaprkich (Holy Christ the Saviour), also called "Shenin yeghtse" ("Village church"). It was built in 1846 based on the inscription above the entrance to the church.
Mets Tagher is also home for the House-Museum of Air Marshal Armenak Khanferyants, established in 1975. In 1984 aircraft MiG-17 was established in the courtyard of the museum in memory of the great pilot. The museum is a two-storied building, the office and the Department of Ethnography are situated on the ground floor, which demonstrate a national houseware and applied crafts - pottery, millstones, stone carding machines, combs, churn, etc.
Another Artsakhian village that is prominent in its form of being is Togh. Located on the picturesque hillside, near the north-south highway, Togh village was the former residence of Dizak meliks of 17-19 centuries. The village has preserved many old houses and other architectural monuments. The widely known sights are churches of St. Stephanos and St. Hovhannes, palace of Melik Yeganyans. A water park is constructed here, in one of the most picturesque ravines, an amazing place for the summer heat loved by both Artsakhians and tourists. You can swim here, have fun, try local and European cuisine, and even rent a room for a stay as BnB.
You should visit village Togh at least once, especially during an annual Wine Fest; it is organized at the joint initiative of the Ministry of Culture, Youth Affairs and Tourism of the Republic of Artsakh and Vinegrowers and Winemakers Association of Artsakh. More than thirty winemakers from Armenia and Artsakh gather here to present their products. This flavorful fest also includes a series of cultural and entertainment programs like exhibition-fair of the best wines of Armenia and Artsakh, fair of homemade wines and agricultural products, concert program. Entertainment programs include excursions, dances, auctions, wine tasting and much more.
Not going far from village Togh, you will come across Gtchavank monastery located sacredly in the north-eastern slope of a single mountain, among the thick forests. Gtchavank used to be the medieval political and spiritual centre of Artsakh. Famous since the early medieval, the monastery was destroyed in the 7th century, during the reign of the Arabs and was again rebuilt in the 13th century. In the 18th century, with the support of Dizak melik Yegan the territory of the monastery expanded. From an architectural point of view, Gtchavank monastery complex is one of the most interesting monuments of the centuries-old Armenian culture.
We can’t state the exact date of the founding of Hadrout district centre, but in fact, there are cultural monuments of the pre-Christian period in its territory. It is known that already in the 16th century, there was a settlement, which was later renamed to Hadrout (Midzhnagetk). The narrow streets of old Hadrout, the houses of the 18-19 centuries, the 17th century Church of the Holy Resurrection, the 800 years old giant plane tree blend with the new city so harmonically. Once in Hadrout, visit the local history museum named after A. Mkrtchyan. It has interesting unique exhibits related to the history of not only the region but of the entire Artsakh.
One kilometer away from Hadrout is village Tyak. The ancient houses, cobbled streets are nicely preserved here. Tyak is located on the northern slopes of the Karabakh mountain range, semi-concealed in a mountain valley, occupying wooded slopes and the territory that extends to the entire flowing river valley.
Getting to the south of Hadrout, near the village Vank, you will come across Spitak Khach Monastery (White Cross). We still don’t have the exact date of the monastery, but the latest building is dated back to the 14th century. It was reconstructed in 1735.
Kataro Monastery is located in Hadrout region on mount Dizapayt. On top of the mountain stands a monument, one of the most historic sanctuaries of Artsakh. In addition to the church of the Monastery of Kataro, you will see the ruins, which are of great importance to the famous sanctuary. The mountain was declared a sacred place since ancient times; references to pilgrimages date back to the Arabian period. The Holy Temple was rebuilt in the 19th century.
The monument of Caravanserai Gardabazar
Caravanserai Gardabazar was built in 1681 on a hill. It is located on the highway Hadrout-Martouni, near the area of Gardabazar. This architectural monument of the seventeenth century occupies a special place in the architecture of Artsakh. Built in the best traditions of the Armenian architecture, it is like a little closed world with its unique traditions and customs.
South tourist route ends at the sacred for the Armenians Araks River. Thanks to the rich fauna of the river, this part of the Araks is popular for fishing. From all over Artsakh people come here to fish trout, catfish, sturgeon and others. At the site of the river Araks you can use Old Karavaz bridge (5 -7 cc.), as well as New Karavaz bridge (12-13 cc.) One way or another, our routes will not leave you disappointed.