Artsakh is a small country full of wonders, both natural and human-made. Artsakh is beautiful and exciting at all times of the year, and in winter, it will present you with many fascinating discoveries.
In this article, we will tell you why it is worth visiting Artsakh in winter, what you can do, where to go and what to see.
We decided to include several destinations in our guide for winter holidays: acquaintance with impressive monuments of spiritual and material culture, bathing in hot springs, hiking and mountain climbing, national cuisine, museums, and of course, New Year’s and Christmas celebrations.
Let's start with the fact that the Artsakh land is more famous for. Despite its small territory, Artsakh is rich in a vast number of monuments of spiritual and material culture, as well as natural attractions. Nonetheless, several places are worth visiting in the winter in the first place:
Dadivank or Hutavank Monastery
Dadivank is a majestic and ancient monastery complex, an outstanding model of Armenian architecture of the 9th-13th centuries. Dadivank is located in the Karvachar district at an altitude of 1100 m above sea level. The first name of the monastery is associated with the name of St. Dadi, who preached Christianity in the west of Armenia and was a student of the Apostle Thaddeus. According to legend, the monastery was built over his grave. The second name comes from the Armenian “Hut” (hill) and “Vank” (monastery): “monastery on a hill.”
In winter, Dadivank is genuinely reminiscent of a fairy tale. The powerful and lush mountain forests that nicely surround the monastery become perfectly snow-white. This spectacle is impossible to express in words; it needs to be seen and felt. Of course, do not forget that the road to the monastery in the winter is quite tricky and requires special preparation or guidance.
Waterfall "Mamrot Kar" or "Umbrellas" in the valley Unot
Mamrot Kar, is interpreted from Armenian as "stone covered with moss." It is one of the most prominent and visited places in Artsakh. The local residents frequently call it "Umbrellas," since stone formation covered with moss and through which water flows resembles an umbrella.
The waterfall is located in the Unot canyon (also called the cornel canyon) at the foot of the Shushi city. When looking at the canyon from above, it seems that it is impossible to go down to the canyon, however, a hiking trail from the village of Mkhitarashen located in the region of Shushi will lead to it. Although the winter in Artsakh is quite mild, during frosts, the waterfall turns into a magical work of nature. The trickles of water freeze, turning into thin icicles that ring quietly with a slight wind blow. On the way to the waterfall, you can enjoy the marvelous snow-capped mountain landscape and views of the canyon.
Hike to Mamrot Kar is an excellent opportunity for lovers of nature and outdoor activities.
Tigranakert is an ancient Armenian city founded in the 1st century BC, one of the four cities named after Tigran II (Great) - the king of Great Armenia. The city has long been one of the centers of Armenian culture. Its ruins were discovered in 2005 in the Askeran region of Artsakh. In the area of the ancient city, burial mounds, stone sculptures, religious buildings, and churches hollowed out in the rocks have been preserved. Nowadays, Tigranakert is a state reserve where groups of archaeologists and historians work. Tigranakert can be visited year-round - there is always mild and warm weather, winter cold and snowy roads will not be a barrier for lovers of archaeological antiquities. Vankasar church is located on top of a hill near Tigranakert. From here, one can enjoy beautiful views.
Taq Jur Hot Spring is an excellent place to relax at any time of the year, but in winter, this place becomes even more magnetic. You must agree that taking a swim in freezing weather in a natural hot tub with hot water hidden from staring eyes and surrounded by mountains and forests covered with snow is a bliss. The Taq Jur thermal spring (Armenian hot water) is located in the canyon of the Tutkhun River. This place is justly considered as one of the fascinating ones in Artsakh. The spring is surrounded by a forested valley, sheer cliffs, and the ruins of medieval temples. Just imagine - a natural hot tub with bubbling mineral water, which is located in a completely deserted place. The spring water is quite hot, but next to the natural jacuzzi, there is a pool where liquid flows at a more pleasant temperature so that everyone can enjoy the healing water. They say that the water of the Taq Jur spring has miraculous properties. Without a doubt, Taq Jur, surrounded by the incredible beauty of winter nature, will provide an opportunity to relax and recover both physically and spiritually.
If more active varieties of recreation attract you, then you can go hiking in the highest mountains of Artsakh (more than 2000 m above sea level). Hiking through steep canyons of indescribable harmony, mountain rivers, and forests will allow you to see exciting places - created by nature and raised by the hands of man. More information about the routes can be found here. Also, winter Artsakh is perfect for mountaineering enthusiasts. There are various rock routes in the republic. For instance, you can climb Mount Dizapait in the Hadrut region at an altitude of 2478 m above sea level. From the top of the mountain, you can see the whole Artsakh Valley, the Araks River Valley, the Zangezur Mountains, Mount Khustup, the villages of Hadrut, and Mount Toghasar, the Artsakh Range, the mountains of Kusanats and MetzKirs. And at the very top is the ancient monastery of Katarovank. Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that the routes for hiking and mountain climbing in Artsakh are quite complicated, and in the winter season, they require more physical training and willpower. But you will not be disappointed, and your efforts will not be in vain.
For those who prefer a more measured and relaxing holiday, there are fascinating museums in Artsakh that will introduce you to the history and culture of Artsakh. For instance, you can visit the Shusha Carpet Museum, which presents antique Karabakh carpets. Here you can visually familiarize yourself with the features of Artsakh carpet weaving art.
Of course, not one trip is complete without acquaintance with national cuisine. Artsakh winter dishes are especially appetizing; they are distinguished by their richness, variety, and bright tastes. In particular, this list includes khash, khorovats (barbeque), dolma, and spas soup. Throughout fasting, local cuisine also offers a wide selection of delicious dishes. You can learn more about Artsakh cuisine here. In Artsakh, there is a large number of excellent places where you can spend a pleasant evening and enjoy national cuisine. You can choose a suitable place here.
New Year and Christmas
New Year: originally, the Armenians celebrated the New Year (Arm. Amanor) on March 21 in the agricultural cycle. An analog of the New Year tree in Armenian culture was the "tree of life," which was prepared from wheat straw. Since the end of the XVIII century. The holiday was celebrated following to European tradition. On New Year's Eve, from the beginning of December, the capital of the republic is decorated, fairs with Christmas trees open, trade-in Christmas decorations, souvenirs, and various goodies begins. The main dish of the Artsakh New Year's table is a traditional Khorovac (barbecue), so on New Year's Eve, every corner of the republic beckons with its mouth-watering barbecue smell. On Renaissance Square in Stepanakert, the central holiday tree is located.
Christmas: Armenians deeply respect Christian traditions; therefore, Christmas in Artsakh is one of the most significant holidays. In many countries of the world, the celebration of Christmas and Epiphany was divided into two dates. However, the Armenian church has preserved traditions and still celebrates Christmas on the night of the 5th January 6. In the morning of the 6th in the churches are the Christmas Liturgy and Holy Communion. On the eve of Christmas, you can visit one of the churches of Artsakh to feel the atmosphere of celebration and spirituality.
They celebrate both holidays in Artsakh at home with their families. Nevertheless, since the people of Artsakh are characterized by unique hospitality and goodwill, you can knock on any door and join the celebration, where you will be greeted like a family member and offered to spend the night with them. In winter, in the countryside, this is quite a common occurrence because it is cold outside, and therefore, you will surely be invited to a cozy and warm house to get warm, you will be treated with delicious food and overnight stay.
Take warm clothes and come to hospitable Artsakh this winter. Winter Artsakh will make you believe in wonders and will forever remain in your heart!