Hidden Armenia | Unveiling the Lori Province


The Lori province in the Northern part of Armenia is the largest region of the country. With its tall mountains and lush forests it’s also the greenest. Home to famous monasteries, like Haghpat and Sanahin, Lori is a must visit for every traveler exploring the Caucasus! 

 

Vacationing in Georgia, I had to step over the border and peek around in neighboring Armenia. With my boyfriend and a knowledgeable tour guide on my side, I explored the Lori province and its most famous highlights in a day.

I must admit that thoroughly exploring Lori takes more than just a day. However, visiting this part of Armenia has been sitting on my bucket list for so long that we decided to have a taste of what the country has to offer. Plenty, is my conclusion and this is exactly how my bucket list keeps growing and growing.

Tourism is hardly noticeable in this part of Armenia. Even during the peak season I might have seen two other tourists. It’s a shame because this beautiful country truly deserves an audience. In the Lori province alone you can easily fill 2-4 days with cool activities!

lori province

 

What’s there to see in the Lori province?

 

Debed Canyon and Alaverdi

With large forests covering the border between Georgia and Armenia and the mystical Debed Canyon, the Lori province feels like you’re far away from everything you’ve ever known. Communist flats and abandoned factories alongside of the road display the recent Soviet history and create a stunning contrast with the surrounding nature.

So does the Alaverdi copper smelter. Although creating jobs for the people of Alaverdi, the air pollution can be seen from miles. While neighboring country Georgia seems to be moving forward, Armenia is still struggling economically. You can imagine how important this company must be.

Fun fact: Debed is not just a palindrome, it actually means ‘backwards’.

lori region
lori province

 

Monasteries

Armenia has a rich religious history which is shown through the many monasteries and churches scattered all over the country. The Northern and North Eastern parts – including the Lori province – have a large concentration of religious buildings, located close to each other, making it very easy to visit most within a day.

Sanahin and Haghpat, both monasteries from the 10th century and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, are probably most famous in the region. A visit to both monasteries is a must for travelers interested in architecture, history and religion.

Lori province
A friendly lady keeping Sanahin Monastery tidy.

lori province
Haghpat.

lori province
lori province

Other churches and monasteries in the Lori province:

  • Odzun Church (5th century);
  • Saint George Church of Sverdlov (6th century);
  • Horomayr Monastery (7th century);
  • Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s Church of Dsegh, (7th century);
  • Hnevank Monastery (7th-12th centuries);
  • Surp Hovhannes Monastery of Ardvi (8th-13th centuries);
  • Church of the Forty Martyrs (11th century);
  • Khorakert Monastery (1251);
  • Surp Nshan Monastery of Sedvi (13th century);
  • Gyulagarak church (1876);
  • Russian Church of the Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary, Vanadzor (opened in 1895).

lori province
On our way our guide pointed out this gorgeous MiG aircraft.

 

Fortresses of the Lori province

The Lori province has been no stranger to invasions, wars and plundering. While Soviet buildings around the area showcase a more recent history, the many fortresses are a reminder of the older days.

The Akhtala fortress played a large role in protecting the north-western parts of Armenia and is one of the most well-preserved fortresses in the country. The fortress and the Akhtala Monastery are well worth a visit on your trip to the Lori province, as well as the Lori fortress and the Kayan fortress.

lori province
lori province
lori province
Akhtala Monastery.

 

Getting there

Whether you’re coming from within Armenia or from neighboring Georgia, self-drive or hiring a tour guide are by far easiest for reaching the Lori province. When you have some energy (and time) to spare, hiking between the different sites can be done as well.

Lori’s capital Vaznador is only 112 km from Yerevan. Getting around through public transport can be uncomfortable but with a little bit of patience it can be done. When crossing the border from Georgia to Armenia, be prepared for corruption, especially when you’re with a vehicle.

lori province
Once in a while a vintage yellow bus passes by, carrying locals coming back from shopping on the Georgian side.

We took a (self-bought) day tour from Tbilisi with Kartveli Tours, my favorite tour company in Georgia. Considering the things I’ve learned on the road and my lack of driving skills, this was the best option for us. A tour from Tbilisi lasts around 8 hours and includes a delicious Armenian BBQ lunch, which – believe it or not – was my favorite part of the day!

 

You can imagine how much I want to return to dreamy Armenia, explore it full out and learn more about its complex history. Hopefully I get to do so soon! Until then I’m here, planning my return 🙂

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    L. Spaans.
    November 1, 2016 at 17:04

    Het is zo mooi en ook zo spannend al die historie en de bijzondere bouwsels misschien gelukkig dat toerisme nog niet alles heeft overspoeld. Neem je kans waar nu dat het nog kan en geniet en make me jalous! X

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      November 2, 2016 at 19:44

      Dat is zeker zo, het is allemaal nog heel puur 🙂 Will do!

  • Reply
    Sam
    November 2, 2016 at 10:06

    I love your photos! When i was in Tbilisi i was thinking about going to Armenia too but i didn’t. Another thing you pointed out to me LOL.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      November 2, 2016 at 16:26

      Thanks so much, Sam! 🙂 The good news is you can always go back!

  • Reply
    Sascha
    April 12, 2017 at 13:04

    I really like the way you explore these hidden destinations! Not in a million years I thought Armenia would be on my bucket list, thanks for the tip!

  • Reply
    Linda
    May 26, 2017 at 20:05

    I am planning a trip to Armenia and this is so very helpful. You have inspired me to go to Georgia too!
    I love hearing non-Armenians talk about Armenia. As a proud Amenian it is always a pleasure to get a different perspective.

  • Reply
    Olga
    August 28, 2017 at 14:25

    Dear Rose,
    come to Alaverdi again and experience it with local guides. Alaverdi guides offer free hikes and tours of the region, which include visits to amazing places, learning about them from local people who speak English and love their local sights! We are looking forward to seeing you again!

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