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!
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’.
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.
A friendly lady keeping Sanahin Monastery tidy.
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).
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.
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.
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 🙂