‘Highly recommend’ Armenian guide

By Neil Johnson
This item appears on page 38 of the October 2019 issue.

For our trip to Armenia in May 2019, my wife and I hired Hayk Avagyan (phone +374 93 57 22 66, armeniantourguide.com) as our driver and guide. He turned out to be one of the best guides we’ve ever had.

From our initial contact with him at his website through the end of our four days in Armenia, Hayk (pronounced “hike”) was engaging and very informative. He responded quickly to my emails, and we soon had our 4-day itinerary set.

We paid him $1,025 for his guide/driving services and paid for each hotel when we checked out. (At our request, Hayk booked the hotels, which were comfortable and in good locations.) He picked us up in Georgia, arriving the night before our scheduled tour was to start.

As we had already been to Azerbaijan, there was extra scrutiny of our passports at Armenian Immigration, but Hayk helped smooth out the process and we were soon on our way.

Our first tour stop in Armenia was Haghartsin Monastery, dating from the 12th and 13th centuries.

At Lake Sevan, we climbed up to Sevanavank Monastery for excellent views of the lake and countryside.

As we continued across the mountains, we arrived at Orbelian’s Caravanserai, built along the Selim Mountain Pass in 1332 to accommodate weary travelers and their animals.

We spent the night in the village of Hermon at LucyTour Hotel Resort (v. Hermon, Vayots Dzor; phone +374 98 779 778, www.lucy-tour.com), which provided a good buffet dinner and breakfast. The room cost about $40 per night, with breakfast.

The next day we visited Tatev Monastery, dating from the 9th century. Access to the monastery was via an aerial tram, the longest nonstop double-track cableway in the world. The ride across the gorge on the tram was thrilling, with excellent views.

Built in the 13th century, Noravank Monastery was our next stop. This is a beautiful property situated in a narrow valley. In nearby Areni, we sampled wines of the region and left the tasting room with two bottles.

Near the end of the day we approached Yerevan, with one final stop at Khor Virap monastery, offering views of Mount Ararat across the Turkish border.

In Yerevan we stayed two nights at the small Elysium Gallery Hotel (Yeznik Koghbatsi st. 75/5; phone +374 94 99 77 94, elysiumgalleryhotel.com), which we would recommend, as it has an excellent city-center location. It cost about $50 per night, with breakfast.

The next day we set out to see the surrounding sights, including the Temple of Garni, the only Greco-Roman colonnaded building still standing in Armenia or any territory of the former Soviet Union, though we first stopped at a gorge to walk past the Symphony of Stones, a wonderful grouping of natural, hexagonal-cylinder rocks.

We then visited the monastery of Geghard, part of which was carved from a mountain. Although the monastery has been around since the 4th century, the main cathedral wasn’t built until the 13th century.

When we got to the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, we found that it was undergoing renovation and covered with scaffolding, with the interior inaccessible. We would have skipped this stop had we known.

Before heading back to Yerevan, we stopped at the 7th-century ruins of the Zvartnots Cathedral.

Our final day in Armenia had us traveling back to Georgia via the Debed Canyon. We stopped at Alphabet Park, which was created to celebrate the 1,600-year anniversary of the Armenian alphabet and featured statues representing letters.

We also visited the Haghpat and Akhtala monasteries, both of which date back to the 10th century. We particularly enjoyed the frescoes at the Akhtala Monastery.

Upon our arrival in Georgia, Hayk dropped us off at our hotel in Tbilisi and we had to say good-bye.

On this trip, there were often long stretches of driving. We found Hayk’s SUV to be very comfortable, and his driving skills were excellent.

We had a very full itinerary. Most days extended to 10 to 12 hours of sightseeing, but we were able to see an extensive portion of Armenia. In addition to our scheduled stops, Hayk typically included extra sites each day.

If you are planning a private tour of Armenia, we highly recommend Hayk.


Nipomo, CA