Rediscovering Armenia with Hyur Service: Tsaghkadzor, Lake Sevan, Goshavank and Haghartsin

As I mentioned in my previous post, last weekend I had a great opportunity of rediscovering Armenia with Hyur Service – a leading tour operator offering regular daily trips to remarkable historical and cultural spots around the country. It’s high time to tell you about the second tour I’ve taken – an amazing trip to Tsaghkadzor, Lake Sevan, Goshavank and Haghartsin. I’ve never thought one can see so many monasteries in just 8 hours and don’t get bored. Well, maybe that’s just me being in love with Armenia. But no, look at the pictures. Aren’t they just stunning?

I’m disgressing.Let’s get back in time. Hyur tours always start at 10.00. Tour participants are supposed to be present in front of the office at 9.30. Usually they are but sometimes there is this clumsy one, who is terribly late because his or her alarm clock didn’t work. Or maybe he or she got stacked in a traffic jam. Or got lost in an unfamiliar city. This time, the clumsy one was me.

Usually nothing in Armenia starts on time. Everyone is fashionably late to everything and I hate it. Hyur is quite an exceptional company though. They start on time. Sharp. At 10.00 someone from Hyur called me asking where I was. The bus was just about to leave. Here the adventure starts – I had to haul a taxi, preferably a licensed one not to rip me off too much, explain the driver in my laughable Russian what is actually going on and then call the guide to coordinate a meeting point somewhere on the way from Yerevan to Lake Sevan. What a chase! Finally we met the bus and I could join the group. Thank you guys for waiting for me and not laughing at me too hard. The operation was successful.

Our first stop that day was Kecharis Monastery in the city of Tsaghkadzor (still struggling to pronounce THIS). Kecharis was founded in 11th century and it used to be a very important spiritual and educational centre in the Middle Ages. The complex was destroyed by an earthquake in 1927 and it wasn’t fully restored till 2012. Today it looks imposing again. Tsaghkadzor is a most popular ski resort in Armenia. People say Kecharis looks stunning from ski slopes. Maybe I will go back one winter day and check it.

Second stop, a very brief one, was by Lake Sevan. Just a couple of minutes to feel wind in our faces and take nice pictures of the landscape. Why is this particular lake so important for Armenia? Armenia is landlocked. Yes, yes, I’m nodding. This is very true. There is no sea. But there is Sevan, one one of the largest fresh-water high-altitude lakes in the world. And yes, it is impressive.
Third stop. Time for some more monasteries! We stopped to explore the monastery complex of Goshavank. Built in 12th century, monastery complex remained in a pretty good condition. Also, if you have opportunity to pay this place a visit, don’t miss the khachkars, Armenian cross-stones, carved memorial steles engraved with ornamental crosses. They are very characteristic for Armenian religious art, which means that there are thousands of them in Armenia and everywhere where the Armenian communities live (read: in each and every corner of this world). The ones in Goshavank are unique though. One of the finest examples I’ve ever seen!

Last stop. Haghartsin. First think I liked about this place was the name. It means monastery of the playing (or soaring) eagle in Armenian. The legend says there was an eagle soaring ovet the main building on the dedication day. Hope you are not fed up with monasteries yet. This one is unique because it’s still (or rather: again) full of life. Currently a new monastic school is being built there in an attempt to work towards a revival of Armenian monastic life. The monks will return to the place which, empty or not, belongs to them and no one else.

After Haghartsin we headed back to Yerevan, with heads full of legends and stories about monastic life. For me the storytelling and sightseeing continued the next day. On Sunday I headed to Echmiadzin, the modern spiritual center of all Armenians. The blog post about it will be live soon. Stay tuned!

I was lucky enough to be a guest of Hyur Service. All of the opinions are my own.

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