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Published: July 28th 2012
Tatev Monastery is in Southern Armenia, a small area wedged in among Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. The Wings of Tatev® is the longest single line aerial tramway in the world. It is 5.7 kilometers long and takes approximately 11 minutes to cross the Vorotan River Gorge to the monastery and village of the same name. Over the gorge, the tram is a maximum height of 320 meters above the ground. Very cool but definitely not for the agoraphobic.
Tomorrow I am heading to Byurakan close to Mount Aragats (just over 4000 meters but not at all technical) which I will attempt to summit Monday morning.
$US ≈ 411 Armenian dram
Accommodation and food
Initially took my own room sans toilette
at Theatre Hostel just south of Republic Square. I booked on hostelbookers.com for ~$18 for the first night and directly with the hostel for a bit less for the second night. The place is very cheap compared to the competition (Envoy Hostel, et al) and the staff is great. There is free WiFi and a light breakfast. Tea and Armenian coffee are available all day. But unfortunately that is where it ends.
The facilities are awful as are the beds. The dorms just plain suck. Quite possibly the worst laid out hostel I've ever stayed in. Near the hostel is the large indoor market with a cafe on the corner where khorvats
(BBQ pork which will be a recurring theme in this blog), salad, and delicious bread is 1,200 dram. There are also a couple of kebab stands nearby. Cold TAN is available everywhere and appears to be a Russian version of ayran
, or yoghurt, water, and salt and is a real thirst quencher. There is a much greater choice of restaurants on the other side of Republic Square closer to Envoy Hostel. I actually considered moving over there as the place is much nicer but also nearly twice the price. Transport
Getting to town from the airport I was fortunate to arrive early in the morning (4:00 am) after all the other arriving passengers has secured transport to town. Since many flights were leaving early there were a lot of taxi drivers who had already dropped off their cache. I was content to wait for the 350 dram minibus into town which would have left me very close to the
hostel. So I sat down at the cafe, ordered a 950 dram espresso, and punched away on the free WiFi. During this time a taxi driver kept approaching me asking if I needed a taxi into town. Eventually the price dropped to 1,000 dram which was very good so we left. Leaving Yerevan by bus or share taxi is not that easy as there are many bus stations to various parts of the country. I left for Goris from the "bus station," really just a parking lot, behind the train station and accessible by metro (100 dram fare). Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery
Garni is a refurbished Hellenic church set in a beautiful valley. From the minibus stand south of Republic Square take #9 or 73 to Nor Nork (100 dram) then walk back around the corner of the Mercedes dealership to a parking lot with minibus #266 heading to Garni when full (250 dram). Geghard is another 9 or 10 kms further but I did not feel like hitching in the heat or dealing with the annoying taxi drivers so I headed back to town early.
Accommodation and food
Hotel Mira as I was sort of stuck in Goris for the night because the daily 3:00 pm bus to Tatev was inexplicably not running that day. Just uphill from the share taxi staging area is the nice and new hotel where a single room with bathroom, massive breakfast with real Armenia coffee, and free WiFi throughout was 10,000 dram. The hosts also gave me a lot of fruit, juice, BBQ pork, and homemade vodka which was fortified mulberry wine and powerful stuff. Transport
Comfortable share taxi to/from Yerevan is 3,500 dram/person and takes ~4 hours with a brief stop where you can get a potato or meat pirog
and a huge glass of homemade ayran
for 300 dram. There are share taxis to Stepanakert and buses to Tatev and Kapan. Late in the day is the best time to look for a share taxi towards Yerevan as many drivers are from there and will negotiate good rates so they can get back home. I initially secured a ride to Areni (the turn off for Noravank, actually) for 5,000 dram but ended up paying 3,500 dram as the driver picked up another passenger for part of the way.
Mount Ararat, Turkey
Summitted July last year, 5136 meters. This was on the drive to Goris.
All monasteries free entry. Tatev
Take the 3:00 pm bus to Tatev but get off at the tram station in Halidzor. Bus is 300 dram and cable car is 3000/4000 dram one way/round trip. I took the cable car one way with my luggage expecting to stay in Tatev for the night and take the 9:00 am bus returning to Goris the next day. On the way to the village from the monastery I decided to try my luck hitching and got a ride back to Goris arriving ~8:00 pm. Noravank
Spent last night at the rip off Edem Hotel right at the spur road to Noravank. There really was no other option at 10:30 pm and much to my chagrin I paid 10,000 dram for my own room with bathroom, AC, and cable so I could watch the BBC pre-Olympic hype. Breakfast was not included and not even available at the overpriced restaurant. This morning ~8:30 am I caught a lift in a Soviet era motorcycle sidecar for 7 kms to the monastery. The driver was working nearby so I had to walk the last km. I walked 4 kms on the way out and caught a
ride the last half back to the hotel. After checking out I walked down the road a bit to the roadside stand and had boiled eggs with lavash
(flat bread), Armenian coffee, and TAN for 800 dram. Then waited 30 minutes for a ride to the turn off for Khor Virap in Ararat. It was a classic Russian ute with an overheating radiator and spontaneous windshield wiping. Before the 1800 meter pass the driver stopped to cool off the radiator by pouring water all over it and using lung power to blow water from the overflow reservoir back into the radiator. I was mildly surprised that we made it without incident and it was certainly... interesting. Khor Virap
Amazing setting near the base of Mount Ararat. After being dropped off in the town of Ararat it did not take long to get a ride to the monastery. It was too hot to spend much time there (right in the middle of the day ~1:00 pm) and I was left at the side of the road where I caught another lift to Artashat 10 kms closer to Yerevan. I didn't wait long for the last ride of the day, the
Roadside Drinking Fountain
These are all over Armenia, Turkey too. Very welcome sight in the 40°C furnace-like heat.
sixth in all, to the train station where I took the metro back to Theatre Hostel after doing some grocery shopping in the tunnel connecting the train station, metro, and bus station. Really good prices but speaking Russian helps avoiding being ripped off.
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