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біля Ohanavan, Aragatsotn (አርሜኒያ)
This hike, in the Aragatsotn region, will take you through beautiful mountainous scenery and to the Hovhannavank and Saghmosavank monasteries. You will see the Hatis mountain (2,524 m) to the east, Ararat (5,165m) to the west, Ara (2,605 m) to the south, and Aragats (4,095m) - Armenia’s highest peak - to the north. The hike will first take you to Hovhannavank, then down into the river gorge, and along the river up to Saghmosavank. Chapels and monasteries made of stone can be found in ruins along the way. Caves and animal dens are spread along the canyon. The return is from Saghmosavank village.
Saghmosavank Monastery stands on the edge of the deep Kasakh river gorge. Built by Prince Vache Vachutyan and his dynasty in the 13th century, the monastery consists of the St. Sion and St. Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Mother of God) churches, a narthex and a scriptorium. St. Sion is the main church of the complex; it is a domed church with several aisles and a four-pillared narthex on its west side. The scriptorium-church is located on the southeast of St. Sion. It differs from other scriptoriums of its time through its unique layout, wherein its walls have niches and it has an altar on its east side. A cemetery, full of remarkable cross stones and monuments is located on the north end of the monastery.
Hovhannavank Monastery (built between the 5th - 13th centuries) rests on the right edge of the Kasakh river gorge in the Ohanavan village. It was dedicated to John the Baptist, and was a part of the historic Ararat province of Greater Armenia. Legend credits its’ founding to Gregory the Illuminator (3rd – 4th centuries). According to Arakel of Tabriz (17th century), the monastery was named Hovhannavank after Hovhann, who Ghazar Parpetsi appointed as leader of the monastery. The main church of the monastery was built between 1,216-1,221 by the order of Vache Vachutyan, whose son later added the narthex in 1,250. The church, now surrounded by cemeteries, used to have wide arable lands, gardens, pastures, mills and villages. It was also a remarkable center of education, with a rich repository of manuscripts (some of which have been preserved up to this day). In the 17th century, Zakaria Sarkgavag Kanakertsi lived here. It was he who wrote the story of Hovhannavank. Hovhannavank became inactive in the 19th century.
Yellow flowers are spread throughout the hike, and are commonly known as ascension flowers, as they bloom on the eve of Ascension Day (a religious event). There are also yellow dandelions, chamomiles, blue forget-me-nots, colorful violets, flowering thorn plants, edible mushrooms, and herbs; the herbs are collected by the villagers in spring and used in cooking, especially in dishes that include eggs. There are apricot, peach, and apple tree orchards adjacent to the hike. The flora is lush on either side of the hike in the spring and summer.
In Aragatsotn, the meadows, cornfields, and slopes up to the summit are abundant with reptiles; the dilapidated monuments are full of snakes (like vipers and green adders) and lizards. In the mountain forests brown bears can be seen, as well as their tracks and dens. The sightings of hares, wolves and foxes are also common. Birds like wood and field larks, owls, quails, wood-chat shrikes, griffon vultures and others inhabit the forest here.
Safety and Connectivity
Mobile telephone coverage (via Ucom and VivaCell-Mts) is usually available on the hike from Saghmosavank to Hovhannavank. It is not advisable to go down the gorge in rainy weather, so as not to slip. The 911 emergency services operate throughout Armenian in case of any accidents.
Be sure to bring bottled water!
Best period: April -November
Distance: 30 km from Yerevan
Hiking trail description: 7.13km
Walk duration: 3.5 hours (please consider this time and do not rely on GPS data)
Altitude from Sea Level: 1253-1612m
Visible Trail Surface: 90%, 10% easily discernible
How to Get There
The most convenient option is to take a taxi from Yerevan to Saghmosavank. It is advisable to take a taxi with a working meter (be sure the driver uses it), or agree on a price beforehand.