Aragatsotn marz, Armenia, in the context of historical and cultural meaning, is a unique museum where almost all historical Armenian monuments and archaeological sites or their ruins situated have been preserved. Also, this place is the one where you can enjoy Mount Aragats.
The center of the marz (province) and the largest city of Aragatsotn is Ashtarak, which is famous for its “Ayrudzi” horse riding club.
So, if you want to find out what you can see and do in Aragatsotn Province in Armenia that will make you amazed and surprised, then just keep on reading.
Basic Information about Aragatsotn Marz
Aragatsotn Marz: Location and Area
The marz (from Armenian translation Aragatsotn means “the foot of Aragats”) inherited its name from the Aragatsotn canton of the historic Ayrarat province. In Armenian, Aragatsotn province sounds like “Aragatsotn marz”.
Due to its geographical position, economic, political and defensive significance and weather conditions, Aragatsotn Province has always played an important role in the history of Armenia.
And it is not a coincidence that in all the stages of history, the territory of the province has always attracted not only large crowds of people, but it had also been royal summer residence and hunting area.
The province is situated on the slopes of the mountain range Aragats. It also includes the territories of the mountains of Pambak and Tsaghkunyats.
Aragatsotn marz includes the areas of Ashtarak, Aparan, Aragats and Talin regions. There are three urban and 111 rural communities in the province. The three towns are: Ashtarak, Aparan and Talin.
Aragatsotn is a province in Armenia that has the highest percentage of rural population. According to the 2014 official census Aragatsotn has a population of 131,700 that forms about 4.4% of the total population of Armenia.
Climate of Aragatsotn Marz
The climate of the province is distinguished by the diversity of climatic conditions. According to the altitude of the province the annual precipitation level and the average temperatures are quite different. It ranges between 300mm at the lower areas and 900-1000mm at the mountainous areas.
During summertime, it is rather warm in the areas close to Ararat Valley, whereas in winter it is moderate cold. There are good conditions for the cultivation of vegetable crops and such fruits as grapes, apricots, peaches, etc.
How to Get to Aragatsotn Marz
The most popular transportation forms for getting in and leaving the province are: bus, minibus (marshrutka) and taxi. You can take a bus from Yerevan Kilikia Central Bus Station that is the most affordable option.
There is also the M-1 motorway that connects Aragatsotn marz with northwestern Armenia. Whereas the M-3 motorway connects it with northeastern Armenia.
However, traveling in Armenia will be even more unforgettable if you chose nontraditional options of transportation like hiking, hitchhiking or carpooling with a group of people. Hiking is always a perfect idea in Armenia.
Most of the travel agencies offer hiking tours as well and you can choose the package that will be the most convenient for you. Whatever option you choose as your transportation form, we just guarantee that your trip to Aragatsotn marz will be one of your best and most memorable traveling experiences.
Things to See and Do in Aragatsotn Marz
There are number of interesting things to do and see in Aragatsotn for visitors. Especially those people who love history, old monasteries, fortresses will like this tour the most. Even though one of the most important scientific institutions in Armenia and world is also situated here. Now let’s discover the noteworthy ones.
Thing to See and Do in Aragatsotn #1: Mount Aragats
Mount Aragats, the highest peak in the Lesser Caucasus and in the Armenian Highlands, is 4,090 m above sea level. It has a special role in the history and culture of Armenia and for Armenians it is a sacred mountain along with Ararat.
You can also find many historical monuments, ancient monasteries and medieval fortresses on slopes of Mount Aragats. It consists of four peaks and has one of the biggest craters in the world that was formed by a volcano eruption.
Nearby the mountain there is a high-altitude lake that is called Kari Litch. From the peak of the mountain you can see a beautiful and fascinating view of the Lesser and Great Caucasus Range and even the highest mountain of Europe, Mt. Elbrus.
So, it is no surprise that Mount Aragats attracts the lovers of extreme, as well as hikers and mountaineers. It is an important destination for those tourists who like conquering natural heights.
Thing to See and Do in Aragatsotn #2: Amberd Fortress
Amberd is a fortress complex along with a church that is located 2,300 meters above sea level, on the slopes of Mount Aragats. In Armenian, Amberd means «a fortress in the clouds» and that is the most suitable name for this place.
The foundation of the fortress dated back to the 7th century but in the 11th century it was rebuild by Prince Vahram Vachutian Pahlavuni. Amberd was invaded in the 11th century by the Seljuq Turks but Armenian army managed to liberate the fortress.
Unfortunately, two centuries later Amberd was captured by Mongol invaders. Generally, it consists of the defensive walls, the church, the castle and bath. Today Amberd fortress-castle has a great historical significance due to its uniqueness. It is the largest and one of the best samples of construction of Armenian fortresses.
Thing to See and Do in Aragatsotn #3: Armenian Alphabet Monument
In 2005 it was the 1600 anniversary of creation of the Armenian alphabet. For the celebration and commemoration 39 giants (with two-meter-height), carved Armenian letters were placed near the final resting place of the man who introduced the alphabet, Mesrop Mashtots.
The designer is famous Armenian architect Jim Torosyan. The letters are carved from Armenian tufa stone in the form of cross-stones (khachkars). The monument is located 1600m above the sea level, on the eastern slope of Mount Aragats near Aparan town in the Aragatsotn Province.
Armenian language is the national pride of Armenians. The creation of Armenian alphabet played an important role in the further development of Armenian history and culture. The Armenian alphabet is recognized as one of the oldest in the world.
It goes back to 405 when Armenian prominent linguist Mesrop Mashtots created the written form of the Armenian language. It was created especially with the aim of making the Bible available to Armenians, as well as for spreading Christianity.
So, if you want to have a colder look to the Armenian cultural heritage, then this monument is a must-see place for you.
Thing to See and Do in Aragatsotn #4: Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory
Byurakan Observatory was founded in 1946 by the initiative of its first director and famous scientist Viktor Hambartsumian. From 1998 the observatory bears his name. It is an important astronomical centre not only in Armenia but also in Eastern Europe and Middle East region.
Thanks to its achievements and scientific instruments it became popular to international scientific community quite soon. The observatory’s scientific activities are aimed at the study of unstable phenomenon of the Galaxy.
They have five main observation tools, such as the largest ZTA-2.6m classical telescope. So, for the lovers of astronomy this is just the perfect place to visit in Aragatsotn Province, especially during nighttime.
Thing to See and Do in Aragatsotn #5: Arshakuni Kings’ Mausoleum
Arshakuni Kings’ Mausoleum is a monument complex that is in a gorge that sits in front of the Amberd River. It is located in the village of Aghtsk in the Aragatsotn Province. The construction of the mausoleum dated back to the mid-late 4th century.
The tombs have carvings that were typical for pagan and early Christian eras. On one of the bas reliefs you can see the image of biblical hero Daniel who is in the pit with the lions.
Alongside with this there are also the carvings of mythical heroes and figures. Like a hunter chasing a boar with two dogs, a cross within a circle with two birds perched on top. In the north end of the mausoleum there is an early-5th-century basilica. Only lower walls are preserved till today, as well as some large stones with interesting carvings.