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près de Sanain, Lorri (አርሜኒያ)
This trail is located in Lori, which was the historic Tashir region of Greater Armenia. The starting point of the hike is the Sanahin Monastery in Sanahin village. The hike will then lead to the hilltop Kayan Fortress before proceeding to the Haghpat Monastery (one of the most beautiful sites of interest for tourists). The Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries are UNESCO World Heritage Sites - not visiting them would mean missing something very important in northern Armenia!
The discernible trail of the hike promises quite an enjoyable journey. In the distance, on high cliffs, settlements, villages, outlines of foggy forested mountains, canyons, waterfalls, and deep gorges can be seen. The autumn is just heavenly in this area, with its vivid colors and foggy mountains. There are lots of yet unexplored hikes in Lori, which will be introduced to visitors when they are ready.
Sanahin Medieval Monastery is located in its namesake village, and was founded by King Ashot III, the Merciful in 966. Between the 10th - 11th centuries, it was a great cultural center, with a high school and rich library. At the end of the 12th century, Sanahin became the summerhouse of the Zakaryan family, but later returned to being a cultural and scientific center that acquired extensive estates through donations. The Sanahin complex includes the Surb Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Mother of God) and Surb Amenaprkich (St. All Savior) churches, Surb Grigor (St. Gregory) small church-chapel, three narthexes, a scriptorium, a belfry and an academy.
The oldest church of the complex is Surb Astvatsatsin (constructed between 928-944). In the church, some remains of mural paintings are still preserved. The main church of the complex is St. Amenaprkich, which was built by Khosrovanush, Ashot III the Merciful’s wife, between 957-966. The majestic eastern facade of the church is crowned in its gable with a monumental sculptural group of Kings, Kyurike and Smbat, which is considered a valuable sample of medieval sculptures. The narthexes of the Sanahin monastery vary in their designs, with St. Astvatsatsin’s narthex - built by Prince Vache Vachutyan - being particularly unique. The bridge of Sanahin, which is crossed on the hike, was built by Queen Vaneni at the end of the 12th century. Be sure to notice the lion shaped carvings on the stones of the bridge.
The University of Sanahin was founded in 966 by Khosrovanush, and was an important educational center in medieval Armenia. In the first half of the 11th century, colleges of rhetoric, philosophy, music, and medicine were opened in the University and offered subjects like seven free arts and Tomar, an ancient Armenian calendar system. Nearby, a manuscript repository was built. However, in 1,998, the manuscript repository was handed to the St. Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin by the decision of the government of Armenia.
Kayan Fortress is located between the Haghpat and Sanahin villages, to the right of the Armenia-Georgia highway. The fortress was built in 1233 by Bishop Hovhannes, the leader of the Haghpat monastery. Nowadays, the monastery is also known as Aknaberd. The arched gate entrance of Aknaberd is from the south. Numerous ruins of buildings, water basins, and clay pipes have been preserved inside the fortress. The St. Astvatsatsin church of Dsevank is located in the monastery. Numerous interesting stories about the Kayan fortress have been preserved in nearby villages.
Haghpat Monastery was formerly a university. It was founded in the second half of the 10th century and was one of the religious and cultural centers of Armenia during the 10th-13th centuries. Its’ economic, cultural, and structural growth lasted from the second half of the 12th century up to the end of the 14th century. Its school and library were extremely well-known in the 11th -13th centuries. Philosophy, rhetoric, theology, music and other subjects were taught here, and inscriptions were copied and illustrated (Manuscript repository, school, and gospel of Haghpat). The monastery was repeatedly subjected to invasions and earthquakes.
In the midst of the 11th century, Haghpat was destroyed and robbed by the Seljuks. In 1105 it was attacked by Ghzl Amir’s army, in the 18th century by the Lezghins, and in 1795 it was ransacked by Agha Mohammad Khan. In order to protect itself from frequent attacks, fortified walls were built around the monastery, and defensive bases (Kayan, Atorik), shelters and dwellings were built in the nearby canyons and cliffsides. An important historical fact is that the popular troubadour, Sayat-Nova, spent many years of his life in the Haghpat monastery, and died while defending it in 1795.
Haghpatavank is one of the largest and most remarkable monasteries in Armenia, bearing especially peculiar characteristics of medieval Armenian architecture – picturesqueness, harmony with the environment, and territorial balance. Here, there are the St. Nshan, St. Grigor, and St. Astvatsatsin (Khatunashen) churches, a narthex, chapel, scriptorium, belfry, refectory, chapel-tombs, and cross stones. Small and large caves are found in the rocks surrounding the monastery, which served as protective shelters for inhabitants as well as for manuscripts, records and treasure.
Once, one of the princes of Sanahin invited a famous master to build a monastery. The master came with his son. During the building process a conflict arose between the father and son, and the son left. As he was going on his way, another prince hired him to build another monastery. As the walls of this other monastery grew higher, the workers in Sanahin could see them and informed the father. The father decided to go see his son’s creation; he reached the semi built walls of the monastery and carefully examined them. Then he pushed a stone off the wall and pronounced, “Akh pat” - meaning “Oh wall.” After that the father and son reconciled and the monastery acquired its name - "Haghpat".
The forests of the Lori region are abundant in tree species, counting about 60 tree species and 90+ bushes. The most frequently encountered species in these forests is the Oriental Beech tree (Fagus orientalis Lipsky), which is quite demanding on soil and humidity. Other commonly encountered species are the Oriental and Georgian Oak, Georgian Maple, Caucasian Lime, and common hornbeam.
In spite of having a relatively small area, the Republic of Armenia is famous for its variety of flora species due to its favorable geographical position. There are about 100 species of flora on 1km2 of territory (one of the highest scores in the world). The entire Lori – Pambak area is located about 490-3,196 m above Sea Level and is distinguished by its diverse landscapes. The lowest point of Lori is in the lower stream of the Debed river (490 m from Sea Level) and the highest point is the summit of Achkasar (3,196m).
Lori is also distinguished by its diverse fauna. Especially typical to the area are rodents like the field mouse, jerboa, blind mouse, hamster, marten, ground squirrel, as well as animals like the grey wolf and fox. Some of the common bird species are ducks, partridges, European robins, sparrows, quails, woodlarks, martins, magpies, eagles, and falcons. Because of cattle breeding in the territory, wolves are frequently “guests” here. The fauna in the province of Lori have become quite poor because of human activity. There are animal species that have disappeared or are on the brink of extinction.
Safety and Security
Mobile telephone coverage is usually available on the hike (in Sanahin - Kayan - Haghpat). The 911 emergency services operate throughout Armenia in case of any accidents.
Be sure to bring bottled water!
Best period: April -October
Distance: 166km from Yerevan
Duration: 3 hours
Hiking trail length: 11.8 km
Walk duration: 4 hours
Altitude from Sea Level: 830-1040m
Visible Trail Surface: 100%
How to Get There
The most convenient option is to take a taxi from Yerevan to Sanahin village, where the hike begins. It is better to take a taxi with a taximeter (be sure the driver uses it), or agree on a price beforehand.