The third largest city of Armenia, Vanadzor, is hidden in a valley between the Pambak and Bazum Mountain Chains, on the banks of the Tandzut and Pambak Rivers. Often called by its Soviet name, Kirovakan, it is the ideal base to explore the forests of Lori; home to some of the most spectacular monastic complexes of the country. The once bustling industrial town is evolving into a prime tourism and trade center, its abandoned factories steadily being reclaimed by nature in contrast with the emerging buildings and services.
Once surrounded by forests, Vanadzor is now in the throes of one of the largest reforestation efforts in the country, after big areas were cut down to heat homes during the energy crisis of the early nineties. The forests of the wider region contain some of the most beautiful hiking trails and campsites, along riverbeds and towering cliffs that are in turn ideal for climbing and rappelling. Dotted throughout the landscape of the Debed Gorge are monasteries such as Odzun, and the World Heritage Sites of Sanahin and Haghpat.
During the Soviet era, Vanadzor was a famed spa town, with tourists flocking from all over the Soviet Union to recharge in the healing mineral waters sprouting from a myriad of springs. One of these spas remains, the Gugark Spa, offering its classic baths and massage treatments along with room and full board. If you’re tired from the hiking between monasteries, relax and reinvigorate there for a competitive 10,000 AMD a day!