Home to the two most iconic mountains in modern Armenia, Mt. Ara and the largest extinct volcano of Armenia, Mt. Aragats, the eponymous Aragatsotn is a major hotspot for lovers of culture, nature and thrills. At 4,095m (13,435 ft), Mt. Aragats dominates the landscape with its four peaks clawing at the sky visible for hundreds of miles in any direction. Its southern peak, most accessible to day hikers, offers breathtaking views of the staggering north peak, Kari Lake and the impressive variations in scenery all the way to Mt. Ararat. This can all be appreciated from the lower slopes, at the 7th century “Fortress in the Clouds”, Amberd, one of the largest fortification ruins in Armenia.
Locals come to the skirt of the mountain to escape the summer heat, relaxing in the quaint villages dotted around its folds, whilst Yezidis set up camp on the slopes to tend to their colourful beehives and let their livestock wander the lush pastures. Though harsh winters prohibit all but the most hardened from enjoying the tranquil snow-covered landscape, scientists journey up Aragats year-round to operate the observatories in Byurakan, one of which contains the largest radio-optical telescope in the world!
With only three towns, Aragatsotn has the highest rural population in Armenia. To the southeast (closest to Yerevan) lies Ashtarak, the largest urban center of the region and home to many historic monuments, hugging either side of a picturesque gorge. To the northeast is wind-swept Aparan, famous for its fifth century basilica and more recently, its mouth-watering bakery that no passer-through can resist. The smallest town is Talin, to the southwest, home to the ruins of a stunning 1,500 year-old cathedral and many other historic and cultural landmarks.