Things to Do in Vanadzor: A Comprehensive Guide to the Top Attractions
Vanadzor: Capital of the Lori Region
Armenia’s Lori region is famous for its thick forests, moderate climate, and sweeping green landscapes. It’s full of both manmade and natural wonders that you won’t want to miss, from the monasteries (and UNESCO world heritage sites) of Sanahin and Haghpat to the dramatic Debed River Canyon.
Vanadzor is Armenia’s third-largest city and the capital of the Lori region. About two hours from Yerevan and one hour from Gyumri, it’s a great launchpad for exploring Armenia’s northern regions.
Here are eight recommendations of things to do in Vanadzor and the surrounding area while you’re in town.
1. Explore the Vibrant City Center
Hayk Square is Vanadzor’s central zone and a natural place to start your tour of the city. Near the square, you’ll find “dancing” fountains, which light up and sing at night. Many locals enjoy walking around the artificial lake near the square when the weather is nice. Grab a coffee or an ice cream and join them.
You may hear locals call Vanadzor “Kirovakan.” During Soviet times, the city went by that name, and the older generation often still uses it.
2. Immerse Yourself in Vanadzor's History and Art
Curious about Vanadzor’s history? There are more than 30,000 artifacts at the Lori-Pambak Museum of Regional Studies. Its exhibits – replete with carpets, jewelry, tools, pottery, and archeological finds – tell the story of the whole Lori region.
The nearby Fine Arts Museum houses three floors of permanent exhibits and visiting collections. Enjoy paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints by Armenian artists with an emphasis on those from the Lori region. You’ll also find Russian and European works of art.
The Stepan Zoryan House Museum is dedicated to the author of the same name who wrote lovingly about his hometown of Vanadzor. The museum, which also functioned as his family home, is open for tours and has a lovely garden as well.
3. The Natural Beauty around Vanadzor
If you are looking to hike in the area surrounding Vanadzor, check out the Hike Armenia app to find a route that fits your schedule and fitness level. The Lori region is one of Armenia’s most beloved trekking zones, offering a broad selection of forests, meadows, canyons, peaks, and rivers to explore. Some popular treks include Vanadzor to Tezh Mountain and the village of Tumanyan to Tsater.
North of Vanadzor, you’ll find the beautiful Arevatsag Canyon. With its dramatic rock cliff towering above the peaceful Pambak river, it’s a popular location for photos, and for picnics and camping too! Just be aware – the drive down to the canyon is steep and rocky. It’s best to get there with an off-roading vehicle or a tour company.
The nearby village of Dsegh inspired the famous Armenian author Hovhannes Tumanyan, beloved for his collection of fairy tales and children’s stories. You’ll understand why when you experience the panoramic views and the beauty of the village for yourself. While there, visit Tumanyan’s house museum to learn more about his life and work.
4. Discover Nearby Architectural Treasures
Although you’ll travel a solid hour north of Vanadzor, you won’t want to miss Sanahin and Haghpat – two ancient monastic complexes that embody the rich cultural heritage of the region. Dating back to the 10th century, these UNESCO World Heritage Sites stand as remarkable examples of medieval Armenian architecture. The Sanahin Monastery impresses with its intricate stone carvings and unique khachkars (cross-stones), while Haghpat Monastery boasts a stunning location overlooking the Debed River gorge. Both monasteries were centers of spiritual and intellectual activity, housing scriptoria and schools that contributed to the flourishing of Armenian literature and science.
5. Enjoy Outdoor Adventures
A haven for adrenaline junkies, Boo Mountain Bike Park is the first pump bike track in the Caucasus. It offers a thrilling array of trails, jumps, and features that cater to cyclists of all skill levels. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner looking for an exciting challenge, Boo Mountain Bike Park has something for everyone. The park's well-maintained tracks, beautiful scenery, and professional staff ensure a memorable experience. If you’re not feeling adventurous, you can simply enjoy the views and a coffee at the park’s café. Note: You can rent a bike and helmet onsite.
The Dzoraget, Debed, and Pambak rivers divide the Lori region into three parts. Vanadzor lies close to the Pambak River. Thirty kilometers north, near the village of Dsegh, the Pambak meets the Debed, creating a majestic canyon... and whitewater rapids. Grab a group of friends and experience the thrill of rafting. With the guidance of skilled instructors, you'll maneuver through narrow gorges, feeling the rush of adrenaline as you conquer each rapid. Along the way, enjoy the biodiversity and natural beauty that surrounds you!
6. Experience Vanadzor's Cultural Scene
While you’re in town, check out the show schedules at Vanadzor’s four theatres – the Bohem Chamber Theatre of Vanadzor, Vanadzor Musical Theatre, Hovhannes Abelyan Vanadzor Drama Theatre, and Vanadzor Puppet Theatre. If you’re interested in music and dance, the city is also home to the Horevel Folk Dance Ensemble, the Vanadzor Chamber Music Choir, and the Vanadzor Chamber Orchestra which perform for the public. Vanadzor is also known as the home of Armenian rock. Several well-known bands have their roots there, including Lav Eli, Lousnelius, and Vordan Karmir.
7. Participate in Festivals
The Lori region hosts several interesting festivals each summer. Here are a few of our favorites!
- In the spring and summer, villagers across all of Armenia’s regions gather wild herbs and greens from the fields, preparing fresh seasonal dishes and drying and preserving others according to custom. If you visit Lori in July, don’t miss the Edible Plants Festival! Travel north from Vanadzor to the quaint village of Dsegh for the annual celebration of Lori’s intangible culinary heritage. In addition to taste-testing, there are opportunities to purchase preserved and dried food items, participate in master classes, learn the rules of field-gathering, and enjoy traditional singing, dancing, and games.
- Airfest 2023 will take place on August 26 at Stepanavan Airport, about a one-hour drive from Vanadzor. The program includes exhilarating air shows and demonstration flights of small aircraft as well as drone demos, VR experiences, and parachute jumps. Aviation industry leaders will lead panel discussions and pilots will share insights to inspire the next generation. The exciting festival will close with live music from an assortment of bands.
- Everyone loves a story, especially Armenians! The Tumanyan International Storytelling Festival is a celebration of the spoken word that takes place in August in Tumanyan village. Named after the renowned writer and poet Hovhannes Tumanyan, the festival gathers storytellers from near and far to share their cultural narratives and enchant audiences with compelling tales. Through the power of words, the Tumanyan International Storytelling Festival connects people through the rich tapestry of storytelling heritage.
- In the same month and in the same place, rafting enthusiasts gather for the Lori Region’s annual rafting and kayaking festival. Bring your bathing suit and prepare to get wet with other adventure enthusiasts!
8. Enjoy a Relaxing Day at Vanadzor's Parks
One of Armenia’s five botanical gardens is located in Vanadzor. Wander its 12 hectares of land and see if you can identify even a small percentage of its 600 species of plants.
Bring an empty water bottle and fill it with some of Vanadzor’s local mineral waters, which are pumped into taps. Locals call the springs “ttu jur,” which means “sour water.” You wouldn’t expect it from the name, but the water is actually fresh and delicious. When the weather’s warm, you might find a line of thirsty people ahead of you.
FAQs about Vanadzor
- How can I explore the surrounding villages of Vanadzor? Visit the Vanadzor bus station to find connections to Yerevan, Gyumri, Stepanavan, and local Lori villages. Minibusses usually leave when they fill up. Many tour companies also organize reservable group outings to famous nature spots. From Vanadzor, you can also easily use taxi apps to hail a private car.
- What is the best time to visit Vanadzor? Vanadzor is beautiful year-round! Its moderate climate is characterized by relatively cool summers and mild winters. The region stays green from early spring to early autumn. By October, there’s colorful foliage to enjoy.
Vanadzor and the beauty of the whole Lori region await you!
Published on July 04, 2023