The history of Aragatsotn, or the “foot of Aragats” as the name translates, can be traced to the time when the volcano was still quite active. The province is blessed with an astonishing array of historical monuments.
AREA: 2,737 km2
ADMINISTRATIVE CENTER: Ashtarak
DISTANCE FROM YEREVAN TO ASHTARAK: 18 km
NATURAL ATTRACTIONS: Mount Aragats, Mount Ara, Kasakh River
HISTORICAL AND HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS: Amberd Fortress (7 - 14 cc.), Saghmosavank Monastery (13 c.), Tegher Monastery (13 - 14 cc.)
SITES: Alphabet Park, Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory
Within a radius of just 20 km around Ashtarak, you will find a multitude of villages worth visiting. Wander through their winding, dusty streets and savor the beauty of olden dwellings, lush gardens fenced in by stone walls, shrines hidden in the shade of walnut trees, and a slow pace of life, wherein time itself seems to have stopped. If you have a chance to enter one of the village homes, you will be rewarded with a feast fit for a king. Locals pride themselves on their cuisine and will often go far out of their way to ensure you are well fed. The region also has a long tradition of viticulture and wine-making. Discover the most distinct wineries and traditional cellars through a unique wine tasting journey from Oshakan to Kosh. The northern territories are known as one of the best sources of the cheese and dairy products in the country, produced by seminomadic Yazidis, a pagan Kurdish sect making up Armenia’s largest minority population.
As a result of its startling landscapes and contrasting geography, the region offers excellent opportunities for different forms of outdoor activities. Although some historical sites increasingly a ract package-tour crowds, Aragatsotn remains a destination for the connoisseur – the archaeology amateur, hardy hiker, horse lover, intrepid paraglider and the indispensable wine devotee trekking the world for a taste of rarity.
The “foot of Aragats”
Most people associate Aragatsotn simply with the massive Mt. Aragats, the dormant volcano that hovers over the northern reaches of Armenia. Though tiny in area, Aragatsotn contains a remarkable profusion of landscapes, from Aparan’s verdant meadows, through the deep river gorges of Kasakh and Amberd, over the patchwork of vineyards and orchards around Ashtarak, to dry lunar like landscapes west of Talin. Above all, like a crown of the region, rises the cone of Aragats, with its four crests, crystal lakes and fragile alpine ecosystems.
The history of Aragatsotn, or the “foot of Aragats” as the name translates, can be traced to the time when the volcano was still quite active. The province is blessed with an astonishing array of historical monuments. Mysterious Bronze Age citadels, haunting monasteries, and looming fortresses perched close to the sky, are only some of the many treasures the region has to offer; there are plenty more hidden mysteries for those who are keen to search them out.
The Byurakan Observatory
Aragatsotn is where Byurakan Observatory is located, with the second largest optical telescope in Eurasia and the Cosmic Ray Division station, one of the world’s largest institutions for research of cosmic ray physics. These scientific institutions are situated high on the slopes of Mt. Aragats, as alongside the many dachas (summer homes) of wealthy Yerevan dwellers who find the cooler climate and its proximity to the capital undoubtedly attractive.
During the Middle Ages, the region was traversed with several caravan routes connecting the old Armenian capital Dvin with Ani and Vanadzor. Many caravanserais and fortresses remain from those times, including the abundance of olden architecture through the churches and monuments found in Ashtarak, a city situated at their crossroads. Today, Ashtarak is the capital of the Aragatsotn province, with numerous restaurants and leisure areas built along the Kasakh River gorge.