Yerevan to Tatev

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 - 19:30

Today was a classic road trip day with lots of smaller stops as we made our way from Yerevan down to Tatev in the South East of Armenia across the ever-changing landscapes this country has to offer.

We set off fairly early for an added stop in the centre of Yerevan to make up for having not felt up to exploring much yesterday. This was at the Cascade Complex, which I'd seen by night on the walking tour, but wanted to take Melisa to see in the day. Luckily Yerevan is a city which wakes up very late, so the area had almost no traffic, and you can actually drive up to and park right in front of the Complex before 11am. I've no idea when morning rush hour is in Yerevan but it certainly was nowhere to be seen at 9.30am on a Wednesday morning! The Cascade Complex itself is a huge limestone staircase monument which is built onto a hillside in the city centre, and features fountains, sculptures and gardens representing the whole of the country. The whole thing was built in the 1970s but remains unfinished due to the Soviet Union running out of money to complete it. I walked up to the very top and it quite literally ends with a construction fence and you can see a large area of foundation work, before a final statue in the distance which is supposed to be connected. The guide the other day told us the city keeps putting off plans to fund the completion due to ongoing war efforts against Azerbaijan. At the top I had great views out over the city, though have to say it doesn't have a particularly picturesque skyline - it is much better from ground level.

Our next stop was 45 minutes drive to the East of the city to the Temple of Garni. This is a Greco-Roman temple which we heard is the most Eastern example in the world. It had been completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1679, but was painstakingly rebuilt in the 1970s using all the original blocks and techniques which the Romans would have used 2000 years ago. The temple is an impressive structure, and sits at the top of a ravine with views all around into the canyon below. Tickets only cost £3 for foreign adults, which was probably about right given there wasn't much to do other than take pictures and read a few signs - we were back at the car within 30 minutes. Completing the sights in this area, we then drove for 10 minutes down to the Garni Gorge below, where we stopped to see the Symphony of Stones. They made us pay 200 Dram (40p) to walk to the stones which seemed a bit pointless, but we obliged and were immediately amazed by what we could see a few hundred metres away. The valley walls on the right side of the gorge are made up of hexagonal columns of stone, which hang above a bit like the pipes of an organ (I'm guessing that's where the 'symphony' in the name comes from). Apparently it is one of only three places in the world with natural hexagonal rock formations, the others being the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and the other being in Iceland. Given we haven't been to either other location, this was a really unique experience for us and we were very impressed!

With Garni complete, the rest of the afternoon was spent doing the roughly four hours of driving to Tatev. The first hour of the drive took us through low mountains with an almost barren desert landscape similar to something you might expect to see in the South-West of the USA or near the Andes in Argentina. This was a very fun bit of driving, and gave us the feeling we were a very long way from home! We then turned onto a main road parallel with the closed border with Turkey, where the land turned green again and where we could see the impressive Mount Ararat not too far away. The mountain is close to the hearts of the Armenians being in their historical lands which are now part of modern Turkey, and the guide the other night explained the conical shape of the mountain is theorised to have influenced the conical shapes used in the church domes here. We then turned off this road where the landscape quickly turned from green to yellow steppe and near barren again like earlier in the day. It also took us rather near the border with the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan which made me recall the news of recent tensions at the border - not a place we hung around for too long. In this area though we started seeing apricot sellers on the side of the road. Having heard about how Armenian apricots are the best in the world, we stopped to buy 4 large ones (40p total) and ate them in the village of Vayk while we topped up the car's battery. As anticipated, they were sweet, juicy, and probably the best we have ever had.

Shortly after our stop in Vayk, we climbed over a the beautiful Vorotan mountain pass, with a sculpture at the top with some market traders. Unfortunately the tourist infrastructure isn't quite there yet in Armenia for them to tell you details of the mountain pass, the altitude, and great viewpoints to take pictures, so you have to work these things out on your own. This pass was no exception, and we aren't sure what the sculptures at the top meant, if anything! Once over the pass, things just as quickly started turning green again, the temperatures fell quite a bit, and farmland returned. This is one thing which has really stood out to us in the Caucasus, just how quickly the landscape changes and how many different landscapes/climates there are in such a relatively small area.

The last 45 minutes of the trip saw the landscape go yellow again (we quite literally saw the last green patch below they all became yellow), and I was starting to wonder when the rugged mountainous landscape I had heard about around Tatev would turn up. Sure enough it did around 10 minutes before we arrived at our hotel, with us suddenly descending down a mountain road on the side of a canyon, looking fairly similar to what we saw earlier in the trip at Vikos. Our hotel for the night is right on the edge of the canyon and the views couldn't be better of this remote location.

A great day overall and looking forward to seeing the famous Tatev Monastery tomorrow morning!

Dog Notes: 

When we stopped to charge in the village of Vayk today we went to rest up in a park while we waited and there were a lot of boys swimming in a large fountain. As soon as they saw Summer they ran over and immediately began asking questions about her. We managed to tell them her name but couldn't communicate anything else given the language barrier. It felt like they had never seen a pet dog before, and they took it in turns to throw the ball for her with amazement on their face every time she ran to retrieve it. They then petted her a little too much, to the point she was getting frustrated and we had to explain they should stop and let her rest. After a rest she was back at it with the ball and half the group came back over to finish playing with her. Definitely the kind of experience for Summer that she wouldn't get in the UK!

Electric Vehicle EV Notes: 

Charging continues to be straightforward in Armenia with both EcoCars and Solara AM apps working very well. There was less competition for charging once we were outside Yerevan, and luckily the charger at our hotel tonight is working properly since it is the only charger this far East, and we would have had quite a problem if it hadn't.
- EcoCars charger at Vayk Foot Court. My account balance was negative from yesterday since they let you continue to charge even if you run out of credit. I had to top it right back up though before charging.
- Solara AM charger at Harsnadzor Eco Resort. One of the staff had blocked the charger with his shiny red mustang, but he happily moved it for me when I asked, and was very intrigued by how far we have driven!

Miles Driven: 
Harsnadzor Eco Resort


You've had an amazing experience thus far. I'm now worrying a bit about how you will charge your car back in Blighty when the unions and Putin cut the electric off come winter.

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