Yeghegnadzor is quite an undiscovered little place, with little information on the Internet. Given that we got lucky and ended up having a wonderful time there, this OTET post will have a little more background than just the usual food scene.
Yeghegnadzor is 120km south east of yerevan along the southern highway to Tatev, and as such is fairly accessible.
Mashrutkas (shared minibus) from Yerevan leave every hour or when full from here: 40.1417665, 44.4948234. Take the metro to Gortsaranayin and walk to the circle. Fare should be 1200amd. We hitchhiked from there, as there are a lot of big vehicles going south.
Where to stay:
I almost never post recommendations for places to stay, mostly because we tend to stay in cheap, nondescript places. However, we found an absolute gem which also happened to be one of the cheapest options around – Arpa Valley Cabins. If you are hitchhiking your holiday this perfect little cabin is bang on the major road, but still has stunning views down the valley. At the time of writing the double room was 7600 amd (R230).
Things to do in Yeghegnadzor:
The town itself doesn’t have much to get the heart racing, but there is lots to see and do in the surrounding area.
The Noravank monastery is the most famous sight nearby, a pretty monastery complex with nice cliff backdrops. Hordes of day trippers from the capital complete the picture. Free entrance.
Nearby, the Areni-1 cave is an important archaeological site, with an ancient winery (approx. 6000 years old) and the world’s oldest shoe being found there. The guy at the entrance will tell you it’s closed, and refuse to say another word. What he actually means, is that its closed UNLESS YOU ARE PART OF A BIG GROUP – so just wait for a bus or something to pull up and join them if he won’t let you in initially.
There are a number of nice wine farms in the area – we tried to visit the old bridge winery twice, but it was closed both times. There is also a nice winery in Areni which was recommended to us, but we didn’t make it there.
The walk from yeghegnadzor to the historical bridge is a wonderful 1,5 km meander through lovely farmland, best late afternoon and evening. Shaded picnic area at the bridge if you want to do lunch there. Trail is well marked and starts here 39.752677, 45.32812, bridge is here 39.741216, 45.324732.
If you have a car, the Yeghegis valley nearby is beautiful to explore and has an unusually large number of old churches, as well as a Jewish cemetery dating from 1200-1300 AD, and a number of Kachkar, or ancient cross stones, dotted around in random places.
If you are into hiking, we did a lovely hike starting and ending at Yeghegis village, with a loop that visits both Smbataberd fortress and 1000 year old Tsakhatsqar monastery. Both sights were totally deserted (we were the only people there), and were much more special than the overrun Noravank monastery.
Hike was about 11-12km round trip, about 700m total elevation gain, well marked trail, OSM has the tracks. Start here 39.872275, 45.354791. Fortress here 39.872186, 45.338762. Monastery here 39.89026, 45.354008. End in either valley – we chose to go back to Yeghegis because it was easier to hitchhike to/from (more vehicle traffic driving through).
Where to eat:
The section you’ve all been waiting for! Yeghegnadzor and surrounding has almost no resturants, and the one or 2 that are in town are pizza and beer kind of spots.
There is a food court on the main highway south of town (Google “food court”) which serves up decent portions of cheap food – good for refuelling, with no major surprises.
The real gem of the town however, took a bit of searching – we found a little B&B that also serves up incredible home cooked food, tucked away fairly far into the back alleys of the village. The place is called “Under the Walnut Tree”, Google location is correct, but no signs outside – a big silver gate marks the spot. Feel free to let yourself in and go bang on their front door to demand supper if the gate is closed.
Dinner was delightful, clean, fresh home-cooked food, with not a single dish disappointing. The food was well prepared, not at all oily or heavy, and the host was delightful – if her English was a little rusty it just added to the charm of the whole place. The setting was also very nice – a veranda covered in grape vines, with views over the town.
A set menu for 4000amd got us a fresh, crunchy salad, a green bean mezze of some sort, lavash (paper thin breads), local cheese, tomato and bulgar soup, peas with shredded chicken and yoghurt, a chunky meat with tomato thing that was so tender the meat fell apart, home made compote (a cold fruit tea/drink), bottled water, a fruit basket, raspberry cake and fresh herbal tea to finish.
If you make it to Yeghegnadzor, or discover some gem that we missed during our time there, let us know in the comments!