6 Must-See Sights on the Road to Tatev, Armenia
The drive from Yerevan to Tatev, in southeastern Armenia, offers an incredible array of historic and natural sites, culminating in the ancient monastery complex atop high cliffs. Whether you rent a car or hire a driver to take you, driving from the Armenian capital gives one the luxury of stopping at these six amazing sights on the road to Tatev.
The Wineries of Areni
As you drive from Yerevan, the main highway passes directly through Armenian wine country and the small town of Areni, which boasts a strip of local wineries. Areni Wine Factory and Hin Areni Winery are both right on the road, while the smaller winery Momik Wines is a short drive from the center of town. They all offer tours of their facilities, as well as a tasting room and restaurant with local cuisine.
Pause here to experience the ancient history of wine in Armenia, which archaeologists believe goes back over 6,000 years. Every October, the annual Areni Wine Festival is also a great chance to sample from multiple vineyards and to witness performances from Armenian musicians and dancers.
Two imposing stone monuments flank the summit of this mountain pass, which links the provinces of Vayots Dzor and Syunik, and lies about two-thirds of the way along the road between Yerevan and Tatev. At 2,344 m, or 7,690 ft above sea level, the weather here can be unpredictable. Unless it’s summer, you can expect to see snow, at least along the roadside.
Visitors also stop in this region to buy fresh vegetables or honey. As you continue on your way, look out for stands at the side of the road or local farmers selling directly from their cars. Asparagus or freshly foraged mushrooms are particularly popular.
This large collection of prehistoric stones stand tall in rings and rows in a field near the town of Sisian. Scientists and researchers debate the exact purpose of Karahunj, often called Armenia’s Stonehenge. Was it an ancient observatory for studying the stars? Or did people erect them as a refuge for animals or some sort of funeral monument? The mystery remains, further compounded by carefully carved holes found in many of the stones.
Getting to Karahunj: As you drive from Yerevan, pass the first exit for Sisian (highway H44), and take the following exit south to the monument. The stones will be on your right just a few minutes further down the road. Turn into the dirt parking lot and walk up to the site.
A Cave City
A short drive from Goris, a narrow suspension bridge outside the village of Khndzoresk leads to a collection of ancient cave dwellings. This multi-level village was founded in the medieval era, although its last residents only departed in the 1950s. At one time, the mix of natural and man-made caves housed thousands of people, and was deemed to be one of the largest villages in eastern Armenia.
Visitors can wander freely in and out of the caves, several of which also served as churches and schools. Don’t be surprised if you encounter grazing livestock as you explore!
Getting to the caves: Take the M12 highway east from Goris, turning off towards the modern town of Khndzoresk. The suspension bridge to the caves is a short drive south of “New Khndzoresk.”
Hiking to Devil’s Bridge
The lush valley below Tatev features a winding road full of switchbacks and the opportunity to hike across the beautiful Armenian countryside. Devil’s Bridge, a natural rock bridge carved by the Vorotan River, is a popular stop here and also features natural hot springs.
The non-profit group Hike Armenia advertises an easy one-way hike downhill from the monastery to the bridge, passing by the forested ruins of Tatev Hermitage on the banks of the river. Download their app to navigate the trail or follow the red and white trail markers.
Please note that this one-way hike requires hitching a ride back or arranging for pickup in advance. The bridge is accessible by car as well, with a 1 km walk to the Hermitage from there.
Flying on the Wings of Tatev
The best way to reach the ancient monastery of Tatev is the stunning 5.7 km cable car ride called the Wings of Tatev.
Built in partnership with the Swiss, this ride takes one high across the valley with expansive views of the towns below, the cars and trucks negotiating the sharp switchbacks, and the old ruins and narrow waterfalls hidden in the hills. Foggy days in early spring and late fall lend an eerie wonder to this trip, as you sail through the mist until the cliffs and monastery towers pop out suddenly before you.
Getting to the Wings of Tatev: To ride to the monastery, park at the large parking lot between the towns of Shinuhayr and Halidzor. The café here also offers a great view of the cable cars coming and going.