The Ararat province is probably one of the most underrated provinces of Armenia. It is the province where you can still feel the Hellenistic breath. The Ararat province is naturally named after the biblical Mt Ararat, where, the Book of Genesis says Noah’s Ark came to rest on after the Great Deluge.
Catch some of the best attractions and sights worth to visit in Ararat:
The capital of the province is Artashat, beside it, the two of the ancient capitals of Armenia, Dvin and Artashat are also within the province, which we will talk about later.
One of the most remarkable places of the province is the Khosrov State Reserve. The forest being both historical and natural monument is one of the first artificial forests in the world. It was initially founded as a hunting ground in the 4th century by the Armenian king Khosrov II Kotak. The forest was declared as a reserve in 1958. Khosrov Forest State Reserve is home to endangered animals and plants, for example, the Persian Leopard, Marbled Polecat, European Wildcat, brown bears, and the Bezoar Ibex. There are also 33 species of reptiles found in Khosrov and two of the main snakes are the Armenian Viper and the Mountain Grassland Viper. All in all, the Khosrov Forest is definitely a great spot for nature lovers. Another remarkable fact about the forest is that within the Khosrov Forest State Reserve, you will see a 2000-hectare area that is protected for its unique biodiversity. It is the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge, the first private protected area in all of the South Caucasus.
However, the Khosrov Forest is not only nature and wildlife, as we mentioned above it is also remarkable historic sight as there are several notable attractions and landmarks, worth to visit.
The Kakavaberd Fortress of 9th century located within the Khosrov Forest State Reserve is probably one of the most underrated and untouched places in Armenia. The Kakavaberd is well-preserved but it is inaccessible from three sides because of the steep terrain. Inside the fortress, you will find the ruins of several structures, including a church.
Another underrated fortress in Armenia is the Gevorg Marzpetuni Castle of 10th century (also known as Tapi Fortress) which is technically within the forest, however, it is sort of detached from the main forest as the fort is located on the Mount Kotuts in the Kotuts Mountains, a branch of the Yeranos Mountain chain. Take into account that It might take a little long time to get inside, as it requires a 13-kilometer hike.
When we are thinking of the Ararat Province, the Khor Virap Monastery immediately comes into mind. The Monastery is probably the leading tourist attraction in the entire province and is absolutely worth the visit, aside it is one of the best observative desks for the Mt Ararat.
Originally, before Khor Virap was a symbol of Christian Armenia, it was a royal dungeon that was built by King Artashes who founded the historic capital of Armenia, Artashat, in 180 BC during the Artaxiad Dynasty.
King Artashes and later other royals was using the royal signet for a strategic purpose, much more for their personal enemies, hence Khor Virap literally means “deep dungeon”.
Gregory the Illuminator, made famous by helping to make Armenia the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, was actually locked up for 13 years at Khor Virap in a dungeon. However, the monastery is strongly connected with a special person, Grigor the Illuminator the one who first preached Christianity and was the key reason that Armenia eventually became the first Christian country in the world in 301.
Before preaching Christianity, the Illuminator was an advisor to King Tiridates III, who believed in many gods and practiced Paganism in Armenia and was not satisfied with the information that Gregory was preaching Christianity, a one God religion, in his kingdom. That is one of the most significant reasons Grigori ended up being dropped into that dungeon to his death while he massively executed all Christians inside of the territory of the kingdom.
Later in 5th century a chapel was built in Khor Virap. A much larger one was built in 1662. Now the church and its composition started to become an icon in Armenia.
Another underrated town in the province is Artashat, located along the Aras River, 30 kms south of Yerevan. As mentioned before, it was founded by the King Artashes in 180 BC and was one of historic capitals of Armenia.
As historian Moses the Chorene mentioned in the 3rd century BC, Artashat was chosen on the advice of the Carthaginian general Hannibal. Antique writers Strabo and Plutarch called Artashat “a beautiful and large city”, “Armenian Cartagena”.
As the town used to be the most Hellenized one back in the days and largely dealt with the western culture, there are a lot of ruins and artifact evidencing it. Noteworthy to say the town and its surroundings used to be strongly involved in the cultural movement, which was conditioned by the political and economic rise in the country. It is a legit reason, that the town is one of the most renowned places for archaeology and history lovers.
Another ancient city is the Dvin, which was the capital of medieval Armenia in its early stages. It was located about 35 kilometers south of Yerevan along the Metsamor River. There have been many excavations in Dvin that have shown proof of civilization and Armenian culture between the 5th and 13th centuries. Noteworthy to mention that during excavations an ancient step pyramid, which form strongly resembles the pyramids located in Egypt and Mexico, was discovered in the village of Getazat, near Dvin. The investigations led the archaeologists to an unusual structure which was built in the 3th-2th millennia BC.
Another historic structure founded in the Ararat Province is the Turkmen Mausoleum. This Qara Qoyunlu mausoleum was built in 1413 when Armenia, due to its strategic significance, was constantly fought over and passed back and forth between Safavid Persia and the Ottomans. Now it is located the village of Argavand. The Funerary Tower was built to honor Turkmen Amira Pir Husein, a past ruler of Yerevan. It is also an amazing place to visit and witness a piece of local history.
Another must see place in Ararat is the stunning Angels’ Canyon. Surrounded by yellowish-orange rocks near the town of Vedi. There a hiking experience is needed and a it Is truly fantastic place to connect with the nature.