Area: 3,750 km2
Administrative center: Vanadzor
Distance from Yerevan to Vanadzor: 125 km
Lori (Gugark in ancient times) is the northern region of Armenia, where the imposing mountain ranges of the Caucasus interlace with the maze of rivers cutting through the forests. Native to this region are an amazing assortment of oak, beech, and pine trees as well as dozens of fruits, nuts, and berries. It is not surprising that the Armenian language has specific words designating forests of fruit trees: “Khndzorut” (apple-trees); “Tandzout” (pear-trees), “Shlorout” (plum-trees), etc. Lori’s climate is temperate and relatively humid as the Lori-Pambak Mountains protect this area from the penetration of cold air from the north. Consequently, this region is a favorite for camping and hiking, as there is an ideal confluence of pure mountain air, the fragrant aroma of the woods and meadows, and the secluded natural environment all beckon the adventuring visitor.
Vanadzor, largely constructed from multi-color tufa stone, is the center of the Lori region. Once a small community, in modern times it has become well known for its developed industries and resorts. Boasting a folk and history museum, a children’s art gallery and many other cultural centers, Vanadzor proudly honors the people of Lori in celebrating their art and culture.
The Pambak, Dzoraget, Aghstev and Debed rivers, together with their tributaries and streams, give rise to the popularity of fishing in this area. However, it is not only the nature of Lori that enchants the visitor. Equally stunning are the architectural wonders such as the monasteries of Sanahin, Haghpat, and Kober as well as the cathedral of Odzun. In fact, the harmony of spirituality, nature, and human creation seems to be ever-present in Lori, especially embodied in the many churches and citadels throughout the wooded north.
The village of Sanahin is situated on the right bank of Debed River, near the town of Alaverdi and is connected to the main roads by a 12th century bridge, the oldest engineering construction in the area preserved to the present day. The Sanahin Monastery (10-13 cc.), one of two Unesco World Heritage sights in Lori, is indeed worthy of its fame. An architectural masterpiece, the library of Sanahin was the largest building in medieval Armenia. The oldest building of the monastic complex is the church of Saint Astvatsatsin built in 951. During several centuries, the monastery expanded to include the church of Amenaprkich, the 10th century chapel of Saint Grigor and the Academy building of Grigor the Master.
The other Unesco World Heritage sight in Lori is the monastic complex of Haghpat (10-13cc.), a mere 5 km from Sanahin. Ashot III of the Bagratuni dynasty founded the monastery in 976, which was completed over the next 15 years. Haghpat was similarly an epicenter of learning, and acted as a repository of an enormous collection of literature. Those manuscripts which survived numerous acts of invasion and plunder over the centuries have found their way to the Madentaran museum in Yerevan today. Together with nearby Sanahin, Haghpat is another breathtaking architectural achievement and celebration of Armenia’s spiritual faith, and rightfully on everyone’s must-see list of Lori’s sites.
South of Alaverdi, commanding a presence above the roadway is the famous cathedral of Odzoun, erected nearly 1500 years ago of white and red felsite stone. It is a magnificent example of Armenian architecture of the early Christian period. Indeed throughout Lori one can find numerous remnants and traces of ancient settlements and fortresses, monastery complexes and churches throughout the rich region of Lori.
The town of Alaverdi has been the center of Armenia’s copper and molybdenum industry and is nestled in the Debed Canyon. It is a small and cozy town where one can admire nature, meet hospitable people, and appreciate architectural monuments of fantastic beauty. Worth visiting is the Alaverdi Branch of the National Art Gallery, which includes works by Hakob Hakobyan, Panos Terlemezyan, Grigor Khanjyan, and others.
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19 Hrachya Kochar street, #39 Yerevan 0012, Republic of Armenia