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Smbataberd fortress hike & gata baking

Smbataberd fortress hike & gata baking image

Located high on a hill and surrounded by deep gorges, the Smbataberd Fortress is one of Armenia’s most impressive fortifications. The fortress’s visual prominence and fascinating history make it the center of this experience, which includes not only a guided hike up to the fortress, but also the opportunity to prepare and bake Armenia’s iconic gata in a tonir oven.

You’ll embark from the village of Yeghegis, where you will meet your guide Vardan Karamyan. Because he has developed several local trails, Vardan is intimately familiar with the region’s flora and fauna, as well as its folklore and local history. Explore the history of the village, which was a prince’s residence in the Middle Ages and features a medieval church and historic Jewish cemetery.

After hiking up the hill, you will be rewarded with not only the spectacular Smbataberd Fortress itself, but also breathtaking views of the surrounding valley and jagged mountains. The hike is well worth the effort to get there. With basalt walls up to three meters thick, semi-circular towers, and inner citadels, you’ll be impressed by the ancient architects’ perseverance to build something of this magnitude along the ridge. If you have time to walk a bit further—after all, you’ve climbed all this way—don’t miss the Tsakhats Kar Monastery Complex, including St. Karapet Church, which was built nearly 1,000 years ago in 1041. Especially impressive are the sculptures on the altar, decorated window frames, and distinctive khachkars in front. Take in this historic Armenian landmark perched on the mountainside with a stunning vista of Smbataberd and Vayots Dzor stretching out below.

Finish your hike at Ayrarat Guesthouse, built by Vardan’s grandfather in the shadow of Smbataberd and overlooking their hometown of Artabuynk. After your journey, you can relax with Vardan’s mother Tamara and his brother Karen, as Tamara demonstrates one of Armenia’s best-known culinary traditions: baking gata in an authentic tonir, which is a round, deep clay oven typically dug into the ground. Gata is Armenia’s most famous traditional dessert, and after making it with Tamara, you will see why. Made from flour, eggs, sour cream, milk, and stuffed with khoriz (a combination of ghee, flour, and sugar), gata is a recipe that you will want to take home to impress your family and friends.

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

My Armenia Program

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