Vayots Dzor is in the south of Armenia. This small region has diverse climate zones typical to valleys and high-altitude mountains, which make gardening and viticulture prevalent in the valleys and foothills. The natural wealth of the region is the Arpa River valley, which is home to the Arpa protected landscape boasting hundreds of plant and animal species. This is where still grow the aboriginal species of wild grapes, which are considered to be the ancestor of domestic grapes. Typical local grapes in the foothills yield the most delicious wines of Armenia, which you may taste on the spot. The spa town Jermuk, with its numerous hot springs and mineral waters, has also been one of Vayots Dzor’s crown jewels.
In the villages, you may find traditional artisans such as carpet weavers, wood carvers, carpenters, cross-stone or khachkar makers, stonemasons, basket weavers, tailors, and puppet makers. Village restaurants and guesthouses serve special local dishes such as delicious salads made from edible plants collected from the nearby mountains, sorrel soup, karshm, tonir barbecue, buried cheese seasoned with different spices, ghavurma, qyalagyosh, pickles of various wild plants, and river fish prepared in a clay pot. If you are curious about spirits, you may taste various homemade fruit vodkas and even try to distill them during the season.
The region has numerous cultural heritage sites. Here you may visit cave dwellings that date back several thousand years, see the world’s oldest winery, ascend to the medieval Smbataberd Fortress perched on the cliffs, and visit Noravank Monastery, which dates to the 10th through 13th centuries and is located in a huge gorge surrounded by red rocks.