Are you looking to travel to one of the most beautiful places in Northern Armenia? This is a guide of reasons to visit Odzun, one of the best weekend getaways in Armenia.
If you’re simply on the hunt for a tour to Odzun, here are the top-rated tours from both Yerevan and Tbilisi to Odzun.
- From Yerevan: Odzun, Akhtala, Sanahin, and Haghpat (UNESCO monasteries)
- From Tbilisi: Private tour to best sights in North Armenia (includes Odzun!)
I feel that everywhere I visit in Armenia instantly becomes ‘my favorite‘ place. Odzun was no exception and I’m still dreaming about a return trip there.
Aram and I took a trip to Odzun as part of a huge spring Lori trip we did and by that part of the trip, we were physically and mentally exhausted.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to appreciate Odzun, our final destination on the trip, as much as I had hoped due to being on the road for so long.
Nevertheless, it was my first time there and I really had no expectations. I suspected there would be a picturesque monastery (because Armenia has no shortage of them), friendly people (another thing Armenia has no shortage of), and jaw-dropping landscapes.
I was right. But, Odzun had such a different vibe to many other villages in Armenia that I had visited. For one, it felt ‘large’ by Armenian village standards. And, it is… it has over 4,000 people and is one of the largest villages in the country.
It also felt a bit undiscovered despite so many tourists venturing through these parts of Lori. But, it was 2020 and tour buses with foreign travelers weren’t on the roads the way they were in years past.
While I felt incredibly sad about this, I knew that this was the time to take advantage of seeing these landscapes and really get to feel what Odzun was all about.
And, without further ado, these are six amazing reasons I came up with that will hopefully convince you to visit Odzun.
From mysterious Horomayri Monastery to vodka masterclasses at Odzun B&B, here are the best things to do in Odzun and the top reasons to visit this Lori gem.
Table of Contents
When is the Best Time to Travel to Odzun
The best time to visit Odzun is during the spring, summer, and autumn. The winters can be snowy and the roads in the area can be a bit treacherous. The springtime is also when the flowers begin to bloom and it is mind-blowingly beautiful!
Things to Do in Odzun
This Armenian basilica was built somewhere between the 5th and 7th centuries in Odzun. It is the top attraction in Odzun today and is definitely worth the visit (especially in spring, when we went!)
While the first church in this spot was unveiled in the 6th-century, it was later reconstructed by Hovhannes III Odznetsi, from Odzun. The church’s latest constructions and facelifts were between 2012 and 2014.
I found this church particularly impressive because of its funerary monument that stood to the left side of it. It is only one of two of these types of monuments in all of Armenia and the other is all the way down in Syunik in Aghudi.
The architecture at Odzun Church is remarkably impressive and well-preserved. It is believed that in the 1st-century, one of the 12 disciples (Thomas) visited Odzun to ordain priests and bishops and it is said today that Christ’s clothing was toted along for the journey and is buried under the altar at Odzun Church.
Presently, Odzun stands proudly as one of the country’s finest cupola basilicas. I found this church to be especially fun to photograph as the spring flowers saturated the gardens around it. It was completely striking!
Next door to Odzun sits the small village of Ardvi. I hadn’t heard of this village, to be honest, but we were taken there by Sergo, the owner of our B&B (which we discuss in more detail below).
Ardvi is a small and elevated village that is most known for its iconic monastery, St. Hovhannes (Surb Hovhannes). This monastery dates back to somewhere between the 8th and 17th centuries and consists of 2 different churches and a bell tower.
Everything about this ancient monastery was idyllic. The way it overlooked the village and how the light shined on it during the golden hour – it just really took my breath away and quickly became one of my favorite things about this area of Lori.
On April 17th each year, there is a pilgrimage by the Armenian Apostolic Church to Ardvi to commemorate the memory of Hovhannes Odznetsi.
Another fantastic reason to visit Ardvi is Odzi Port, or the ‘snake’s navel‘. This is a unique area right near the monastery that is said to have healing waters. There is a legend behind it that says that Odznetsi had once heard the voice of a woman yearning for help because a large snake had attacked her.
He then sent his pupils to her aid but none of them returned so he careened toward the village himself and hit the snake with this cane demanding that it ‘let a healing water flow out from its navel and its body then turn to stone’.
Today, there is water running out from the Snake’s Navel and it has been confirmed by the Yerevan Geology Institute that it contains silver and gold. Interestingly, one of the most famous Armenian movies (if not THE most famous one), ‘The Color of Pomegranates‘ by Sergei Parajanov was filmed in Ardvi for some of its scenes.
Ardvi was a spectacular place to visit before sunset. It was magical during spring and one of my favorite places to visit near Odzun.
Is it weird that a family-run guesthouse was one of my favorite things about Odzun? Well, B&B Odzun is far more than your average guesthouse. It is a cultural hub of sorts and it is expanding to create a guesthouse worthy of a long stay and a great base for slow traveling in this northern region of Armenia.
B&B Odzun is run by Sergo and his friendly family. The home is situated near the heart of Odzun and the property is gated and spacious.
They are currently constructing a new building on the premises that is colorful and practical and it will be the epicenter for travelers basing themselves in Odzun.
So, what exactly makes B&B Odzun so special? To start, we took a vodka masterclass offered by Sergo where we got to see and have an interactive experience learning all about the beverage (which, of course, ended with consuming some).
We also had an absolutely delicious breakfast and dinner there. They harvest their own honey on the property and I was able to purchase some as a souvenir of my wonderful time there and take it back to Yerevan with me.
One huge perk to staying at B&B Odzun is that Sergo knows everywhere in the local area. And, we mean everywhere. It helped us plan and see other sights in the area, particularly the ones we mention in the next section.
Nevertheless, there are few places that I would suggest you traveling just for the stay and accommodation.
However, B&B Odzun is one of those places. Even if you were traveling to Odzun to see no sights or landmarks there, you would still love the entire village solely because of this guesthouse, and I can assure you of that!
Horomayri Monastery (and the Views!)
One of the most mysterious places in Armenia is Horomayri Monastery, tucked away in what feels like an armpit of the Debed Gorge.
The Monastery of Horomayr sits about 1 kilometer south of Odzun and part of it is on a ledge about halfway down the gorge. It dates back to around the 12th-century and has caves, khachkars, carvings, and panoramic views.
If you plan your trip to Odzun well, you can hike to Horomayri Monastery. This should only be done if the weather cooperates, however.
In order to reach the path to visit Horomayri, you will need to head down toward the gorge and walk along the cliff base to the right. The path should be pretty visible and accessible.
You will find a sizeable khachkar at the base of the hike. The total hike takes around 2 hours if done correctly and there are no issues.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to hike to Horomayri, you should be able to see it from above and with a good zoom lens.
But, the best part about trying to view it is that the views of the gorge are so spectacular that they make the entire trip worth it. The view from Odzun is truly one of my favorite panoramic views in all of Armenia!
Odzun is a Great Base for Exploring
Many people visiting the region will opt to stay in and visit Vanadzor or Alaverdi, but I reckon that Odzun is also an ideal base to see the region.
And, not to mention, Armenia is fixing a lot of the roads in this area so once they are completely finished, it will easily become one of the best places for a long weekend away from Yerevan or Tbilisi.
I truly believe that Odzun and the places in its vicinity are destined to become one of Armenia’s hot spots with international tourists in the near future.
How to Get to Odzun
The best way to get to Odzun is to rent a car. The reason is that you will pass so many remarkable sights and landmarks along the way that it would be remiss of you not to stop and take advantage of them!
Yerevan to Odzun is approximately 177 kilometers. If you’re looking to take public transportation (a minibus, or marshrutka) there, you will need to grab one from the Kilikia Station to Alaverdi. The cost is around 3 Euros and the trip takes about 4 hours. Buses leave approximately every 2 hours or so from Kilikia.
Once you arrive in Alaverdi, you will need to take a taxi to Odzun. Do not pay more than 1000-2000 AMD ($2-4) for this journey. It should be about a 10-15 minute ride.
Tour to Odzun
If you’re looking for truly the easiest way to get to Odzun without much hassle, we highly recommend this tour from Yerevan to Odzun, Akhtala, Sanahin, and Haghpat.
This is an all-day tour that really does take you to some of the most underrated, yet prolific sights in all of Armenia, including the gorgeous Sanahin Monastery. I highly, highly recommend this tour (and click here to see our list of the best tours in Armenia to plan the rest of your trip!)
Where to Stay in Odzun
As we mentioned and raved on about above, our top choice for a place to stay in Odzun is at B&B Odzun, a family-run guesthouse with hospitality for days!
The property is spacious, the food is outstanding, and I just can assure you that it is one of the top places I’ve stayed anywhere in the world. Tell Sergo ‘hello’ and that Absolute Armenia sent you!
Should You Visit Odzun?
YES! Odzun has become one of my favorite places in all of Armenia and even if you were to ask Aram what my top five places are, he would definitely declare this as one of them. I haven’t stopped talking about Odzun since our trip there!
We hope that this guide gives you tips for things to do in Odzun and the reasons that you should definitely add this Lori village to your Armenia itinerary!
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