Ararat Marz is the
agriculturally rich but hot and flat valley of the Arax
river S of Yerevan, including the severe brown hills of
the lower Azat and
river watersheds, but including fine green valleys and
mountains in the upper reaches, mostly now protected within the
bounds of the Khosrov Nature Reserve.
Ararat Marz is dominated by the double silhouette of Mt.
Ararat, which looms on a clear day close and magical. Main
tourist destination of the Marz is Khor Virap
legendary site of the captivity of Gregory the Illuminator,
which sits among the ruins of Ancient Artashat.
The ruins of Dvin are another important destination, at
least scientifically, while the upper valley of the Vedi River
includes interesting natural sites, fortified
monastery (castle of Gevorg Marzpetuni),
ancient khachkars in uninhabited mountain village of Mankuk.
The fishponds of Armash are one of the Caucasusís
richest spots for birders. E
from Yeraskh, a fold of Mt. Urts
shelters the S. Karapet
Technically in Ararat Marz, but more accessible from
Garni, the remote valleys of the Azat river and its tributaries
shelter Havuts Tar and
Aghjots Vank (S. Stepanos) Vank monasteries, church of Baiburd
and S. Astvatsatsin church in Imirzek, as well as 5 huge Vishaps
(Dradonstones) and Geghi medieval castle (Kakavaberd)
in the same area.
The most attractive archaeological sites of the mars are
represented by the Neolithic-Chalcolithic
site of Masis Blur near Norabats, as well as the Bronze
Age settlements in Jrahovit and
Aygavan. Over the centuries,
the population of the Arax valley had become predominantly
Muslim, as Turkish, Mongol, and Persian conquerors pushed aside
the Christian population out of these fertile lands.
Though Armenians began to return to Ararat Marz, then
Zangi-Basar and Garni-Basar mahals, as early as 1828 with the
Russian conquest, most of the villages retained Turkish names
until the middle of this century.