Perched on a broad shelf that terminates at a sheer plunge down to the Debed River, Odzun is a substantial settlement of about 6000 with a magnificent 7th-century church in the centre of the village. The unusual monument next to it is a memorial but locals say it has the power to inspire fertility– approach with caution.
In Dsegh, 9km from the main road, you can find the birthplace of writer Hovhannes Tumanyan (1869–1923). The home of his childhood has been converted to a museum, with period furniture and mementos. The stone memorial outside the museum contains the heart of Tumanyan (the rest of his body is buried in Tbilisi).
Situated at the edge of Akhtala village, this 13th-century complex is recommended for its fine decorative carvings and frescoes. A thick wall surrounds it. When you enter the wall, look left and you’ll see two large caves that were used for smelting copper. Historians aren’t sure if the church was dedicated to St Gregory (Surp Grigor) or the Apostles (Arakelots).
Don’t blink or you might miss this charmingly ruined 13th-century convent, hidden just off the Vanadzor–Alaverdi highway. The convent lies above the hamlet of Kobayr (also spelt Khober or Kober) – hidden behind trees near the road. Most travellers pass right by having never seen it.