Pomegranate wine presented at Areni Wine Festival / Photo: Arty Om
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Since 2012, every first Saturday of October starts in the same way for me. I wake up early, get to the village of Pokr Vedi on a bus, walk few meters along the road until I pass the stands of the local fruit sellers, greeting the snowy peaks of Mount Ararat on my right. Then I raise my thumb up and hitchhike to the village of Areni, where my annual wine madness at the Areni Wine Festival begins. In short, this festival is a great opportunity to taste various Armenian wines... for free!
Armenian wines at Areni Wine Festival / Photo: Arty Om
It all started over 4 years ago. Me and my friend came up with a perfect plan - hitchhike to Areni, spend the day tasting different wines, get drunk and then… come what may. The trip took us 4 rides, last one being representatives of a local winery. The village of Areni wasn't too crowded when we arrived there. The villagers were getting ready for the festival decorating their tables and stands with wine, fruits, cheese and other home-made products.
Villagers from Areni and nearby villages actively participate in the festival / Photo: Arty Om
Located in the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia, the Areni village is famous all around Armenia for its wines. In fact, wine making was known in this area for ages. In 2007, the world’s oldest-known winery (dating back to c. 4100 BC) was discovered in the nearby Areni-1 cave – truly the cradle of world’s winemaking.
Organized annually in the first weekend of October, the Areni Wine Festival is one of the most famous and popular festivals in Armenia. It includes various activities, such as Armenian wine makers’ fair with free wine tasting, homemade wine fair, contests, exhibitions, traditional song and dance performances, live concert, and many more. The festival attracts large groups of locals and foreign travelers, wine amateurs and expert sommeliers. The wine fair, of course, is everyone’s most favorite part of the festival – you get to taste as much Armenian wine as you can – absolutely free of charge! And if you find your favorite wine, you can purchase a bottle or two right from the wine makers.
Bottles of Armenian wine at the festival / Photo: Arty Om
Even if you come to the Areni Wine Festival alone, you quickly make new friends and suddenly, you’re in a big group of people, roaming around and tasting all the wines presented both by the companies and the locals, occasionally eating cubes of cheese and dried fruits. The traditional Armenian music and dances performed on the main square of the village are a great addition to the wine. By the time you finish your first circle around the wine fair, you aren’t sober anymore but not too drunk yet, and so you begin the second one. Then the third round. The fourth. Red, white, rosé, apricot wine, sweet, semi-sweet, dry. More music, more dances, more people, more smiles. What an atmosphere!
Grape stomping is fun / Photo: Arty Om
In between, you can take a short walk up to the 1321 AD Surb Astvatsatsin church of Areni. A stunning view of the village and the Arpa river opens up from here - a prospering oasis of life surrounded by mountains.
The festival continuous until 5-6 PM. Instead of going back to Yerevan, you can choose to stay in Areni (there are several guest houses available in the area) and explore the region the next day, visiting the nearby monastery of Noravank. And if you’re lucky, you may end up continuing the celebration with locals. During our first trip to Areni Wine Festival, a local guy named Arthur invited us over to their house. He called his mother, and soon we were already at their home - talking about wine making as they showed us their barrels. Three other friends joined us from Yerevan a little later, and we spent the night enjoying local homemade wines together with our hosts. Because hospitality and wine walk side by side in Armenia!
Areni Wine Fest attracts travelers from all over the world / Photo: Arty Om
How to get to Areni Wine Festival:
Option 1: Areni Wine Fest Buses
The easiest way to get to Areni Wine Festival is to take one of the buses provided by the festival organizers. Departure location and time is usually announced shortly before the festival. The round-trip ticket costs 2500-3000 AMD (~5-6$).
Option 2: Public Transportation
There are no buses/minibuses to Areni from Yerevan, so you’ll have to take a minibus to the cities of Yeghegnadzor or Vayk and ask the driver to drop you off at the Areni village. The bus ride will cost around 1000 AMD (~2$) per person.The minibuses (available from 9:00 AM) leave from Labour Square near the Gortsaranayin metro station.
Option 3: Hitchhiking
You can easily get to the Areni Wine Festival hitchhiking from Yerevan. Take a metro to the Sasuntsi Davit station. Turn left from the metro exit (the glass doors) and walk your way out of the underground crossing. You’ll find yourself on a small bus station. Get on a bus going to Vedi and tell the driver to drop you off at the village of Pork Vedi, which is right on the highway. Once you’re out of the bus, just walk a few meters along the road to find a suitable spot and start hitchhiking. Distance to Areni village where the festival takes place is about 100 kilometers.
Option 4: Taxi
And of course, you can always take a taxi. The one-way trip will cost about 11000-12000 AMD (23-25$). This option is best if you’re a group of 3-4 people, so you can share the cost. You can use the GGTaxi app (available both for Android and iOS) to order a taxi.