A tasty little breakfast at Harsnadzor Hotel and the owner is happy enough to drive us up to Goris, albeit at a whopping AMD8,000 (USD$15). With little to no traffic and minimal taxis passing the hotel the two kilometre walk up the road to try and catch a lift from town was also out of the question, given yesterdays ambush.
A push up to Goris, most of it sideways in the snow, we arrive to the surprisingly quaint town with its uniformed 19th century houses and empty main square. Checking into a cold pokey little room at Hotel Vivas the family who run it, the adjoining café and the restaurant below are super friendly and invite us for tea. The restaurant serves up some good food as we enjoy our last beer for a month before heading into Iran. Though you might find the tiny private rooms a little weird and if you order the vegetable kebab don’t expect more than a couple of char-grilled tomatoes.
Over the river peppering the hills are medieval caves (over 10,000 caves are supposedly scattered around the area) and there’s not a lot of information available on when and why they were abandoned (no WiFi perhaps?). A strange walk through the local cemetery scattered below and between the caves shows that they don’t really hold them in high regard as a tourist attraction which becomes fully evident by the many left over fires and litter you’ll encounter throughout. Take some time to check out the lifelike portraits on the headstones, they’re uniquely Armenian to say the least.
Back in town the Deluxe Bar and Restaurant off the main square at first looks a little swank to our budget eyes though the menu is reasonable and the coffee surprisingly great. Opting for some soups the traditional Sars and chicken and tomato are delicious. Back at hotel central we wait out our last night in Armenia.
‘You cannot be serious!’
is the cry as Matt wakes Sarah at 7am. Falling asleep to clear skies and clear pavements, knowing there’s a mountain pass or two between us and Iran, four inches of snow has dumped overnight with it still coming down heavily enough to have us worried.
Knowing that the only minivan to Megrhi on the border was due to pass through town around midday we sit out on the street as the snow continues to bucket down. It’s the second last day of our visa and we didn’t want to have to go through the ball ache of extending it back in Yerevan having gone through something similar previously in Russia.
It’s a bone chilling wait as taxi drivers offer us a fare to Kapan to hopefully get a connecting buses to Megrhi, which also may not have been running as there was one last pass that could have been the unwinding of the entire border run. With options running through our mind we even considered the trip back to Yerevan to try again the following morning. To add to the doubt we don’t spot a single car with Persian plates heading our way, when yesterday they were passing through town aplenty. Eventually a Megrhi local offers to drive us down…for a fee of course.Starting at AMD30,000 (USD$60) we got him down to AMD15,000 AMD (USD$30) knowing that he’d make the journey in his newer model bronze Honda 4WD.
We needn’t have worried as the road had been cleared that morning and the traffic free flowed along the winding road south. Though the recent heavy snowfall was evident the entire trip. Even though visibility in parts is minimal the overnight snow cover gives us a memorable send off to a country that for the last three weeks has packed in the fun, people and sights. Thanks Armenia!
Turns out our driver works down on the border as a customs official and is happy enough to drive us all the way. With a connection like this we are expedited through the immigration process and soon enough on a golf cart to Iran. Which wasn’t really necessary as we pay a small fee to be driven a whole 100 metres. Still we managed to palm off our remaining Armenian Dram for some Iranian Rial (about $2 worth) at a pretty good rate.
So as we leave the snowy peaks behind we follow the river between Azerbaijan, Iran and Armenia and swap the cold wintry landscape for jaggered ridge lines coated in a brown hue, a stark contrasting introduction to the beginning of the dry arid Persian region.
Tips for travelling from Goris to Iran
- We struggled to find information on minivan times from Goris to Megrhi. Ask as many people as you can to get an idea of the correct times. Our final understanding was that a minivan will pass through from Yerevan at around midday…though there may not be any seats available when it does.
- You can easily get to Kapan from Goris by public transport. From here there are more frequent services to Meghri where you’ll need to catch a taxi to the border.
- The golf cart guys at the border exchanged some of our left over AMD at a really good rate. If he can’t then the money exchange on the Iranian side also gave us a better rate than the official bank rate. Don’t change more than you have to until you get to Tehran!