The village of Bagratashen is located on the Armenian-Georgian border. The Dbet river separates the two countries, with the border crossing just outside the village. Bagratashen was well-known by locals for the bustling foreign market which shut down 2 years ago, and its sunflower industry which still thrives. In summer months, fields of sunflowers decorate roads and pathways which provide for scenic flat-land hiking.

At one of the lowest altitudes in Armenia, Bagratashen is usually remarkably warmer than surrounding towns and villages. The border crossing has a hotel, ATM, cafe, and duty-free shop. Shops in the village have Ritz-like crackers which cannot be found anywhere but in larger cities in Armenia. During certain times of the year, you can buy an entire roasted sunflower head to eat. Traveling towards Vanadzor from Bagratashen, produce from a Kurdish village is sold along the road and you will see reconstruction from a devastating landslide that took place in 2011. In my 2 years of living in Armenia, I have never witnessed more beautiful landscape and rock formations than when travelling towards Vanadzor from Bagratashen.

Though not an obvious destination for travelers, Bagratashen has certain charms and would benefit greatly from increased tourism. A taxi from Bagratashen to Noyemberyan is usually 3,000 dram, a bus or “marshutni” to Vanadzor is 1,000 dram and Yerevan is 2,200 dram. If you are traveling through to Tbilisi– you can usually walk through the customs house, then haggle your way onto a marshutni at a discounted ticket price on the Georgian side. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites Haghpat and Sanahin are also easily reachable by a 30 minute taxi ride towards Alaverdi.

Danelle is an American Peace Corps volunteer who lives and works in Tavush marz.