Armenian’s road trip on a Lada Niva 4×4

Armenia is a fascinating and culturally rich country. Outside the classic itineraries proposed by tour operators there are splendid places of indescribable beauty. I traveled on a 4×4 Lada Niva which allowed me to reach all the stops that I had set for myself.

Luca Oliveri on Mount Khustup – Armenia

Lada Niva Legend

LADA 4х4 is a legendary vehicle which live with strong emotions. It stormed the North Pole and Everest, participated in rally Paris-Dakar, domesticated the Antarctic. It is known and loved by everyone who drive it. Its vocation is off-road conditions,and Armenia is its perfect landscape setting to enhance its nature.

In Armenia they say “You have a Lada Niva, you can go anywhere!”

It’s certainly original to undertake a journey through the Armenian roads, as a tourist, deciding to drive this type of car which, especially if engaged in the chaotic city traffic of the capital Yerevan, certainly does not turn out to be the most comfortable car: no air conditioning, no power steering, manual gearbox not even that simple to insert, spartan seats and instruments. All this, however, is amply rewarded by its indescribable off-road performance, its strongness and the feeling to be able to go everywhere.

To understand what it means to travel through Armenia on a Lada Niva imagine this: an extremely bumpy steep mountain road, with holes, stones, cobbles, slopes and the Niva that climbs that path without showing fatigue. In Armenia they say “You have a Lada Niva, you can go anywhere!”

Lada Niva

My Armenian 4 wheel drive trip

The flights to Yerevan from Europe arrive very early in the morning. We landed and, after completing the formalities and collecting the car, we headed towards the city center where we had booked the hotel. Although it was now almost 3 in the morning it was hot and the Lada Niva snorted heat from the engine that invaded the cabin.

The traffic in Yerevan is, at times, exhausting and the heat in the central hours of the day, in August, becomes unbearable. Cars overtake from every direction, intrude on your lane without warning, don’t care in the least about your presence. The chaotic concrete jungle, with the imposing constructions that recall the once dominant Russian architecture, slowly gives way to the suburbs and to much less busy, but also quite bumpy, streets and in some places unpaved roads. We have to get used to it, this is the road system in Armenia. You find yourself stuck in traffic and to travel 1 km it takes up to half an hour and, shortly after, you are arguing with the holes and stones in a peripheral road bouncing on the seat continuously.

Yerevan is definitely the perfect base for visiting the northern part of Armenia and its most popular and touristic attractions. We stayed there 5 nights, allowing ourselves the luxury of the splendid Alexander Hotel which is part of the renowned Luxury Hotels of the World chain.

Khor Virap monastery and the Ararat Mountain

Khor Virap is easily reached in 1 hour drive from Yerevan and it’s the Armenia’s most sacred monastery and with the breathtaking Mount Ararat backdrop is the most spiritual place in the country. You can only imagine my excitement when I rounded the corner and, then, this energetic landscape finally came into focus cuddled by the sunset light.

The Azat Reservoir

I suggest you to spend some time at the Azat Reservoir, a fantastic place where the unique and surreal formations of the mountains and hills are reflected in the water with pastel shades. There
you will live the beauty of being outdoors enjoying every moment of the day until the last when the light of the day, gently, gives way to the low darkness of the night, illuminated by the rising moon and, then, the mirror of the lake becomes more like alabaster.

Azat Reservoir

The Azhdahak Mountain

After visiting the canyon of Garni, its Greco-Roman temple and the nearby monastery of Geghard, if you are intrepid enough, the Gegham mountains region offers scenery of indescribable beauty. The Azhdahak mountain, the “dragon’s volcano”, is the symbol of the region. You can go on a multi-day trek or you can reach it in a day trip from Yerevan driving along the first part of the path with a Jeep or, as in our case, with the Lada Niva. The road that leads to the base of the Azhdahak volcano is really impervious and quite difficult and dangerous to travel, therefore recommended only for an experienced off-road driver. From there the climb to the summit of the volcano is 5 km one way, with 600 meters of gain and will take about 1h and half. From the summit the landscape is unbelivable.

Going to the South – The Mount Khustup

We have planned to climb Mount Khustup which lies to the south on the border with Nagorno Karabakh. To get there, from Yerevan, it takes at least 6 hours because, the route is mostly an ups and downs in the mountains. We arrived at 9 pm in Kapan, the city that stay at the base of the mountain. On the road we had a stop at the Tatev monastery, a must to see along the way. There, we took some photos at sunset before continuing to Kapan. To climb the Mount Khustup you need to plan at least 2 days because the trek is quite long, almost 30 kilometers with a gain of 2200 meters. We slept in a tent halfway under a sky full of stars in Navcha Base Camp and then set off for the summit the following morning at 4. Mount Khustup is a pilgrimage site and is considered sacred. If the day is clear, at the top, you can see 5 states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Nagorno Karabakh and Turkey

3 days in the Trulli region

In this post-Covid pandemic period, you will enjoy your private and exclusive holiday, away from crowds with your partner, your family or your friends.

Luca Oliveri at Incanto d’Itria Resort – Drone view

A Corner of paradise in the Trulli Apulian region

A few kilometers from Locorotondo and Alberobello, Incanto d’Itria Resort is a unique and suggestive location. It’s a corner of paradise surrounded by wonderful olive trees and Mediterranean scents where you can rediscover your intimate contact with nature.

To get to the trulli you need to reach central Apulia, a magnificent area nestled between the Murge plateau and Salento, in a triangle of beauty between the provinces of Bari to the north, and Taranto and Brindisi further south. The so-called “Valley of the Trulli” or “Riviera dei Trulli”, the beautiful Itria Valley, which gushes with sun-kissed villages, golden beaches, fragrant scrub and centuries-old olive trees.

Sunset, garden, fruits

I took an early morning flight to enjoy the day wholly

My flight from Milan landed at Bari airport early in the morning and the procedures to exit from the airport and rent the car has been quick.

From Bari, I spent 1-hour driving across the apulian country and arrived at the resort just before luch time. We were welcomed by the owner, Giuseppe, we got an espresso seated in the main veranda and started talking about the surroundings and the story of the resort.

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The Trulli have been restored and now they revive once again

In 2017, Giuseppe and his brother Francesco were literally fascinated by a group of ruined Trulli and bought them. With great sacrifices and a lot of work, they brought them back to life, taking advantage of the experience of the trullari masters. Two years later they made this wonderful place revive once again opening the doors of the houses to suggestive experiences, where you can share the smells of spring, the sounds of summer, the colors of autumn and the silence of winter, in a personal way that can only happen there.

There are 3 trulli in the resort: “Trullo Magnifico”, “Trullo Incanto” and “Trullo Divino”. Each one has its own private kitchen and living room, bathroom and bedroom. Two of them are connected and are ideal for a family. Instead, Trullo Divino, which is like a fancy sweet-box, is separated by the other two trulli.

Luca Oliveri – Trullo

Incanto d’Itria is your private and exclusive resort

You can share the resort with your partner or your family or your friends. The resort will be at your exclusive use.

Between the brightly reflecting sun and the ocher of the ground, I had the sensation of reflecting myself in the clear water of the pool in complete relaxation and welcomed by the lush greenery of the grove and gardens surrounding the resort.

If I could relax reading or indulge in the pleasure of tranquility during the day, when it was time for sunset, the feeling of peace enjoying a fresh aperitif was priceless.

At that moment, the color of the sky, wisely painted as the sun dipped behind the horizon, created vibrant shades of pink and cobalt

The swimming pool in a sunny day

One week of relaxation, food, unique places to visit away from crowds in this post-Covid period

I suggest you to spend at least 1 week in the region and enjoy your holiday chilling at Incanto d’Itria the whole day, maybe, drinking a glass of Chardonnay white wine at the pool at sunset or simply by visiting the numerous surrounding touristic or seaside areas. Most of all in this post-Covid pandemic period you will enjoy your private and exclusive holiday, away from crowds with your partner, your family or your friends.

Ostuni – the blue door

Traveling in the post COVID period

The restrictions caused by the pandemic have created new expectations and new priorities in people for 2021. What does not change is the desire for holidays, for travel. The desire to leave never sets!

How we will travel

But will the way of traveling change?

Will we be looking for something more intimate and less crowded?

In this period of recovery, in the post covid, by booking their first vacation, people want something out of the ordinary to face personal challenges and, also, to avoid crowds and to live life experiences.

Here are the destinations to live unforgettable experiences

In my Instagram guides and in the blog we often speak about this new concept of travel:

It’s not only luxury hotels or trips of a thousand and one nights.

These types of “life experiences” I’m talking about are those that will be experienced once in a lifetime.

They will leave unforgettable moments and memories, though sometimes we need a little bit of spirit of adaptation.

We are talking about experiences that offer alternative tourism, such as living 48 hours with your partner in a cabin on a small otherwise deserted island in the middle of a lake in Sweden. Or sleeping in a tent under the starry sky of the Namibian desert or of the summit of Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui.

Or, again, face a dangerous multi-day trek in the virgin Kauai, to reach one of the wildest and most fascinating beaches in the world

Over the clouds – Haleakala summit

Post covid holidays: when the tourist becomes the protagonist of the trip

It no longer matters to choose a famous destination.

These experiences can be found everywhere, you just need to live them with your heart.

It is the intimate contact with nature or, sometimes, with ourselves, the protagonist of the travel.

For example, I had my most intense experience climbing the 3922 steps of the Haiku Stairs, on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. There I found that I did not climb the ridge to the summit just to enjoy the magnificent scenery, but gradually I saw myself reflected into nature and I experienced a great feeling of well-being.

Haiku Stairs – Stairway to Heaven

Traveling to rediscover yourself

A compromise inspires me to travel; what I mean is that we live frenetic lives with frantic schedules most of the time. This is a significant source of anxiety for me! Every one should find a way to lower the bar and break the monotony: I discovered my personal way through travel.

Traveling also means leaving your ‘comfort zone’!