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Aragatsotn Marz consists of the huge volcanic shield of Mt. Aragats, formerly Alagyaz, whose main cone rises 4090 meters above sea level. The high uplands provide grazing in summer for Yezidi shepherds, as well as the clear air for Armenia's observatories. The rocks, wildflowers, and views make the ascent of Aragats unforgettable. A favorite site for the summer cottages of affluent Yerevantsis due to its proximity and cool climate, the S slopes of Aragats are also the subject of tentative efforts to develop skiing and other winter sports. The remote medieval fortress of Amberd is a memorable destination once the snows melt in May. The eastern part of the Marz is laid out along the Kasagh river gorge, which cuts deep into the rock and forms the backdrop for a chain of spectacular monasteries. The western uplands of Aragats, a bleakly beautiful landscape of volcanic boulders and green grass overlooking the Ararat Valley, are dotted with villages, each athwart a stream gorge, most with medieval churches and fortresses of the Bronze and Early Iron Age. Aruch Cathedral, the castle at Nerkin Talin (Dashtadem) the paleolithic open air workshops around Mt. Arteni, are all well worth a separate expedition. Ashtarak is the administrative capital of Aragatsotn, spread out in and above the gorge of the Kasagh river. The city is endowed with old churches, interesting museums, and some ambitious restaurant/hotel/casino complexes suitable for lengthy carouses.

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