14 April 2013

Apaga Active Leisure Club

Apaga Active Leisure Club is a resort near the village of Yenokavan in Tavush Region of northern Armenia.  It is particularly popular among members of the international community looking for a mountain retreat because of the quality of accommodations and the fact that it's less than 3 hours from Yerevan by car.

From Yerevan, take the road to Lake Sevan and continue through Dilijan and Ijevan.  Near the north end of Ijevan, take the left turnoff toward the village of Yenokavan, and before you know it, you're approaching a perfectly-situated mountain retreat overlooking a forested valley, the watershed of the Aghstev River.

Apaga Active Leisure Club seen from a distance.

The car parking area is covered, the staff is friendly, and because we stayed during the first week of April, not a busy tourist season, we had the whole resort to ourselves!  Upon check-in, we were given the key to cottage number 5.  Amenities include hardwood floors and stone walls, along with round-the-clock running hot water and electrical outlets for charging our devices.  There was a sitting area with a fireplace, a table for four, a soft double bed plus an extra bed for Nathan, a spacious bathroom with shower, and a balcony.  Each cottage has two stories, so it could have accommodated another family above us.  It felt like a luxurious version of camping.

The only issue with the sitting area is that this is the only chair of its kind.

Some very useful shelving separates the sitting area from the sleeping area.  On the right is the bathroom door.

A view of the balcony from one of the windows.

A neighboring cottage.

All meals are included in the cost of the room.  At mealtimes, we would walk down to the main building where we would find everything ready and waiting for us in the restaurant area: between hearty soups, rice pilaf or potatoes, various salads, fresh herbs, assorted pickled vegetables, and platters of local cheeses, there was no problem accommodating vegetarian travelers!  Adjoining the restaurant is a small greenhouse, so we could see where our food came from.  There is also free Wi-Fi available in and around the main building.

Homemade meals, made from local ingredients, and served family-style.

After lunch, the staff always asked us if we'd like to go horseback riding.  Nathan had his first-ever riding experience on a lovely buckskin named Chanel.  The trainer led them on a gentle 20-minute walk around the property.  He was a bit nervous, but sat well in the saddle and didn't say a word.  When he returned and dismounted, he told us that he was uncomfortable and didn't want to go again.  Oh, well, at least he tried!  Then he stayed behind with Daddy while I had my turn on Chanel.  I followed the trainer on his horse into the forested hills behind the resort, and when we reached some open, grassy areas, we were able to break into a canter, which felt great.  The weather was cool and sunny, just right for an afternoon of trail riding.

Nathan prepares for his first ride.

If horseback riding isn't your thing, you can head to the recreation room on the second floor of the main building for a game of darts, to borrow some sporting equipment for use on the athletic field, or to watch a DVD (there are no TVs in the cottages).  There is also a ping-pong table set up outside next to the building.

It would be fun to come up here to play cards or board games with other guests -- when there are other guests, of course!

And if you don't want to do any of those things, you can just lie back and relax!

The perfect place to enjoy a good book.

Our down time wasn't completely unproductive: Jarred gave Nathan his first lesson in shoe-tying.

Something particularly memorable about our stay was the 24-hour attention we received from the resort's canine residents.  The pack of yellow labs, a St. Bernard, and a couple of large mixed-breed dogs literally followed us everywhere we we went, playing roughly amongst themselves but never harming us.  Nathan is normally afraid of large dogs, but he grew to enjoy their companionship -- we all did!  They were trained not to enter any buildings, but some of them sleept on our front doorstep overnight (which was actually quite comforting).

Good morning!

Playing by the pond...

Whew, I'm thirsty!

Let's go for a hike!

Let's take a rest!

We made it to the top -- woof!

Speaking of animals, we noticed some very interesting species of birds -- and wildflowers -- that we had never seen before, though we certainly couldn't photograph all of them.

White Wagtail

Common Redstart

Can anyone identify any of the pretty little flowers above?

All in all, our stay at Apaga Active Leisure Club was very pleasant, though it would have been more convenient if at least one or two of the staff spoke English (project manager Gayane, who speaks English and communicated with us by email regarding the details of our reservation, was out of town during our time there).  Still, we hope to return, perhaps later in the spring, or in August when Yerevan's late summer heat becomes truly unbearable.  Apaga indeed provides "active leisure" and a refreshing escape from city life...

...both indoors...

...and out!

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