Vardenyats Pass: a serpentine road through Armenia's mountains

Vardenyats Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.410m (7,906ft) above sea level, located in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia.

Vardenyats Pass

Why is it called Vardenyats Pass?

Set high in the Vardenis mountains range, the road to the summit, also known as Selim Mountain Pass or Sulemayi Lernants’k’, is called M10. The pass was formerly known as Selim Mountain Pass, but the name was recently changed. According to the governor of Vayots Dzor province, Edgar Ghazarian the name changed because ‘Selim’ name is often used in the press, electronic mass media, tourist guides and reference books when the matter concerns a mountain pass, a caravanserai, etc. After consulting with historians, it became clear that Selim is the name of a person, rather than a place. This foreign barbarian was only famous for his evil deeds and destruction he caused. Our picturesque sites and historic monuments should not be linked to his name. I want to inform everyone that changes were officially made in the place names, with Selim mountain pass renamed Vardenyats mountain pass and the Selim caravanserai renamed Orbelian’s caravanserai”. 

How long is Vardenyats Pass?

The pass is 55.7 km (34.61 miles) long, running north-south from Martuni (a town in the Gegharkunik Province on the southern shores of Lake Sevan) to Yeghegnadzor (a town in Vayots Dzor Province, on the southern part of the country).

Is Vardenyats Pass challenging?

The road leading to the summit is completely paved, but it presents numerous challenges to any vehicle's suspension due to the abundance of potholes and broken surfaces. The road's perilous nature is primarily attributed to the extreme weather conditions, including blizzards, strong winds, dense fog, limited visibility, sections with black ice, and the constant risk of avalanches. Depending on the season of your visit, it's crucial to monitor local weather reports, as heavy snowfall can pose significant problems. Additionally, the occasional tumbling rocks demand constant vigilance while driving.

Is Vardenyats Pass worth it?

While driving through this challenging road, with hairpin turns, steep sections and countless curves, you’ll get stunning views. As you traverse the terrain, the road leads you to the highland steppe, just beyond the pass, where the beauty of Armenia's majestic mountains unfolds. Moreover, this pass serves as a gateway to Lake Sevan, offering an opportunity to experience this natural wonder. At the summit, you'll encounter a remarkable piece of history - the ancient Silk Road guest house, known as Selim Caravanserai. This establishment was constructed in 1332 by Prince Chesar Orbelian, as revealed by inscriptions in both Armenian and Arabic. Throughout its existence, the caravanserai extended hospitality to countless travelers journeying along the highway that traversed the Selim (Sulema) mountains. Selim Caravanserai stands as a gem amongst Armenia's historical treasures, representing an example of secular Armenian architecture during the Middle Ages.