Flying from Yerevan to Syunik

Arriving through the departures gate due to the September 2, 2023 Azeri aggression (pictured is the damaged arrivals area)

The journey to southern Armenia is not an easy one. New methods for traveling between Armenia’s capital city Yerevan and the southernmost province Syunik have been launched this year. One new road is already drivable via Ldzen, a small village near Sisian, that cuts out the Devil’s Bridge segment of the Tatev pass. Flights have also commenced between Yerevan and the town Kapan in Syunik.

The north-south journey has been treacherous since 2021, when Azerbaijan closed their segment of the Goris-Kapan highway, the main artery connecting Armenia’s southern border to Yerevan. Last September, I took the new Ldzen road, which at the time was an off-road rocky path that pushed my car to its maximum capabilities. The road has since been paved and is scheduled to open in the coming weeks. It cuts out nine kilometers of the 400 kilometer journey between Yerevan and Meghri. Yet it still undergoes similar changes in altitude to the main route through the Devil’s Bridge, merging just south of Tatev Monastery and failing to circumvent the main bottleneck of the Tatev-Kapan highway in Verin Khotanan where trucks pass each other with only a few inches to spare. 

Since the inaugural flight between Yerevan and Kapan on August 18, there have been three successful round trip flights and one that turned around halfway, allegedly due to ground conditions at the Kapan airport. While visiting Yerevan in August, I inquired about upcoming flights and learned that the only way to book a flight is to physically purchase a ticket at the Yerevan airline office. I decided to book a weekend trip in September from Kapan to Yerevan and back. 

The flights are scheduled on Mondays and Fridays, departing from Zvartnots International Airport at 8 a.m. and returning from Kapan at 10 a.m. Each ticket is 20,000 AMD, a little more than $50, which is about the same price as a Wizz Air flight to Italy. The airport in Kapan still does not have an airport code. My tickets have been listed TBA or UDCK, and the online flights as ZZE-Zangilan and N/A.

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Since I live about an hour drive from the Kapan airport, traveling by air only saves me two hours door-to-door, including boarding time, and costs more than double the price of a seat in a shared taxi. However, it is more comfortable and avoids the harrowing hairpin turns of the multiple mountain passes along the drive. The Czech-made Let L-410 is not the most luxurious plane, providing little insolation from the noisy twin-engines or outside weather. The 17 passenger seats are small and close together, with no stewards aboard and just a bottle of water for every passenger. Yet the view aboard the low flying plane, about 1,500-2,000 meters above the ground, is spectacular.

The biggest concern aboard is safety, with Azerbaijan’s military posts a mere 50 meters from the airport with clear line of sight. Russian peacekeepers and EU observers are both present near the border and on high alert. Azerbaijani soldiers have already fired on the airport twice, once the day after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan boarded the inaugural flight and once on September 2, the day after my flight to Yerevan. 

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In August, Azerbaijan Airlines flight J2251 from Baku to Nakhichevan, which regularly flies over Armenian airspace, crossed back into Azerbaijani-held territory and was rerouted via Iran. Starting on August 30, it resumed the Sevan-Yeraskh route. These may be signs of regular dealings between the Pashinyan regime and Azerbaijan. With war looming, this flight may be the first step towards a corridor connecting Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan and cutting off southern Syunik from the rest of Armenia. 

The road to the southern border from Yerevan is not an easy one, no matter how you choose to travel –  from the hairpin turns of the Tatev pass and the poorly laid asphalt that crumbles and folds every few months to the Azerbaijani threat next door to the Syunik airport. Despite all this, Syunik is rich in natural beauty and culture and worth visiting, even if just for a day. By late September, the pomegranates in Meghri will have ripened, and visitors can relax in the cool autumn breeze and enjoy Armenia’s backcountry.



Garin is an alumnus of the AYF Chicago "Ararat" Chapter. He lives in the town of Meghri in Syunik, Armenia.

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  1. Instead of living in a constant fear of war and missery, Armenians should rally together against their government asking and puuting pressure on them to make peace with Azerbaijan and turkiye.

  2. “The biggest concern aboard is safety, with Azerbaijan’s military posts a mere 50 meters from the airport with clear line of sight.” Please tell me this is a typo.

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