Stepanavan (Armenian: Ստեփանավան, (until 1938 Jalaloghly, meaning "Son of Jalal" in Azerbaijani) (Persian: استپاناوان) is the second largest city in Lori Province of Armenia. The town is located 139 km north of the capital Yerevan and 24 km north of the provincial centre Vanadzor, in the centre of Yerevan-Tbilisi highway.
Stepanavan was one of Armenia's most famous tourist spots during the Soviet era, but it had suffered major destruction during the Spitak Earthquake of 1988. Nowadays, the city is reviving and tourists from all over the world visit Stepanavan to enjoy the beauty of one of Armenia's most picturesque towns.
The area of present Stepanavan was inhabited since the ancient times, but, in fact, the city in its current location on the southern bank of Dzoraget river was founded in the 12th century, as evidenced by Surb Sargis Armenian Apostolic church in the center of town. The territory was the home of Kingdom of Lori (known also as Kingdom of Tashir-Dzoraget) of the 10th century where the Fortress of Lori (a medieval royal palace complex) was built. At Lori Berd (or Lori Fortress), the ruins of a 10th century royal bathhouse and palace could be found. This medieval town-fortress was founded by one of the powerful kings of Armenia, David I Anhoghin, between 1005–1020. In 1065, king Kiurike I proclaimed Lori as the capital of the Kyurikid Kingdom after losing the town of Shamshvilde to the Georgian king Bagrat IV. Located on the northern trade route, Lori was a large craft and commercial centre in medieval Armenia. It had a population of more than 10,000 in the 11th century.
In 1105, Lori was occupied by the Seljuks, then by the Georgian House of Orbeliani. Later it became under the rule of the Armenian Zakarian brothers, Ivaneh and Zakareh. In 1236, Chaghatai Khan, the commander of the Mongolian army took over the town and razed it to the ground.
Between the 14th and 17th centuries, while under the rule of the Armenian Orbelian Dynasty as governors of Jalayirids, Karakoyunlu, Timurids and Akkoyunlu, Lori remained a strategically important fortress until the 17th century, when it was captured by Turks, Persians and Georgians respectively. During the reign of Catherine the Great of the Russian Empire in the 18th century, the town of Jalaloghly was founded on the same site, by the Armenian Jalalyan dynasty from Karabakh. Jalaloghly was part of Borchalu region within the governorate of Tiflis in the Russian Empire.
The name "Jalaloghly" was used until 1923, when it was renamed "Stepnavan" after the Armenian Bolshevik leader Stepan Shaumyan.
Stepanavan is situated on Lori plateau to the north of Bazum mountains, on the shores of river Dzoraget at an average height of 1375 meters above sea level. It covers an area of 17 km2 with an estimated population of 16200 inhabitants in 2009. The deep gorge of Dzoraget divides Stepanavan into northern and southern banks, the latter of which has deeper historical roots.
Surrounded with thick forests and alpine meadows, Stepanavan has a relatively humid climate with an average yearly temperature of 6.6 C. The average temperature of January is -4,2 C while in July it makes +16,7 C. The annual precipitation is 683 mm with snowy winters.
Stepanavan is a health resort known for its pine forests and mountainous climate. The essential oils, isolated by coniferous trees, possess strong bactericidal properties; therefore mountainous air of Stepanavan, filled with the aroma of pine tree, is useful for patients who suffer from respiratory problems.
The infrastructure of the city is rather developed with many public libraries, sport schools, a cultural palace, modern hospitals and hotels. The domestic airport of Stepanavan was constructed and put in service in 1982. The house-museum of Stepan Shahumyan is located in the centre of the city. Directly off of the main square is the Stepanavan Information Center which provides services to tourists and residents alike.
The nearby villages of Yaghdan and Koghes used to have significant Pontic Greek communities.
There are 6 public educations schools and 4 kindergartens in Stepanavan.
Tourism and attractions:
- Dzoraget Canyon, a popular recreational destination.
- Lori Berd, medieval Armenian fortress, the centre of the historical Kingdom of Lori.
- Stepanavan Dendropark, founded in 1931 by "Edmon Leonovich", this 35 hectare botanical garden features a broad range of tree species from many regions. It is only 12 kilometers from Stepanavan, just outside the village of Gyulagarak. The park is known for its pine trees in "Sojut" area.
- House-museum of Stepan Shahumyan, located in the main square of Stepanavan, built around Shahumyan family's house.
- The Russian church in Amrakits village.
- Lake Kyubishev near Stepanavan, hidden in the heart of Lori's alpine meadows. The lake is covered with lilies and bulrushes.
- Surb Nshan chapel overlooking the city from the adjacent hill.
- Sanahin and Haghpat monasteries are also close to Stepanavan.
Stepanavan has many restaurants and hotels, including the centrally-located Hotel Lore, Anahit's Resort, Vahagn's Resort nestled in the forest, Paradise Hotel in Amrakits village on the outskirts of town, as well as numerous locally-run B&Bs, many of which are located on the northern bank.
The Stepanavan Information Center maintains current contact information for the restaurants, hotels, and B&Bs in the area.
The first Parliament speaker of the Democratic Republic of Armenia (1918–1920) Avetik Sahakyan (1863–1933) was born in Jalaloghly. Today, the house where he was born is located on Andranik street (formerly Lenin street).
The honoured actor and People's Artist of the USSR Sos Sargsyan was born in Stepanavan on 24 October 1929.