South Armenia

September 2019

Then it was time for me to leave northern and middle parts of Armenia and move to south. I took the bus from Yerevan to Goris. (5 hours) The one above and the couple of next photographs are showing the transition between these 2 regions. I really enjoyed the sceneries all along the way.

Mountains are really impressive in mid parts of Armenia. Little towns and villages look like green oasis in vast dry areas.

Mountains and hills line up one after another. At one point on the way you pass by Spandaryan Reservoir (above) which is the home for different kinds of birds.

Passing down to south you start to see many predators up in the sky. I am always so fascinated to watch them. You sometimes see them making huge circles in the sky and sometimes you notice them just sitting on a big rock, carefully watching the big fields. Then I found out that this region is home of many types of eagles – especially golden eagles and vultures.

The landscape here is surrounded by pastures that are home to grazing animals. I really like this photograph (above, right) which I took from the bus. I like the way the young sheppard looks through me at that very moment. The sheppards are usually using horses. Cars are sharing the roads with many herds along the way.

I’ve chosen the small and cute town Goris as my second base to see some of the southern parts of Armenia. There are cone shaped rock formations (reminding me of Cappadocia in Turkey) located in the east part of the town.
I’m always choosing one of the cheapest hostels to stay. This way I’m meeting many long term travelers like me. Here I met many trekkers, some of them Alpinists who had already climbed Mount Ararat and Mount Aragats (the highest of Armenia). Some walked pretty long hikes here around 130km and were planning to go to Nagorno Karabakh for other long distance hikes. There was a guy who cycled here all the way from Germany. We exchanged our experiences of our journeys and altogether underlined what a blessing it is to travel.

Old Khndzoresk is a cave village close to Goris which was the biggest village of east Armenia in the end of 19th century. It used to be inhabited till 1950s when the Soviet officials forced the villagers to leave.

Old Khndzoresk is famous for its canyon with ancient cave settlements. It is located on the steep slope of a gorge. And this 160m long suspension bridge is connecting two sides of the gorge.

Vorotan Gorge (above) which -known as Armenia’s grand canyon- is carved by a beautiful river. Canyon walls can reach up to 100 meters. And there are natural baths of mineral water in some parts. Hiking is excellent in this area.
Vorotan Gorge has the world’s longest cableway of 5,7km. You can see it on the picture above, on the right. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the cable cars moving on so high up in the air for kilometers without having any vertical support. It links you to Tatev Monastery in a short time. Or you can also take the road up and down the valleys for beautiful perspectives of this gorge.

At old times Harsnadzor Watchtower (above) at Vorotan gorge was the third in a chain of warnings in case of enemy attack. The bell was warning Tatev monastery and it was the biggest bell whose ring was heard across a 50km radius informing every habitant in the region.

Tatev Monastery (above) has been standing on the edge of massive cliffs of Vorotan gorge since 9th century. During medieval times it was an important spiritual center and played an important role in academic and social-political life as it hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities.

Main church at Tatev Monastery (above)

Many village settlements have the spectacular view of Vorotan Gorge. (above) I have also stayed here in this valley in one of the villages close to Tatev monastery.

Barev! (hello in Armenian)
The pictures above show two families who hosted me in their traditional village house. On the right above; you see the lovely couple Armine and Artak. Armine is a great cook. I’ve eaten the best food here; home baked bread, eggs, cheese, butter, honey, jam, fruits, vegetables, herbs all from the village. It is the season of some fruits like grapes, walnuts, figs and berries so Artak was mostly busy doing harvesting. Plums were laid on the floor of the terrace to dry in order to make the votka of coming winter. The next door neighbours Alla and Vazgen was around all the time, sincerely taking care of my needs and comfort. Vazgen played us piano after the dinner while we were drinking their home made wine. How joyful it was to play with 3 and 5 year old Anahit and Bagrat in the garden. Peace was everywhere.

Many things here felt so familiar with the elements of the culture I was born to in Turkey. Like the melodies in the traditional music. There is an instrument here called Duduk, a double reed instrument made from apricot wood. Oh, its deep sound somehow connects me with my roots right away whenever I hear it. Bar, traditional circle dance or the geometries in the carpets, kilims are quite the same in Anatolia. There are also many common recipes in the cuisine like dolma, lavash, jajik, sujukh, basturma, pilaf that are defined with quite the same words in Turkish.

Before passing to Iran, I took my last days to reflect on my experiences in Armenia. Shanti shanti I let myself into slow, easeful, peaceful times, writing my diary, having the sun on my shoulders, making love with this little kitten. The smell of the peach jam that Armine cooked was in the air. It was soo peaceful.

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