DATEV MONASTERY – THE WONDER OF ARMENIA Perched atop the Vorotan River Gorge, the ninth century Tatev monastic complex was one of Armenia’s most advanced medieval universities hosting students in humanitarian sciences and an important political stronghold. Because of its forbidding location, it was once hard to access. But now a 5.7 kilometer long cableway has been built to connect visitors to the monastery and its surrounding villages, offering an exciting journey with breathtaking views of the river gorge bellow. All this truly makes the monastery of Tatev a world class destination. The ensemble of Tatev makes the gorgeous landscape around it more complete and more picturesque. The architectural and artistic center of the ensemble, visible from afar, the residential and service premises that are arranged in a single row and set off the polyhedral rock foundation, give the fortified monastery an original appearance. Due to its harmonious proportions the majestic appearance of this monastic complex catches the attention of its visitors just from the outside even though the whole view of the buildings is blocked from aside because of the high walls all around. But as soon as we enter the courtyard, the whole grandeur of the magnificent constructions leaves visitors astonished. The large dome, the low and closely-spaced arrangement of narrow windows, crowned with thin ornamented edges, and a high and round drum make the already wonderful impressions more complete. Like any other 8-9th century monument, the facades here are smooth with no extra detailing. On four of the facades one can see oval shaped human faces and snakes with stuck out stings around. The northern façade is the only exception: as if the carver tried to portray someone. The door of Tatev Church is really an outstanding work of art. The folds and jamb of the door are decorated with involved geometrical ornament and small floral patterns scattered all around. The temple consists of three churches, classrooms, cells for the monks, a library, dining hall, bell tower, grave, storage, kitchen, bakery, winery, as well as other administrative and auxiliary buildings. The upright pendulum built in the 10th century in the court yard is a separate object for pride. The pendulum has few decorations and no inscriptions with a cross-stone on top (known as khachkar). This eight meters height column is a unique architectural-engineering art of Armenia and a mysterious one. The point is that it has remained unaltered since its construction despite the numerous earthquakes and invasions. Till now the column swings and goes back to its vertical position during earthquakes. Thus this splendid architectural complex is among the must-see places in Armenia. VOROTNAVANK MONASTERY The Vorotnavank monastery is an Armenian medieval architectural monument. It is one of the well known religious and cultural centers of the 10-15th centuries, situated 4 kilometers to the east of Sisian, on the left bank of Vorotan canyon 3 kilometers north-west of Vorotnaberd. The oldest building is St. Stepanos church built by Queen Shahandukht in 1000 AD. Seven years later her son built the adjoining church of St. Karapet. High stone walls once protected this majestic complex from foreign invaders and housed workshops, stores, a seminary, cemetery and an alms-house. The pillar in the yard symbolized that there were monks entering into religious service, besides kings were inaugurated at this location. Even though the Vorotnavank Monastery is presently in ruins, everyone can step through the roads of history and feel a monk or a king. The cemetery in the territory of the monastery awakes the curiosity of every visitor with its gravestones. As for St. Grigor the Еnlightener church, it is constructed in the shape of a rectangle square. This construction is furnished with cornices decorated with ornamental motives of vegetable and animal. At present, ruptured basalt walls of small circle like or rectangular dwellings surround the whole territory of the fortress. QARAHUNJ – STONEHENGE IN ARMENIA Zorats karer, also called Karahunj, is among the must-see places in the whole world, and especially in Armenia. Karahunj can be interpreted in Armenian like the “sound of stones” (“kar” meaning “stone”, and “hunj’ meaning “sound, voice”). This archeological site, which dates back to the second millennium BC, is spread on a rocky promontory near the city of Sisian in the province of Syunik 1770 meters high above the sea level. Thus, we can boast of having the oldest astronomical observatory ever found in the history even older than the British Stonehenge and even the pyramids in Egypt. This is another evidence of primeval civilization in Armenia existing from times immemorial, when neither Mesopotamia, nor Egypt, nor any other civilization on earth existed. On the huge stones that are situated with incredible accuracy, you can see special holes with a diameter of 1.57-1.97 inches that were used for observing the stars. The inner part of the holes is clean and even. According to scientists these stone compositions have a mysterious meaning. SHAKI WATERFALL On the left side of the Vorotan River Gorge, flows of basalt lava have become solid to form a ledge of 18 meters height from which the waterfall of Shaki cascades down. Origin of the name Shaki comes from beautiful same-named girl. According to the legend a conqueror admired the beauty of Shaki and ordered her to come to him. Shaki didn’t want to become a victim of his violence jumps from a high rock. When falling down her long dress opens and turns into a waterfall. Since then it is called Shaki waterfall. Located in Syunik Province 6 km away from the town of Sisian, Shaki cave waterfall is one of the most inspiring sights in Armenia. The territory around the Shaki waterfall is a unique architectural depository. Scientists joke that it is right the place where the development of humankind has run with incredibly quick steps. Many ancient grottos have been explored in this region and even the international scientific community intends to make it a reserve area. Stone niches, relatively deep grottos, steep slopes, cool and noisy water form a strikingly beautiful fall, the majestic appearance of which was admired even by ancient people. Falling down from the height of 40 meters, the huge amount of water fills the atmosphere with astonishing freshness. VAHANAVANK MONASTERY Being situated not far from the city of Kapan, in the lush forests of the Armenian snazzy nature, Vahanavank can be outlined against the bright blue sky on the rocky hills. From above you can enjoy the splendid panorama all around, including the Vahanadzor canyon. Vahanavank is a splendid medieval monument-complex built at the beginning of the 10th century and has a style of its own. The building was originally built from pumice stone and had a rectangle-square scheme. The cornices are decorated with ornamental motives of vegetable and animal, typical to many Armenian monuments. Before the earthquake, three strong arches in the shape of a horse-shoe held the roof of the vestibule without any connecting material. The portico is a splendid architectural example with a total area of 140 square meters. It also served as a cemetery for the royal family and clergy. The communal dining hall of this ancient complex was once under ruins and was discovered only through excavations along with the arches and pillars, which witness the fact that the complex was two storied. These structures together with khachkars (or cross-stones) and tomb stones date back to the 10-11th centuries. Even though mostly in ruins, Vahanavank is of great interest both for tourists and the local people. In the territory of Vahanavank you can find many noteworthy khachkars typical to Armenian architecture. This historical monument-complex has witnessed many devastating earthquakes and attacks by the enemy. But despite this all we can still feel the spirit of the past merging with the present. After enjoying the wonderful scenery fans of adventure can have a rock climbing nearby, trying to overcome the difficult Armenian rocks. KHNDZORESK – CAVE VILLAGE Have you ever wondered how people lived in ancient times with no central heating, no electricity and with no modern places of attraction? Have you ever had the desire to appear in the houses of the ancient people? Then Armenia gives you the chance. Here in the captivating nature of Syunik Province, 8 kilometers away from the town of Goris, you can find yourself in the past and see the cave dwellings that the primeval people lived in. Surprisingly, though, people have still lived there some 50-60 years ago notwithstanding the development of science and life in general. The sight is called Khndzoresk, a place where a visitor can feel as if the time stopped at some point in the past just for us to admire all the beauty of the wildness. The name Khndzoresk is literally translated from Armenian as “apple like”, as many varities of apple trees were grown here. According to another version the village was called Khor Dzor or Khordzoresk (Deep Gorge) due to its location. The village is also famous for participation in the liberation movement of David Bek. The caves, many of which were carved by men, were used not only as dwellings, but also as a sanctuary (military base). According to an Armenian Catholicos, the houses were situated 20-30 meters far from each other and the inhabitants had to go up and down with the help of ropes. The roof of each cave house was kind of a garden for the other making the impression of a block of flats. With 1800 houses and seven functional schools Old Khndzoresk was the largest village in Eastern Armenia. At present the Old Khndzoresk has been abandoned by cave inhabitants and is under government protection. However, visitors from all over the world can get acquainted with the village of caves, beautiful ancient churches, very old tombstones, as well as with the two spring monuments and the cemetery of Mkhitar Sparapet, the supreme commander of the armed forces. The beautifully carved caves fit in perfectly with the canyon, rock formations and the greenness all around. MOUNT UGHTASAR Located some 17 kilometers away from Sisian near an ice lake, Ughtasar is one of the most important archeological findings in the territory of Armenia. You can always see blocks of ice in the lake and the snow almost never melts completely in roundabouts. You can get to Ughtasar on an off-road vehicle in a nice weather from the beginning of July to the end of August. The name of the mountain derives from the word ught (meaning “camel”) due to its resemblance to a camel toe. The territory around the mountain and the mountain itself is famous for various petroglyphs engraved on the rocks. The latter are pictures depicted on black and grey stones of volcanic origin. You can find circles, spirals, spots, lines and other geometrical and abstract forms, as well as figures of animals and human beings, the hunting, cult and cosmos of the primeval person, flora and fauna in all its richness on those stones. These petroglyphs are of great importance till our days as they give us a complete picture of the primeval life including agriculture, fighting and dances. Curiously enough there are no birds on those petroglyphs. The accuracy of the petroglyphs is amazing even for the modern men. The images are made on even surfaces of rocks and judging from the style and technique this field was used over thousands of years, beginning in the Paleolithic era (ca. 12,000 BC). People from later eras (Chalcolithic and Bronze Age) continued to record their prowess and beliefs on the stones. The largest variety and number of carvings date to this period and the early Iron Age, before it was finally abandoned except for a few carvings made by lonely shepherds spending their summers on the mountain top.