Kh'ndzoresk Canyon

Useful Information

Location: Near Goris, in the southwest.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Houses
Light: none
Guided tours:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The green valley of Kh'ndzoresk is the location of numerous small caves. These are former habitation sites which were excavated a long time ago. Many of the caves are rather small, but their number is very large. As there is no tourist route or any kind of development, it is advisable to charter a local guide.

The village of Kh'ndzoresk is famous for its thousands of cave dwellings, carved out of the living rock. They have been known since 400 BC but they could well be earlier. As the slopes lack level areas suitable for building, the locals have dug terraces in the rock in such a manner that the roof of the lower house serves as the courtyard floor for the one above it. The terrain also provides security in case of attack. At the far end of Kh'ndzoresk village, turn right down past the cemetery. A deteriorating dirt track descends into the gorge with the interesting remains of an old medieval and early modern village largely hewn into the soft rock. As car thieves abound, it is advisable to leave your car at the top of the gorge and walk down. Some of the caves are now used as stables, and other building remain. At the bottom of the gorge, turn down stream to reach the St. Hripsime Church of 1663, now sadly defiled by graffiti and cow droppings. On a spur beyond, on the right hand side of the gorge, is a 17th century Anapat (hermitage), containing the tomb of Mkhitar Sparapet, who was Davit Bek's chief aide and successor in his war to drive out the infidel Muslims. There is also the 17th century cave church of St. Tadevos nearby. The gorge has some interesting rock formations including some which resemble jagged church steeples. There are a lot of stinging nettles, so wear jeans.

The Goris Hotel sounds a fun place. It has 4,000 standard rooms and 6,000 deluxe rooms. None of the rooms has running water at any time. They bring buckets of hot and cold water at your request. No mention is made of toilets, perhaps you use the same buckets? The top three floors of this 6 storey building houses refugees from the war, and sometimes the kids are rowdy. There are no toilet seats, toilet paper or towels.

Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.