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The Deep Delights of Old Goris

With cave dwellings going back centuries, the picturesque Armenian town has all it takes to be a popular tourist attraction. From JAMnews. 

11 August 2017

“Tourists are surprised to learn that people in Goris lived in cave dwellings until the 18th century,” says Hayk Hakobyan. He works at a hotel complex, and when tourists ask him about places of interest to visit in Goris, Hayk is always more than willing to help, and sometimes even personally introduce guests to the history and tourist attractions of this ancient town in southeastern Armenia.


The cave houses are his favorite attractions in the town. These dwellings are carved into rocks on steep slopes above the town. It was only after the 18th century that people started building one- and two-story houses, with stone walls and wooden roofs, outside the cave dwellings. Since then their former living areas have been used for storage.



Hayk and other local enthusiasts built a signposted trail that takes in the sights of Old and New Goris. An online version will be available soon.



In addition to the dwellings cut into the rock and natural caves, visitors can also see the St. Hripsime Church, dating to the fourth century. It has been rebuilt twice – in the 16th century and again in 2010. Goris is also known for its 19th- century mansions, testimony to the town’s prosperity under the Russian czars.


Until the early 20th century, a cave theater was in use in Old Goris. Its stage and audience seating have been preserved to this day. The ruins of a few chapels, water mills and numerous cave houses have also been preserved. Restoration of two caves destined for a library and a gallery began this year.



The Goris local administration says this just the beginning of the restoration of the cave town, part of a tourism development program approved by the Armenian government in 2013, which envisages the town as a tourism center for the entire surrounding Zanzegur region.


The initiative has begun to bear fruit. For example, the St. Hripsime Church has been restored and the area around it has been landscaped. However, that’s just a small part of what the development program envisages, and much remains to be done.



According to Garegin Parsyan, head of the town’s department of urban development and public utilities, at least 200 million drams ($417,000) is required to bring the projects planned in Old Goris to life. He says, “We are doing our best to get funding and achieve the ultimate goal of our project, and we are taking it one step at a time.”



The local government’s “one step at a time approach” brings little joy to Hayk and  like-minded townspeople. “We can’t become a tourist center with only the number of hotels that we have,” he says. “Our city really has many opportunities to become a tourist center. The only thing we need is enough desire and willpower to bring our plans to life.”

Anahit Baghdasaryan is a contributor to JAMnewsa news and analysis site based in the South Caucasus where this article was originally published. TOL has done some editing to fit our style. Reprinted with permission.


All images courtesy of JAMnews. 

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