Treasures of Vayots Dzor or “Armenian Tanzania”
This time we decided to leave for Vayots Dzor, one of the most beloved regions of the mount climbers, with rich high mountains, beautiful rock paintings, caves, diversity of flora and fauna, historical and cultural monuments.
I got an invitation from the coordinator of the Lost in Armenia project Rafael Khudoyan.։ The aim of the project is to discover the cosy nooks of Armenia, create unique tourist routes and develop adventurous tours.
Rafael is a former soldier, a volunteer of the April war, a simple, patriotic and, of course, adventurous person.
We went to Vayots Dzor on Rafael’s proposal, where according to preliminary agreement Marat Zakaryan was waiting for us: by the way he is engaged in tourism development as well as bee-keeping.
Marat Zakaryan is also a talented, hardworking and charismatic man who writes influential texts.
Our first stop was in Shatin village. Here, the houses are located in tropical landscapes, roaring rocks, deep-rooted canyons, flowing river.
Generally, the density of historical and cultural monuments in these areas is very high. You will find antique, khachkars, gravestones, household items in the yard, at every corner of the house or building of an ancient church.
The gorgeous Yeghegis River originates from the southern slopes of Mount Vardenis, is 3200 meters high. The length of the river is 47 km.
Yeghegis – ruined, mysterious city
A great discovery for me was the Yeghegis Reserve, the ruined city of Yeghegis.
The Yeghegis Reserve is a specially protected natural area, one of Armenia’s 26 sanctuaries, and it has a total area of 4200 hectares.
Medieval Yeghegis was one of Armenia’s richest communities. In 13-14 centuries it was the residence of the Orbelian dynasty. In the 15th century, after the invasions of Timur and others, and then as a result of the earthquake, the city was destroyed.
When walking along the ruined houses, you can not imagine how life was going on here. People worked, built houses, made families, laughed and wept.
And now …
Fortunately, we also met a whole herd of Bezoar goats.
Bezoar goats can be found in Greece, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Armenia, Dagestan, and a few other places.
Bezoar goats are polygamous species, living in herds. Except for the breeding period, goats live separately.
On the other side, they can often be met.
The Caucasian subspecies of the Bezoar goats can be found in the Republic of Armenia (Capra aegagrus aegagrus)։
We did not expect to see them. But after waiting for about 10 minutes, the first few goats were visible, and then a whole herd of about 30-40 goats.
The view was unusual for our eyes, even exotic.
The Caucasian leopard can also be found in the area: it has recently become quite active.
There are many Armenian mouflons too. We did not meet the last two animals, but as they say, everything is still ahead.
When I saw and heard all this, I joked that Vayots Dzor is the Armenian Tanzania, and then I bit my tongue.
Well, this is a totally different story.
The tombs of Orbelyans
We stayed in the village of Yeghegis near the Orbelyans tombs, dating back to the 12th-13th century.
We went to Zorats monastery։ The church was situated in the eastern side of the village Yegheghis. It was built by Syunyats Tarsayich Orbelyan’s grandson Stepanos-Tarsayich.
There is an opinion that it is a military church, the soldiers prayed here. Oath and blessing ceremonies of the army took place at the Zorats Church. From here, came its name – Zorats Monastery.
We also went to Jewish graves which were situated right on the coast of Yeghegis river. It occupies nearly 1550 m².
64 full gravestones were discovered here. The oldest gravestone was dated to 2000 AD. The last gravestone dated back to 1346 AD. The dates show that the graveyard was used or more than a century.
Even Jerusalem’s experts say that they have been hundreds of years old, some of which, as already mentioned, dates back to the 13th century.
Last year a modern hotel Arevi was found in Vayots Dzor Yegheghis region (Arevi hotel is translated into English as Sun hotel). I have heard too much about this hotel, so I can’t resist the temptation to see it.
The author of the project is Gevorg Gasparyan. The hotel is built out of boxes and it is the first of its kind. The basis of this project is the creative idea of re-using these boxes.
The hotel has 10 comfortable rooms, a wonderful view of the Yeghegis Canyon and a spectacular sight. The main resource of the hotel’s energy supply is solar energy, that’s why it is called “Sunny” hotel.
The staff welcomed us with tea made out of the local herbs.
The hotel “Arevi” is a hospitable place where the tourists, as well as Armenians, can stay.
Our last stop was Arates village.
The most prominent building in the village is Arates church (Arates is translated as come and see).
Arates Monastery has a complex and unique architecture. The monastery of Arates was known as a centre of manuscripts, although the monastery is in ruins today, but the old architectural monument has never lost its appearance and is definitely worth seeing it.
The things we didn’t manage to see
- Gladzor university,
- Tsakhats Qar monastic complex,
- St. Karapet church,
- The monastery of Hermon,
- St. Nshan church,
- St. Astvatsatsin church
The list can be continued…
A good reason to come back again.
Tonir Khorovats and not only…
At the end of the day, right in Arates village, a warm supper was organized for us to taste Khorovats from tonir,
canned food and pure milk products.
It was the conclusion of the fantastic day with warm talks, humour.
Talking about our history, heritage and patriotism at the table, we all agreed that instead of speaking pseudo-patriotic speeches, we simply need to be “practical patriots”, for example, not only to pollute nature but also to clean and preserve it on its own, instead of destroying it: instead of criticizing, encourage, instead of demanding, give.
I am grateful to Marat Zakaryan for being with us all day and entertaining us with stories.
By the way, you can apply for a tour or a meal in Yeghegis.
With the permission of Marat, I add a phone number +374 98 338 744 (Whatsapp, Viber).
We are also thankful to the originator of Lost in Armenia project – Rafael, for technical support.
As a Conclusion
The power of Vayots Dzor is great and unfortunately, it is not fully discovered yet.
There are some separate projects but there is not a united state strategy or maybe there is a strategy but it is not yet discovered.
You should know your country in order to love it.
Recognition shapes love and attachment, and this is the precondition of improving, developing and at the same time not leaving it.
From mysterious Yeghegis: