Khndzoresk Cave City
To the east of Goris in an area of volcanic pillars and canyons soft enough to carve, yet strong enough to support for ages, many dwellings in stone came to be. One of the most spectacular is surely the cave city of Khndzoresk. Protected from a steep canyon diving down to the southwest and high incline terrain to the north, inhabitants of ancient eastern Armenia constructed hundreds of dwellings in the cliffs, often connected together via ladders, ropes and narrow trails. Due to its remote location and hidden nature, it is unsure when the first dwellings were built, but the first written record dates them all the way back to the 13th century. Upwards of 10,000 inhabitants lived side by side here, along with their livestock, a truly remarkable testament to mankind’s ingenuity. They were a complete town with churches, which can be seen today, and schools and shops.
Even more astonishing is the fact they were inhabited up the 1950’s. During the Soviet rule of Armenia, the Russians deemed the caves uncivilized, forcing all the inhabitants to leave. Khndzoresk lies abandoned ever since. Recently, curious visitors have begun to explore the city with upwards of 1,800 caves documented. A long suspension bridge now spans across the steep gorge, opening up Khndzoresk to the outside world as never before. Khndzoresk is a unique glimpse into a way of life not seen anymore, worthy of the effort to reach.
Several kilometers east of the city of Goris in the southern province of Syunik, Armenia.
The caves were originally constructed up to 1,000 years ago and lived in up until the 1950's when the inhabitants were forced to leave.
A dwelling place for southern Armenians. The remote location on the hillside ensured they were relatively safe from outside enemies.
The site has recently undergone a renaissance and attracts many visitors. A large suspension bridge even connects the site to the main road, making access easier than ever.
From the town of Goris, one of the largest in Syunik, we hired a taxi for approximately $5 to take us to the cave city. All taxis arrived across the gorge, from where we walk across the suspension bridge over the stunning canyon to reach the site. In terms of grand entrances, not many sites are more dramatic. I really enjoyed imagining what the homes may have been like in the caves and stepping into the still used churches. We took trails leading us up north, climbing the side of the canyon until we reached the modern town of Khndzoresk on the flat top of the canyon. From there we were able to hail a taxi back to Goris. Syunik is really one of the more unique destinations in Asia that still retains an undiscovered charm.
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