We take a few days comfort break in Goris, but not without seeing a couple of interesting places, like the Tatev monastery and the caves at Old Khndzoresk.
As so often on our trips, there comes a moment that we want to slow down, after an overkill of experiences. That is the moment we need a comfortable hotel, with lots of facilities. We had imagined that Jermuk, another spa resort, would have plenty opportunities, but from various reviews, we had second thoughts: this was perhaps not the ideal place.
So we settled for Goris, for a nice modern hotel, admittedly without swimming pool, but with lots of other facilities. Three or four days of doing nothing, or very little, catch up with the writing of this blog, read that book that I still haven’t finished. And explore some of the sights nearby – Goris itself has thankfully little that needs to be explored, except for its restaurants.
The must-see, or shall I say, must-experience tourist attraction in the area is the Tatev Monastery. Not so much for the monastery itself, which in comparison to the many of the other monasteries we have seen so far is fairly basic. But for what is touted as the longest cable car in the world, 5752 m (registered in the Guinness Book of Records), and poetically named Wings of Tatev Aerial Tramway – why cable car is not good enough, beats me. The track of the cable car crosses at approximately 320 m above the Vorotan river valley, in 12 minutes, with sweeping views of the mountains around, and the valley bottom below. An experience! And quite different from our earlier cable car ride in Georgia.
As I said, the monastery itself is not very special, or it must be for the many passages that lead to views down the steep slopes of the promontory on which it has been built. But he, we have to wait for our ride back!
After returning to the parking area we decide to explore Devil’s Bridge and associated hot spring pools, all the way down in the gorge we just flew over. The Devil’s Bridge is in fact a natural phenomenon, a rock that has wedged itself across the river – I suppose that is what it is, but the views of the ‘bridge’ are mostly obscured by vegetation. The pools? What is supposed to be a series of pools of different water temperatures, is in fact one pool, cemented and assisted by stairs, with pretty filthy and cold water, and a few muddy patches, even filthier. On the opposite site are rickety metal stairs to get down into the gorge, but on our side we need to use a rope, with several knots. Hmm. Important to recognise your limitations in time. After all, these were going to be our relaxing days, no?
One of the unexpected surprises was the cave complex of Old Khndzoresk – impossible name. One late afternoon we drove up to the village, very well organised, with a viewing platform high up, overlooking the river gorge, the cave complex, and… the hanging bridge! Once again, getting there may be more exciting than the actual sight. It is quite a way down, along well made wooden stairs, to the bridge – which means we will have to climb back up later, of course. The bridge itself is 160 m long, but actually quite stable, it is not that half-way you feel you are wildly swinging. On the far end are the caves, mostly simple affairs dug into the pretty soft rock, and some remains of constructed buildings. I am not sure how old the caves are, but they used to be inhabited until the late 1950s. Nowadays they are being used as storage, or animal pens; some appear to be used as individual tourist toilets, as well. Just when we were commencing our long way up again, a taxi pulls up. Turns out that next to the bridge there is an additional parking, but down a road accessible only by 4×4. The red Lada Niva was one of those things that turns up at the right place and at the right time!
Even more unexpected were the spectacular karstified limestones on the way to the cave. All around the mountains were patches, where the surface cover had collapsed, letting erosion to its work. Very photogenic.
Just to show how a few days or rest can be equally, if not more enjoyable than a carefully planned travel program.
Oh, and we also went to Kapan.