the Tatev monastery, outside Goris

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.

on the way to Goris, basalt outcropping in characteristic ‘organ pipe’ style

the only picture of Goris I have, a sculpture in town

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.

this picture requires an explanation: energy transition Armenian style, with to the right cow dung for heating, in the front, the yellow above-ground gas pipes so typical for any former Soviet country, and on the roof of the house solar panels!

turn of to the cable car, oh no, the aerial tramway

one of the cabins traveling in opposite direction

the cable car is not the only one with wings

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.

a commanding view from the cabin

the river gorge, deep down

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!

the outer wall of the monastery

one of the gates to the Tatev monastery

a miniature chapel on the complex

the church of the Tatev monastery complex

I love this one, predominantly showing what all is NOT allowed – sunglasses, hoodies, hands in your pocket even though you wear a tie and jacket!

the gorge of the Vorotan river near Devil’s Bridge

the bridge itself, kind of

rickety stairs on the other side of the river

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?

the landscape near the cave city of Old Khndzoresk

the landscape with caves and the occasional building

the karstified roks lend themselves for caves

although not all are easily reachable anymore

the hanging bridge, far down below the parking area

long and steep stairs down…. usually means you got to get back up again, too

the hanging bridge in all its glory

caves at track level

where we can have a look inside

another cave inside, fairly primitive

thanks to an old Lada taxi we avoided that long slug back up those stairs

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.

spectacular karst landscape countryside

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