The city has everything it needs to become a tourist center" />

Old Goris: a cave town

The city has everything it needs to become a tourist center

“Tourists are surprised to learn that Goris residents had been living in cave-dwellings until the 18th century,” says Hayk Hakobyan. He is employed at a hotel complex, with tourists often asking him about places of interest to visit in Goris. Hayk is always more than willing to help, and sometimes even personally accompanies guests there, introducing them to the history and tourist attractions of Goris.

Of all the places he likes to take tourists, the cave houses are his favorite. These dwellings were made by cutting into rocks on rather steep slopes. It was only after the 18th century that people started building 1 to 2-storey houses with stone walls and wooden roofs outside the cave dwellings. However, their former living areas, or ‘cave apartments’, still serve the residents as cellars since that time.

Once, when showing a group of tourists around his favorite place, Hayk decided to arrange a trail with signposts that would allow visitors to take in the sights of Old and New Goris.

The construction shown above was built with the support of the organization ‘One Armenia’, and Hayk himself was involved in it. An online version of the trail will soon be available, thus allowing tourists to walk around the area freely and without any risk. In addition, Hayk himself made the steps leading to the cave dwellings.

“We will impress our guests so that they will want to come back to our city again,” says Hayk.

Alongside the dwellings cut into the rock and natural caves, one can also see St. Hripsime church, which was first built in the 4th century, and has been  rebuilt twice – in the 16th century and again in 2010.

Before the early 20th century, there was a cave theatre, or “Amphitheatre”, which was in use in Old Goris and was regarded as a natural monument. Its stage and seats for the audience have been preserved to this day.

The ruins of a few chapels, a destroyed butter churner, water mills and numerous cave houses have also been preserved. The restoration process of the two caves, which will serve as a library and a gallery respectively, has only begun this year.

Goris local administration says, ‘it’s just the beginning of the restoration of the cave town’.

In February 2013, the Armenian Government approved a Tourism Development Program for the city of Goris, whereby the plan is to have a tourist center set up with funds from the state and community budget, as well as by gathering additional funds. The center will serve those in the Zangezur region.

Some steps have already been taken towards this initiative. For example, the St. Hripsime Church has been restored, the area around it has been landscaped and there is an excavation underway. However, that’s just a small part of what is envisaged in the program. Therefore, any plans to set up a tourist center are still a long way away.

According to Garegin Parsyan, the Head of the Urban Development and Public Utilities Department, at least AMD 200 million (more than USD 400 000) is required to execute the projects planned in Old Goris. “We are doing our best to get funding and are taking it one step at a time, trying to achieve the ultimate goal of our project.”

The local government’s “one step at a time approach” hardly brings any delight to the Goris residents. Hayk says: “We can’t become a tourist center just by the number of hotels we have: 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.”

Published: 26.08.2016

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