Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook- Askeran Region

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Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook

Armenia - Yerevan, Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Kotayk, Lori, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, Vayots Dzor

Artsakh (Karabakh) - (Stepanakert, Askeran, Hadrut, Martakert, Martuni, Shushi, Shahumyan, Kashatagh)

Worldwide - Nakhichevan, Western Armenia, Cilicia, Georgia, Jerusalem, Maps, Index

Askeran region consists primarily of the Karkar River basin and it's tributaries. The right bank was historically Varanda principality and the left the Khachen principality. Much of the region is surrounded by forest. To the west is the Gharabagh mountain range, with some peaks surpassing 2750m. In these mountains begin the Karkar, Meghraget (Balluja), Badara and to the N the Kolatak river.

Highlights of Askeran region include Avetaranots village's relics of the Varanda principality, the monuments of Berdavan, and the fortress of Askeran. Avetaranots village has the Surb Astvatsatsin church, the Kusanots Anapat complex, whose gavit serves as the Melik Shahnazaryan family mausoleum, remains of the city wall complex, and other historic structures and spring monuments. Other interesting monuments are Shoshka Vank in Khachmach village, Pirumashen church near Sarushen village, Shikakar fort, Raffi spring monument near Dahrav, Mazi bridge on the outskirts of Stepanakert, and the We Are Our Mountains monument, more popularly known as Tatik Papik (grandma and grandpa).

1. South from Stepanakert to Avetaranots

Heading S from Stepanakert, you cross the modern day bridge to get out of the city, with a historic old Mazi bridge a few meters upriver from the newer bridge (see Stepanakert section for details). Right after veering left to avoid the turnoff to Shushi, the large hammer and sickle ☭ Soviet roadside monument declares "Glory to Labor", after which you soon reach the turnoff to Dashushen (119p, Դաշուշեն, formerly Karashen; Daşkənd in Az.), with a Surb Astvatsatsin church of 1843, 19c cemetery and a two-arch Tadevos bridge, as well as the 16/17c Surb Srabek/Saribek sacred place 200m NW of the village, which is a well-known pilgrimage sites of the Karkar valley, especially revered by Shushi’s inhabitants, who once repaired the road leading to it, rebuilt the bridge, a spring-monument of 1861, and built a two-story dining-hall, ornamented with decorative khachkars and epigraphic inscriptions. On the S edge of the village is the Karin Jur ("rock's water") spring of 1898, with a khachkar. 200m S of the village is a19-20c cemetery. 100m NW was the site of a Middle Age settlement. 1km NW of the village is the site of 12-13c Bozin Tap (Բոզին տափ) village's ruins, with a cemetery, khachkars and a Surb Srabek chapel from the same period. The aforementioned two-arch Tadevos bridge ⟪39.7956, 46.77506⟫ was built by village head Tadevos Arakelyan in the 1840s. 2.5km SW of Dashushen is a 19c water mill.

Further S along the highway, you pass through Shosh (527p, Շոշ; Şuşakənd in Az.), mentioned in inscriptions from early times, and in manuscripts of the 16c. It's the birthplace of Artsakh's national jester Pələ Pughi (meaning Crazy Paul or Poghos in English). On the only road between Varanda and Askeran valleys, Shosh village and it's environs have long been important, with three churches, five cemeteries, over 20 khachkars, production facilities and other important structures. In the village itself there are two churches, one of which, Surb Stepanos of 1655 is situated in the cemetery, and the second is Surb Astvatsatsin of 1918 in the center of the village (in Soviet times it had been used as a club). There is also the Karmir Taran chapel in the village, from the first half of the 19c, and a Prtora Nahatak khachkar.

The Montsin neighborhood of Shosh has a Prkhkanut (Փրխկանուտ) holy place dating to 1893. In the Nerke Tagh area of the village is the Lalik fountain of 1866. There are graves in the village dating back as far as the Middle Ages. Above the village on a rise in the N is a third church with adjacent cemetery and khachkars. Up until the late 1980s there was a sewing workshop and a tin workshop in the village. An inn was built in Shosh at the end of 19c which was later turned into a silk factory, there were numerous mills (including one 0.5km W named Chghatsadzor), and two stone bridges (18-19c Kotrvats and 17-18c Dzakhlik ⟪39.772493, 46.771836⟫) placed on the route to Shushi and Stepanakert. 3km E of Shosh is the mountain Shoghasar. Springs in the area include Prptan, Shaghasar and Teghun. At the top of the mountain is a pre-Christian holy place of the same name, and an ice cold spring. The heathen temple was torn down with the arrival of Christianity, but the site was sanctified and a prayer hall was built, the condition of which is uncertain. About 1km NW, W & SW of Shosh are a good number of 1st and 2nd millennium BCE tombfields and tombhills. 2.5km NNW is the holy place known as Buduru, with a 11-13c church and khachkar of the same name.

Just past Shosh is the turnoff on the right for the small village of Mkhitarishen. Immediately after the turnoff the road forks; right takes you down first past the grave ⟪39.76979, 46.77418⟫ of the national sage and joker Crazy Poghos, better known as Pələ Pughi (Պըլը Պուղի - see info box), then to parking for a hike into Hunot/Karkar canyon and Zontik Waterfall, while the left fork takes you up to the village of Mkhitarishen (77p, Մխիթարիշեն, Muxtar in Az), with a 17-18c church on the W edge of the village. 1km W of the village are defensive constructions from the 18c. 1.2km S of the village is a place with late 18/early 19c constructions with serf walls known as Amaratner. Somewhere approx. 1.2km S of the village is a cave that was used from the Middle Ages to the early 19c. There are many abandoned flour-grinding watermills along the river below Mkhitarishen. Most are from the 19c, but some a bit older, and one built as recently as 1923.

Pələ Pughi (Պըլը Պուղի), national jester of Artsakh
About Pələ Pughi, plus his story: Pughi Ends up at a Wedding

Pələ Pughi (literally meaning Crazy Paul in the local dialect), born in 1731, was Prince Melik-Shahnazaryan's court jester. He is famous for telling funny stories and fables that were retold, transformed and passed along orally for centuries, and which in recent decades have been put down in print. His speeches and parables which combine happiness, laughter and jest have a healthy, moralistic tendency to expose the circles of life, status, and social relationships.

An example of his writing is the anecdote "Pughi Ends up at a Wedding" (Պուղին ընկնում է հարսանիք):

The distinguished Judge Srabion bek is hosting a wedding at his home in the village. Pələ Pughi notices, and keeps looking anxiously out of his window to see when they will come to invite him to the wedding, but they never come. The musicians begin to play the song marking the begining of the wedding party. Out of anger, Pələ Pughi runs out to the street and goes to the end of the village, knocking on all the villager's doors along the way.

He shouts to them, "People, Srabion bek is inviting you to the wedding party, hurry to his home!".

The entire village flows to the wedding. Judge Srabion bek's gall bladder is about to burst from anger.

"This prank is undoubtedly the work of Pələ Pughi", he says to his child. "Hurry up and bring him to the wedding, before he invites all of the residents of the city of Shushi to fill our home."

They invite Pughi to the wedding.

The next turnoff on the highway is to the right, heading S, with the first fork in that road leading to Sghnakh (225p, Սղնախ, meaning "fort" or "stronghold"; Sığnaq in Az), founded elsewhere in 1495, then moved to the current location in 1795. Sghnakh was once the main defensive base of Varanda's princes, with archives showing that in the beginning of the 18c, Avan-Yuzbashi rebuilt and enlarged the barracks at Sghnakh. There were also numerous ramparts, citadels and gharadams (large rectangular halls with hearths) stretching along the slopes of the hill, by the brim of the canyon, only traces of which still remain. The remains of some of the gharadam walls remain, though with collapsed roofs. Sghnakh once had a Surb Astvatsatsin church which collapsed by the end of the Soviet period, and also once had silk worm and cloth production at a small local factory. In the 19c there was an oak tree in the village known as khndzorakhach ("apple-cross") which was a local holy place. A half km SW of the village is the site of Khachin Tak village ruins with khachkars, and nearby is Shamiren Karan which was used in the Early Middle Ages. In the area were springs known as Mkrtich, Marand, Ptrusants, Joti, Rusen and others.

Beyond the Sghnakh turnoff, the road leads to the large village of Avetaranots (920p, Ավետարանոց; Chanakhchi in Az.), nestled in the foothills of the Kirs mountain range. The name is thought to originate from the words "avetaranots hos", or gospel here. This village was once the seat of the regional princes of Varanda, and has a rich history, the remnants of which can be explored. In varying conditions are ramparts, towers, bridges, palaces, churches and a convent. The cemetery is known as Khach Blur (cross-hill) and has old inscribed and ornamented tombstones, including Melik Shahnazar III's.

At the end of 19c, Avetaranots had 257 housesholds and 1,740 residents. At that time Yervand Lalayan wrote, "Chanaghchi now looks more like a village-town. The numerous beautiful houses furnished with European taste, the quite enjoyable shops completely change the appearance of the village. There are also three silk factories in the village, which have had and have quite a large influence on the business and living conditions of the village. This is also the favorite place of the people of Shushi to have a summer house".

Avetaranots' princely residence was once encircled by 1.5-2km long serf-walls or defense-constructions: 1.5-2 km long walls, built during Melik Shakhnazar II's 17c rule. Small sections remains today. There were poly-arch entries, round towers, and water-pipes. The width of the serf-walls reaches 1.5m and the height 5m. The are still water pipes preserved in the citadel, a basin and underground passages. The fort also had several secret entries and additional gates in the SE section.

Atop the citadel on the S end of the village is Kuysanots Anapat ☆, a 17c convent, with adjacent WWII and Karabakh War memorials. The simple trimmed stone convent has a small church with a small gavit with a number of tombs inside, serving as the family mausoleum of the Melik Shahnazaryans, including Manvel Vardapet, Melik Mirzay, Melik Huseyn, Melik Hovsep and their wives. Melik Huseyn and his daughter Gayane were especially brave in their fight against foreign invaders. Just like Ruzan, who sacrificed herself to save her native area from Tatar-Mongolian forays, Gayane battled against Turkish invaders. Ruzan's picture inspired Muratsan to write his "Ruzan" historical drama, while Leo wrote "Prince's Daughter" about the heroine Gayane. There are a couple of rampart towers in the village above the convent. The observation tower right by the path leading up to the convent is known as Yelakhavar.

Visible below the convent is the simple but large village church of Surb Astvatsatsin of 1651, a 3 nave basilica built by Melik Baghu. Khachkars and tombstones from the 16-19c are in and around the church.

Palace of Melik Baghu (17-18?c) is found on the S side of the village, consisting of several gharadams built from stone. On the N of Avetaranots, adjacent to the rampart, is the second Palace of Melik Shahnazar II or the summer-cottage, which consists of several gharadams and vaulted rooms. Over the main door was inscribed, "This palace is to Melik Shahnazar's son Seyinbek, who had this building built in 1786". The famous Valerian Madatov also built a palace in the first quarter of the 19c, of which nothing remains. Another lost palace was built by Melik Huseyn on the W edge of the village - it was destroyed at the end of the 1800s.

Sites in the vicinity of Avetaranots village include:

  • Tskore ruined village - (or Dzkore) situated 5km W of Avetaranots. Vestiges of 17c Sana church remain there (another source places Sana church 1.7km S of Avetaranots).
  • Hghotek Church - an ancient and large church. Collapsed walls, khachkars, fragments of inscriptions, scattered gravestones. 7km S of Avetaranots.
  • Surb Avanes Church - fully-preserved. Surroundings have scattered khachkars, gravestones. Approx. 6km E from the village.
  • Khachkhut holy place (cross hill) - Sacred place with khachkars, typical of 9-10c. The inscriptions have worn off. Local inhabitants call the monument Eshkhachkhut (donkey cross hill). At the foot of Mount Kirs, 6km from Avetaranots.
  • Putkar village ruins - Village with ancient cemetery and a church called Kukven (meaning cuckoo). 7km from Avetaranots, in the area of Sghnakh village.
  • Papaderin khachkars (Փափադերին) - Two 16-17c khachkars of this name 1.8 and 2km S of the village.
  • Ərtashin Tap khachkar (Ըրտաշին տափ) - 10c khachkar 2km SW of the village.
  • Karkap Khach - the area is also called Yete Jur. 5km W of the village, at the foot of Kirs.
  • Blen Khut settlement ruins - Remainders of a 16-17c settlement with a cemetery and ruins of cult constructions hidden in the forest. 5km W of the village.
  • Huseyn's Ravine - the summer residence of Varanda’s famous prince Huseyn, next to a cold stream. It's situated at the foot of one of Kirs mountain-ridge's spurs, with commanding views and a cool climate.
  • Yeghtsu Dzor ruined church (church ravine) - 3km E of the village. On the ravine's slope remain ruins of a church, built from trimmed stone.
  • Gharadam dwellings - half-underground dwellings of Varanda's princes. They're almost entirely preserved.
  • Church - situated E of the village, on the roadside leading to Stepanakert. Only wall foundations remain. According to the inscription built in the 13c.
  • Bridge crossing over this river in the upper part of the village. It was also built in 17c during Varanda's period of prosperity.
  • Mahtesi Aran Bridge, with the inscription "This bridge is in memory of Mahtesi Aran, in the year 1663". ⟪39.703814, 46.839325⟫
  • Hghtskoti Kamurj (Հղցկոտի) bridge of 17-18c is 200m SW of Avetaranots.
  • Ttu Jur spring (sour water). Mineral water source. 10km from the village, at the foot of Big Kirs. The health-resort of Avetaranots' princes was once located here.
  • Stepani Aghbyur spring (Stepanants/Stepan's spring) - 6km NW of the village.
  • Bashtunts Aghbyur spring (Bashtunts/Bakhshunts family’s spring) - Built from stone. Known for crystal clear and cold water. 3km E of the village.
  • Salkari Aghbyur spring (from Arm. Salkar- slab, smooth stone - Spring) - near the village, 1km E of Bashtunts Aghbyur in a beautiful ravine.
  • Vanesi Aghbyur spring
  • Shahgaldunts Aghbyur spring
  • Zoratap fortification (from Arm. zor, zork- army, tap- field). Between Avetaranots and Sghnakh remain noticeable traces of one of the fortified stations - Artsakh's sghnakhs. In the center of the monument a huge heap of stone has formed from collapsed constructions. In the background are noticeable ruins of various other constructions. On the left side are vestiges of buildings and destroyed fences. The building material used was local stone of grayish hue.

From Avetaranots, there are two roads leading out from the SE corner of the village. One road leads SE to Madatashen (90p, Մադաթաշեն, named after Prince Valerian Madatov, born Rostom Madatyan; Mədədkənd in Az), with 19-20c Surb Astvatsatsin church, and Gogavor Kamurj ☆ ⟪39.7015, 46.8495⟫ (curved bridge, aka Aknaghbyur) of 1640 about 300m E of the village. Half a km SW is the Əkhtəlhaz (Ըխտըլհազ) holy place with a 9c khachkar of the same name. 1km W of the village is a water mill, and somewhere in the vicinity of the village is the 13-14c Jhayrakhach khachkar. The next village at the end of the road to the S is Moshkhmhat (52p, Մոշխմհատ; same in Az), with a 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church which has a few 12-13c khachkars around it, and a mostly standing 19c sranots ☆ (oil press complex). Half a km SW is Heghinei Kuyr (Heghine's sister) holy place, with two 12-13c khachkars. 1.2km NW are the remains of 18c Tukhnakal mansion. On top of the densely forested nearby hill overlooking Moshkhmhat on the NE are the remains of Ghevondants Anapat Monastery ☆ ⟪39.689628, 46.860207⟫, also known as Ghondik or Ghevondik Monastery, consisting of a small church of bluish-white untrimmed stone, gavit, belfry, a 10m deep pitcher-shaped well, two story-hotel, ruined rooms, garden, khachkars, cemetery and damaged ramparts. Yervand Lalayan shares Sargis Jalalyan's tale that "The relatives of St. Ghevond priest went round Varanda, found some of his fragments, brought them here and built a church. In the church remains St. Ghevond's portrait...", which has completely come off now. The N side of the church door is inscribed with the year 1651. The gavit's door is inscribed "1775. The gavit is in memory of Zakaria, Hovsep and Melkon preceptors". The original church was probably built in the early medieval period, destroyed during Arab invasion, then rebuilt in the 13c, devastated again, and rebuilt during the times of the meliks. The inscription on the tympanum says that in 1900 the complex was renovated by Sevak Babayants. He covered the buildings with a metal roof, replastered the walls, and renovated the yard. The 19c two-story hotel is SE of the church. It has a vaulted cover on a first floor divided into two rooms with fireplaces and bays. The now ruined second floor had a smooth cover from logs, wide windows and a balcony. An inscription on a small stone of the E façade says “In the memory of deceased Gevorg-bek Arustamayan Melik-Hovsepyan built this two-story house his daughter Ketekan Jhamharyan in 1896”.

The other road out of Avetaranots leads NE towards Jraghatsner (116p, Ջրաղացներ; Demirchilyar in Az) with Surb Astvatsatsin church of 1882, a ruined 17c church and khachkars 1.5km SW, and a 17-19c Surb Vanes church with cemetery and khachkars about 3km NW. The road then heads SW-ish to Aknaghbyur (557p, Ակնաղբյուր, formerly Gharabulagh - meaning "black spring"; Ağbulaq in Az), with 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church. There is a 19-early 20c cemetery in the village, and another 500m SW of the ruined village named Ghuze Tagh, which is the site of a holy place of the same name as well. 100m SW of the village is the Ghuze Tagh spring monument, 2km W are the 13-19c Gharala village ruins, 2km N is the 2nd millennium BC to 13c Əkhtəlhaz (Ըխտըլհազ) holy place (presumably different than the one said to be close to Madatashen), 3km N is the Gharala watermill. In 1895, Emil Ryosler excavated a huge mausoleum-hill near the village, which was surrounded by 30 small groups of burial mounds. The road then takes you back to the highway.

Reaching the highway from Aknaghbyur, turning right (S) takes you to Sarushen (380p, Սարուշեն; Dağyürd in Az), the last village in Askeran province, with the trimmed cream stone covered Amenaprkich village church. The inscription on the squared beam of the door tells us that in the second half of 19c the former old church was repaired and became one of the area's leading and beautiful churches thanks to Grigor Ayvazyants. "In this church is Surenashen's celebrated hand-written Gospel", wrote M. Barkhutaryants, "to which come pilgrims not only from many sides of Artsakh, but also from Baku, Tiflis, and even Muslims. The Gospel is large and from parchment, with pictures of Rstakes, Vrdanes and Stepanos precepters..." Part of the Gospel's interesting history is written inside, telling us that at some point it had somehow been removed from the church, when in 1827 Mirzay Ohanesyan Zarkereantsovs of "Shushi Ghal" saw it in the possession of a non-Armenian in Tabriz. He "gave his money and bought it with his honest earnings", bringing it back on May 22, 1833. The former two story school building was built in the late 1800s by G. Ayvazyants, consisting of four rooms, a large hall and a parlor. Sarushen's stone Vararaghbyur (waterfull spring) is one of the nicer spring-monuments of the region, with khachkars incorporated. 1.7km NW of the village is the semi-preserved 12-13c Pirumashen church and khachkars, just W of the highway, with adjacent excavated settlement and foundations of 7-8c basilica, are remnants of the former village of Pirumashen. In the 16c all the inhabitants of the village were locked into the church by Turkish invaders and burnt to death.

Heading left (back N) onto the highway after Sarushen leads to the turnoffs (on the right) to the old settlement of Khachmach (202p, Խաչմաչ; same in Az). The population dropped from 510 in the 1890s to 185 in the late 1980s. There is a one nave Surb Stepanos basilica built by masters Yusep and Gevorg in 1651 from the local chipped stone, and a 17c Surb Vanes chapel and khachkar. 1km SW was the site of a village in the Middle Ages. 2km S was the site of another village dating to the Middle Ages known as Tghupi (Թղուփի), with the 19c Tughupva (Թուղուպվա) spring in the same area. 4km S is a bridge built in 1914. There are 25 springs in the area around the village.

Next continuing down the road are the turnoffs for Karmir Gyugh (174p, Կարմիր գյուղ, "Red Village", formerly Trnavaz; Qızıloba in Az) on the right (N), with a Surb Astvatsatsin basilica built in 1841. According to legend, the priest Artavazd gathered in the forest the surviving villagers from the destruction of nearby Khachen Tak (see below) and founded this village, originally named Artavazd after him. The name morphed over time to Deravaz then Trnavaz or Drnavaz, with local Muslims calling it Keshishkend (priest's village). The 1920s massacre of Armenians in Shushi reached this village - which had a population of 1800 people at the time - as well. The attack saw the inhabitants massacred, buildings ruined, and 80 village men dragged to Shushi where 73 were killed immediately and 7 survived. The name Karmir was given to the village on the day of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast's establishment (July 7, 1923), for fulfilling the first grain plans in the region, and also for active participation in the revolutionary movement. Judging by gravestone inscriptions the village seems to have been founded in the second half of the 16c. There is a spring-monument of 1864 in Karmir Gyugh as well. 2km W of the village is the 19c Asrunts bridge, and 3km W of the village is the Mekunts bridge of 1864. Suleymanants and Musants watermills were a couple of km from the village, one N and one NW. In the 18-19c the village belonged to Prince Valerian Madatov. 2-3km NW of the village is a sacred place known asKhachen Tak (under the cross) or Əghen Nahatak (Ըղեն նահատակ), with traces of a settlement, large cemetery, semi-ruined church and several khachkars. The church, known as Əghen (or Aghin, Hghen, or Ikhen) Nahatak was very old and stood until the 1930’s, having been rebuilt many times. Of what remains, the small vaulted hall has a row of khachkars in the interior walls. This holy place is called Khachen Tak because near the half-destroyed church there was a khachkar monument with 3 khachkars set into a bay, which locals called Temi or Vormnapak. It was 5m high and 3m wide with 2m thick walls. The monument fell into ruins with the inscriptions on it lost, but 2 of the khachkars are fully preserved while the third is broken in 3 places. There is also a 19c spring monument known as Musayelants, and other springs in the area known as Valadants, Mets Jur, and Tghke.

The next turnoff is for Nerkin Sznek (126p, down from 727p in the 1890s and up from 95 in the late 1980s, Ներքին Սզնեք, Aşağı Yemişcan in Az) with Surb Astvatsatsin church of 1849 and nearby 10-13c ornamented khachkar Parav Khach (ancient cross) and other similarly aged khachkars, and 13 springs in the area around the village. Then comes the old settlement of Verin Sznek (29p, Վերին Սզնեք, Yuxarı Yemişcan in Az) on the left (S) with Surb Hakob church of 1885 and 17-18c Yeghtsadzori Yeghtsi church, hosting three 11-13c khachkars. There is also a chapel simply called Surp (Holy) in the vicinity of the village which was built 1898-1910, and a 17-18c Surb Hovhannes chapel 2.5km SW, with a khachkar dating to 1616. There are two 19-21c cemeteries in and by the village. To the SW are two 19c watermills, both known as Tumasants, one 200 and the other 700m from the village.

2. Northwest to Badara and Khachen

Taking Tumanyan Street N then NW out of Stepanakert leads first to Nor Aresh, still technically within Stepanakert, then to Khnatsakh (578p, Խնածախ, Khanatsakh, Hnatsakh, Hnatsagh, Pokr Khmahat, Lernavan; Xanyurdu in Az), in Askeran region proper. Khnatsakh was founded in 1770 by settlers from a village of the same name in Zangezur. There is a Surb Astvatsatsin 3 nave basilica built of basalt in 1740, used as storage during Soviet times, and renovated in 2005. Two illuminated manuscripts named Gragir chashots and Gragir Avetaran were once kept at this church. Above the village to the N is a plateau isolated on 3 sides which is known as Kaghakategh ("town place"), with cemetery, khachkars and archeological finds. W of the village on Mt. Beveratap's slope, is Tsak Kar cave, a hiding place during turbulent times. Nearby areas known as Banvor Nan and Jalal-Hasan have traces of settlements and churches, and a slope on the hill of the Traghaget river has khachkars. 4km W of the village is 17-18c Parur holy place, 6km W of the village is 9-13c Mravats village site, with a cemetery with many khachkars, a chapel and an oil press. 3km SW of the village, and 300m NW of the place known as Pahlul is the 11-13c cemetery of the same name, with a khachkar dating to 1197, and another to the 12-13c. By the place known as Pahlul is another 9-13c cemetery which also shares the same name and has a few khachkars. In the same area as these cemeteries is a 17c Surb Astvatsatsin church. In the vicinity of the the village are other scattered khachkars of the 12-13c and the Alexani spring-monument of 1958. Other springs in the area are known as Mets, Pitsi, and Abalin. From Khnatsakh, a road leads SW up into the mountains to the sparsely resettled ruins of Tsemili (Cəmilli in Az) village.

Continuing N from Khnatsakh takes you to Aygestan (1071p, Այգեստան, previously Paluja, Baluja, Balluja, Kolavar, Mets Khmahat; Ballıca in Az), founded in the 17c. The name Balluja is thought to come from the term bal u chai, meaning "sour cherry and tea". There is a trimmed limestone 3 nave Surb Amenaprkich basilica ☆ of 1860 in the village. Notable is the snake carving on the S interior wall. Aygestan also has a 14c khachkar, as well as a modern khachkar spring-monument for those who died in a 1990 plane crash. There is or was a marble mine near the village.

There are a number of former settlements in the vicinity of Aygestan, all of them with 12-13c khachkars and ruins of numerous constructions, including partially preserved serf walls. The first isKolavor, not far from Aygestan's church, with its ancient cemetery and even older Surb Vnes basilica church. It was written that the defenders of this area would show their devotion and loyalty by finishing their oath with “Surb Vanes is witness”. In the cemetery are graves of volunteer fighters from Aygestan who died in the Russo-Persian war (started of 19c). The second settlement with an ancient cemetery and destroyed church was W of Aygestan and was called Alukhanashen. The third settlement of Tamtsi Yeghtsi is situated on the right bank of the Tsrtsaget, with preserved ruins of Hangats Yeghtsi church and other constructions, and also a large cemetery with khachkars. The fourth settlement of Mlkunts was in the Gomerashen area, between Aygestan and Khnatsakh. 4.5km W of the village is Mets Khmhat cemetery of the 13-14c Tsets Khach (Ցեց խաչ) is a 9-10c khachkar found 2km NW of Aygestan. 5km NW of the village is the 2-1 millennium BC Tsghala Tapa (Ծղալի թափա) burial field, with another of the same time period about 2.5km SW of the village. Further N along the highway is Lusadzor (174p, Լուսաձոր, Mehdibəyli in Az), with 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church. 2.5 NW of Lusadzor is the site of a 2-1 millennium BC settlement known asKarablur, with burial mounds from that period being found in the vicinity, and additional mounds continuing for another km towards the NW from that site. N of Lusadzor, the highway has a turnoff W to Dahrav (216p, Դահրավ, derived from Tarahav then Darahav; Dəhrəv in Az). Mentioned in a 17c list of Khachen's villages, which paid taxes to churches. There are ruins of an old church on the N edge of the village which had 3 khachkar-bays around it, of which only one remains. The bay is dated 1276 and has two richly-ornamented khachkars inset known as Vormnapak. This is by Prshni Nahatak, a holy site dating to 2-1 millennium BC. Surb Hovhanes is the one-nave village church built from roughly-trimmed and untrimmed local stone in 1885. There's also a 12c Dahrav khachkar in the village. Near the village in an area (former settlement?) known as Karen Glukh (head of the rock) is the gigantic tree known asBrshni, which gave the name to the nearby Brshni chapel, of which a small burial-vault remains. The chapel was built by Angri, Stepan and Arzuman Israyelyans according to the inscription on the façade . 5-6km from the village is Nren Nahatak, with a hardly noticeable cemetery in the adjoining forest. In the Yeghtsahogh area are many noticeable ruins, which are thought to have once been a large monastic complex. Raffi's Spring is a favorite among locals, named in the honor of popular Armenian writer Raffi, who visited this village in the second half of the 19c and is said to have drank from this spring. Other sites in the Dahrav area include the sacred places Prshnun, Mets Karaglukh and Əndakar caves, and a cliff resembling a 6-7m tall man. Yeghtsu Khach is a 12-13c holy place which may be the same as one of the site listed earlier from another source. After Dahrav the highway comes to crossroads, where a left (W) leads to Astghashen (520p, Աստղաշեն, Artsakhashen, Karaghpyur; Daşbulaq in Az), with Surb Gevorg church of 1898 with two 16-17c khachkars. Khrimian Hayrik visited the village August 25-26, 1898. About 4km SW of the village are a number of 2-1 millennium BC burials, as well as a one 14c tomb. Sergey Melikumyan writes of a church of 368-371 and a Frangyuli Vank Monastery, built on the occassion of Melik Frangyul's visit to the village, but neither site is mentioned in any other sources. The main road leading W from Astghashen continues to a turnoff right to Khantsk (231p, Խանցք; Xanyeri in Az), with Surb Stepanos church ☆ of 1773, probably on the foundations of a prior church. The squared beam's inscription explains that the church was built by the efforts of Khandzki villagers', with the help of Catholicos Petros of Aghvan. The large khachkar in the church wall is inscribed: "In 1230 CE, we Hayrapet, Petros, Vardan, Yohan put this cross for our mother, who was kind and loved the poor, remember her in your prayers". On the S end of Khantsk two khachkars known as Jukhtak (pair) lie under trees by the side of the road. The damaged inscription on one was was preserved by M. Barkhutaryan, and it says, "In the name of the Holy Trinity, we, Sostanes and Barsegh put this cross of our father Hayrapet and our mother Horamsim. Who prays let him remember (them) in their prayers. (In the summer) of 1253". On the N edge of the village is 11-12c Ghurughen khachkar and a spring with the same name. Surb Hovanes chapel is about 2km SW from the pair of khachkars, on the left bank of the stream. It is thought to be either 13c or 17-18c. The overgrown cemetery stretches around the chapel. Another cemetery in almost the same condition lies 400m N of the village on Vardapet Khut (hill), with adjacent 2-1m BC burial hill. On another hill called Shoshran Khut is the Anapat chapel, two nameless village territories and another cemetery. 1km W of the village is Antak Tsovin Tak khachkar. Beyond Khantsk, the road then continues to Badara (827p, Պատարա, Patara, Ptretsik), from the word pater (walls), likely associated with the serf-walls which once encircled the settlement. There is a restored three-nave Surb Stepanos church of roughly trimmed white stone in the village. The church was built in 1678 (govt says 19c) by priest Sargis under the patronship of Khachen’s Prince Alaverdyan. In front of the former sawmill-factory is a small chapel which the local people call Drbasut Yeghtsi. In the rolling forested hills to the north, west and south of the village are a wealth of rarely visited historical sights, some only accessible on foot. From Badara, a dirt road just S of the village takes you W for 5km to a tiny settlement/spot known as Lesnoy, with 12-13c Jukhtak Yeghtsi church and some same period khachkars in the vicinity. 500m W is 13c Darpasut Yeghtsi church (Դարպասուտ), presumably in some state of ruin, in an area with ruins of 9-14c Drpasut settlement (Դրպասուտ). Near Lesnoy is 12-13c Okhti Yeghtsi Monastery (Seven Churches) ☆ ⟪approx 39.886, 46.619⟫ located in dense forest on the slopes to the S. A number of complex's buildings remain, six of which join each other, though they have separate entries and windows, and three others stand alone. The remains of four other constructions are visible as well. All the buildings are one-nave halls with vaulted covers, built from roughly-trimmed stone. There are khachkars scattered through the forest, and while the individual buildings are plain and unimpressive, the complex in it's setting is attractive and interesting. One khachkar's inscription reads: “In the summer of 1158. I, Smbat, Vasak’s son put this cross in the memory of my son Davton, who transferred to Christ in his young age”. A path from Okhti Yeghtsi Monastery leads through the forest, then turns E to reach the ancient settlement called Tsera Nahatak. A small church is built on an elevated spot, overlooking the surroundings. The small basilica of 1326 is built of untrimmed stone. An 8 line inscription records the temple was built during prince Smbat’s time by order of Prince Mkhitar. On the S side of the church are ruins of the gavit. More than 200 khachkars of the 9-13c are around the complex, making this one of the largest collections of khachkars in existence. An approximately 4-6km forested path heading NW from Badara leads to 13-14c Otska Vank Monastery (aka Otskan) ⟪approx. 39.947443, 46.622304⟫, on top of a mossy cliff. There is a standing one-nave basilica (plus gavit?), with khachkars and inscriptions in the walls, mentioning Arzu Khatun (wife of Prince Vakhtang, who built the cathedral at Dadivank) and the same Smbat who is mentioned at Okhti Yeghtsi and Tsera Nahatak. There are several destroyed constructions around it and a large cemetery dating to the Middle Ages. About 3km N (or 2.5km W according to govt) of Badara is Prkcha Vank (Also known as Prkich or Surb Amenaprkich), a partly restored three nave church with walls of rough or untrimmed white stone in the midst of a long lost settlement of the same name, and hundreds of old gravestones and khachkars covered over time. The reuse of older trimmed stone in places indicates this was likely built in place of an even older temple. Thought to have served as the residence for Prince Smbat in the second half of the 13c, after Prince Hasan Jalan of Khachen was killed and the center was moved here from Khokhanaberd. Also in the area are the ruins of the princely residence Darbasut, which was once surrounded with strong serf-walls and a series of forts, including Kachaghakaberd, Getieri Berd (at the foot of mountain Karasun Kuys), and 12-13c? Pert (S of Badara, on top of a hill, a bit past Okhti Yeghtsi). Pert was built in the forest on a large, towering rock, on which remain remainders of old ramparts. On the N side of Pert are remainders of old buildings and gravestones. The local people say that the inhabitants used to get water from the river by underground passage. The partly ruined Khravond Chapel is located on a forested plain of the same name, about 9km W of Badara. Next to the chapel there is a small construction, and around it there is a cemetery with khachkars, which indicate it was a small settlement. Thought to be 12-13c. About 2km NW of Badara is Spitak Vegh holy place, with 2-1 millennium BC remains, as well as a 9-13c chapel. About 1.5km further in the same direction are what remains of a 15-16c village. 2km SW of Badara is a 11-13c ruined settlement known as Ozan Tegher. 5km SW of Badara is 15-9c Tandzu Bagh cemetery. Back on the highway heading N, the turnoff leading to Hilis (165 p,Հիլիս; İlis in Az) and continuing to Khndzristan (751p, Խնձրիստան; Almalı in Az) come up on the left (W). There is a late medieval parish church, with Khndzristan's meliks buried in the vestibule. On the W side of the church was the linseed oil press (sranots) built in 1772 by Prince Alahverdi, which once played a great role in the economy of the village. The villagers say that the largest central room had a bull/mule-powered mill-stone which ground grain. Later on the stones of the mill’s walls were used when building two silk factories, one of which worked until the late Soviet period. In the W part of the village is Melik Mirzakhan's bridge ⟪39.96914, 46.6833⟫ of the mid-18c, which was widened in Soviet times. There is a 19c cemetery in the village. On the hillside above the village is a large stone resembling a person, carrying another stone on it. There is a local legend about Gharabaghian women associated with it. On a hill are the nearby ruins of Hangats Yeghtsi church. At the foot of that hill are scattered gravestones, khachkars and other stones. There is also a nearby area known as Ppen Shen (grandfather's village), with traces of a large settlement, the remains of 11-13c Jukhtak Yeghtsi church (could this be another name for the aforementioned Hangats Yeghtsi?) 1.5km W of the village, with adjacent cemetery and khachkar. Near the village are Varar, Hjara, and Lachin springs. The highway then passes by Tsaghkashat (202p, Ծաղկաշատ, "plentiful flowers"; Qişlaq in Az.), with the nicely restored Nikol Duman House-Museum and Ethnographic District ☆, which provides an excellent glimpse of well-to-do 19-20c village life. In the upper part of the village is an 18-21c village cemetery, which contains at least one much older (12-13c) khachkar. 200m from the village is the site of the ruins of Shinategh village, dating to the Middle Ages. 1km S of the village is a chapel dating to the Middle Ages, and 2km S of the village is the 18-20c Gharabek holy place. 6.3km NW of Tsaghkashat is the 11-13c Pulur Putnə (Պուլուր պուտնը) fort, with a 2-1 millennium BC tomb field nearby, as well as a number of 11-13c khachkars, some of them by a ruined 12-13c church 6.4km NW of Tsaghkashat. 7.1km NW of Tsaghkashat is the site of 9-13c Vaka village ruins, with 11-12c Vaka church ruins and a 9-13c cemetery with many khachkars. From Tsaghkashat is a road leading to Rev (113p, Ռև, short for revolution; Şəlvə in Az.), with a Surb Stepanos church of 1894, and 2 khachkars outside. There is an 18-19c chapel in unknown condition about 350m S of the village, the ruins of a Middle Ages village known as Gmbetagh about 5-600m S, near which is the 12-13c khachkar known as Tandzi Khuti Khach. 1km from the village is another 12-13c khachkar. Further N on the highway lies the village of Khachen (352p, Խաչեն, or Seydishen; Seyidbəyli in Az), with 13c Surb Stepanos church according to the government, though Sergey Melikumyan wrote that village church was built in 1890, and used as farm storage in Soviet times. Also in the village is two 12-13c khachkars, and two 8-9c khachkars known as Gyolen Hart, brought here from a nearby place with that name. 1km W of the village the late 12-early 13c khachkar and holy place known as Tnjrin Gyune (Տնջրին գյունե). 3km NW of the village is the site of the 9-13cMachi Shen village, with a cemetery of the same name containing over a dozen 12-13c khachkars. Another 12c khachkar known as Kakh Karen Tak (meaning 'below hanging rock') lies 3.5km NW of Khachen. 4.5km W of the village are a 12-13c khachkar and 19c bridge, both known as Novavur Aghbyur or Mtin Kamurj. Near the village are Derin, Baghen and Karmir springs. From Khachen, a long road leads up into the mountains to the tiny village of Urakhach (Ուրախաչ, Ulubab, Ulupap, Karamej; Ulubabə in Az.), which was moved here by remnants of the previous village which was abandoned in the 18c after an epidemic that killed most of the villagers. Less than a km E of Urakhach, visible on top Gevorgasar mountain is Ptki Surb Gevorg Monastery (or Ptkes-Berk - Պտկեսբերք) ☆ ⟪40.01628, 46.71363⟫. The monastery also has a third name of Ulupap, associated with the name of the village. Built in 1263 by the son of King Ashot Shahnshah, and once surrounded by serf-walls, it has been repaired or rebuilt several times, including by vardapets Hovhannes and Hovsep, the former in 1896. The grave of vardapet Hovanes is in the small N side-chapel. There has been some recent restoration work as well. Near the W façade of the church are the remainders of what was likely the gavit. The 16c dining hall of the monastery is situated in the southern part of the complex, by the monastic cells and economic buildings. To the E, on the hill stretch old and new cemeteries with interesting gravestones covered with reliefs and inscriptions. There is a manuscript with a note written 1490 at this monastery. N of Urakhach village is whatever is left of Ulupap Fort, according to one source located at ⟪40.029, 46.70534⟫. There is also a nearby Ulubab bridge. Beyond Khachen village the highway becomes a dizzying series of switchbacks leading to Martakert region. 3. Northeast to Ivanyan, Askeran and Akna Taking the main North-South highway N out of Stepanakert, passing Tatik Papik then the police station, the highway comes to a crossroads. The area to the left is covered elsewhere in this book, while a right turn will take you across the river to Berkadzor (149p, Բերքաձոր, Armenabad; Qarşərabtrestin Iki Nömərli Sovxozu in Az.), with fourteen burial mounds dating to the 2-1 millennium BC located between 2.5-3km SW and W of the village. Continue north on the M-12 highway, and the Stepanakert Airport appears on the left. It's already been rebuilt and is waiting for the day when flights will be possible. Soon after the airport is the left (W) turnoff for Ivanyan (869p, Իվանյան, after late general of the Karabakh Defense Army, Kristapor Ivanyan; Khojali in Az). The village has burial mounds and fields from the 2-1 millennium BC, including an atypically large mound. 400m W of the village is a 19c Turkic mausoleum on a hill. There are also some Late Middle Ages and an 18c tombstones a few hundred meters W of Ivanyan. Ivanyan was the Azerbaijani town of Khojali before the war, used as a base to shell Stepanakert. Armenian forces eventually encircled the town, shelling it and finally attacking it. As the Azerbaijanis fled through a 'free corridor' opened up by Armenians for that purpose, exchanges of fire under hotly still contested circumstances led to over a hundred civilian Azeri deaths in the Khojaly massacre. From the NW corner of Ivanyan, a road heads W and forks. The left fork goes W to the two street village of Hovsepavan (119p, Հովսեփավան), while the right fork heads NW to Noragyugh (1334p, Նորագյուղ; Təzəbinə in Az), founded in 1966 by settlers from Hin Noragyugh (see below), and with streets in a modern grid. In 1987 the village had a population of 1,043, of which 100 were Azeri and the remaineder Armenian. Not far from the village, on the E slope of a mountain of the same name is Honi Khach, a sacred place. Other sacred places areParavi Khach, Sri Khach, Mets Nan and Nor Khach. Half a km N of the village are some 13c khachkars, and one dating to 1193. 2km NW of the village is the site of 13-20c Nirakegh or Hin Noragyugh village ⟪39.97423, 46.772⟫, founded in the early 1800s with Surb Gevorg church of 1810 and a 19-20c cemetery. Hin Noragyugh had 180 houses and 1,500 residents in 1920. Nearby is a 1927 or 1937 spring monument under a cliff named Verin Jur (upper water, aka Verin Aghpyur, upper spring) and also in the area is a 20c spring called Nerke Jur (Ներքե ճուր), a spring built in 1959, and another in 1901. 4km NW of the village, on a mountain is placed 12c Sarakhach or Saren Khach khachkar. There are also 13 large and small mausoleums in the area. On the mountain N of the village is Suren Khach sacred place. In the Zngəl/Chngl area, nearer Sardarashen, perhaps 4-5km from the village is a cave-dwelling known as Kare Tun (stone house). From the NW corner of Noragyugh, a road with a 2-1 millennium BC burial field beside it heads into the mountains, eventually reaching Sardarashen (181p, Սարդարաշեն; Sərdarkənd in Az) village, founded in the 1760s. In the village are some 12-13c khachkars, including one called Verin Aghbri Khach, and a cemetery with additional khachkars from that period, as well as 19-21c burials. On the NE edge of the village is the 13c Chknavor (Ճգնավոր) holy site. 500m SE of Sardarashen is a 12c khachkar known as Hajalu, and 2.5km W of Sardarashen are a couple of 13c khachkars known as Nor Shen, another 9c khachkar known as Tsrtajur (Ցրտաջուր, cold water), and a group of nine 9-13c khachkars known as Grashin Tap (Գրաշին տափ). 3.5km N of the village are four 8c khachkars known as Kaghni Khach (Կաղնի խաչ), and 8-13c Chngl (Չնգլ) cemetery in the same area with one 8c and one 9c khachkar, among other burials. Back on the M-12 highway, the fortress of Askeran, known as Mayraberd will mark the start of Askeran town. 18c Mayraberd Fortress ☆50 (Askeran Fortress, meaning arsenal in Turkish, Mayraberd meaning mother fortress in Armenian) stretches along the S part of town, with high towers on either end of the valley and thick walls reaching 9m that once stretched 1.5km across the entire valley. It existed as an arsenal since the mid-1700s, but was expanded into a fort to defend Shushi from the 1788-89 Persian incursions, and again served as an important defense for Russian and Armenian defenders led by Colonel Badalkokhyan in the 1805 attack by a 40,000 strong Persian army which had already burned and devastated tens of Armenian villages and monasteries. There is a memorial to this victory on a hill near Khramort village. The portion of the walls extending across the valley were demolished during Soviet times. Past the fortress, the town of Askeran (2,180p, Ասկերան; Əsgəran in Az) is the regional capital, with a new Surb Astvatsatsin church. Askeran incorporated the villages of Verin Ghlijbagh andNerkin Ghlijbagh villages, the latter of which was founded in 1929-30 by settlers from the former as it was slowly abandoned over time, and before both were incorporated into Askeran. There is an 18c church in abandoned Verin Ghlijbagh. 1m past Askeran to the N on the highway is a tank memorial to the Karabakh war. In the center of Askeran, skipping the right turn E towards Nakhichevanik and other eastern villages, turn left (W) at the small park/square on Nelson Stepanyan Street to reach the 3km distant village of Khnapat (826p, Խնապատ, also Voskevaz, Khanabad, Khanaberd or Jrver; Xanabad in Az). The village was founded at the start of the 19c when the Treaty of Gulistan transfered the region from the Persian to the Russian Empire (or in the early 17c according to Sergey Melikumyan). The founders came from the old Armenian villages of Hanatak (or Jrver) and Yershen in the mountains, with preserved churches, chapels, graves, and khachkars. In the center of the village stands a khachkar, which according to the inscription on it was placed by Aghbarik in memory of his father and brother. There is a 13c khachkar in the village known as Derunts Khachkar - it is not clear whether this is the same khachkar as the one with the aforementioned inscription. Somewhere NW of Khnapat, about 2-3km distant, are the ruins of Vaghvan village, with destroyed church, three half-buried khachkars and 9-13c cemetery a km away. Not far is the spot known asKaren Glokh (Քարեն կլոխ) or Karin-glukh (stone-head), where there stands a small 13c khackhar. To the NE are ruins of Ipajur (Verin Qlıçbağ in Az.), with a large cemetery, a preserved early 19c church of local untrimmed stone, and foundations of many dwellings abandoned in the recent past. The two village cemeteries stretch W and NW from the church. The oldest dated monument of Khnapat is the 3m tall khachkar known as Tsits Kar situated in 1km SW of the village. A valuable inscription of 12 lines was carved in 1187. Not too far is a second, similarly ornamented, but comparatively smaller khachkar, with a third one SW of the village, near the resevoir. All three khachkars were made of one and the same stone and ornamented with simple crosses - certainly by the same master stone carver. Other khachkars can be found in the Nahatak area, 5 khachkars from the 14-15c with sheephorn ornaments, 2 from the same period in the local cemetery, and one to the E in nearby Shinategh (along with a 19c Shinategh church). One of the Shinategh khachkars with a carving of a man in armor riding a horse and musicians belongs to a local prince. A place known as Bushen Pyun (Բուշուն պյուն) has a khachkar memorial with a lacework khachkar. A simpler trio of khachkars from the 12-13c can be found 1.5km W of the village at a place known as Hart (flat). Nearby is the 13c Burtun Tap (Բուրթուն տափ) khachkar. What's left of Verin Shen (Yereshen) village is situated 2km W of Khnapat. There's a half-ruined late medieval (according to Mkrtchyan, or 19c according to govt) Surb Astvatsatsin church, a large cemetery and an ancient chapel. Many 12-13c grave-stones are covered with refined ornaments and inscriptions. The chapel, according to the inscription was built in 1224 by priest David and his son Grigor, and the khachkars around it are known as Yeghtsin Khach. 2.5km SW of Khnapat is a 9-18c cemetery known as Kaytsak Tvats (Կայծակ տված). Right before reaching a big triangle of roads, you will pass a large old Azeri cemetery ☆ ⟪39.9712, 46.86215⟫, perhaps called Imaret, or perhaps Qarağacı. Panah-Ali Khan's 6-sided, cone topped tomb/mausoleum and that of his son Ibrahim Khalil are here. Continuing N on the M-12 highway, the road comes to a triangle which offers three choices. Left takes you to Khramort (403p, Խրամորթ; Pirlər in Az), at the bottom of a steep and rocky hill (good for climbing). 1km SW of Khramort is the abandonded 12-19c Hin Khramort (aka Verin Shen?) at a higher elevation, with a church dating to 1800-1876, a cemetery and a few khachkars. In the vicinity of the village are Tandzi and Andzen Jur springs. Heading N from Khramort, the road will have some cliffs to your left, upon which Karaglukh Fort ("head of the rock", aka Shikarar Berd in literarture) ⟪40.0039, 46.82437⟫ can be found, the foundation date of which is unknown. Mentioned in Movses Kaghankatvatsi's famous History of the Aghvan World, who wrote that "From Partav, Arab men secretly forayed in Amaras village, and taking around 1,000 people prisoner stopped in Metsirank's Shikakar area. At that time brave and handsome Prince Sahghi Smbatyan and his brave brothers with their armies attacked towards morning, and took back the captives as from lion's teeth". The double-walled citadel is built on the prolonged cape of the plateau’s left slope. There is a 70m length of serf-walls on the W side, and 20m on the NE. The citadel entry is from the W, and towers once stood on either side of it. Despite the uneven ground inside the walls of the fortrees, they were almost completely covered with buildings. There are remainders of 26 various constructions. In the cliffs under the fort is Shikakar cave ⟪40.001194, 46.826333⟫, it is one of a number of caves in the area, including an interesting chimney-like grotto formation open on the top and bottom. Shikarar consists of four large caves under the fort, with small cisterns, and underground halls and passages. The first, largest cave is at the SE part of the plateau, with a reservoir 36m in from the entry. It is 3m high and 2-3m wide. The floor is almost even, and the ceiling has conical shape. The second cave, the length of which is about 2km is situated 500m N of the first one. On the left side of its entry, there are remains of a strong wall, which likely served defensive purposes. There are also reservoirs in the cave. The third cave is the most impregnable, with it's opening high on the cliff requiring climbing gear to access it. The fourth and fifth caves are situated NW and N of the fort. They are also placed in high rocky massifs, but are accessible by long stairways. 1-1.5km SW of Khramort on a steep hill and on its slopes stretch the remains of the former Khlishbakh village with one-nave Surb Astvatsatsin basilica, covered with a gable roof. Because of the unusual terrain the only entry of the church is from the S. On the tympanum are carved three crosses and the construction date “Summer of 1800”. The road then continues to the left turnoff to Parukh (42p, Փառուխ), with an unusual khachkar at the nearby Kalen Khut cemetery approximately 1km SW of the village. Under a cross there are two women with long braids and a girl depicted. The left hand of one of the women rests on the belly, the right hand is on the belt, most likely symbolizing childbirth. Over the head of the girl and the second woman are symbols of eternity. On the side of the Parukh to Karaglukh road, in Sanadzor area are two additional khachkars with interesting ornaments, and a third one near Karmir Aghpyur spring is notable as one of very few khachkars used as road signs. Continue circling the hill SW from Parukh and then NE up to an area known as Aghakar (salt-rock) to the ruins of old Karaglukh ("head of the rock") ⟪40.00589, 46.81475⟫. There are noticeable traces of settlement, cemetery and cult constructions from the 16- 17c. The Surb Astvatsatsin church with a couple of khachkars in the walls dates to the late medieval period, probably on the foundations of an earlier 13c basilica. The 13-20c cemetery has 2 khachkars of note, and there is another notable khachkar named Mode Jur ("by water") that has been moved near the cemetery as well. Among the gravestones of Karaglukh's new cemetery there's one with a relief of a rider with a sword in his hand that stands out. The inscription reads: "The one who dies for the love to his nation will be blissful. This is the grave of a person with a light soul - of Harutyun Movses Grigoryanats, who in the day of seizing Karaglukh didn’t spare his young life for his nation, becoming a victim of Turkish bullet near Jakhtakhchagh on September 23 of 1918 at the age of 35". There are other khachkars in the area, including the old cemetery, where a pair of large highly artistic khachkars are among the best in Artsakh according to Shahen Mkrtchyan. On the back of the right-side khachkar is carved the following inscription, "In the summer of 1253. During the principality of Hasan, I, Smbat and my brothers put this cross - a patron before Christ for me and my wife Kata. The sir gave to us both the ancestral lands and a place for cemetery. Let Christ help him and his sons. Amen". The promontory by Karaglukh has two springs, the one near the village is called Motejur (near water), the other is Nerkin Jur (bottom water). North of Parukh is today's new Karaglukh Village (?p. Քարագլուխ; Cinli in Az.), with about 16 newly built homes along one street, newly built in a ruined village. Exactly 1.5km E of the village on a small rise is the beautiful Mausoleum of Katava Hoja ☆ the son of Musa (aka Sari Musa Tomb, Kutlu ibn Musa, Tomb of Gutlu Musa or Khachin-Turbatli Mausoleum on Wikipedia), built by architect Shahbenzer in 1314. Exterior has a finely carved portal on a dodecahedral body topped with a pyramid, while the interior has multitier stalactitical arches. An inscription reads "Master Shahbenzeri has built this tomb for the deceased Gutlu Khaja Musa Oglu, who needs Allah’s mercy". From the mausoleum heading E, the road goes another km to the mostly ruined Armenakavan (67p, Արմենակավան; Khachindorbatly in Az). Back at the triangle on the main highway, head N for a while, and then take a left to continue towards Martakert. On your right will lay the trenches of the front line with Azerbaijan - do not venture to the right. A little N on the left will be the excavations of ancient Tigranakert ☆ ⟪40.067294, 46.905946⟫, the site of which saw excavations beginning in 2005. The locals in this region called this spot Trakert up until this day and a silver coin with Tigran's image found here during Soviet times hinted at what was to be found below the surface. Tigranakert was a Hellenistic Armenian city, founded either by King Tigran the Great (95-55 BCE), or his father King Tigran I and one of four they founded with the same name, one of which served as the capital of Armenia. Excavations have revealed structures of white stone, including an early medieval church, and city walls. The city saw it's demise in the Early Middle Ages. There is also a medieval cemetery at this location with hundreds of gravestones covered with high-reliefs and inscriptions. Next to Tigranakert is the nicely maintained little Shahbulagh Castle (meaning Shah's spring) ☆ ⟪40.068685, 46.9058⟫. Built in 1751-52 by Panah Ali Khan, it had mosques, houses, baths, and a market, and was his capital for a period before he moved it to Shushi. His palace was nearby. What survives of the complex today is the restored castle itself (with 7m high walls) and the mosque on the NW end. The castle serves as a small museum for items unearthed in the excavations of Tigranakert. By the castle is the very productive Shahbulagh spring, which the castle was named after. On a little slope NE of the spring, stretches an old Armenian cemetery, with hundreds of damaged gravestones, many of which are partially or fully covered with earth. Prominently sitting above the Tigranakert excavations, at the top of the sharply angled mountain known as Vankasar (Beshik Dagh in Azeri) is the plain square 7c Vankasar Monastery (vank = monastery, sar = mountain) ☆ ⟪40.0719, 46.887754⟫, also known as Aghvank (Albanian Monastery), built of local cream colored lime-stone. The views to the east seem endless, with the plain completely flat until the Caspian Sea. The church was restored in the 1980's, but some time in the past the reliefs and inscriptions have been chiseled off. The history is unknown, but from the building style it's thought to be 7c. There are no inscriptions, just a khachkar, long missing, that had the Armenian inscription dating to 1263 that said "I, Shan-shan Ashot's son built this cross of my soul".

Photo of ruins of Aghdam from minaret Back at the big triangle on the highway, another road leads E, with a right turn coming up fairly soon leading to Ughtasar (129p). Skipping the Ughtasar turnoff takes you towards the sprawling ruins of the modern day ghost town of Aghdam ★100 (or Ağdam, Azeri for "white house", officially renamed Akna by Artsakh's government in 2010). The city once had nearly 40,000 inhabitants, who almost entirely fled before the city fell to Armenian forces on July 23, 1993. Although the city saw relatively little damage from the battle, the Karabakh army did not want to risk having Aghdam retaken and immediately reoccupied by Azerbaijanis, so an immediate looting/burning/demolition took place that made the city uninhabitable. What remained of the ruins have been slowly disappearing since then, as Artsakhtsis help themselves to building materials from the ruins, and nature reclaims the land. The minarets of Aghdam Mosque ☆ ⟪39.9933, 46.93159⟫ (built 1868-1870 by the architect Karbalayi Safikhan Garabaghi) give sweeping views of the ruins. The multi-level, interesting "Tea House", designed by the city architect Naig Samadov and opened on July 26, 1986, was destroyed during and after the war. The partially intact, colorful exterior mosaic walls of the former Aghdam Bread Museum are in the vicinity of the mosque. It was destroyed by a Grad missile on August 12, 1992. The entire surrounding area has many ruined villages, but none are nearly as extensive as Aghdam. The city may technically be off-limits to tourists, and ⚠ venturing E of the city closer to the trenches is dangerous. 4. String of villages east of Askeran In order of turnoffs or appearance: • Kyatuk (4p, Քյաթուկ; Ağgədik in Az), a small, largely abandoned Armenian village with a semi-ruined 18c small village church. Hin Kyatuk, the traces of which may be found in several hundreds of meters up from Nor Kyatuk, or New Kyatuk, which is just called Kyatuk now. It is written that: "In Kyatuk village there lived around 400-500 families, but... because of the merciless famine and plague they moved to different places". It was the birthplace in 1843 of an extremely wealthy Armenian oil magnate and philanthropist, Mikael Aramyants, who among other things built the Armamiants Hospital iN Tbilisi (now Clinical Hospital No. 1) as well as the building of the Marriot Hotel in central Tbilisi (the latter as his home, which he called the Mazhestik). With the onset of Bolshevik rule, Aramyants lost most of his wealth and died of hunger in the basement of his hotel. It was in Aramyants' apartment there that the first Armenian Republic's independence decree was written. Traces of old Kyatuk remain in a large area, with traces of old dwellings visible and the cemetery has interesting gravestones remaining. Among the ruins of the settlement are noticeable remainders of church walls, and the large slab of the tympanum, on which some faint letters remain. The church was called Spitak Ul (white kid - as in baby goat). Not far from it, on a picturesque hill is situated the sacred place of Zoravar, once revered by many. • Nakhichevanik (211p, Նախիջևանիկ; Naxçıvanlı in Az) was founded 15c, with a 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church, a 12-13c khachkar, 9-13c cemetery as well as a more recent 19-20c Pirumnericemetery, and two chapels - the 13c Nahatak chapel (3.5km N of the village) and Ghulunts Ojakh chapel from the Middle Ages. In the area also Khashka cliff-fort, with noticeable traces of ancient defense constructions and observation posts with clear views across much of central Artsakh. Another small fort named Ikhtil-khaz situated on Chakhmakh hill (between Nakhijevanik and Vardadzor villages) also served as an observation post. • Vardadzor (223p, Վարդաձոր; Prjamal, Pircamal in Az), founded 12c, attacked and destroyed by Turks in 1905, rebuilt in 1918. Wine was produced in Soviet times. Has a 19c Surb Astvatsatsin village church, the 19c holy place and chapel of Chakhmakh Tapa, located 1km W of the village, 12-19c cemetery in the village, khachkars and tombs. The cemetery has the graves of Daniel Bak and Poghos Pirumyan, both heroes of the 1918 Battle of Sardarapat. 4km from Nakhijevanik and Vardadzor stretches the ruins of Varder village, also with church, cemetery, inscribed 12-13c khachkars and gravestones. 5km W of the village is Spitak Kar holy place, and 4km N is Nahatak. The Kost Prak cliff-dwellings and Tsak Kar cliff hiding place (byGhazan/Gazann Spring) are also in the area of Nakhijevanik and Vardadzor. In the surroundings of the village are Yekhtsun Jur, Ghazan, Dzaravajur, Sev, Blasen, Tnjre, Teghun and Tskanensprings. • Varazabun (25p, Վարազաբուն; Aranzamin in Az) On the eastern slope of Drdngan. The 18c parish church Surb Astvatsatsin is a one-nave basilica, built from local basalt, probably on the foundations of an earlier place of worship. The village has an 18-20c cemetery. There's a 19c spring at the edge of the village. • Sarnaghbyur (105p, Սառնաղբյուր; Mirishalu in Az) with Surb Gevorg church of 1875, 12-13c khachkar, 19c water mill, 1895 Kyahriz spring, and Htsut holy-place cave. • Dahraz (8p, Դահրազ; Dəhrəz in Az), with Surb Astvatsatsin church built in 1862. The 9-13c The mainly destroyed Horumsim Fort (aka Dahraz Fort) is on a cliff 500m NE, protecting a small plateau. Nearby and in varying conditions are Karmir Avetaran (Red Gospel) church with a vaulted cover, Kotats Ojakh church and 75m E. A bit N of Kotats Ojakh is Gharib Ojakh monument. N of the village is a mountain ridge stretching from E to W, on which is is Kerts (cliff) chapel, also known as Horomsima (Hripsime). In the gorge under the fort is Perti Jur ("fort water") spring. NearbyKot and Yurghujan spring monuments are what remain of villages of the same names. Ghorpi Cave likely served as a safe hiding place when the village was threatened. 5. East towards Martuni region You'll pass through Ajapnyak on the outskirts of Stepanakert as you start heading in the direction of Martuni. Next village you pass will be Krasni (213p, Քռասնի; Karasni, Dağdağan in Az). It was named in the memory of 40 Armenian warriors who died by Karasne spring (300m E of the village, built in 1905). Karasne is the changed form of the word karasun, i.e. forty. In the upper part of the village is a Surb Hripsime church (Hripsime according to Mkrtchyan, Surb Astvatsatsin according to govt - not clear if separate or mistake with name). In the village is also the 19c Vana Ishkhanatun princely residence, a spring monument, a Surb Ojakh holy place with three 11-13c khachkars and one from 1835. Near the village are khachkars, Krasni (300m E, dated 1905) and 19c Portin (Պորթին, 500m SE) spring monuments, Jlghavar (Ջլղավար, 1.2km E, Late Middle Ages) and 7-13c Pulur Tapa (Պուլուր թափա, 2.6km N, 7-13c) Forts, 13-17c Jham chapel (2km N), and 15-17c Jlghavar cemetery (Ջլղավար). Continuing on the highway will bring you to the left (N) turnoff to Harav (289p, Հարավ; Harov in Az), originally settled by villagers from Harar, near Goris, likely in the early 17c. They named the new village Harar as well, but the name changed over time. Harav has a one-nave Surb Mesrop basilica church of 1795 in the village (Mesrop according to Mkrtchyan, Surb Astvatsatsin of 19c according to govt - not clear if separate or mistake with name). There is also a spring-monument of 1898 in the village, and two in or near the village; Segitlui Spring (Սեգիտլուի, 2km W) andTandzi Spring (Տանձի, in or near the village) of 1922. N of the village is Heru Berd (far fortress), 2km W is a field of BCE tombs, and there is also in the vicinity the Chamalakhach (Ջամալախաչ) and Segitlui Surb khachkars (Սեգիտլուի) of the 12-13c. Marble mine nearby. 2km beyond the Harav turnoff, right before the primary road crosses into Martuni region, you come upon a dirt road on your right, leading another 1.5 or 1.6km to a clearing just below toBovurkhani or Bovurkhanavank Monastery ☆ ⟪39.7861, 46.8534⟫. Built of unfinished cream colored stone, some of the structures still stand, and some are in various states of collapse. The one-nave basilica church on the E side of the complex is relatively well preserved and has a gavit attached on it's N side. The materials indicate that the church was likely built in the 17c. In other parts of the complex are another one-nave hall with several bays in the interior wall, a small tower along the serf walls, a large hall, cells, stairs, fireplace and other structures. Much of the complex is still buried under dirt. At the foot of Mt. Bovrkhan is the monastic spring, four observation posts, Leri Khach (mountain cross) chapel and holy place. Anahit Chapel is situated on top of the SW spur of Mt. Bovrkhan, above Krasni village. Back in Stepanakert, taking Bekzadyan Street to exit the city towards the now mainly empty NW section of Askeran region, you pass the sites of a series of higher elevation former Azeri villages, depopulated during the Karabakh war. These include Fakhlul, Dzhangasan, Kosalar, Yalobakend, and Bashkend.