Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook- Hadrut Region

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Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook
Intro

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

Hadrut Region is the southernmost region of Artsakh, with high mountain ridges on the W and S of the town of Hadrut. Villages are primarily found along two river valleys and scattered in lower elevations on the very southern fringe. Excavations of Azokh Cave show that humans have inhabited this area for tens of thousands of years at least, and the region has a rich history. This southernmost region of Artsakh is easily accessible from Stepanakert via the North-South Highway, built by Armenia Fund.

1. The Ishkhanaget (Kuruchay) River Valley

Entering Hadrut Region on the main North-South highway quickly takes you through Drakhtik (415p, Դրախտիկ, little heaven; Zoğalbulaq in Az.) village. Drakhtik is situated in a precipice between two hills. The western hill is called Kashin Kar, or Nrnegavank, the north-eastern one is Kakhan. According to an 18c inscription, the head of the monastery on Kashin Kar Hill built a new church named after his wife Nrneg, and rebuilt the former chapel. Near Drakhtik Village, on top of a tall hill 1.5km W of the village is Surb Grigor Narekatsi church, built in 1645. It’s a one-nave basilica, with many khachkars around it. One of the religious sites is located just a couple of hundred meters above the W side of the village ⟪39.6267, 46.99334⟫. This may or may not be the 13-14c Kakhan holy place, with a 15-16c khachkar, which is meant to be 800m NW of the village. Also near Drakhtik is Gyune Art necropolis, dating to the Bronze Age. Stone coffins are buried in shallow graves. Partial excavations here revealed bronze bracelets, bells, grivna, chisels, pieces of plates, stone pestles, cornelian beads, iron knife, spar, sickle, and pieces of clay vessels. Abutting Drakhtik on the west was the tiny Azeri village called Shinategh (Salakatin, Salakyatin), now perhaps considered a part of Drakhtik. In the vicinity of Shinategh was once the Bridge of Yesayi, which had been built by Baba-bey Melik-Bakhtamyants's father, and his grandfather on the maternal side, Isayi Dayi, both originally from Togh village. The bridge was destroyed in 1842 by Zehnali and Mezhnu, two Azeris from Salakyatin, the news of which Baba-bey Melik-Bakhtamyants shared with Aslanbek Atabekyants.

A few meters after the last house of Drakhtik, a dirt road to the left (off the main highway) goes a long way along the Ishkhanaget River, passing a few destroyed Azeri villages (Yuxari Yaglivend, Qaramemmedli, Zerger, and Govsatli are in the area), and reaching the sprawling ruins of Varanda (Fuzuli or Fizuli), with a damaged Haji Alakbar Mosque of 1889-90 (named after the benefactor, who is buried in the mosque) and a carvanserai. Varanda was originally named Qarabulaq, then Karyagino in 1827 after Russian military hero Pavel Karyagin, then in 1959 renamed Fuzuli after Turkic poet Fuzûlî. It was captured on August 23, 1993 by Armenian forces, with the Azeri population fleeing E. After the Karabakh war, it was renamed Varanda after the historic Armenian name for the area, but remains uninhabited. Just E of Varanda is a reservoir, and many more destroyed villages which should be avoided due to proximity to the front line.

From Varanda, a road heading more directly W takes you to a small hill 4.5km W of Varanda (as the crow flies), on which sits Kavakavank Monastery ☆ ⟪39.60605, 47.0913⟫, an attractive church of untrimmed stone with trimmed stone on the portal and certain interior features with carved designs.

Interior of Azokh Cave.

Back at Drakhtik, where this section began, continuing 2.5km S on the main highway, at the approach to the next village, on the cliffs to the right will appear a trail leading up to the dramatic entrance of Azokh Cave ☆ (aka Vorvan Cave), a series of six chambers in a row, the largest is 3,000 square meters with some unimpressive stalactites and stalagmites on the walls. Remains of Neandrathal man have been found here as well as 300,000 year old art and tools. Visitors should be very careful not to disturb sleeping bats, who are sensitive to noise and light, and being woken up/driven out during the day can lead to bat colony destruction.

Near the opening, in a 7m deep excavation, archeologists discovered a part of the lower jaw of Mustyeryan man. The jaw fragment shows that the size and order of teeth differs from modern man's jaw. Thorough examination showed that the jaw had parts of the wisdom-teeth and two other teeth. The jaw is now kept in Azerbaijan’s Science Academy/History Institute. The remains of this man who lived 50-100,000 years ago have been given the name “Azokh Man".

Another cave was discovered near Azokh Cave. The length of underground passages of that mysterious cave is more that 300m. In the cave were discovered more than 20,000 bones of 43 various animals, as well as more than 6000 stone instruments and other objects. In the cave were discovered remainders of medieval stone constructions. Besides that, in recent years, 3km SE of the cave, in Urushen field, hydroworkers discovered a stream starting from the cave, which is 80m deep. This "Treasury cave" has not been well studied. This area once settled by primitive man has many millennia of history which is gradually being discovered. Next village on the highway is Azokh (806p Ազոխ; Azıx in Az.), with the well preserved 18c Surb Astvatsatsin church. Markhatun church ⟪39.632876, 46.96733⟫ is located in the forest less than 1km NNW of the village. To the W of the village is Tsits Khar Fort. In the surroundings of Azokh Village remain traces of the ancient settlements Paratos, Mshkerak, Khachi Khut, Tandzi Khut, etc. The 13c Tsiltakhach bridge (Ծիլտախաչ) is found 1km SW of the village.

Past Azokh the highway reaches a crossroads. Right will take you off the highway, continuing along the Ishkhanaget River, to Tstsakhach or Shmanek grotto ⟪39.60575, 46.959694⟫ (or simply Taghlar grotto) on the right side of the road (on the left bank of Ishkhanaget). From the outside the cave appears to have natural rocky half-circle windows. The cave consists of ten half-rounded arches. Four of them are next to each other and look outside, the others are placed inside. The floors of two of these “constructions” are earth, the walls and the ceilings are rock. The comparatively large and high arch is in the eastern part, where there are thick earth sediments. In 1963-64 archeologists dug a 7m long and 1.5m wide passage.

It was determined that the floor of the grotto consists of bedded cultural layers of the Paleolithic period. According to M. Huseynov the number of cultural layers in the cave is 16. All the layers, except for the very top one have rich archeological material: bones of panther, rodents, various birds, bear, horse, ox, Caucasian deer, mountain goat, etc. These fossilized animal remains are quite young compared with those of Karst cave of Azokh and differ greatly from them. The ancient objects found here are mostly made of obsidian (volcanic glass). The stone instruments are interesting for their forms, and techniques used in their production. The cultural layers of Tstsakhach have some parallels with Azokh cave but also have fundamental differences. If the bottom layers of Tstsakhach are almost identical with the instruments of Azokh cave, made by Neanderthals, then the top layers stand out by the perfection and refinement of forms. Prevalent here are instruments made of thin plates with fine decoration, knives, scrapers, drills, etc.

From the grotto, the road heads 1km further to Mets Tagher (1503p. Մեծ Թաղլար, first named Khaz after its founder, Daniel Kzhetsi, then Taghlar, then Nor Taghlar, is sometimes called Mets Tagher or Taghk; Böyük Tağlar in Az.), the last village on this road. Mets Tagher is a large village on the left bank of Ishkhanaget, in a hollow cut by three ravines. The first inhabitants of the village live by the eastern ravine, the western slopes are migrants from Haros and Taghlar villages, the central district residents are from the village Akna, situated not far from Khachen River’s Tigranakert, in the place of present Aghdam. So, in the beginning it was a large settlement, which was divided into distinct geographic parts, which is why the village was also called Tagher (i.e. districts). But when four stone bridges were built, that survive to this day, and some sections of the ravines were filled with earth, the districts united and the village was then called Mets Taghlar. In the village and in its surroundings there are number of ancient settlements, cemeteries, monasteries, churches, bridges, khachkars, caves and industrial buildings.

In the center of the village is one of the better-preserved monuments of Mets Taghlar, Amenaprkich church of 1846. It’s the largest (13x23m) one-nave basilica in the region. In the walls of the church remain two slabs, dated 13c, leading to the belief that there was a previous church on the same site. The church has stone of two colors, decorated portal and windows, an inscription, gravestones, an ornamented capital, and a gable roof. Nearby are a few 13-15c khachkars and the foundations of another church. 13-17c Yeghtsu Art village ruins are located 6-7km NW up the river canyon from Mets Tagher.

There are a number of historic bridges in the vicinity of Mets Tagher village. There is Makun bridge in the village (inscription reads: "In memory of Ghazar Harutyun Bejanyants, 1890."), then continuing past the Mets Tagher turnoff, and heading NW you come to 13-14c Togh-Tayis/Tahis bridge ⟪39.606734, 46.952578⟫ of 13-14c and further the 1835 Halevor (Halivor) bridge ⟪39.610833, 46.93339⟫ (with the inscription: "This bridge is built in memory of Gevorg's son Harutyun. I built it for my parents. May passersby pray for their souls.") at the major dirt intersection with a road going into a westward heading river valley with additional historic bridges.

Back at the crossroad, continuing S on the highway across the Ishkhanaget river takes you over the crest of a hill to another crossroad, with left again taking you to Varanda, and right taking you into Togh (700p. Տող, from the word meaning shake, a reference to earthquakes; Tuğ in Az.) village. Togh has been mentioned in written sources since the battle of Armenians against Arab invaders. Arakel precepter wrote:

“The fortified town [of Togh] in ancient times, according to Persian king’s writings, had 1500 houses. All the inhabitants were quite rich, had numerous jewels, and were tradesmen. They traveled to various countries, towns and villages, and while there, profitably traded. Their houses were decorated with valuable treasures. Here even worked a hippodrome, where army training and races took place. Thousands of bricks were baked in the work-shops…

"And the plain was arable, covered with gardens and plantations. Here one could taste delicious harmless wines and sweet fruits, and also buy fine silk…”.

“The eastern side [of Togh] was secured with a serf wall, into which were put three large iron doors. The tall mountain like a guard protected the other sides. On the relics of saints were built four basilica churches with arches, built from trimmed stone and also decorated with silver and gold ornamented crosses, in which they put the relics and remainders of miracle-working saints”.

During the height of Togh’s prosperity in the 18c and especially during the rule of prince Yegan and his son Yesayi there were four working churches and one monastery, which have been preserved up to the present. The serf-walls with front entries, iron doors and towers have disappeared.

Surb Stepanos Nahatak ☆ (St. Stephan the Martyr) church is situated on the SW side of Togh, in the large 12-19c cemetery with khachkars and tombs. Makar episcop Barkhutaryants recorded the following inscription on the entry’s square beam: “In the summer 1747, Prince Yegan and his son Prince Yesayi rebuilt Surb Stepanos church’s cover. Let (this be for) their soul’s memory”. The church is a rectangular hall with vaulted cover. In place of the present church existed a more ancient monument, which was wholly destroyed, and the stone was used in the new temple. The first church built here was very similar to the pagan temple that preceded it. At some point in medieval times a monastery was built and the church at that time was the cathedral of the monastery complex. The walls of the church have 51 khachkars built into them. Decorated with various ornaments, they are an interesting collection showing the chronology of the place. There are 12-19c graves around the church.

Surb Hovhannes Church is centrally located in Togh village. The church was built on a slope, with its N wall halfway stuck in the rock, and the S wall open with the foundations visible. The only entry of the church, on the W, opens towards the ramparted yard. On the SW corner of the yard is the rounded tower, with a panoramic view. The ceiling of the church rests on four pillars, and it has a gable roof. Built in approximately the 13c, the church-yard is the burial place of much of the region's royalty. In the 17c Prince Yegan funded the complete repair of the roof. The same prince had a large khachkar in the church wall recording his deeds. Many of the inscriptions here attest to an interesting history, including relations with Persia. The stone cross of the church is gone, but the inscription was recorded and once said: “In the year 1736. The cover of this Surb Hovhannes Church has been renovated by preceptor Ghukaz, son of Melik Yegann, in the memory of his soul. Who reads this, let him say at least once Lord have mercy”. Literature exists saying that “a narrow and long chapel, which served as a burial vault, where there were tombs of all the princes and their relatives” was situated very close to the W wall. Another manuscript mentions that in a burial-vault chapel with “wonderful construction” are buried “great military leaders”. Unfortunately nothing remains from the burial vault or from Surb Hovhannes church’s gavit other than the foundations.

200m from the church, by the road leading to the trimmed-stone memorial-spring in the center of the village, stands a very ancient ornamented khachkar. Absence of a pedestal and the simple style point to the early period of khachkars, around 9-10c. On the stone are carved three crosses, the central one is largest. The top part has carvings of grape vines with bunches of grapes. There are other notable khachkars in the village, from the 12, 16 and 17c.

Anapat (Hermitage): a simple church on a slope NW of and/or in a cemetery in the village, almost half-buried. Nearby remainders of cells and dwellings are noticeable as are ancient gravestones. One of the tombs belongs to Prince Bakhtum, who was betrayed and killed by Ibrahim Khan. The inscription says that Ibrahim “started such a tyranny in this land, during the course of which part of Togh’s Armenian population of princely residence was forcibly Islamized, even many representatives of Melik-Yegan’s house". The khachkar built into the front of the church, has "Surb Vardan Cross" inscribed on it and was most likely at one time a freestanding khachkar. The church seems to have been called Surb Vardan as well.

Melik's Palace of Dizak ☆ ⟪39.58803, 46.964236⟫ : The plain two-story palace of Dizak’s princes (meliks), the ruins of which are now part of a museum, is found in central Togh. The N and SE parts of the palace have noticeable traces of thick walls that stand out from the serf-wall perimeter. The complex was built in parts, with inscriptions showing that the first floor was built in the 1820-30s, and the second floor in the 19c. The second story was done in a style similar to that of the surrounding village homes at the time; windows with wide passages, large balconies with pillars, and tin roofs. The oldest building is on the NE; 2 halls with fire places are on the first floor, and an added second floor has a balcony. On the W end of the rectangular yard is a two-story building with a beautiful façade of trimmed stone and a pillared balcony. The walls of the bottom floor (except on the E), are blank and function as a continuation of the serf-walls. The pillared balcony had an additional functional significance-with its location above the yard, connected by stone stairs; it served as a stage during various ceremonies. Over the front door is a guest room with a balcony. The S end has the two-story guest room of Prince Yegan, 25m from the walls. It has a vaulted cover and double-arched front. The first story is a basement and connected by underground passages to the palace and garrison. The second story was added in the 19c and surrounded with balconies on 3 sides. The portal to the guestroom has the following inscription:

In the year of 1737, this guestroom is dedicated by preceptor Ghukas’ son, named Yegan. When the people gathered, I became the leader. After this, when in the country confusion began, I did some favors to the son of Shah Sultan-Khusayn King Taghmasp, and he confirmed my principality [over] them. Then came the Osman [Turkic tribe] and took [the country] away from him. I did him some favors too and when he entered Dizak, I didn’t let captives be taken from Armenia. From Arakh [central Iran] the mighty Shah Nadir came with his army and took the country back from the hands of the Osmans. I also did many favors for him, and he made me a khan and beklarbek over 6 Christian provinces -- Talish, Charaberd, Khachen, Varanda, Kochis, Dizak and received honors. One who later on reads and learns from the written, let him say once; Lord have mercy. The end. Amen”.

The facts of the inscription are confirmed by Armenian and Persian written sources of this period, and also by numerous other inscriptions remaining in Togh. On the gravestone of Artsakh’s ruler, Prince Yegan himself, we read:

This is the gravestone of brave prince, great prince named Yegan, son of pious precepter Ghukas. He was loved by all, and by Shah Nadir. He ruled over the region of Artsakh of Aghvank world. Was honored by Persians more than any other prince of Armenian country. In the year 1744.

These and other inscriptions/sources show that in the 18c there were feudal Armenian rulers here and they had good relations with both the Osmans and the Persians.

Prince Yegan’s successor was his son Aram, who was in power for only one year. After prince Aram came his brother Yesayi, who became one of the famous princes of Khamsayi, about whom there are songs and legends. Leo wrote that “Even today Dizak’s people speak of this great prince, who was the worthy successor of his father Yegan, and even excelled him in deeds”. Prince Yesayi's ornamented gravestone is inscribed, “This is Prince Yesayi’s tomb, son of great Prince Yegan. He was appointed prince by Nadir Shah, for 33 years he ruled over Dizak and had many exploits, many victories over the godless. He was braver and more pious than his ancestors. He lived 61 years, died in the summer of 1781, October 2, on Tuesday. He who reads this, let him say; Lord have mercy. Amen”.

In Togh, especially in its ancient gardens, very often you’ll find stone wine-presses and huge clay pitchers. In these parts there existed an interesting custom: on the day a child was born, his parents, dreaming of his wedding day, buried vessels full of red wine underground (the vessels usually ranging from 150 to 300 liters). They opened them on the wedding day. Being underground for years, the wine became crystal clear, “aromatic and harmless”. This buried wine was served on the wedding table, as well as to fighters, who had returned home. (Togh continues to be the site of wine production, with the excellent 🍷 Kataro wine, made by the Avetisyan Winery from local Khndoghni grapes.)

Another ancient custom was when they sent their son to the army they would plant a mulberry tree in his honor. Over time the number of these trees grew and grew, turning villages into mulberry gardens.

At that time Togh had a market, two silk factories, numerous workshops for wood processing and production of household utensils, ceramic workshops, oil presses and distilleries. On the banks of the village streams remain traces of six half-destroyed mills, numerous earth-houses, cave dwellings, springs and monuments. There is a one-span village bridge dating to 1719 which is still in use.

Also in the vicinity of Togh are:

  • Tsiltakhach khachkar (12c) and sacred place. In an area known as Teghun-tap, by the road leading to Azokh.
  • Kitats Karar Fort (means "heap of stones"). Ruins of an ancient, devastated fort which protected Mt. Dizapayt on the Toghadzor side during Arab rule. Its ruins stretch along both sides of the road to Mokhrenes, 2km from Togh. Around the fort are traces of various sized buildings.
  • Tahes settlement remains. Situated on Ishkhanaget's right bank, not far from Togh, in the direction of Mets Taghlar village. In the village are noticeable ruins of a church and several gravestones around it. By the bank are noticeable ruins of a mill, on the ravine’s slope several stone springs remain. This settlement is mentioned in Gtchavank’s inscriptions.
  • Hatam's Bridge (aka Kare or Murutants): 19c bridge situated on the road to Azokh, by the confluence of the rivers Ishkhanaget and Teghotaget.
  • Cemetery: One of the large, ancient cemeteries of Togh. Many of the gravestones are covered with inscriptions and reliefs. Located on NE outskirts of Togh.
  • A jhayrapor khachkar around Togh, jhayrapor literally meaning carved into a cliff

Towards the S end of Togh village, the road forks, with the right fork taking you first to the Gtichavank Monastery ★85 ⟪39.593676, 46.942456⟫ turnoff (Գտչավանք, technically pronounced Gətəchavank, and more properly transliterated Gtchavank), which is one of Artsakh's finest monuments. Built in the 10-13c, this architectural gem sits on a beautiful forested mountain with great views. It is sadly defaced with graffiti, including on the intricately carved khachkars, though a large ongoing restoration project should eventually address this.

Gtichavank was once seat to the region's religious leaders, with a school, scriptorium and library. Manuscripts say that before the present monastery was built, a famous church, which attracted many pilgrims stood, which was destroyed during Arabic rule. According to the inscription over the north door, the church was built from 1241-1248 with much toil by the brothers Sargis and Vrtanes, bishops who moved here from Amaras. They complained that these were rough times, with the Mongols ravaging everything. At the end of that century, the complex was expanded further, reaching the peak of it's prosperity as an important center of Armenian religion, politics and culture.

The fan-roofed main church is the finest structure of the complex, built from trimmed blocks of yellowish stone quarried in monastery's surroundings. There are intricate khachkars on either side of the interior portal, the S khachkar inscribed: "In the year 1246, I, Ter Vrdanes put this cross for the peace of my soul". Under the slabs on the floor are buried some of the clergy who served here, and some of Dizak’s princes.

Gtichaberd Fort (aka Ktish or Dogh Fort) sits on top of Toghasar Mountain, not very far from Gtichavank. During the early medieval period this was one of Dizak's important forts, and is mentioned many times in the medieval history of Armenia. The fort is primarily a natural fortification. From the N it is protected by an impregnable cliff, the E part is secured with walls, and the S & W face a ravine with strong vertical rocks. In the ravine’s clefts stretch unique constructions presenting a second line of defense. The fort communicated with outside world through a secret passage, which passed from its northern part through the tall rock opposite Gtchavank. Reservoirs were built to store water. Today there are only sparse remainders of the ancient fort. On top of the half-buried citadel, almost by the ravine stands a church of chipped stone, which the local inhabitants call Yeritsu Vorti (Priest’s Son Church).

Historian Tovma Artsruni wrote about Ktish fort and her protector, Dizak’s Prince Yesayi (or Isa Ibn-Yusud Apu-Musei as Arab historians call him). The historian writes how in the 9-10c, during Arab campaigns, the talented military leader on top of Toghasar created such a strong defense system, that the fort became impregnable for many ages and was never seized by enemy forces. He repulsed 28 attacks in a year, and they were finally able to capture him only by imprisoning him at the negotiating table. Nine centuries later, in the 18c, following the example of his brave ancestor, Dizak’s Prince Yesayi, sharing the name of his predecessor, rebuilt the fort and crushed the attacking forces of Ibrahim-Khan.

SE of Gtich Fort (berdavan), on the highest part of the hanging rock is situated the simple Tejh Church, which may be visible from Gtchavank’s yard or the foot of the fort. During an attack on the fort by Arab military leader Bugha, things were not looking good for him, so in a fury he ordered the sacred places of Gtchavank destroyed. Prince Yesayi in turn ordered his builders to erect a new church on top of the cliff, in 7 days, in front of the enemy’s eyes. Since the church was built during the hot moments of the battle, it was called Tejh (‘hot’). The church is a simple vaulted hall, built from chipped stone, with two entries and two windows. Inside the church are situated five small khachkars inscribed: Nazagh’s cross, Mkhipet’s cross, Shahum’s cross, Ghazaroy’s cross, and Yeghuay’s cross. On the square beam of the southern entry from the outside are pictured the Holy Virgin with child and a praying priest. On the square beam of the W entry there is a cross and portraits of priests praying. The date of construction is not known, but adjacent tombs give us a clue. On the E side of the church are several large, well-carved gravestone-slabs. One of the slabs is inscribed: “In the summer of 1257. Precepter Movses’ tomb…”, which implies that the church was built before that time.

After the Gtichavank Monastery turnoff comes the Mokhrenes (215p. Մոխրենես, also Mokhrenis; Susanlıq in Az.) village turnoff. There is a simple one-nave hall Surb Sargis church of 1840 in the village. Around the church remain numerous gravestones with inscriptions. Near the WWII monument (installed 1968) on the E edge of the village is a 13c khachkar. There is also a Sargis spring-memorial of 1810 in the SW part of the village, a 9-13c Khacher cemetery 300m W of the village with many khachkars, and a 14-15c Karaghbyur bridge 1.5km SW.

A road leading about 3.5km S of Mokhrenes village leads to the 9-10c Okhti Drni Monastery ☆ ⟪approx. 39.56071, 46.90307⟫ (Օխտը դռնի, more properly transliterated Okhtə Drne, meaning 'seven door' in the local dialect, with locals sometimes calling it Yot Drnani (meaning the same thing) or Khtudre vank.) is situated on a lushly forested slope of Mt. Yushusen, approx 3.5km SW of Mokhrenes village, near Taghal spring. The monastery and especially the main church are interesting because they belong to a type of rather rare, round poly-apside building, the only such monument of Artsakh’s architecture. The monastery is a place of pilgrimage, with only the church remaining of the original three main buildings and with some unusual ornaments intact. There are traces of defense walls, a cemetery, khachkars, and ruins of a chapel and other buildings.

Continuing past the Mokhrenes village turnoff, you reach the last village on the road - Tumi (752p. Տումի; Binə in Az.). In the village is 17c Surb Hovhannes Church and a 19-20c bridge. On the W side of the village is Goroz or Ghorozu fort. On the SE edge of the village is a 9-19c cemetery with a notable 11c Karmir khachkar. Located to the S of the village, by the right side of the ravine is Karmir Khach church (red cross) built in 1000 with only the E wall standing. The inscription of the casing of the W window says: “In the summer of 449 of Armenian chronology (1000 AD, Gregorian calendar) during Ter Gagik’s rule, Muse’s son and I, Sofi, Muse’s daughter built a house (of the lord) for our soul’s salvation and our parents”. Around it lie traces of destroyed constructions, as well as ancient and new cemeteries. A small beautifully ornamented khachkar dated 1611 stands out.

Not far from Karmir church, on top of a hill are noticeable ruins. Ceramic pipes from a nearby spring supplied the water to this area which local inhabitants traditionally call Tagavori Palat (King's Palace). A little further from the mentioned ruins, on the other hill remain foundations of some 12-13c cult-constructions, surrounded by a 9-13c cemetery. In the S part of the destroyed burial vault lies the unmarked tomb locals call Tagavori Gerezman (King's Tomb). Between these ruins and the village is a spring which is called Tagavori Aghbyur (King's Spring). These royal references are thought to refer to King Gagik.

In the surroundings of Tumi village are the following monuments:

  • Yeghtsu Khut cemetery of 12-13c is 500m S of Tumi.
  • Jrvanes bridge of 12-13c is 3.2km NE (⟪approx. 39.60333, 46.92177⟫)
  • Igakuts bridge of the 12-13c is 3km N. May or may not be the same as a bridge described as Nerki Igyakuts (Ներքի իգյակուց) bridge 1.5km N of Tumi, the ruined vault of which has been replaced with a structure of beams by villagers.
  • Nadar Aghbyur bridge of the 12-13c is W of the village.
  • Igakots (or Haykazn) ancient village. Situated E of Tumi, on the Ishkhanaget’s bank. Small ruined chapel, surrounding cemetery with large gravestones, noticeable traces of settlements devastated in the end of 15c.
  • Ghlenkar fort, also known as Berdakar, situated 6-7km W of Tumi, on a cliff. It is supposed that right on its top was situated fort Goroz. Remainders of serf-walls, large trimmed stone, remainders of mills, traces of various subsidiary defense constructions. Locals say the fort had a secret passage, whose location is unknown today.
  • Ghlen Kari Takə village site of the 7-13c, 500m N of Ghlenkar fort.
  • Taghal Spring, also known as Toghlar, is situated 800m N of fort Ghlenkar, with its temperature remaining unchanged at +4 Celsius throughout the year. In the past the spring was masked from enemies and its water was supplied to the fort by ceramic pipes which remain and 30 water basins also remain placed on mountain’s slope. That’s why the spring is called Toghlar, i.e. buried, masked.
  • Khutə Dre monastery (Խուտը դռե), 9-13c ruins found 1km W of Tumi.
  • Khttrokhut ruined village (Խտտրոխութ). 3km W of Tumi Village. Ruins of an ancient church, foundations of houses and weather-beaten slabs of the huge cemetery.
  • On the western slope of the hill, where the village is situated, is Vardapet Spring.
  • Stepanos Khut ruined village. 4km from Tumi Village. Gravestones and khachkars are scattered on the hill’s slopes, destroyed church entire village. The villagers of Tumi call this area Stepnotsents Khut. Prince Abu-Muse (‘Yesayi’ in Arabic sources) is very often mentioned with Stepanos.
  • Mkrtichi Teper (Mkrtich's Earthhouse): ruins of this summer-villa are situated between the meadows of Mt. Dizapayt and Tsaver forest on the right side of the road leading from Tumi to Khandzadzor.
  • Karmir Kar ruined village: is situated W of Tumi by the saw-mill.
  • Khachin Art. Ruins of an ancient church, 12c khachkars and traces of a settlement. Situated E of Tumi, on the right side of the road leading to Gtichavank.
  • Haykaz bridge: one-span bridge over Ikyats River. According to the inscription it was built in 18c. The bridge connected Varanda with Gtich and Kataro Monasteries.
  • Royal bathhouse. Situated by the road from Tumi to Chokhtprəvatsar Monastery, on a small clearing in the forest of Kefadzor (could that really mean party canyon?), by a spring. Here in the past were situated the health-resort of Dizak’s princes -- medieval baths with mineral waters.
  • Gergej village ruins dating from 13-17c are 3km W of Tumi.
  • Ghrants Kyumer village ruins dating to the 13c are close to 6km SW of Tumi.

By the top stream of Ishkhanaget, 4km from Tumi Village ancient tombs were discovered. The two rows of burial-pits were covered with 2.5m long slabs of limestone. In the pits were numerous clay vessels, beads made of bones and various stones, ornamented buttons, metal bracelets, and a ring made of valuable horn with a depiction of an insect. Such examination of female burials shows that many habits of Karabakh’s ancient inhabitants were preserved up until the recent past. For example burials with headbands of coins, earrings, decorations on sleeves and metal belts.

The left fork at the S end of Togh village takes you across a small river and a sharp ascent to Taghut (197p. Թաղուտ, also Taghot; Ataqut in Az.) village, with Surb Hovhannes church of 1896 with khachkar and tombstones. According to legend the village name comes from the word teghot, meaning elm grove in Armenian. The village was built in an elm-grove, several trees of which survive in the yard of Yot Khach Monastery and near Hamam’s spring. In the middle of the village the trimmed stone Tchvavank Spring-Monument - a good example of this type of monument. It was built in 1719/1738 by financing of tradesman khoja Ghazar in memory of his mother Mariam and deceased relative (also named) Ghazar.

Though the villagers call it Tchvavank’s spring (vank meaning monastery), it’s not actually the monastic spring. The latter is located on the N slope of the mountain-spur stretching along the side of the village, through a dense hornbeam forest. Water from this spring was brought to the village by clay-pipes through the forest and cliffs. And as the spring of khoja Ghazar gets water from here too, the name of the old spring transferred to the new one. In Taghut almost everyone knows the place of the monastic spring and ruins of Tchvavank, although the complex collapsed long ago. Tchvavank monastery's ruins are situated NE of the village, on the edge of a dense forest between two tops of the tall mountain. The monastic spring is situated below the monument, on the NE slope of the mountain. The inhabitants of Taghut have used the cold water of the monastery throughout the ages. The clay-pipes through which the water passed remain intact, with the water-resistant solution which seals the joints of the pipes still hard and strong.

Presently below ground level, the monastery was once protected with serf-walls and consisted of 7 main constructions. There are noticeable depressions from the destroyed buildings, remainders of walls from trimmed and chipped stone with or without lime-mortar. It stood until the 16c, finally collapsing during attacks by Turkic Aghkoyunlu and Karakoyulu hordes.

From Taghut, you take a right to go SW to Hakaku (146p. Հակակու; Ağdam in Az.), with an ancient history, situated in a narrow, picturesque mountain valley. Surb Astvatsatsin church of 1621 is a three-nave basilica located in the village. On the altar of a destroyed chapel in the outskirts of the village, placed on the edge of a precipice, stands a small ornamented khachkar from white marble. A number of khachkars are found 800m from the village in the Sev Khach holy place ('black cross'), mainly dating to the 9-11c, with a couple of later additions.

A left on the main road, heading away from Hakaku heads SE back onto the main North-South highway

2. Southern Foothills of the Ishkhanaget River Valley

Just 1.3km S on the main highway is the turnoff for Tsakuri and a string of other villages and sites along a dirt road hugging the southern foothills of the Ishkhanaget River Valley. They are presented below in order:

A bad dirt side track leading from Togh towards Tsakuri passes close to Ptkatagh Monastery (Պտկաթաղի վանք), which is between Tsakuri and Taghot villages, on a slope on the left bank of Mingoltegh River. All that remains today is the one-nave basilica church, built in 1670 from local rough stone. Around the church are noticeable traces of various constructions. At the end of the 19c, M. Barkhudaryants wrote, “In Ptkatagh lived several Armenian families”, who later on transferred to Tsakuri. One of the khachkars inset in the walls is inscribed “Tadevos’ cross”, another “Halo's cross”. Near the church walls are numerous scattered trimmed stones, fragments of khachkars and gravestones. N of the church, on the opposite bank of the river among bushes and fruit trees are noticeable foundations of ancient buildings, and piles of processed stones.

Continuing down the road from Togh you come to the village of Tsakuri (100p. Ծակուռի, same in Az.), with two spring-monuments from the 19c, one dated to 1865. In the center of Tsakuri is Tsaghkavank Monastery ☆ of 1682. All that remains intact is the main church -- with domed-basilica composition from the interior. The church has few decorations, plastered inside walls, arches, bays and cornices of the altar are built from trimmed stone of bluish tint, and the side-walls are from local roughly-trimmed stone. Most interesting in the church is that on the ceiling of the left vestry is cut a relief picture of a snake which was in this place from the very beginning. The church had been crowned with a dome. The oldest inscription, carved on a khachkar, is dated 1198. The tympanum of the church mentions that preceptor Hakob "built" [technically rebuilt] the church, the former cathedral in the summer of 1682. In contrast to the plain church is the highly decorated portal, which was rebuilt later on. Unfortunately the belfry has not survived.

Mariamadzor (260p. Մարիամաձոր; Mamedazur in Az.). Mountain spurs frame the deep ravine of Mariamadzor on two sides. Stretching along both slopes of the ravine, the two districts communicate with each other by means of a one-span bridge, built in the 13c by military leader Vanes according to Mkrtchyan, but built in 1869 by David and Grigor Asriyan according to Samvel Karapetyan. Under the cliffs of the ravine are cold springs. The upper ravine's left side has a Mariam Spring, considered a holy place. The village basilica church Surb Minas, according to the inscription of portal's tympanum is built in 1601. The northern wall is inscribed: “We, priest Azaria, priest David,- are the builders of the church…”. There also is the fragment of an inscription “This cross (belongs) to Baghdasar…”. In the village are the 18-19c Sorp holy place, the bridge and spring of 1867, and a 17-20c cemetery. Nearby are the 9-13c Hovhannes Fort, 2.2km SW of the village, the 11-13c reservoir somewhere SW of the village, and the Kaj Tatul memorial of 1991.

Jrakus (228p. Ջրակուս; Ciraquz in Az.). Situated on the northern slope of Vnes mountain, with a 19-20c Jrakus cemetery and the three-nave basilica Surb Stepanos village church which, according to the inscription was built in 1698 “by common people of Jrakuys”. Nearby to the NE is Kavakavank church, built in 1742.

Hogher (4p. Հողեր; Goga in Az.), with Hogher church of the 18c on the S side of the village and adjacent 19c cemetery.

Kyuratagh (269p. Քյուրաթաղ; Dudukchi in Az.), with Surb Astvatsatsin church of 1743 located 3km N.

Ukhtadzor (328p. Ուխտաձոր; Edilli in Az.), with a Surb Astvatsatsin church built in 1692 in the village.

Hakhlu/Hartashen (101p. Հախլլու; Axullu in Az.), with a Surb Astvatsatsin church built in 1621 in the village. Nearby is the Sev Khach holy place ('black cross') with a number of khachkars.

Aknaghpyur (333p. Ակնաղբյուր; Ağbulaq in Az.).

Tsaghkavank (23p. Ծաղկավանք; Xırmancıq in Az.), with a 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church in the village, and 19c cemetery 700m N.

Pletants (82p. Պլեթանց; Bulutan in Az.), with a Plutan Surb Stepanos church built in 1651, 17-19c cemetery and 17c khachkar in the village, and nearby watermill.

Melikashen (14p. Մելիքաշեն; Melikcanlı in Az.), with a Surb Harutyun church built in 1889 in the village, and 18-19c cemetery.

3. Katarovank, Hadrut Town, and Hadrut Valley

Heading S on the main North-South Highway from Taghut and Tsakuri, go over a pass with great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including the photogenic Toghasar mountain to the NW upon which Gtichavank monastery rests. As you pass the crest of the hill by the pass on your left, a very good dirt road comes up on the right. This very long dirt road leads for nearly 20km (keep right at the one fork you might be tempted to go left on) to the footpath leading up to Katarovank Monastery ☆ ⟪39.52614, 46.85612⟫ on Dizapayt's mountaintop, and at an elevation of about 2500m often in or above the clouds. Originally founded in the 4c and described by Pavstos Buzand in the 5c as a large monastery, the present structure is a single nave basilica dating to the 17c. Buzand relates the story of the invasion of Armenia in 335 CE by Massagetae and Huns. Apparently the missionary work of St. Gregory the Illuminator's grandson St. Grigoris, who was the bishop in this area succeeded in converting three of the Massagetae tribe's chief Sanesan's sons to Christianity. Sanesan ordered St. Grigoris to death by means of being tied to wild horses. His children fled to hide at Katarovank, which at the time held as many as 3870 hermits and pilgrims. Sanesan pursued them to the monastery and killed everyone there, including his three Christian convert sons. The Huns then destroyed the monastery and burned all the corpses.

The only real turnoff on the long road to Katarovank is a single left fork, that immediately leads down the S face of Dizapayt mountain, towards a number of tiny little alpine villages, most immediately Khanadzor. They are covered in the section for villages south of Dizapayt mountain.

Continuing S on the main North-South highway from the crest of the hill brings you to Karmrakuch (125p. Կարմրակուճ; Qumızıqaya in Az.) village on the approach to Hadrut, with 19c Surb Amenaprkich church, 19c cemetery, khachkar, ruined 10-12c village site, and nearby 10-12c Vnesa fort, presumably ruined.

Next is the actual town of Hadrut (2974p. Հադրութ; same in Az.), the administrative center of the region. The town is at the upper end of the Gozlu river valley. A number of very close-by villages are essentially suburbs of the town, which has many traditional 1-3 story residential, commercial and other buildings still standing today. Old Hadrut was once encircled with protective walls which are gone today. There are foundations of Berdi Mutk fort on the NE of Hadrut, the aforementioned Vnesaberd on the N, Tstsakhach fort on the S, and Tsoraberd fort on the SE. There is a Surb Harutyun church ⟪39.519673, 47.026145⟫ of 1621 in the town, some 14-16c khachkars, and an 800 year old plane tree a few meters down the road from the large WWII memorial.

From Hadrut, a road leading mainly W at first leads to Taghaser (496p. Թաղասեռ; Tağaser in Az.) village. One of the largest villages of the Hadrut river gorge, Taghaser is 2km from Hadrut, on the eastern slope of one of Dizapayt’s spurs. There is a spring-monument of 1915 and a 19-20c cemetery in the village. Nearby are Hin Taghaser bridge of 1763, inscribed "This bridge is in memory of Yapon Yekan's son Paghtasar, Pers' spouse. May you pray for his soul just once.", Ghuzen Ket bridge from the start of the 20c, and Ghamshot bridge built in 1939. 4 nearby settlements with their churches, cemeteries, and industrial/communal structures lie in ruin from the pre-Soviet period. Taghesari Anapat (hermitage) lies 1km W of Taghasar, on a small hill. It consists of a church and two half-destroyed buildings on the S and W sides of the church, all of chipped stone. Little remains of the serf-walls on the N part of the yard. The church is a one-nave, simple, rectangular basilica. According to the preserved inscription the hermitage’s church was built in 1635. There are about ten 17c khachkars in the vicinity of the Taghaseri Anapat, the area of which is called Napat by villagers. 4km from Taghaser village is a 17c Surb Astvatsatsin church.

After Taghaser village is Vardashat (163p. Վարդաշատ; Edişa in Az.) village with 17c Surb Hripsime church, and at the crest of the mountain is Sarinshen (27p. Սարինշեն, meaning: built on the mountain; Şahyeri in Az.) village. Sarinshen has a 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church, the Verin spring-monument ("upper"), and some khachkars and tomstones. 1.2km SE are the following three monuments: Shahkakh church (Շահկախ) of 1865, a pilgrim's house of 1875, and a 17c Shahkakh khachkar. In the area are a Shaghakh holy place (Շաղախ) and cemetery of the same name.

On the S edges of Hadrut are the villages of Tyak (71p. Տյաք; Tank in Az.), an especially untouched little settlement much of which is a historic-architectural reserve, along with a 19c Surb Mesrop church, a 19c cemetery and a 19c spring-monument on the NE edge of the village. Another village-suburb S of Hadrut is Vank (133p. Վանք; Vanq in Az.), with 13-17c Spitak Khach church ('white cross'), 3 shallow man-made caves (Կհոլ; kəhol), and khachkars and tombstones. Legend has it that when Timur (Tamerlane) conquered the region, he demanded a wall with a khachkar in a niche be destroyed, and the rocks be thrown into the Arax river, 35-40km away. Overnight however, they found the wall had been miraculously rebuilt by angels, and the process was repeated until Timur had to leave the region, with the monastery remaining intact. Vank has a road leading over the crest of the mountains to the tiny settlement of Tsor, covered in the section with the other villages south of Dizapayt.

Taking the main road out of Hadrut to the SE leads to Aygestan (308p. Այգեստան; Qoçbəyli in Az.) village, with Surb Harutyun church of 1741 and with the nearby site of 17-18c Hin Kochbek village ruins ⟪39.529056, 47.06628⟫ 2.5km N. The next village of Norashen (112p. Նորաշեն, Norshen; Günəşli in Az.) appears a bit further just S of the road, with a Hin Norashen church of 1892 located 1.2km S, and many new houses built by the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union). The AGBU has also built homes in Pareshen and Jrkan villages. Beyond this on the road are primarly destroyed Azeri villages, with the road ending at a traffic circle leading N to Varanda, or S towards Iran, which is likely off-limits for non-locals, and offering little other than destroyed villages. One exception on the road S is the Garghabazar Caravanserai ☆ ⟪39.538413, 47.15738⟫ of 1681 in the ruins of Garghabazar village, which also has the simple Haji Giyaseddin Mosque of 1683-4, more popularly known as Shah Abbas Mosque. From the door inscription: "This mosque was constructed by Haji Giyaseddin, the kind creature of Great Allah, in Hegira 1095 [1683-4]".

4. Villages South of Dizapayt Mountain

Khandzadzor (137p. Խանձաձոր, "sun-scorched ravine"; Aghjakend in Az.) - In the center of the village, between ancient springs and a church stands a huge and tall hornbeam tree, the age of which is unknown. The tree is the reason for the village's nickname of Tsarishen (buildings of the tree), which has also been translated into Azerbaijani- Aghajakend. The church is a one nave basilica named Surb Hovhannes, built in 1698, and a 19c Surb Astvatsatsin church in the SE part of the village. There is a spring monument of 1849 in the village, and a 9-10c khachkar. In the surroundings of the village, in the areas known as Hangats Yeghtsun Khut and Yeghtsun Dzor there are foundations of constructions, broken khachkars and gravestones. On one of the cliffs, not far from Dizapayt’s top remain walls of Ghlen Kar Fort. Two secret paths lead to the fort, as the fortification from 4 sides is surrounded with impregnable mountains. There are still noticeable traces of ancient dwellings and separate sections of auxiliary defense constructions. Pitchers, daggers, coins and other objects were found in the area of the fort. There are also the 9-13c Dizapayt and 9-13c Berdahos forts in the area.

Hin Tagher (168p. Հին Թաղլար, Hin Taghlar; Köhnə Tağlar in Az.) - Among the hills 4km S of Kataro Monastery, Hin Tagher is one of the oldest villages of Dizapayt. The Amenaprkich basilica church was built in either the 16 or 19c, depending on the source. There are about a dozen 15-17c khachkars plus ornamented gravestones by the church walls. In the area surrounding Hin Tagher are five ruined villages: Surb village ruins, with ruins of an ancient church and adjoining large cemetery is located 8km SW of Hin Tagher. The church is known as Hangats Yeghtsi among the inhabitants of the village. The next village is called Shinagegh. A little W of the ruins of dwellings there is a cemetery. The third village is W of Hin Tagher, in the Erktaver area. Much of the cemetery is overgrown with forest. The stone spring Surb still flows. The fourth village stretches 2km from the village. Here too is found a cemetery, W of which, on a rocky slope is a ruined village called Gnjetsots Art. The last village is situated NW of Hin Tagher, in the Ghlats Dzor area. There is a large old cemetery.

Tsamdzor (83p. Ծամձոր; Dərəkənd in Az.) village is divided into three districts by three rivers, which communicate with each other through the Dzomin Khach ⟪39.49571, 46.96636⟫ and Sumbutanuts/Smbotan bridges ⟪39.48203, 46.963767⟫ (those names according to Shahen Mkrtchyan and Samvel Karapetyan, but the Artsakh's Ministry of Culture calls them Orhnats Jri Dzor and Pkladzor), the latter bridge 1.5km S of the village, at the confluence of Mets Shen and Hora Dzor rivers. The three-nave basilica Surb Astvatsatsin is in the center of the village. The church was at first built in 12c, and rebuilt in 17c. In the village was once a Sheni Tegh church. A 16c Ottoman campaign drove the unarmed villagers to the church and blew it up. After this the church became known as Hangats (extinct) Church.

In the SE part of Tsamdzor is Parik Shen village site (with three large cemeteries), and on the NE are Tighenak and Shenin Tak (with interesting cemetery) village sites. Additional cemeteries are found at places known as Yot Gang/Okhtə Karkajh ("seven skulls") and Tighenak. On the NW wing of Tsamdzor is the known as Handin Dzerk ruined small chapel, in the place of priest Shaghakh’s martyrdom.

Tsamdzor is one of the few villages of the area where numerous earth-houses, underground sheds and even chapels remain in nearly their original form. The earth-houses, rather large and deep, have no stone walls. From outside only their entries are seen, the rest is under ground. These unique dwellings were turned into safe hiding places during times of danger. On the outskirts of the village stands the huge yew tree named Param Keni. In local legend the tree is known as the sad yew. It was revered as sacred, and people didn’t even touch its fallen dry branches.

Banadzor (174p. Բանաձոր; Binədərəsi in Az.) is situated in Avazot (sandy) canyon, and has a 17c Surb Astvatsatsin three-nave basilica church with some trimmed stone elements and tile roof. There are preserved gravestones, khachkars and epigraphic inscriptions. Spitak Tgha chapel ('white-boy') of 12-14c is located in the SW parts of the village. Ala-ghap house is the name of a village house built from trimmed white stone. Over the arch of the gates is the guest-room and next to that is a vaulted room.

Petik Shen village ruins are NW of the village, and those of Shinategh on the N outskirts. Pitchers, trimmed stones, khachkars, etc. were unearthed in their ruins. In Shinategh there remain the ancient Stepanants Tsmak and Avetin Ghuzen burials. Traces of villages are also noticeable in areas known as Adilu and Duze Davalu. Also nearby are an over 500 year old plane-tree with a trunk 7m in circumference, and Ushapan Jhayr, a cliff with a u-shaped opening, located on the road to Shaghakh.

Jraberd (4p. Ճրաբերդ, Hayrenater; Mülküdərə in Az.) is home to the one-nave Surb Astvatsatsin basilica, built in the 19c on the foundations of a much older monastery. Pieces of ornamented stones, gravestones and khachkars remain from the monastery. In the vicinity of the village are:

  • Srber or Okhti Khach monument is situated 1km N of the village. In the area are noticeable traces of dwellings, trimmed stones.
  • Tkhku Khach ("maple cross"). This sacred place is situated 300m NW of the village, on a beautiful hill. Few traces of walls and dwellings remain.
  • Drshu Yeghtsi. Settlement, ruins of a church and an ancient cemetery. Judging by the ruins, this was a large settlement.
  • Nerkin Shinategh. Situated 4km SW of Vanadzor (Banazur). Of this village, all that remains is the cemetery. It is a place of pilgrimage for women who suffer sterility. The cemetery is shared by Hayrenater and Yere Shinategh. On many gravestones, usually ornamented, there are inscriptions. Among the reliefs we see images of scissors for cutting grape-vines, cups for wine and scenes of sewing.
  • Ghlen Dzor ("fort’s ravine"). Ruins of the fort are situated 5km SW of the village. Of the 3m thick fence, encircling the 600m area’s perimeter, remain only sections. The fortification also has two caves.
  • Jraberd (old): the village site with a cemetery, remainders of defense walls and foundations of various constructions occupies a large area. Situated 6km from the village. Many of the gravestones are covered with interesting ornaments.
  • Vəerti Hand (vierd is the dialect form of vord- worm). Ruins of a large village, approx. 50 hectares, situated on the plateau between Jraberd and Haykavan villages. Virtually nothing remains standing.
  • Dadun K'hol. Dadi underground dwelling is situated 1km W of the village. The entry is a vertical passage, which widens to the bottom, opening over the underground hall. The hall, gradually narrowing, turns into a corridor 50m long and divides into branches.

Haykavan (68p. Հայկավան; Sirik in Az.), with a 9-10c khachkar in the village.

Khtsaberd (165p. Խծաբերդի, derived from yekeghetsaberd, meaning church-fort; Çaylaqqala in Az.) is surrounded by mountains. To the east rises Sahnasar mountain, with Mets Sar on the W, Surb Khut to the S, and to the N a mountain with the well-known * Katnaghbyur spring ("milk spring"). The existence of a fort here is evident by the remainders of dwellings encircled with a ruined stone fence on Mount Slkhan. There's a 9-11c Temin Ser cemetery on the W edge of the village, a 16-20c cemetery in the village, the fortified villages Hazaraprkich, Pullur-Ptok or Surb Khut with remainders of dwellings, half-destroyed churches and khachkars. 3km W are the ruins of 16-17c Yeghtsin Dzor church with khachkars. Teghin Surp khachkar (10-11c) and holy place is 1km SW of the village. In the center of Khtsaberd stood Surb Astvatsatsin Church. This three-nave basilica with trimmed walls became the victim of communism. On its foundations, from its own stone in 1936 was built the village club.

Spitakashen (22p. Սպիտակաշեն, meaning white village; Ağkənd in Az.) village has a Tezkharabi Church with a sacred black mountain-rock, which legend says is painted with the blood of St. Vardan, hero of the battle of Avarayr.

Arpagetik (Արփաքետիկ; Arpagədik in Az.) is a tiny hamlet of about new 10 houses on the site of an older tiny village. Lower on the slopes are:

Tsor (24p. Ցոր, Tsur, Tsoraberd?; Sor in Az.), with Surb Amenaprkich, a three-nave basilica standing in the center of the village. This 18-19c church was built in the place of a church built in 951.

Surb Lusavorich Anapat ⟪39.48803, 47.00428⟫ is a hermitage is situated 2-3km W of Tsor, on a small plateau of the ravine’s left bank called Napatin Dzor. This half destroyed construction, rectangular in scheme, is built from gray untrimmed stone. Around the hermitage is scattered a large cemetery with numerous gravestones with pictures of domestic scenes and reliefs of saints. Many of the gravestones have inscriptions from the 13 and 18-19c. From the chapel are seen ruins of an underground burial-vault. There are two water mills a little downriver from the hermitage at ⟪39.48553, 47.01047⟫ and ⟪39.486917, 47.006806⟫, and a third one ⟪39.48014, 47.025083⟫ further down, closer to an old bridge.

In Tsor village are two bridges, a 19c bridge, and a 20c bridge known as Nerkin ("lower"). There's also a bridge ⟪39.478306, 47.029972⟫ about 1.5km SE of the village.

NE of Tsor and the mountain road leading to Hadrut is the ruined Tsoraberd ("canyon fort") ⟪39.495584, 47.030325⟫. Due to it's position, the picturesque mountain fort was militarily almost impregnable during its time. There are rising cliffs of the S side, massive serf-walls on the opposite side, and a difficult road. The fort’s vantage allows the observation of the surrounding ravines and canyons, making surprise attacks nearly impossible. Ruins of serf-walls and earth-filled reservoirs are all that remain today of the main constructions of Tsoraberd. The fort had two entries, and walls built from untrimmed stone and lime mortar which were around 2m thick. Clay pipes, bronze arrow-heads and daggers have been found on the territory of the fort. 700-800m SE of Tsoraberd is a hollowed out space in the rock known as Zavun Tsak by locals. It is unknown who and when it was made, but it most likely was part of the defense systems placed near the fort.

S from Tsor village in Mmkhorken ravine there is the Minkhorik semi-ruined chapel and sacred place. According to legend, it was built on the spot of the martyrdom of siblings Mina and Khoren. 100-150m below the hill is the sacred place, with a cold spring, several hornbeams and plane trees. Old directions explain the location as visible in a high spot from the almost half-way point on the road from Hadrut to Jrakan.

Dzoragyugh (37p. Ձորագյուղ; perhaps Daşbaşı in Az.?), a tiny village between Arakel and Jraberd.

Arakel (176p. Առաքելի, Arakyul, Rakel; Arakül in Az.), meaning apostle in Armenian, is named such because Apostle Thaddeus is said to have stayed here. The present Arakel was founded in 1828, after the treaty of Gyulistan was signed, when some of the old inhabitants who were driven out by force returned. By 1912 the inhabitants of the village numbered 1235, though today there are just 176. The church of this settlement is called Napat and is situated in the cemetery of new Arakel. Mariam Astvatsatsin Church ☆ ⟪39.44195, 46.9959⟫, a domed three-nave basilica with an 18m high dome, stands out just above the village, in a the destroyed N part of the village which was the old Arakel. The church was financed by affluent villager Makich Grigoryan, who lived in Baku. 30,000 in gold pieces was spent on building the church from 1902-1907. The church was designed by an architect from Tbilisi, and 7 Greek painters were brought in for the interior frescoes. Much of the interior walls are covered with finished stone, some of which is carved. The exterior is less impressive. In the mid 1960’s, the ornamented church bell was found in a heap of scrap metal at the railroad station of Horadis, and transferred to the regional museum. The bell of 200 pounds is the skillful work of the famous masters of Nishni Novgorod in the 18c. 4-5km SW of the village are 7-13c Berdakar fort and 16-17c Verin Shinategh cemetery. In the surroundings of Arakyal there are several deserted and devastated settlements.

Saralanj (28p. Սարալանջ; Cilən in Az).

Arevshat (180p. Արևշատ). Near this mountain village lie the following sites:

  • Karahovit ancient burial-mounds. The glen is not at all stony, despite the name Karahovit, i.e. stony glen.
  • Tovmas Fort is placed on top of the mountain of the same name. Isolated from all the sides and covered with woods, the mountain is situated on the left bank of Zingyanakap, SE of Amutegh. Through the destroyed serf-walls are seen ruins of a church, which was part of Tovmas monastery. From the fragmentary inscriptions we learn that the church was built in the 13c by priest Tovmas.
  • Hangats Yeghtsi (extinct church) is situated 3km from Arevshat Village. It’s completely destroyed. According to the inscription on a slab here, the church was built in 1229.
  • Gerezmanots Khut: traces of a destroyed village near the cemetery. In some places are scattered pieces of trimmed stones with unreadable inscriptions in Armenian and gravestones with reliefs.
  • Traces of ancient settlement also remain in the places known as Gabrieli Surb, Kyapu Khoter, and Yerghani Tak. Clay vessels, pieces of tile, arms and decorations were found in these areas, as well as a mill-stone, which is now exhibited in the regional museum (or at least was in Soviet times).
  • Surb Astvatsatsin one-nave basilica built in 19c during the period of Melik’s power in Artsakh.

The ruined town of Cəbrayil/Jabrayil/Jebrail, with a military base, has been renamed Jrakan. 3km S of Jrakan is the newly built village of Arajamukh. Far W of Jrakan, at ⟪39.374, 46.763⟫ are the ruins of the Azeri village Dağ Tumas, which was part of the Jabrayil Rayon in Soviet times, but may lie in Artsakh's Kashatagh region now. In or near the village is the Bashikesik Dome ("Headless" Tomb), a 12m high presumably Turkic or Persian tomb from the 13-14c. In the very general vicinity are the ruins of Şıxlar (Shikhlar) village with Shikhlar tomb, 8m high and 6m wide. Near the ruins of Xubyarlı (Khubyarly) village are Dairevi (round) Tomb of the 15c, and another hexagonal tomb of the 16c.

This entire plain below the mountain slopes is virtually empty since the Karabakh War. The Arax River which marks the S boundry with Iran has a new hydroelectric dam with a huge reservoir, just above the Khudaferin Bridges. The partially standing first bridge of the 11-12c is covered with finished stone, and once had 11 arches. Visible just 750m downstream is the large, impressive and intact second bridge of unfinished stone with 15 arches. It is fenced off to prevent crossings.

Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook
Intro

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