Past the village of Yenokavan lies the lush, wild, deep Yenokavan Canyon. With the river rushing through it, there are cliffs, caves, forests, waterfalls and rapids to explore. A part of the canyon has been privatized, which has helped open it up to visitors.
Anapat Cave (40 54.19 x 045 03.71) has a style of pre-Christian carvings which are unique in Armenia. One wall is covered solid in figures of people and faces. Later carvings included crosses and altars.
Lastiver Cave is hard to access on a cliff face, and the entrance has been partially protected with an ancient wall. There is a pond taking up most of the cave, whose water level is supposed never to change - even if you remove water it immediately returns to it's previous level.
By the river, which has beautiful cascades and rapids, there is a campground built, with amenities. Or if you prefer, you can set up on your own. The area is a concession though and you might be asked for a small fee regardless of where and even whether you camp. Some of the trails can be a bit hard to follow, so a guided walk (1,000 dram per person) is well worth it.
Tours/camping/transportation/food can be arranged by Vahakn
(0 263) 3-14-65 Ijevan land line (091) 36-54-37 mobile
INSIDE IJEVAN: VILLAGERS OFFER VISITORS A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
By Suren Deheryan ArmeniaNow Reporter
The sport watch on Ashot Levonyan's wrist indicated 1495, the height above sea level of the hill near the village of Yenokavan where the tour guide was making final preparations with a group of tourists for a long hiking trip through a forest-covered gorge.
The path leading to the gorge begins from this high hill called Gomer or Isharats by Yenokavan's villagers. There were Soviet-era communal cattle-sheds here even before the notion of a tourism industry penetrated these parts.
But it is already a year that this territory has been a tourist magnet as a result of investments by the Moscow-based doctor Artak Chibukhchyan, a native of the village. The cattle-sheds have been turned into stables and surrounded by wooden chalets, tents, a bathhouse and toilets. Tourists are offered several sight-seeing tours on horseback or on foot.
Chibukhchyan, who set up the Apaga Tour Company, decided to turn his birthplace into a recreational area for those who prefer a healthy and active holiday. Nature in these parts has generously created all of the preconditions.
Yenokavan is situated in the north-east of Armenia, 10 kilometers from the town of Ijevan. It is located at a height of 1,000-1,300 meters, surrounded by hills, and close to a forest-covered gorge about 100 meters deep that ranges for about five kilometers.
The route of the expedition is through this gorge. Members of the party are supplied with handmade sticks by the stable watchman Habek Gabrielyan, walk in close file along the path and disappear into the forest one after another.
Awaiting them ahead are caves, springs, inimitable sights and waterfalls. The local forest is rich in wild fruit-trees and bushes, among which are pear-trees, plum-trees, cornelian cherry, raspberry and wild strawberry. Local villagers use them to make jams, juices and vodka.
When Levonyan's watch indicated a height of 1,430 meters, the expedition stopped for a moment. The guide informed them that this was one of the impassable parts of the gorge called Ishadzor or Eshi dzor (Donkey's Gorge), as one donkey carrying a heavy load once fell down from here.
After a long descent the line of backpackers passes by springs, trees that have collapsed and cracked from old age, multicolored flowers, and through narrow boulder turns until they reach a cave called Lastiver or Anapa. Its splendid views make the hikers forget their hard journey for a moment.
The gorge of Yenokavan has several caves - from 10 to 30 meters long and about 15 meters wide. According to Levonyan, people hid in these caves from marauding Tartar-Mongol hordes during the 9th to 11th Centuries.
The seal of mankind is put here on the walls of the cave - through dozens of beautiful carvings that depict man and beast side by side as well as images of large and small crosses. It is due to these crosses that some people visit Lastiver today as a place of pilgrimage.
`People need such trips,' says Levonyan. `They may seem tiring and hard, but such immediate contact with nature cleans the negative emotions from the body. In other words, just as a church is a place for spiritual purity, nature is also very medicinal. When you walk here, you establish mental contact with nature.'
Smoke slowly rises from a fire down by the cave. This is from a camp which was not here even a month ago. It was set up by Vahagn and Tatul Tananyans, young brothers from Ijevan who also aim to develop hiking tourism here.
In spring they founded a tourist company with the symbolic name of `Peace to the World' and rented a space from Hayantar (Armenian Forest Department) State CJS Company near the territory of the caves. They built a camp near the river and now await their first visitors.
`We used to come to these forests for 10 years and it was our hobby, we would bring our friends with us. Now we have decided to turn it into a business, as many do not know about these places,' says 27-year-old Vahagn.
`We haven't yet seen the result of our efforts. We have agreements with tourist companies to send tourists to us. Now we are waiting for them. We are prepared to receive about 15 people.'
The camp is located near the river Khachaghbyur. It is a paradise for those keen on wildlife. The whole camp consists of tables made of pieces of dried trees, chairs, wooden wardrobes and tents. On the one side there is a field kitchen, and on the other end, a little away, a toilet. In the middle is the fire with a kettle of water boiling on it.
Arman Gabrielyan, 21, a groom at the Chibukhchyan stables, also accompanied the expedition. The young Yenokavan villager climbs back up with Tarzan-like strides, while the tourists strain to keep up.
`I love these places,' says Arman. `I come here all year round guiding our visitors. Sometimes I serve as an example for tourists not to avoid the difficult parts. For example, some Americans came once but avoided bathing in the waterfall. I did, and only after that, making sure that there was no danger, they also submerged themselves in the water.'
The tour ends where it started - in Gomer where watchman Habek has prepared a hot-water bath. Habek has kept a guestbook for a year already and, before saying good-bye to his visitors, he asks them to make an entry.
Among the memories is this from student Norayr Avanesyan: `I give my thanks to nature that created such places where I can fly in my thoughts, where my muse visits me. Here my thoughts come together and create a song. Feeling freedom and the fragrance of nature here, you don't want to go back.'
Levonyan advises prospective visitors that a tour of several days is needed to get acquainted with all the historical and cultural monuments in the area (fortresses, churches, khachkars) and to see the sights properly.
For further information about Ijevan contact the Apaga Tour at (+ 374 10) 57 03 28, (+374 91) 49 58 34, http://www.apaga.info
This article is Copyright © 2005 ArmenianNow.com, all rights reserved. Used with permission, granted to Armeniapedia.org.
View from window of Anapat Cave