Spitak is a city in the Lori Marz, the northern part of Armenia. Spitak city is mostly famous for the devastating earthquake of 1988. Although Spitak is not a very popular destination among tourists, the town does have numerous picturesque sights with historical value to offer!
Spitak was initially established as a village in the 17th century. When Eastern Armenia was under the rule of Persia, the settlement was called Hamamlu (literally, “hamam” means “bath” in Persian), since it had numerous baths.
Armenian migrants from the Persian Khoy town were among the first inhabitants of Hamamlu village.
The settlement was renamed Spitak in 1949 and granted a town status in 1960, during the Soviet period. “Spitak” means “white” in Armenian: the city was named so, due to the white limestone rocks, present in the surrounding areas.
Basic Information about Spitak
The today’s Spitak started to develop as a settlement one millennium before Christ. Its territory was included in the historical Gugark Province of Ancient Armenia (Dzorapor Canton).
Now, there is a special day, dedicated to Spitak city, called “The Spitak day”, celebrated every year on the 15th of July.
If you visit the city on this day, you are going to spend your time much more interestingly. There are various concerts and amazing events, organized on Spitak city day. Before that, get introduced to some basic facts about Spitak town and its history!
Spitak Location and Area
Spitak is located in the Lori Marz of the Republic of Armenia, surrounded by the mountains of Bazum and Pambak, as well as Pambak River. The town is situated 1650 m above sea level and 96 km from Yerevan (to the north).
The total area of Spitak is about 57.6 sq. km (approximately 22 sq. mi).
Climate of Spitak, Armenia
Spitak can be characterized as a town with mostly cold winters and comparatively mild summers. Its climate is conditioned by the surrounding mountains and rivers.
The average precipitation in Spitak annual is around 440 mm.
Before the earthquake of 1988, Spitak population used to be more than 15000 people but, because of that tragic event, 3000-4000 people died.
Presently, according to the most recent official census (2011), the population of Spitak is around 12000 people.
The population largely consists of ethnic Armenians who are followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church. There is also a very small Yazidi community, living in Spitak town.
How to get to Spitak
As mentioned earlier, Spitak is located 96 km north of Yerevan city, on the highways of Vanadzor-Gyumri and Vanadzor-Yerevan. The railway Tbilisi-Vanadzor-Spitak-Gyumri-Masis also runs through Spitak territory.
The motorway M-3, passing through the town of Spitak, connects the capital city, Yerevan, with Vanadzor. The motorway M-7, starting from this town, connects Gyumri, the northern capital of Armenia, with Vanadzor (the capital city of the Lori Marz, Armenia).
One can get to Spitak very easily from the center of Yerevan, by taking a taxi or just take a bus (or minibus) right to Spitak from the Kilikia bus station of Yerevan (the cost is around 1000 AMD or 2 USD).
As one can see, Spitak has a huge importance, being a significant transportation hub in Armenia.
What is Spitak Famous for?
Spitak city, as mentioned above, is famous for various aspects. It is an industrially and culturally developed town that also has its ancient history.
Spitak is home to the town cultural house, three public libraries, as well as several cinema theaters. It also houses the Ethnographic Museum of Spitak.
However, the modern-day town of Spitak is mostly known as one that suffered a lot by 1988 earthquake.
Spitak Earthquake of 1988
The tragic event, known as Spitak earthquake, happened on December 7th in 1988. As a result, the city was totally destroyed and thousands of people lost their houses and became homeless.
The earthquake happened when the collapse of the USSR was already not far away. Two years after the earthquake Armenia regained independence from the Soviet Union.
Due to the united efforts of the newly-created Armenian government and, of course, the powerful Armenian diaspora, Spitak and surrounding regions were gradually restored. There was also much assistance, received from numerous countries of the world. But still many parts of the city remain in ruins.
December 7th is one of the most tragic days in the history of Armenia, because that was one of the strongest earthquakes in the world during 20th century. Famous Armenian-Russian director, Mher Mkrtchyan shoot a movie dedicated to the memory of the victims.
The movie is called “Earthquake” and original language is Russian. Even though it is not in theatres right now, but from the trailer it already seems very dramatic and touching.
Things to See and Do in Spitak
Among the most interesting sites of Spitak, we can mention the archaeological site of Spitak, the ruins of an ancient Armenian settlement. It is located near the Sardar hill, dating back to the 1st millennium BC. Pambak River bridge is also worth mentioning (dating back to the 19th century).
Thing to See in Spitak #1: St. Harutyun Church
St. Harutyun, also known as the Saint Ressurection Church, is a monastery, located in Spitak city of the Lori Marz.
The construction of this church was suggested by the Armenian Catholicos Vazgen I. The construction program was completed by the Armenian Catholicos Garegin I. In 2001, the church was officially opened by Garegin II.
The special thing about the St. Ressurection monastery of Spitak is, that it is the only church of the city. That’s why it has a special value both for local people and foreign visitors who love visiting churches and monasteries!
The church complex includes many crosstones (or “khachkars”, in Armenian), as well as monuments, dedicated to the martyrs of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) War and the Armenian Genocide as well.
Thing to See in Spitak #2: The Archeological Site of Spitak
The archeological site of Spitak dates back to the 2nd millennium BC. This place will be the most interesting destination for those who love exploring history and ancient findings.
In the territory of archeological site of Spitak, you can get introduced to the ancient and medieval lifestyle of local people, their settlements, how they lived and created.
The most special thing about this sight is its historical value and significance that are priceless in this sense!
Thing to See in Spitak #3: Trchkan Waterfall
The waterfall of Trchkan is the highest one in the Republic of Armenia, located on a height of 23 meters. It’s flowing down on one of Pambak River’s inflows, Chichkan River.
What is special about this waterfall is that it is locate on the border between the provinces of Lori and Shirak. It is also popular for its tasty trout.
Trchkan waterfall received the status of a natural monument of Armenia in 2008 and was announced to be a specially protected area in 2011.
If you decide to visit this site, you should know many travel agencies around Armenia organize interesting and informative tours to Trchkan waterfall!
We assure you, a visit to Trchkan waterfall will become one of the most unforgettable memories of your life, making you want to come here again and again.
Thing to See in Spitak #4: The Ancient “Sardar Hill”
The settlement, known as “Sardari Blur”, dates back to the 3-1st millenniums BC. Literally translated from Armenian, “blur” means “hill”, so as the name suggests, this tourist destination is located on a highland, “Sardar Hill”.
It is important to note that the settlement of “Sardar Hill” is situated in the western part of Spitak town, so one can easily get there even on foot!
Just like the previously described tourist destination, “Sardar Hill” also provides its visitors the opportunity to get knowledge about its past inhabitants and their activities.
Thing to See in Spitak #5: Pambak River Bridge
As we have mentioned above, Spitak city has rich water resources, rivers and their tributaries. One of them, flowing near the city is Pambak River.
Pambak River’s bridge is an amazingly beautiful place to be! This is a single span bridge that dates back to the 19th century.
The Pambak River and its bridge are located in the territory of Spitak city, not far from Avtokayan (the bus stop of Spitak). Standing on the bridge, you can admire the breathtaking views and amazing monuments of the surrounding Armenian nature.