Debed is the largest river of Kur’s basin, which is made by two small rivers Pambak and Dzoraget. It runs mainly through narrow and deep canyons.
Debed has a very significant role of irrigation, it irrigates most of the fruit gardens in Noyemberyan region. The depth of the canyon reaches 350 meters.
What is Debed Canyon and What is Around?
There are many historical sites around Debed canyon, which are known as touristic destinations in Armenia. Among them are: Haghpat, Sanahin, Akhtala, Kobayr, Bardzraqash St. Gregory church and others.
Debed river impressed people as a real terrifying one, because of its description in Armenia’s national poet Hovhannes Tumanyan’s “Loretsi Saqo” (Saqo from Lori) poem, where the main character goes mad being alone in the canyon at night.
Nearly every village along the Debed River has a famous church, a chapel, an old fort and many khatchkars somewhere nearby, which perfectly reflect Armenian culture. The whole territory of the gorge houses five of Armenia’s finest churches and monasteries, all of them worth visiting.
Among them, two World Heritage listed monasteries, Haghpat and Sanahin, see most of the tourists. However, there are many more to visit and wander around.
Where to Stay Near Debed Canyon?
If you have planned a tour along the sights nearby Debed Canyon, there are several options of hotels to stay in.
Hotel #1: Gayane
Gayane hotel is a guest accommodation in Haghpat. The hotel started as a B&B, but later expanded to self-catering cottages and a building with hotel rooms.
The hotel is situated few kilometers down Haghpat monastery, has a pool, billiard table and table tennis. All the rooms are air conditioned, have satellite TV and private bathrooms. Free wifi and parking is available.
Hotel #2: Tufenkian Avan Dzoraget
Tufenkian Avan Dzoraget hotel is one of the best and luxurious hotels in the region. It is located on the banks of the river Debed and is considered to be a 4-star hotel.
The hotel features spa facilities (indoor pool, a hot tub and sauna), and a restaurant with riverside terrace. The hotel is only 15 minutes’ drive from the UNESCO World Heritage listed Haghpat monastery complex.
Hotel #3: Haghpat
Another option is Haghpat hotel, which features 5 rooms, each with air conditioning, private bathroom and a balcony.
Hotel #4: Sanahin Bridge
You may also choose Sanahin Bridge hotel, where the view of surrounding mountains is just fantastic. Each of the rooms feature TVs, facilities include tour desk, lounge and bar, a shop. Free parking and wifi is available through the whole territory of the hotel.
Places to Visit in Debed Canyon
Places to Visit #1: Haghpat Monastery
Haghpat monastery was built in 946 and is located in a plateau surrounded with gorges. The monastery has been one of the cultural centers of medieval Armenia, where the most prominent figures of the time worked, numerous manuscripts were written and illustrated, including “The Gospel of Haghpat”.
Haghpat comprises Saint Nshan church, two narthexes, three small churches, two corridor mausoleums, a refectory, a library, a belfry, several chapel-graveyards and khachkars. The monastery is surrounded with tower wall. The oldest church in the complex is saint Nshan church, built by queen Khosrovanuysh in 976-991.
St. Nshan is entirely a perfect example of a new stylistic direction of 10-11th centuries’ Armenian architecture, which was manifested in numerous structures of the period. According to the legend, it was built by architect Trdat.
The village Haghpat was called Srblis (Surb Luys/Holy light), since the sun was rising behind the neighboring mountain and spreading light on the villages. However, after the construction of the monastery, the village was renamed Haghpat and the name Srblis passed to the neighboring mountain.
So, don’t miss the chance to visit this sunny and light village and the fantastic work of art Haghpat monastery.
Places to Visit #2: Sanahin Monastery
Sanahin is one of the most outstanding monasteries of Medieval Armenian architecture. Supposedly the monastery dates back to 10th century.
The name Sanahin is translated literally into Armenian as “this one is older than the other one”, comparing it with the neighboring Haghpat monastery. Sanahin monastery includes St. Astvatsatsin and Amenaprkich churches, a library, bell tower, academy, St. Gregory church-chapel.
The oldest church is St. Astvatsatsin, built in 928-944, which is one of the earliest examples of doomed hall type churches. In 1996 the monastery was included in UNESCO’s world heritage list. The monastery is one of the main tourist attractions in the region, so make sure you won’t pass it by.
Places to Visit #3: Kobayr Monastery
Kobayr monastery is situated in the village of Kobayr, on the edge of Debed canyon. The monastery was built in 12th century and is one of the masterpieces of medieval Armenian architecture. Kobayr monastery has been one of the most important and prominent cultural centers of Armenia.
The name Kobayr is comprised of two words, Georgian – kob and Armenian – ayr, both meaning cave. In the 13th century the monastery was acquired by the noble Armenian-Georgian dynasty Zakarids (Zakaryanner), as a result of which the monastery stayed under the guardianship of Georgian Orthodox Church for some time.
The monastic complex of Kobayr consists of three churches, refectory, belfry-burial vaults, khachkars, chapels and remainders of walls of the fortress. In 2006 a renovation began in Kobayr funded by the Armenian and Italian Governments.
The view from the monastery is indeed hypnotizing. The surrounding nature, together with the monastic complex makes a fantastic harmonic composition, which will surely leave everyone impressed. So, don’t miss out the opportunity to visit Kobayr.
Places to Visit #4: Akhtala Monastery
The remarkable and impressive monastery Akhtala is located in a very quiet village in Lori Province. Although the monastery is now inactive, it is visited very often because of its historical value.
Because of the rich copper mines found in the village, the monastery in 12-13th centuries’ inscriptions is referred to as Pghndzavank (Coppermine monastery), the name Akhtala was first mentioned in 1438.
The monastery is one of the few orthodox monasteries in Armenia, built in the 10th century, during the period of Armenian Renaissance (earlier than the European). Akhtala was of great significance since the time of its construction.
It protected the region, also the road from Armenia to Georgia. With its architecture, fantastic frescoes and carvings, Akhtala monastery is one of the best monasteries reflecting the Armenian art and culture.
It is worth to mention, that one of the legends of Armenian cinematography Sergey Paradjanov filmed some scenes of his famous “The color of pomegranate” exactly in this place.
Places to Visit #5: Hovhannes Tumanyan House-Museum
To be in Dsegh, and not to visit the house-museum of the greatest Armenian poet Hovhannes Tumnayan, would be unforgivable. Tumanyan is famous for his simple but very poetic and meaningful poems, ballads, fables, novels, fairy tales, quatrains and journalistic articles.
He is the Armenian national poet (all Armenians poet) and many of his works have been animated and used for films. Two very famous operas: Anush by Armen Tigranian and Almast by Alexander Spendiaryan, were written based on his works.
At a young age, Tumanyan moved to Tiflis, but his birthplace in the historical village of Dsegh was turned into a house-museum. Visiting the museum will bring you into another reality, and take you to the times, when the poet worked and created.
Here, in the museum three hundred objects are preserved, each of them representing the life and activity of Hovhannes Tumanyan.
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