Khndzoresk is a small town in Armenia that any Armenian or foreign tourist is recommended to visit. Khndzoresk is especially famous for its swinging bridge and caves that have been inhabited until the 20th century.
When traveling to Armenia, people rarely venture outside of the capital city of Yerevan. This is unfortunate, because there are so many hidden gems that Armenia has to offer.
Armenia is one of the most ancient countries in the world, and any visitor can attest to this when they see everything Armenia has to offer beyond its modern buildings and cafes.
One unusual place which is not frequently discussed or recommended for visiting is the Khndzoresk village. It is rather far from Yerevan, and instead close to Goris and Artsakh, but a visit to Khndzoresk is not one to be forgotten.
The village is not often spoken about, and is not often known by tourists. You may even mention the name “Khndzoresk” around local Armenians, and they might not even know what you are talking about!
It is rarely ever included on lists of places to visit in Armenia, but what many people do not know is that Khndzoresk also has a prominent place in Armenia’s history.
The History of Khdzoresk
It was the military base for Mkhitar Sparapet, and the village overall took part in the struggle for liberation of the Syunik region, led by David Bek. The two of them had achieved many victories against the Ottomans and Safavids.
The name of this village has two possible origins. One is that the village was named for its many apple trees. The word for apple in Armenian is “khndzor.” There is also a possibility that the name comes from the word “khor dzor,” or “deep canyon.”
The town was built into many cliffs, and so the structure of the village may have had an impact on its name.
While archaeological evidence does prove that the village has been inhabited for thousands of years, it has been officially recorded to be in existence since the 13th century, according to a list of villages that were required to pay taxes to the Tatev Monastery.
In order to reach the village, travel to the city of Goris. Then, follow the Stepanakert Road eastward for approximately 6 kilometers. There will be a metal gate there which says “Welcome to Khndzoresk” in Armenian and Russian.
Read on to see what all Khndzoresk has to offer, and why you should include Khndzoresk in your travel itinerary.
Khdzoresk Swinging Bridge
If you search “Khndzoresk” on Instagram, you are going to find tons of pictures of the swinging bridge. It was built rather recently, back in 2012, and its construction was completed under the supervision of businessman Zhora Aleksanyan.
He wanted to construct it both in memory of his parents, and also to attract many tourists to this rather remote village.
This bridge was entirely constructed by the village’s inhabitant by hand and with the use of machinery. They also used horses to transport the necessary materials.
The swinging bridge is 160 meters long, 36 meters above the ground, and 1.5 meters wide. It connects the two banks of the village, which are referred to as Old Khndzoresk and New Khndzoresk.
This bridge greatly helped improve the lives of the residents, because they used to have to walk a long way in order to get from one part of the village to another.
The local residents say that the bridge is designed to hold 700 people at the same time. Some people may see this bridge and become too nervous to walk across it.
But as anyone can see from all the social media posts about it, walking across this bridge is very safe. If you’re afraid of heights, just don’t look down!
Another interesting fact about the swinging bridge is that there is a legend surrounding it
The bridge does not only connect the two parts of the village, but it also provides a view of a fountain referred to as the “Nine Children.” According to legend, there was an attack on the Khndzoresk village, where women joined the men in this struggle for liberation.
During this battle, a widow named Sona who also had nine children was martyred. Her father, Master Ohan, built a fountain in her honor, which had a basin that appeared to look like breasts.
If you lie down and prop yourself up on two hands, then you can drink water from the fountain, and this is the only way in which you can do so.
When Master Ohan had completed constructing the fountain, he begged a saint in prayer while asking the saint to turn the fountain’s water into Sona’s breast milk, so that it would protect his orphaned grandchildren.
St. Hripsime Church and St. Tadevos Church of Khndzoresk
Most Armenian cities and towns are not complete without a church that plays an important role in its history. The St. Hripsime Church of Khndzoresk was built in the 17th century, as well as the St. Tadevos Church.
One of the most famous Armenian military commanders during the 18th century, Mkhitar the Commander (Mkhitar Sparapet) was buried in the churchyard of the St. Tadevos Church.
He was killed during battle as he was passing through the Khndzoresk village. He was highly instrumental in preserving the Syunik region of Armenia, then referred to as Zangezur.
Alongside his grave are the graves of his son, Aharon, and the love of his life, Gohar.
The St. Hripsime church, though not in use, has been very well preserved in its bell tower, walls, and outside arches. Along with the churches, there is the school-church of Anapat, where there used to be a writing center centuries ago.
The Caves of Khdzoresk
At one point in Armenia’s history, Khndzoresk was the largest village in Eastern Armenia. This village provided no level ground on which people could build their homes, and therefore, they began to dig in the hillside, and created cave dwellings in the Old Khndzoresk portion of the village.
There are both natural and man-made caves here. When people still lived here, it was estimated that at one point, the caves had 15,000 inhabitants.
Residents had to use ropes and ladders in order to reach other parts of the cave community. When women were traveling with children, they tied the children to their backs with ropes and climbed.
In these caves, there were two to three bedrooms. There were also two tonirs, or ovens made of clay, which people used to make bread and to cook other meals.
They also were used to keep the caves warm. There were three schools and two churches here early on, then at its peak, the village had as many as seven schools, four churches, three dyeworks, a number of leather workshops, and approximately 27 different types of shops.
If people living in the village needed to get to and from different caves, they simply used ropes, ladders, or hidden tunnels.
These caves were excellent places to fight against attackers, because the caves helped people to defend their town.
People lived in these caves well into the 1950’s, when the Soviet government decreed that everyone leave the caves, since they were considered to be uninhabitable and uncivilized. This is perhaps one of the most surprising parts, because one would not imagine people to have remained living in caves until the 20th century.
Residents of the New Khndzoresk village still use the caves for stables or storage space. They also let their cattle and livestock graze around the area of the caves. If you choose to visit Khndzoresk, you can also go to the caves and explore, but this can be scary for some.
Evidence has shown, however, that some of these caves have been inhabited for thousands of years.
After the 1980s, the village had to resize and there was some political unrest throughout Armenia at the time. Therefore, a village called Lower Khndzoresk (called Nerkin Khndzoresk in Armenian) was created about 7 kilometers away from the central Khndzoresk village.
It is recommended that, if you plan to go to Khndzoresk, take a day or two out of your travel plans to do so, since there is a lot to explore in the areas surrounding the village. The village is very close to Goris, which is a beautiful city located in southern Armenia.
You can also visit the village of Areni, which is famous for its wine, and is home to the oldest winery in the world.
In the same region as Areni is the Noravank Monastery, which has very picturesque views. You can also choose to visit the Tatev Monastery and the Artsakh region if you have extra time.
You may not have been expected to have been recommended to visit a village in southern Armenia, but the Khndzoresk village, with its swinging bridge, churches, and caves makes for a very historical and beautiful visit!
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