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Armenia: Goris cave dwellings

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Goris cave dwellings | Armenia | Asia

[Visited: May 2012]

Arriving at Goris turned out to be a little adventure in itself: driving the main road from Nagorno-Karabagh, I saw that we were running out of fuel, and while torrential rains were flooding the road, we had to steer through herds of sheep with soaked shepherds, the light indicating the tank was empty was on from much before we even crossed the curious border post between the enclave and Armenia. Getting closer to Goris, we did pass petrol stations, but I now wanted to reach the regional city without stopping. When we finally did, we found rivers running down on the streets of Goris - at some points, I even doubted I could drive our car through the deep water running down. We topped the tank, and found a nice place to stay the night.

Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): View towards the mountains from inside one of the cave dwellings

When we woke up, the contrast with the night before could not be bigger. Goris was topped by a blue sky, and the sun was warming the city. You could still see stones in the streets, reminders of the wild weather of the night before. Goris is a pleasant enough city; we stayed in the new part which was built in the 19th century, but crossed the river and walked to the old part of town. People were waiting at a coffin: the cemetery of Goris is where once people lived. The road took a turn, and we found ourselves surrounded by steep cliffs, in which we could see tens, or perhaps even hundreds, of holes. People used to live here, in the holes in the soft rock were carved out of it to provide for a place to live and act as stables for cattle.

Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Cave dwellings in the rock face

The scenery is quite dramatic; volcanic spires rise up into the sky from the very green carpet of grass that covers the less vertical parts. We clambered up one of the hills, and entered several of the caves. Sure enough, the natural ventilation was great in summer - I did wonder how people would live here in the cold winter months. Views were great: the river below, steep mountain cliffs, the volcanic pinnacles, all in a secluded valley. Goris was probably inhabited in the 8th century BC, although it is not clear people actually lived in the cave dwellings back then; accounts of a Greek historian mentions cavemen living here in the 5th century BCE. The sun was still shining when we walked back to the main town, sitting in a much wider valley and without the spectacular setting of its old part. It was time to move on.

Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Volcanic pinnacles on green hills just outside Goris
Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Pinnacles on green hills are the setting for the cave dwellings of Goris
Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Green landscape with pinnacles and river outside Goris
Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Hillside with cave dwellings visible in the rocks
Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Steep mountain at the outskirts of Goris
Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Arch at the cemetery of Goris with pinnacles in the background
Picture of Goris cave dwellings (Armenia): Holes in the rock face marking the cave dwellings

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