Galavanting in Goris and soaring on the Wings of Tatev

A romp through rockin’ Old Goris in southern Armenia, and a voyage to the ancient monastery of Tatev. Head to the end of the post if you’re looking for information on how to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia.

 

Goris is quite possibly the most stunning city in Armenia. In my humble opinion, anyway.

The city alone is nothing special–it’s all about location, location, location. The city is encircled by mountains, some of which rise up right from the city’s perimeter. Being so close to the city center, it’s almost as though the mountains are calling to be climbed… so why resist?

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - The city of Goris, Armenia from the top of a mountain.

Goris from above, a most acceptable view we’d say.

I haven’t even gotten to the best part: the mountains around the city are covered in towering limestone spires, chock-full of cave dwellings. The cave-city complex is known as “Old Goris”, as the caves used to serve as homes until the 18th century… or so the guides say. Though many of the caves are now bare, there’s still a decent number of resourceful people that have built modern day houses up against the spires, so they can continue to make use of the caves. You can literally see the past meeting the present as you wander throughout the rocky outcrops.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Houses built next to caves in the rocky spires of Goris, Armenia

Cave people of Goris, 2016 A.D.

You can easily spend an entire day just wandering amongst the rocks along the edges of the city. We did encounter some kind of marked path in one or two places, but it’s not really necessary. There are ridges to troop along all over the mountainsides, thanks to years and years of people and various hoofed creatures wandering along the slopes.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Rocky spires on the edge of the city of Goris, Armenia

Spires, spires, everywhere.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Checking out the caves in Old Goris in Goris, Armenia

Checking out the abandoned cave estate. Could work with a little TLC, but the ceilings were a bit too low for modern-day humans…

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Running around on the mountains of Goris, Armenia

Be careful running around on the top of the mountain–it’s a steep drop, and there’s not much in the way of decent paths once you climb up high enough.

Pro tip: if you have a chance to buy a bottle of wine while passing through Areni, home of the oldest winery in the world, save it for Goris and go for a super epic picnic atop the mountain! It’s a great (and cheap) way to spend the afternoon. Just be careful not to fall over the edge when you’re stumbling down the mountain 😉

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Picnicking in the mountains of Goris, Armenia

An epic picnic for an epic location. And by “epic picnic”… we mean wine and pretzels. We are on a budget, after all!

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - The old cave city of Goris, Armenia

Wine-ing and winding our way down the mountain.

A voyage to Tatev monastery

For those already versed in the Armenia tourist track, you may be wondering why I haven’t yet mentioned Tatev amidst my Gorisean ramblings. Simple: Goris is more than just Tatev, and the city needs a bit more love and attention, unlike Tatev.

For those not yet in the know, Tatev is Armenia’s most famous site–an old monastery on a plateau, overlooking a vast gorge. Some quick facts: its construction began in the 9th century, it used to house one of the most important medieval monasteries of Armenia, and is now marginally more famous because it’s at the end of the longest cable car line in the world, which clocks in at 6 kilometers.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - The Wings of Tatev, the longest cable car in the world, near Goris, Armenia

The view from the Wings of Tatev, the longest cable car in the world.

But all you need to know for now is that Tatev is most definitely, undeniably, the tits. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Tatev monastery from above, a great success! Good thing we figured out how to get Tatev from Goris, Armenia

The view: 10/10

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - A woman praying in the dark and cool interior of Tatev monastery in Armenia.

A moment of serenity inside Tatev.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia

To get to Tatev, we recommend you take a taxi to the Wings of Tatev, the Guinness World Record-listed 5.7km cable car starting in Halidzor. It’s also possible to take a car/taxi up to the monastery, but the cable car offers much more epic views… and cheesy Muzak combined with overly posh British narration as you soar through the skies.

A taxi to Halidzor from Goris cost about 2500 AMD one-way. A ride on the Wings isn’t cheap, at 3500/5000 AMD one/two-way, but the views are definitely worth it.

Getting back to Goris from Tatev

We opted for a one way ticket and hiked most of the way back to the base station of the cable car, from where we took a taxi back to Goris. The walk was a very hilly and zig-zagging 10km. If you’re walking, be sure to stock up on water before embarking on your mountainous voyage. We forgot to (derp), and it was a struggle.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Admiring the view on the way back to Goris from Tatev monastery in Armenia.

Taking in the view? Or exhausted from dehydration? You decide.

The walk, though long, is worth your while. You pass a series of pools near a feature called Devil’s Bridge that you can theoretically swim in (if you dare), get a view of some abandoned monastic cloisters, and pass a Lord of the Rings-like watch tower atop another mountain.

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Water pools at Devil's Bridge near Tatev monastery in Armenia

Nothing like crystal clear, scum green water to take a refreshing dip in, eh eh?

The views from the watch tower, about 3/4 of the way back to Halidzor, are epic, and completely justified our trek. Not that justification was necessary–we’re die-hard hikers, so walking that far was no big deal. /sarcasm

How to get to Tatev from Goris, Armenia - Harsnadzor Watchtower near Tatev monastery in Armenia.

The Harsnadzor watchtower, with clear views to Tatev. Not sure if necessary given Tatev’s strategic location, but so be it.

If you’re not interested in the long slog back, just lurk for a while around the Tatev complex. As the day goes on, there will be a decent number of taxis driving to/from the area, as well as a few enterprising Armenians that will be happy to pretend they are taxis for a short while.

Goris/Tatev is definitely in my top three favorite sites of Armenia (the other two being Haghpat monastery and Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city). If you ever visit the country, make sure to make the time stop by–you’ll be glad you did.

Where to stay in Goris, Armenia

 

 

A romp through the rocky spires of Old Goris in southern Armenia, and a trip to the famous Tatev monastery. Includes information on how to get to Tatev from Goris

 

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Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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9 thoughts on “Galavanting in Goris and soaring on the Wings of Tatev

    Marcie says:

    I’m one of the Peace Corps volunteers living in Goris, or as we say, winning the PC lottery. 🙂 It is beautiful here! One thing, Goris actually is special in itself, as the architecture is unique to Goris. Perhaps you noticed the amazing masonry detail, with every rock outlined in mortar, and the red metal roofs. The “new” town was designed by a German architect in the 1800s, making it Armenia’s only planned city. I’m wondering what kind of camera/lens you used to get those amazing wide angle shots. iPhone?

    Getting to live in Goris definitely doesn’t sound too shabby! Curious as to what locations people consider to be “losing” the lottery (if you’re comfortable answering)? We did notice that Goris adheres to much more of a sensible grid system than in other cities, so that’s very interesting to hear.

    As for the photos, I use a Nikon D7100, always with an 18-200mm lens. It has wide angle and light telephoto abilities 🙂 For the panoramas, I stitch several images together using Adobe Lightroom.

    Shabbir M says:

    Hi! there. A couple of queries that I can use your help with regarding our visit to Armenia (and subsequently Goris) next week. I was quite enchanted by your trek down from Tatev Monastery and we want to attempt the same. And hence these questions. 1. How long did it take you to reach Halidzor on your trek back? 2. Is the path back easy to follow, or the likelihood of getting lost (not the enjoyable kind like when done on purpose) and stranded, high? We plan to travel back to Yerevan via public transport and so don’t want to jeopardize our chances of taking return transport. Thanks and regards.

    Hiya. Reaching Halidzor took around 2-4 hours (we’re not entirely sure anymore), walking along the road. Make sure to bring enough water, as there aren’t many shops. The is a road that snakes down, up, and around, and if you follow this you’re not likely to get lost. You might be lucky enough to get a lift, although it’s not uncommon for people who picked you up to later tell you they are a taxi. It’s a nice enough walk, and the lookout tower offers a great view of the valley.

    Shabbir M says:

    Gee! Thanks. You made it easier to understand the daunting task ahead. Will pack a small picnic as well. Was hoping it wouldn’t be more than 2 hours, but hey will try and attempt it for as long as we can and when we can’t anymore will hitch-hike, even if it turns out to be a taxi. I am sure it will be lesser than what they charge at the top….(may end up saving some AMD) hopefully. What say?

    That sounds about right. Just remember that there’s always a chance traffic is slow, though.

    Shabbir M says:

    Will keep that in mind. Thanks a ton for your thoughtful and immensely helpful tips. Can hardly wait for the adventure to begin. 🙂

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