There are many gorges in Armenia, but the Kasakh gorge stands out among them, about which there are many myths and stories. The gorge, located only 35 km from Yerevan, is ready to fascinate every hiker with its charm.

The length of the canyon is 90 km and it lies in Aragatsotn and Armavir regions. The gorge is 100 meters deep. The gorge is full of many shrines and mysterious caves. On the banks of the Kasakh River and its tributaries, 8 open-air stations and ancient sites were discovered. The vast majority of monuments found in the Kasakh Gorge are natural caves and cave complexes inhabited in the Middle Ages.
They were mostly inhabited by hermit monks, or served as a temporary shelter and hideout. Most of the caves bear traces of active human influence, which are expressed in the length of the entrances, the width of the halls, the arrangement of benches, etc.

In the Middle Ages, in addition to the caves, the more or less suitable open areas and slopes of the valley were also actively inhabited. The desert of Grigor the Illuminator, which has served as a place of prayer for people for centuries, is located in the gorge. The deserts were monasteries isolated from society and settlements, where Christians lived as hermits. Deserts were also important centers of cultural development.

The once crowded place of worship has now been forgotten by people. Time has stopped here. For a moment, you go into the depths of centuries, when many wise manuscripts were written here. There is an inexplicable silence around. Catholicos Simeon from Yerevan mentions this place as the desert of Gregory the Illuminator, and later it was also called “desert inhabited by angels”. According to tradition, it was founded by Gregory the Illuminator, when he became an ascetic on the slopes of Mount Aragats and went down to the Kasakh Gorge in the cold winter weather. He built two deserts here, one in the canyon, which was later named after Gregory the Illuminator, and the other on the edge of the canyon, in the place of the present Saghmosavank.

Another remarkable desert is located in the part of the gorge leading from Hovhanavank to Saghmosavank. The villagers call the mysterious cave complex the Red Monasteries, probably because of the reddish color of the rocks. It is also known as cave desert. Bibliographic sources date this place to the 12th century. Unfortunately, historical sources about this place are extremely scarce.

The rock-cut complex is two-story. On the ceiling of one of the halls, one can notice a narrow and long hole that leads to the second floor, but climbing to the second floor is quite dangerous. Like all monasteries, these caves had their own church called St. Astvatsatsin.

There are many routes for hiking through the gorge, all of which are interesting and beautiful.

The article was compiled based on observations and materials collected by the ArmLand club.

Author of photos: Artyom Martirosyan