In the footsteps of Vorotan ghosts

Every Armenian knows about the powerful medieval complex located 253 kilometers from Yerevan. We are talking about the famous Tatev complex, where almost everyone has been at least once. Many people reach the monastery by cable car, many choose the winding road that passes through Vorotan Gorge. But few people who have traveled so far from Yerevan and reached Tatev know about the “secrets” of the Vorotan gorge, which deserve no less attention.

Today, you will be introduced to the Vorotan Gorge with all its charm: medieval churches, caves, cold springs, waterfalls falling from the throne, fairy-tale nature and not only.


Still on the way to Tatev Monastery, turning off the winding road to the right, you can see one of the wonders of nature, Satan’s Bridge. At first glance, you cannot believe that such a work of art can exist. Yes, yes, it is a work of art, and the creator is nature itself. The natural bridge, about 50 meters above the surface of the river, promises to surprise anyone who dares to go down.

The natural bridge was formed over the centuries from calcium carbonate deposits (travertines) and hot (250 C) mineral waters. There are many mineral springs in the area that have produced garnets. Over the centuries, limestone accumulations have formed this mighty stone arch-bridge, from the edges of which hang stalactites caused by mineral springs, and beautiful waterfalls flow down from the rock scale-shaped niches under the natural bridge. When you look down from above, you get the impression that the river flowing under the bridge has very little water. The point is that the mineral springs are located right under the bridge and, filling the Vorotan River, make it overflow. Many people say that the name of the bridge is related to this.

About the mineral springs of Devil’s Bridge Prof. AA Florensky wrote: “Devil’s Bridge springs are wonderful monuments of nature that amaze with their uniqueness and beauty. For centuries, sediment has formed from that mineral water and the two banks of the Andandakhor gorge have been firmly connected to each other, through which the thunderous Vorortan river flows. 

Going down, a completely different world opens up in front of you, somewhere mysterious, somewhere amazing and strange. You are met by the foaming river, which shows you the right way. The waves of the river are cold, you feel their coldness with your whole body. Then you enter the small natural pools and feel real warmth. Magic crystals appear in front of you, which seem to hang like colorful candles. They are of different sizes and different shapes. You look in front of you and it seems that the road is endless, full of secrets and new discoveries. Only by going down you understand the real charm of the bridge and feel its mystery.


Tatev Great Desert is one of the valuable Armenian architectural complexes of the late Middle Ages. Many people don’t even know that by slightly deviating from the road leading to Tatev Monastery, you can see a valuable monument of the 17th-18th centuries.

Tatev desert is located in Vorotan gorge. It can be reached from the Devil’s Bridge. The recently built path will take you directly to the desert, and until you reach the monastery, you will enjoy the undisturbed nature of Vorotan. The ruins of the Harants desert are still preserved in the Vorotan gorge. It was founded in 1608-13. In 1658, the monastery was destroyed by an earthquake. Local hermits have built a new monastery a few kilometers away from the monastery – Tatev’s Desert.

The monastery was founded by the abbot Aristakea. The desert consists of St. Astvatsatsin Church (which is a three-nave basilica), vestibule, pariahs, cells attached to them, refectory, auxiliary buildings, chapel-tomb (the priest Aristakes is buried).

Deserts were monasteries isolated from society and settlements, where Christians lived as hermits. The desert complex was surrounded by walls. Cells and auxiliary buildings were attached to the walls. The desert had one church which was built in the middle of the courtyard. Deserts were also important centers of cultural development.


Bardzravan village is located on the high right bank of the Vorotan River, on a beautiful plateau. The village, unknown to many, has a lot to show its visitors. Here you can see St. The Hripsime church (17th century), the caravanserai of Bardzravan (17-18 centuries), the Bgheno Noravank monastery complex (936-1062). The path marked from the village will take you to Krataki St. Minas Church (1321). There you can see another miracle of nature – the mysterious waterfall falling from above.


Old Khot, Old Shinuhayr, Old Harjis, Old Halidzor

The abandoned villages that have become witnesses of the past give Vorotan Gorge even more mystery. There are several of them, but they all have one thing in common: a perfect fusion with nature. You look and it seems as if the houses were torn from the rock. Initially, people lived in rock-hewn caves, and then they expanded the cave dwellings at the expense of stone structures.

In the old Khot village, the Mrgadzor Khach Church has been preserved, which, according to folk tradition, was built by a beautiful woman who escaped from the harem of Shah-Abbas.

The 17th century Saint Stepanos Church has been preserved in Shinuhayr. Evidences have been preserved that there was once a 4th-5th century church here, which was destroyed by an earthquake. Here is also the cemetery with many graves, among which the three-meter khachkar (1261) stands out.

Old Halidzor was donated to the Tatev monastery at the beginning of the 10th century and was the property of the monastery until the 19th century. Old Halidzor is another ghost, with a ruined chapel and tabernacle, 10th-century khachkars and the Church of Saint Minas built in 1611.

On the way to start the hike, a torrent of thoughts begins. You hear many town talks about these places. One of them tells about the Red Church (XII century) located in Hin Khot. According to the legend, the name Zangezur of the whole region originated from the bell of this church. According to one version, this bell had a very powerful sound, and the place name Zangezur was derived from the words “Zang zor”, that is, a powerful bell. According to another version, it originated from the phrase “Calls are in vain”.

Life continued here until the 1960s, when the residents left their “rock” dwellings and settled on a more comfortable plateau. You look at the ghosts of Vorotan and fall into the arms of imagination, immerse yourself in the past, go back a few decades and see the daily life and the Armenian peasant still boiling here.



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

Author of photos: Artyom Martirosyan