Others write about Goris Tours

People often write about their experiences with Goris Tours. Check out some of their reports here:

Eating iArmenia October 2017 2017-10-19 16.41.19n with Ara (this group requested a tour package including a family meal at my home–wine and vodka included. 

A day out with Ara is bettered only by an evening at home with him and his family. This was a unique opportunity for Valerie and Richard, visiting from the UK, to see how Armenians live, and to eat home-grown, home-cooked Armenian food.

Ara and Nelli don’t keep pigs themselves, but they know a man in Khndzoresk who does. A pig was duly purchased, skinned, butchered, marinaded and kebabed. Everything else on the table came from Ara’s garden–beets and green tomatoes pickled by Nelli, the last green beans of the season, and plates of peppers and cucumbers with herbs, plus potatoes straight from the fire. We started with soup–greens and carrots, lentils, rice, potato and herbs in chicken broth that came via a coop, not a cube. The women drank red wine, made with grapes from the garden, and the men drank mulberry vodka, which Ara makes by the gallon.

Toasts are a big part of any Armenian meal, and can cause problems for the unwary but  somehow we all survived the full set. Then each person round the table gave a toast (there were 5 of us, not including the kids) and we finished by celebrating all the parents of the world–the people who made us who we are today. Ashot and Hasmik. Melsik and Sona. Brian and Joan. Chris and Mary. Wilson and Greta.  Little wonder that Richard was then soundly beaten at chess by Ara’s eight-year old son. Despite foregoing the firewater, I was also routed by the ten-year old son. Ara’s taxi stayed parked outside the house. He called someone else to take us home.

The next post is about a very popular tour of the Sisian region of Syunik Marz. This was a half-day trip but it is possible to extend it to take in Shaki Waterfall and Armenia’s Stone Henge, Karahunj

 The road from Sisian to Melik-Tangi bridge–surely one of the most beautiful in the world– runs beside the Vorotan river and to Vorotnavank monastery and Vorotnaberd fortress. Vorot is the Armenian word for thunder. On the day I was there, the weather was sunny and serene, and no rolling thunder–indeed no engine of any kind–was heard. That’s one of the best things about Armenia’s emptiness: you often have the road to yourself. Historic sites, though usually lacking a tea-shop, a museum shop and a toilet,  feel like yours alone. Better yet, you can clamber all over them–there are no signs, no notices and no guards.

Our first stop on the road from Sisian was at a 7th century memorial to two battling brothers who fought off the Persian army. The land around the monument in Aghitu is dotted with khatchkars—cross stones—depicting a playful range of people, children and animals along with Christian symbols. Climb the monument to see the cross engraved on every side of the center stone, or stay on firmer ground and marvel that bits and pieces of ancient rock carving that would be behind museum glass in darkened rooms in most other parts of the world just lie around by the roadside here, like rubble.

You’ll see the river on your right, deep in the gorge, flanked by tangles of green. In the foreground at this time of year, yellowed grasses. Behind the river, blue and grey mountains stretch for miles. Round a corner and there is Vorotnavank monastery. I defy you not to gasp. The monastery is a monument to Armenian girl power. The complex was built  in AD 1000 by Queen Shahandukht and added to by her son Sevada in 1007. The monastery also served as a fortress (those pesky Persians again) and within its walls were a once shops, a seminary, workshops and housing for the poor. Today you can see a snake pit in one of the churches, the remains of a 11th century painting, and the new dome, rebuilt in 1931 after the original was destroyed by an earthquake. The ancient cemetery, surrounded by a centuries-old dry stone wall, contains two incongruously modern graves— those of a famous translator who died in 1965 and his son, killed in the 1992-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh war. At 10am on a summer Saturday morning, the place was deserted. We ate small, sweet apricots from a tree overlooking the gorge and listened to the silence.

On to Vorotnaberd, the remains of a fortress first mentioned in reports of liberation from –yes–the Persians in 451 AD. Today, just one wall of the fortress remains, strung between two giant basalt rocks, high on a steep hill 1,365 meters above sea level. You can scramble up the grassy side of the rock, but I recommend walking beside the river to the Melik Tangi bridge and admiring the fortress wall from the bottom of the towering, natural pillars. I got dizzy looking up. As a citizen of Northern Ireland, home to the Giant’s Causeway, it pains me to say this, but really the rock formations here are more impressive than those on the Antrim coast. Here, there is no heritage center, no opportunity to buy a teatowel, or earrings made from igneous rock. The guide books hardly mention the  volcanic activity, or the beauty it left behind. The bridge at the bottom of the valley was built in 1855, using two enormous natural rocks as its base. Today it is used mostly by sheep and cows, but it’s sturdy enough for cars, if there was anywhere to go.