Khndzoresk is one of the most visited places in Armenia. At the beginning of the 20th century, about eight thousand people lived in the caves of Khndzoresk. In the 1950s, the authorities of USSR decided that Soviet citizens should not huddle in the dark cold pits and resettled them.
The new village of Khndzoresk was not so much different from other villages in Armenia, but the old settlement, the cave city, still keeps many unsolved secrets.
There are many theories of the origin of the village’s name. One of them states that in the old days the village was called Khor Dzor (Armenian: Խոր Ձոր, Deep Canyon), or Khordzoresk, because it was in a deep canyon.
According to another version, a large number of apple trees grew in this area, and eventually, the village was renamed Khndzoresk (Armenian: Խնձոր, khndzor, apple). Now, the cave town of Khndzoresk, stretching for about three kilometers on the slopes of a deep canyon at an altitude of 1580 meters above sea level, is completely empty.
The location of the caves on the hill made defending against assailants extremely easy. Khndzoresk is one of the few places in Armenia which has never been conquered. Moreover, in the old cemetery at the bottom of Khndzoresk, the hero of the Armenian people Mkhitar Sparapet is buried. He helped the village’s residents to escape from the Persian and Turkish invaders.
When exactly the first settlements appeared here no one knows. It is only known that three or four thousand years ago people already lived in natural caves. And most likely, they were hunters who hid in caves from the summer heat and winter frost.
After a while, people began to engage in cattle breeding, agriculture, and started to climb the canyon, hollowing out deep cavities in the rocks. Initially, the entrance to the cave system was located 20-30 meters higher from the ground.
Entrances simultaneously served as chimneys, windows, and doors. People got into their homes with the help of ropes, which they threw from below and fixed to cross wooden bars settled at the entrance of the cave.
But how did women and children climb there? The answer is very simple: women tied children to their backs and climbed the caves by the ropes just like the others.
The grottoes of the medieval period resemble modern two- or three-room apartments. In each of them are two tonirs (ovens of clay): one for baking bread, the other for cooking dinner. In addition, tonirs were an excellent way for heating the quarters as the clay preserved heat until morning.
In addition to the cave city in Khndzoresk, there are also dilapidated temples: the church of St. Hripsime with a bell tower built in 1663, and the church of St. Tadevos. In the village, there are also two spring-monuments of the 17th century and a children’s Sunday school. In 2012, a suspension bridge appeared in the village, which is still unique for the region.
Previously, locals and tourists could visit only one part of the canyon and had to take a long walk to get to the opposite side. The bridge has shortened this distance and made life easier both for residents and travelers.
According to a resident of the village and patron of art Zhora Aleksanyan, the entire village was engaged in the construction works of the bridge as it was impossible to use specialized equipment. In fact, this bridge has connected not only the two sides of the canyon but also the past with the present.
“Since childhood, I have been very worried that the inhabitants of the caves left their homes. It seemed that it was looking at me with its sad eyes-caves. After the bridge was completed, I felt better. Now, the whole village goes to the cave city and celebrates holidays,” Alexanian says.
The cave city in the arms of untouched nature seems to have stopped in time. Poets glorified this place in their poems, artists depicted it in their paintings, and tourists visit this historical monument with great pleasure.