Discover the Top Things to Do in Goris, Armenia
Exploring Goris: A Comprehensive Guide
Nestled at the base of the dramatic Zangezur mountains, Goris is the second-largest city in Armenia’s Syunik region. There, you’ll find a mix of striking architectural detail and natural beauty, from the intricately carved balconies along the quaint streets to the magnificent panorama of mountains circling the city.
Goris is a beautiful place for strolling; admire the traditional stone homes and people-watch by the fountains in the main square. It’s also a great base for adventures to nearby natural wonders like Khndzoresk, Karahunj, and Tatev. Below, you’ll find a list of the best places to visit during your stay.
Getting to Goris
The approximately four-hour drive from Yerevan to Goris follows curvy mountain roads with excellent views. Minibusses leave from the Sasuntsi Davit Railway Station in Yerevan a couple of times per day.
If you prefer to make a road trip, rent a car. Scenic and convenient pit stops along the way include Areni, where you can sample and purchase local wines, pickled vegetables, and fresh produce; the gates to Syunik, a massive stone monument between the regions of Vayots Dzor and Syunik; and Sisian, a charming town located on the Vorotan river close to the massive Shaki Waterfall.
When you arrive in Goris, take a moment to snap some photos with the distinctive “Old Bells of Goris” monument that marks the entrance to the city.
Goris is ringed with mountains, and there are plenty of places to hike and explore. One of the most famous is the so-called “stone forest,” in which marvelous natural pillars of rock rise from the slopes to create a mysterious landscape. People say that the caves in the cliffs and columns were inhabited centuries ago. Some are still used to house cattle and others function as small chapels. Get lost and explore every cranny in the natural village of rock!
Karahunj, an ancient monument of vertically mounted stones arranged in a circle, is also worth a visit. Just a 10-minute drive from the Goris city center, Karahunj bears a resemblance to Stonehenge in England. The name Karahunj comes from the Armenian words for “rock” and “sound.” Some say that this is because the stones make a whistling noise when the wind is strong.
Khndzoresk, Armenia’s famous village of caves, is just a 15-minute drive from Goris. The village is famous for its stunning and mystical beauty. There, you can explore a complex of natural and man-made caves carved directly into the cliffside. But you have to cross a long, swinging bridge over a deep gorge to get there! People inhabited the Khndzoresk caves until the 1950s.
The Syunik region is well known for its striking nature. Check out the Hike Armenia app for walking routes to or around the locations we’ve mentioned above.
Food and Drink
Tolma is one of Armenia’s most famous dishes. Usually, it’s made from savory ground beef and spiced rice wrapped in cabbage or grape leaves and cooked in a rich tomato broth. In the Goris region, you’ll find a delicious twist on the classic: the tolma is wrapped in bean leaves.
Other local dishes include lobov apur (savory bean soup), tanapur (herbed yogurt and grain soup), and amu (herbed new potatoes with dried plum and cornelian cherry). Bazuki ttu (pickled beet greens) is a favorite side dish.
Gata, a traditional Armenian pastry or sweet bread, is prepared in different ways across the country. In Goris, gata is prepared in a thick and dense round, with a rich sweet filling of walnut. Kolondrak is another popular sweet dish made from crushed walnut, toasted grains, doshap (grape syrup), and dried fruits.
Try locally brewed Goris brand beer at a local cafe and see if you can get an invite to try a local’s home-distilled mulberry vodka.
Built in 1903, St. Gregory the Illuminator is one of Armenia’s newer monasteries reflecting traditional architectural style. From the church, you’ll have excellent views of the Stone Forest.
Step back in history at the Goris Museum of Regional Studies, the first of its kind in the Syunik region. Visit to explore a wide assortment of rugs with designs specific to the region, metalwork, ceramics, and other interesting artifacts.
Refresh with a cup of tea and some local sweets at the Aksel Bakunts house museum. Bakunts was a famous Armenian author who wrote lovingly about his beautiful hometown of Goris. He also had a penchant for tea, especially brews flavored with the petals of the roses his mother grew in their garden. At his house museum downtown, you can participate in a tea ceremony and learn about the significance of the samovar, a large metal teapot used traditionally in Armenia.
The famous Tatev Monastery complex is about a one-hour drive from Goris. Perched on a breathtaking cliff edge overlooking the deep Vorotan Gorge in Armenia, Tatev is an architectural marvel. Dating back to the 9th century, the medieval complex stands as a symbol of cultural heritage and religious devotion. Accessible by a thrilling cable car ride, known as the "Wings of Tatev," visitors are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape under the calming melodies of renowned Armenian composer Komitas.
The monastery complex itself includes various structures such as the Church of Sts. Paul and Peter, the Church of the Holy Mother of God, and numerous chapels and chambers. Ornate stone carvings, intricate frescoes, and religious artifacts adorn the interiors, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of the time.
Far below the monastery complex, in the Vorotan gorge, lies the Great Hermitage of Tatev. You can spot the 17th-century religious center from above during the cable car ride or visit by car. According to historical records, more than 700 congregants lived there at one time. The Hermitage was a center of manuscript copying in the Syunik region.
Outdoor adventurers will enjoy a hike and swim at nearby Devil’s Bridge, a natural wonder on the Vorotan River. The bridge is a hidden gem of colorful rocks, waterfalls, pearly mineral deposits, lush vegetation, and hot springs accessible by narrow paths and rope ladders. Visit in August or September to enjoy the best swimming weather!
Participate in Festivals
The Khot sheep shearing festival is a vibrant celebration held every June in the picturesque village of Khot, located about 25 minutes from Goris. This traditional event showcases the rich cultural heritage and time-honored traditions of the local community. As the festival unfolds, skilled shearers demonstrate their expertise, swiftly and meticulously removing the fleece from their sheep. The atmosphere is filled with excitement and joy as participants engage in friendly competitions, showcasing their shearing techniques. Traditional music, dances, and delectable local cuisine add to the festive spirit.
The "In the Mountains" Immersive Festival of Syunik awaits visitors in late June near the Halidzor and Tatev stations of the Wings Of Tatev aerial ropeway and Tatev Monastery. This unique and free festival offers immersive performances at historical locations, a concert program featuring multiple artists, engaging master classes with local artisans, traditional food, fascinating tours to abandoned villages, and an exhilarating flight on the Wings of Tatev.
On certain years in July, locals celebrate the mulberry harvest at a festival in Karahunj village, just a 10-minute drive southeast of Goris. Sample the region’s famous mulberry vodka, gather different varieties of sweet fruit straight off the trees, and enjoy local delicious dishes. We recommend wearing dark-colored clothing. The black mulberries stain!
Goris is beautiful and most easily accessible between the spring and fall seasons. Whichever time you choose to visit, we’re sure you’ll enjoy your trip!
Published on July 04, 2023