Dilijan resort nested within Dilijan National Park is the major draw to the province. Known as the “little Armenian Switzerland”, the town was a famous summer resort in Soviet times and a favorite resting place for writers and artists.
The “Little Armenian Switzerland”
Mountainous Dilijan region, known as the “Little Armenian Switzerland”, is one of the most picturesque and pleasant parts of Armenia. Dense forests, curative mineral springs, clear lakes, and wonderful highland sceneries of Dilijan National Park are a magnet for nature lovers. Moreover, the experience of natural beauty is accompanied by the discovery of historical monuments, such as the many monasteries the region has to offer.
Hunting Ground and Holiday Resting House for Kings
Dilijan town, the nearest point of entry to the province, had been a renowned resort place for centuries. During Tigran the Great (140-55 BCE), Dilijan was as a hunting ground and holiday resting house for kings. In the Middle Ages, the territory of Dilijan was known as Hovk. It was a favorite forest and summer resort for the Arsacid kings which came here to show their abilities in hunting. The settlement of Bujur Dili was founded during the 13th century near the area of modern-day Dilijan. In 1666, the name Dilijan was mentioned for the first time in the notes of the French traveler Jean Chardin. Since the town became under the Russian rule in 1801, the population had gradually grown. In its heyday during the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, Dilijan was favored by artists, composers and filmmakers, who came here to inspire creative thought. This rich artistic heritage and exposure to the international cultural elite can still be seen throughout the town, which houses several museums, as well as music and art schools. However, because of social and economic changes in Armenia, Dilijan experienced a period of severe hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Today, Dilijan has begun to recover its former glory. With the opening of UWC Dilijan, the Ayb Educational Foundation, and the Central Bank of Armenia, Dilijan is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and an important center for business and finance. The town has a number of ne hotels, B&Bs and old Soviet sanatoriums, making it probably the best place to stay for an extended exploration of the province. Dilijan is known for its characteristic architectural style which inherently utilizes steep tiled roofs and wooden beams. This can be best seen in the “Old Dilijan” Historic Centre, a little cobbled street with a collection of stone and wooden traditional buildings, including a boutique hotel a with restaurant, shops, souvenir stalls and workshops for local craftsmen. The complex includes the Dilijan Historic Museum, with a replica of a 19th century Dilijan home, furnished with period furniture, photographs and crockery, as well as a collection of handmade carpets. Nearby is the impressive building of the Geological Museum and Art Gallery of Dilijan. This recently renovated museum houses a surprisingly varied collection of European and Armenian art from the 16th to 20th centuries. Some of the older works from Italian and French artists had been housed in museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg but were moved to Dilijan during WWII for safekeeping. The monasteries of Haghartsin and Goshavank were built between the 10th and 13th centuries. The monastery complexes have quickly developed and have served as cultural and educational centers. Haghartsin is one of the iconic examples of the developing Armenian architecture during the Middle Ages. Many other important religious and edu-cational centers of the Middle Ages have survived in Dilijan, such as the monasteries of Jukhtak Vank, Matosavank and Aghavnavank.