To reach the cave village of Khndzoresk take the Stepanakert road from Goris for about 6km until the road to the village goes off right, underneath a metal gateway which bears the legend 'Welcome to Khndzoresk' in Russian and Armenian. At the far end of the village turn right down the hill to Old Khndzoresk. Most visitors give themselves half an hour here but half a day is needed to do justice to the place. The old village comprised cave dwellings hewn into the soft rock amidst the spectacular limestone karst rock formations. The caves ceased to be used for housing people in the 19th century though some are still used even today for storage and for livestock (and some were temporarily reoccupied during the Karabagh war while Goris was being shelled). As the villagers left the caves they built surface buildings nearby, but the village was devastated by the 1931 earthquake and a decision was made to relocate to the higher position of the modern village.
The caves are spread out over a surprisingly large area indicating that a sizeable population lived here. Some of them are very simple and some quite elaborate with windows and niches cut into the hillsides. The two churches both date from the 17th century and survived better than most of the other surface buildings. The lower one, St Hripsime, was in the centre of the village and dates from 1663. Across the stream at the bottom of the gorge and slightly further south is the 17th-century hermitage where Mkhitar Sparapet is buried along with his wife and followers. He succeeded David Bek as leader of the rebellion against Ottoman rule. In 1730 he was murdered by the villagers of Khndzoresk because of Turkish threats that they would be attacked if they harboured him. Apparently the Turkish pasha in Tabriz to whom they presented his head had the murderers beheaded for what he regarded as their treachery.
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