3-5 Day moderately challenging spelunking/camping
Features three caverns rated the best in Europe by members of the French Speleological Society. Magili and Archeri (Bear's) Caves, and the smaller Jerovank cavern, provide hours of exploration in subterranean Armenia. All three caves are located within a few kilometers of each other, with nearby camping at natural springs, under the boughs of an ancient apricot forest, or below towering rock formations.
DAY 1: The expedition begins with a drive into Vayots Dzor. Just after Areni, we turn off at the Noravank canyon road. The 13th-14th cc monastery and royal mausoleum complex designed by the master architect Momik is perched on a small hill in the canyon. Beyond is the entrance to Magili Cavern. One and half kilometers deep, the cavern was inhabited as far back as the Neolithic period. Stone tools and artifacts have been discovered in the cave, as well as more "recent" ceramic fragments from the 9th c on. Because of its depth, Magili cavern holds a constant temperature of 14 degrees centigrade (58 degrees Fahrenheit). The passageway varies from just enough for a person to crawl through to a spacious 10-15 meters in width.
The cave is a unique underground eco-system, home to thousands of fruit bats. The only mammal capable of true flight, bats are an important part of the ecological system. In Armenia they include 17 types in 6 species: rhinolophus euryale, rhinolophus mehelyi, myotis nattereri kuhl, barbastella leucomelas, miniopterus schreibersi kuhl, tadaria teniotis rat.
The bats found at Magili feed off of insects (up to 3 times their weight per day) and pollinate the nearby orchards and vineyards. They do not carry rabies and do not bite humans. Their sophisticated sense of radar (sending 0.2/100 milimicron pulses at 130 kilohertz amplitude ultra-voice) allows them to unerringly swerve out of the path of anything larger than a June bug. One of nature's spectacles is at dusk, as the nesting bats fly out of the cave in a fluttering cloud that twists and turns in the evening air. Free style camping can be made in the river canyon near an ancient apricot forest near a hankayin akhpur (a mineral spring).
DAY 2: About 4 hours hike away, near Arpi, is the mammoth Archeri or Bear's Cave. The entrance is located 1660 meters above sea level, and the cave is more than 3 kilometers deep, with some of the most spectacular stalactites and stalagmite formations in Europe. Formed by thousands of years of calcite deposits dripping from ground water, the formations and varieties of colors are stunning. The water that is dripping now to form these formations is probably more than a hundred years old, filtering from the top of the mountain through layers of granite, slag and tuf to the cavern chamber. The formations glow under flashlight, some pure white, others as translucent as smoky glass, still others gold and red in color.
DAY 3: On the forested road to Agaragadzor, just past Arpi is Jerovank, the water church. The "church" is actually a cave with a pool of spring water outside, fed from a source inside the cave. Inside are a series of stalactites that were used as part of a 4th millennium BCE pagan cult. Directly in front of the cave entrance is a sacrificial stone. The stalactites inside were used as phalluses for fertility rituals. Spelunkers and archeologists have found human skeletal remains inside the cave, giving speculation that the sacrifices may have been people. The canyon outside the cave is thickly forested and a hiker's paradise. Nearby are the 11th c. Agaragadzor Kamourch and a large spring fed pool, a perfect place to swim in and cool of after a lengthy hike.
DAYS 4-5: Additional days caving, or hiking into Yeghegis and Hehr-Hehr mountain zones. Both have historic ruins (Yeghegis an entire medieval city in ruins) and nature areas.
After Caving. . . Soaking!
While you are in the area, take trip just 25 miles up hill to Jermuk, a 2000+ meter altitude mountain resort and river area. Jermuk mineral springs are a taste of the grand old days of "taking the waters", and feature hot mineral baths, pressurized water massages and hikes in the nearby forest. ________________________________________________________
This Itinerary can be guided by the EcoTourism Association, contact Zhanna at 32/22 Shinararneri st., 375038 Yerevan, Armenia. Phone: (3741) (3741) 27 87 28 / 39 75 52 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Their services include guide/translator, first and last night in Yerevan hotel, transportation to/from Yerevan to base, backup vehicle and staff, all camping equipment and meals. Also includes 1 night at Jermuk Spa (oh luxury!).
(currently down, but try in case)
Protected Areas of Armenia
of Sevan National Park
of Endangered Species in Armenia
- September 2000
- July 1998
Field Trip on Armenia's Wetlands (1998)
Birds of Armenia (Luba and Levon)
Institute [+ (3741) 28-15-02 ]
EcoTour (site down, but try in case)
Eco Tour Groups in Armenia
write TourArmenia -