Akhtala was formed and developed as a mining industrial settlement, the population was mainly engaged in the mining industry, but to some extent also in the canning industry during the Soviet era.
Akhtala was known as Agarak during the 5th century. Later, the medieval historians Kirakos Gandzaketsi and Stepanos Orbelyan mention it as Pghndzahank (copper mine), which indicates that the mining industry here has been well known for a long time, and was underlined by the identification and naming of the settlement.
The Greeks in Armenia live in mixed and in compact populated areas. Many people being aware of the ancient and historical ties and interactions of Greek and Armenian people are convinced that the Greeks lived in Armenia from early times. However, as strange as it may seem, the Greeks started to live in Armenia rather late. They are the Greeks speaking Greek Pontic dialect, whose first settlers arrived by the same Heraclius II’s initiatives. The problem is that when in 1763 he decides to re-open Akhtala’s mine, he faces the problem of a lack of skilled mining industry labor. In order to solve this problem, in the same year of 1763, they moved 300 skilled Greeks in the mining industry from Trabzon to Akhtala, thus beginning the establishment of the Greek population in Armenia. Akhtala in this respect, as the first settlement of Greeks in Armenia, could be considered as a unique symbol of friendship between the Armenian and Greek people.
Akhtala became active when the French mining company Akhtala’s Mines appeared. It soon strengthened the polymetallic and, particularly, copper extraction, made it the most famous of the Russian Empire. According to some sources, the French mining company gave up to 30% of its extracted copper to Tsarist Russia. The copper was transported to markets by the construction of the Tbilisi - Akhtala - Ghara Kilisa – Hamam –Jajur –Alexandropoulos - Kars railway. Construction work began in 1895 and cost more than 24 million Russian rubles, a large amount of money for that time.
The world-famous filmmaker of the 20th century, Armenian film director Sergei Parajanov, was inspired by Akhtala’s nature, and its medieval fortress and monastery. He filmed many episodes of one of his films with world recognition – “Sayat Nova” (Color of Pomegranate). In particular, it refers to “The childhood of Sayat Nova” and “Mad Fight” episodes. Of which in the first episode with a background of lavash hanging on a rope, the child Sayat Nova is pictured sitting on the couch with his father and mother, and in another episode the background is of the frescoes of the Main altar of the church of Akhtala.
Akhtala is 186 km north of the capital Yerevan and 62 km north of administrative center Vanadzor. It is right off the main road from Georgia to Vanadzor.
You can walk from the village to the fortress and monastery but it's a bit of an uphill.
- 1 Akhtala monastery complex (Pghindzavank (Armenian: Պղնձավանք, meaning Coppermine Monastery)). The Akhtala fortress is considered to be one of the most notable architectural monuments in Armenia. It was built from blue basalt and was considered to be unapproachable by the enemies. The deep canyons and the rocky mountains surrounding the fortress have played the role of a natural barrier. As for the accessible areas, they were protected by towers and gates. The fortress has only one entrance that is located in the Northern part. Inside the fortress is located the Akhtala monastery that consists of 3 churches (main one being St. Astvatsatsin), a bell tower and stone-made dwellings. The main building of the monastic compound is St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin) church. The exact date of the church's construction is unknown but it is generally regarded as an 11th-13th century complex, though the current church was built on an earlier foundation. The medieval Armenian historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi mentioned that Ivaneh Zakarian was buried in the church in 1227 while another medieval historian, Stepanos Orbelian, referred to the building in his History of Sisakan (Sissian) Province (1216) as Pghndzahank, or Akhtala Monastery's main and oldest church. Modern researchers date the murals within the church to 1205–1276. The lower murals at St. Astvatsatsin are dated to the 11th century with features typical of Armenian miniature paintings, especially those from the Mughni Gospels. The coloring of the murals is characteristic of typical Byzantine art while the themes are more Armenian. Those from the thirteenth century and later more closely represent Byzantine art. Most of the murals bear Greek and Georgian scripture texts made under the patronage of Atabek Ivaneh Zakarian.
- Mikael Aramyants Castle.
- 1 Art & Craft, Culinary classes with Nurik center (Nurik Center is near Akhtala Monastery), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 08:00-21:00, reservations must be made 24 hours in advance. Founded in 2016, the Nurik Center is an important tourism resource, which organizes programs with the involvement of the locals, particularly people with disabilities. The programs include teaching traditional and decorative applied arts and crafts, making souvenirs, presenting and cooking local dishes, and hiking tours aimed at exploring the surrounding natural and historical monuments. Nurik offers visitors the opportunity to prepare national dishes, weave carpets with the help of local masters, taste freshly baked gata and other distinctive Armenian dishes, and enjoy views of the sublime 13th-century Akhtala monastic complex, unfolding from the center’s windows.
- 2 Rafting on Debet river, ☏ , email@example.com. The length of rafting on Debed River is 12 km with combination of calm and very strong stream sections and its takes 3 hours. The period is starting from May and it is the period for professionals cause the river is very strong and the level of the water is high. At the end of May the river is less strong and beginners can enjoy this adventure experience. Rafting does not require any previous knowledge; you will get all the safety briefing and safety regulations instructions and answers from the organizers and guides on the spot. 12,000 dram per person.
- Sweet gata, handmade works, souvenirs are usually sold at Nurik center.
- There are some small village shops selling fruits and vegetables.
You can eat at Nurik center.