Goris (Գորիս) is a city in Southern Armenia. Goris is a favoured destination of many local and foreign tourists, with a lot of hotels and inns. The stone-pyramids of Old Kores are one of the most attractive sites in Goris.
The city was possibly the first built in a grid layout in Armenia, with a very quaint regional style of stone architecture.
Though Goris or Tatev can be crammed into a day trip from Yerevan, it's much better to spend a few nights in the area, and along the way.
Throughout its history, Goris has also been known as Kores and Gorayk. The name Goris had many variants including: Goristsa, Kores, Gores, Gorayk, Goru, and Geryusy.
The Goris area has been settled since the Stone Age and is first mentioned in the Urartian period, when King Rusa I of Urartu who reigned between 735 and 713 BC, left a cuneiform, where he mentioned that among the 23 countries conquered by him, Goristsa country was one of them, which is believed to be Goris.
During the Middle Ages, there was a town-settlement in the eastern part of the present Goris, on the left bank of Goris river, called Kores. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, it suffered from the Seljuk, Mongol, Aq Qoyunlu and Kara Koyunlu invasions, respectively.
At the beginning of the 16th century, it became part of Safavid Persia. The current spelling of the name was first mentioned in 1624. At the beginning of the 18th century, the region was the centre of the Armenian liberation campaign led by David Bek, against Safavid Persia and the invading Ottoman Turks. In 1750, the region became part of the newly-formed Karabakh Khanate.
At the beginning of the 19th century, it became part of the Russian Empire. Under Russian rule, the town of Goris was founded in 1870 to become the centre of Zangezursky Uyezd, within the Elisabethpol Governorate of the Russian Empire. In 1876, the construction of new Goris was completed near the old town of Kores.
It was part of the first Republic of Armenia from 1918 until 1920, when following the fall of the republic, it became in 1921 the de facto capital of the self-governing regions of Daralakyaz (Vayots Dzor), Zangezur, and parts of Mountainous Artsakh, under the name of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia. However, the self-proclaimed republic only lasted months until the Red Army forced it to capitulate on 13 July 1921.
Under the Soviet rule, Goris served as a regional centre. During the 1950s, the economy of the city was boosted by the construction of many hydroelectric power plants in the area.
The last major town in Armenia on the main route linking the de facto republic of Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh during its existence to the outside world, Goris hit the headlines worldwide in 2023 as thousands of Karabakh Armenians poured in following the Azerbaijani takeover of their home region.
Goris stands 254 km (158 miles) south of Yerevan, in a valley surrounded by the Zangezur Mountains, through which flows the Goris River, also known as Vararak River. The town is approximately 10 km from the Azerbaijani border and about 70 km from the Iranian border, and has an average elevation of 1,385 metres above sea level.
Inside an alpine climate zone, the weather of Goris is characterized with mild snowy winters and hot summers. The average temperature in January is –1.3 °C and +19 °C in July. The annual precipitation level is between 500 and 600 mm.
Tourism information office
- Tourist Information Center, off Komitas St at Ankakhutyan 3 (opposite the Archaeological Museum), ☏ . The helpful staff can offer assistance in English, French, Russian and Armenian. They have the marshrutka timetable for the surrounding area.
- 1 Bus stop 1 from Yerevan (Komitas St. between Mashtots St. and Orbelyanner St.).
- 2 Bus stop 2 from Yerevan (Komitas St. between Syuniq St. and Movses Khorenatsi St.).
From specific destinations:
- Yerevan – Marshrutkas N°607 depart from the Southern Bus Station, at 09:00 and 16:00, cost 3,000 dram (as 2022), and take 5 hr. (they return from Goris at 09:00 and 16:00). It is prudent to book in advance by phone (the day before), as they get filled up. Ask you accommodation or the tourist information.) (Confirmed September 2022)
- Sisian – Before 2023, one daily marshrutka departed at 10:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, stopping at Goris en route to Stepanakert, Karabakh (2,000 dram). Alternatively, you can wait at the highway for a marshrutka to pass through from Yerevan (four or five pass through every afternoon); they'll pick you up if there is space.
- Kapan – At 09:00 and 12:00, 1,500 dram, 1½-2 hr.
- Tatev – At 07:30 and 14:30, 700 dram, 1 hr.
Regular shared taxis (4,500 dram per person, 4½ hr) depart daily from Yerevan between 09:00 and 13:00, and return from Goris in the afternoon. (They depart Goris from an unmarked door on Syuniki St. near the post office.) The shared taxis stop for a food break at Yeghegnadzor.
Renting a car (with or without driver/guides) or taking a private cab is a more flexible, expensive option. A private transfer costs around 27,000 dram and can be arranged with stops along the way and further to Tatev. This can be worthwhile if you are in a group or short on time to see lots of places along the way.
Within Goris, it is quite easy to get around on foot.
Marshrutkas to nearby villages operate from the market on Syuniki street.
In town there's a church, a market, the Axel Bakunts Museum and some other minor sites. On the edges of town are some great rock formations which are attractive to photographers.
- Aksel Bakunts museum, 41 Mashtots Str.. Aksel Bakunts was a famous Armenian writer. The house museum is worthy of a visit regardless whether you are a fan of his writing, as it's an interesting example of what a traditional home would have looked like in his time. The surrounding neighbourhood sports plenty of 19th century houses. The museum also organizes traditional Samovar tea drinking workshops where they show how to use a samovar and tell about its origins and uses.
- Goris Local Lore Museum, Mashtots St, 5 Building (inside a former church building). The museum has an impressive collection of over 5,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects that tell the story of the region's rich cultural heritage, history, and traditions. One of the most prominent pieces is a five-faced idol that dates back to the 2nd millennium BCE.
- St. Grigor Lusavorich Church, corner of Grigor Tatevatsi and Mesrop Mashtots. This church is dedicated to Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint of Armenia. Built in 1897-1904, it was consecrated in 1903 by Catholicos Khrimian Hayrik and opened the following year without a dome or altar. The coming of the Soviets resulted in it being closed in 1926. Until the 1960s, the church was used to store grain and as a geological museum. In December 1989, the church was reopened, still in an unfinished state. Between 1984 and 1997, the dome and a holy altar were completed, and after being blessed on 20 December 1997, it's fully operational today. Before the dome was added, the church was 12 metres high, but today, with dome and the cross, it is 28 metres high.
- 1 Old Khndzoresk Cave Village (Hin Khndzoresk) (a couple of villages east of Goris is the village of Khdzoresk, and under it, in a gorge pocked with caves is Old Khndoresk). Until the 1950s, people lived in those caves still, and this was an active cave village, so be careful who you call a caveman around here! To go there by bus, you can take a bus that leaves Goris from the 14 Mashtots street, and goes to the village of Khndzoresk. At the terminus, start walking down to the old village (ask the driver if you are not sure about the direction to walk to as by bus you arrive on the other side of the valley, and not on the side where usually tourists arrive). From the bus stop, you can go down to the swinging bridge visit and old house (free) and then come back to take the next bus. You need less than 2 hours to do it and you will probably be alone as a really few tourists walk in the old village. During weekdays, buses leave at 7:50, 9:00, 11:00, 13:30, 15:00 and 17:00. On weekends at 9:00, 11:00, 13:30, 17:00. It takes 30 minutes to go to the site and the bus goes back directly to Goris which means buses leave Khndzoresk during weekdays at 8:20, 9:30, 11:30, 14:15, 15:30 and 17:30. On weekends the leave Khndzoresk at 9:30, 11:30, 14:15 and 17:30. The cost is 300 dram (November 2023).
- 2 Bgheno-Noravank Monastery (16 km south of Goris). A couple of kilometres off the main highway is the little known and less visited monastery of Bgheno Noravank. Easy to miss the turnoff, and just consisting of a couple of chambers, it's a good spot for a break if you're on a long drive.
- 1 Goris Wildlife Sanctuary (at the southeast of the town). At a height of 1,400-2,800 m above sea level with an area of 18.5 km². Caucasian grouse, roe deer and brown bear are among the notable animals in the sanctuary. With the closeness of the sanctuary to Azerbaijan and actually spreading across the border, get up to date information of border safety when heading there.
- 2 Take cooking and other classes at Yeghevnut Hotel, 7 Yerevan Hwy, ☏ , email@example.com. Besides being a hotel, Yeghevnut also organizes various cooking classes on traditional Armenian dishes both savory and sweet. The recipes are mostly the ones inherited from the hotel owner's grandmother. They also have an old tradition of beekeeping and organize beekeeping and beeswax handcream making workshops. You can take your cream with you or possible buy one from them if not planning on taking the class.
- 3 Learn to make Goris tolma with a cooking class at Loby Goris, 1st St #96, Verishen, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Loby Goris is a family owned cozy restaurant. The house itself is almost 100 years old and is adjacent to Goris. They serve many dishes that you can pre-order and a special one named Goris tolma that you can also take a class to learn to prepare. While common tolma in Armenia is wrapped in wine leaves, in Goris it can also be wrapped in bean leaves (Goris is famous for its beans). The meat recipe is also different. All-in-all, you need to try it for yourself.
- 4 Take cooking classes at Mirhav Hotel, Mashtots St 100, ☏ , email@example.com. Mirhav is a stylish hotel located downtown. It has some nice archeological finds displayed in its halls. The hotel also organizes traditional cooking classes such as pakhlava in Goris style (sweet pastry with honey and walnuts) and vodka distillation demos.
- 5 Learn about wool processing and carpet making at Goris Wool to Carpet workshop (Goris Handmade), Verishen (in front of an old church), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a cool workshop that can show you the whole process of carpet making right from the sheep shearing moment until making everything into a fine carpet with local patterns. The also have excellent wool products like blankets, covers, laptop bags and other things for sale.
- 6 Take guided hiking tours with Khndzoresk Revival Foundation (Mina Hotel), 169 Mashtots St, ☏ . The Foundation is run by the Mina Hotel owners. They organize various tours from New Khndzoresk to Old Khndzoresk and around the Old Khndzoresk cave-city itself.
- 7 Attend Mulberry Festival, Karahunj village (south of Goris). You can participate in mulberry gathering, see the full process of vodka-making and taste various dishes and drinks. The festival takes place around the end of June-beginning of July.
- Samovar seller. There is a roadside stand with a large collection of antique samovars for sale that are beautiful to look at, whether or not you intend to purchase one.
- Goris beans. Goris is famous for the tastiest beans in Armenia.
- Goris Handmade. Goris Handmade makes excellent wool products and fun crochet toys.
There are a few restaurant/cafes in town, and a few barbecue joints on the highway on the edge of town. There is also Loby Goris family restaurant that at the moment requires to make in advance reservations.
Where there is food, there is drink. Goris area is particularly famous for its mulberry vodka.
- 1 Aregak B&B, 4/16 Getapnya, ☏ , Aregak.email@example.com. Lovely B&B close to the centre of Goris, in a separate apartment to the host. Great breakfasts, tea and coffee. The apartment has two triple rooms and one double, kitchen, TV, and fridge. Host can arrange transport to Tatev and onwards. 5,000 dram.
- 2 Khachik B&B, 13 Davit-Bek St., ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. A B&B that's been a fixture for visitors for many years. Friendly owners that brew wine in their own home. You can have pre-ordered meals as well; dinner per person is 4,000 dram. Trying the wine is also extra. The hosts can arrange a taxi to go to the cable car to Tatev and wait at Devil's Bridge while you walk down from the monastery, 8,000 dram round trip (10,000 dram if you want the cab to go all the way to the monastery).
- 3 Mirhav, 100 Mashtots Str., ☏ , email@example.com. Fantastic design/decor, very "Armenian" while still being comfortable and modern. Excellent staff, beautiful garden, good food. 18-33,000 dram.
- Tatev – Tatev is on an 850 m high cliff above a natural land bridge, springs, a cavern in an underground river. It is an unforgettable place. The town, its monastery and the cable car that leads there, are only the important sights to discover there.
- Jermuk – A spa town where much of the country's mineral water comes from.
- Sisian – A good base for visiting Ughtasar mountain and thousands of petroglyphs on top of it.
- Yeghegnadzor – A small town close to spectacular canyon and monastery in Noravank, the impressive Smbatabert Fortress/Tsakhats Kar Monastery area and the old silk road caravanserai of Selim.