The Disguised Beauty of Yerevan: Hrazdan Gorge
Hidden from the eyes of Yerevan residents and from the city hustle and bustle, there is Hrazdan Gorge, ‘countryside’ in the center of the city. All Yerevan residents know about this hidden beauty. We all have been there many times because if you visit it once, you will want to go there again and again.
To the visitors of Yerevan, however, it is still a secret, disguised with a park and some buildings. Some parts of it can be seen from the tall buildings and the bridges constructed over the Gorge, though.
In the distance, on a hill above Hrazdan Gorge, you can also see Hrazdan Stadium, Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex (or simply Hamalir), and Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian genocide memorial complex.
The Best Way to Get to the Gorge: The Soviet-Era Tunnel
There are many ways to get to Hrazdan Gorge, but the most preferable one is through the tunnel which bridges the city center and the Gorge. The tunnel cannot be seen from the main road but you can get there from Mashtots avenue through a recently renovated park called ‘Missak Manouchian Park’.
Another way to find the tunnel is from Saryan Street. It is situated right under Saryan Street. Once you see a tall building, the Main Post Office building, you need to go down the left street if the tall building is on your right, or down the right street if the building is on your left. You will find yourself in the back of Missak Manouchian Park.
Now, all you need to do is just look back. You will then see two tunnels only one of which, the left one, is in use currently. People mostly prefer the tunnel to get to the Gorge as it protects them from the scorching sun or from other weather conditions.
It is illuminated with some dim lights, some twenty years ago, however, it used to be pitch dark. The tunnel is about 460 m long and is decorated with some random graffiti. Right at the exit, you can see a feline statue waiting in ambush, ready to attack anyone who gets out of the tunnel as if protecting the gorge (1994, made of black volcanic tuff stone).
On the Other Side of the Tunnel: the Open-Air Gym and More
In front of the tunnel, there are 10 drinking fountains, currently not in use, dedicated to the Soviet Russian and Armenian heroes. On the left, there is an amusement park called ‘Mankakan Yerkatughi’ that literally translates as ‘Children’s Railway’ (2.1 km). It was founded in 1937 and is one of the few railroads built in the Soviet-era and still operating even after the collapse of the regime.
What We Know About Hrazdan Gorge
Hrazdan River (140 km) flows along Hrazdan Gorge. It is considered one of the largest rivers in Armenia. Originating from Lake Sevan, it flows through Yerevan and into Araks River.
Three bridges have been built over Hrazdan Gorge – the 200-meter-long Victory Bridge (1946), Kievyan Bridge (1954), and Davtashen Bridge (2010).
One can see numerous people in the gorge despite the weather or the time. People come here to jog, swim, have a picnic, or just enjoy nature. There is also an open-air gym here, helping people get in shape free of charge any time they want. Anyone can join in – no age or gender restrictions.
You can also see many small waterfalls along the river – the sound of them alone is enough to want to come back as often as possible. There are also some naughty squirrels but they can be seen only by the lucky ones. They are jumping from tree to tree and making the loudest noise possible.
Most of the waterfalls have been occupied by restaurants, their main dish being fish. This is good on one hand as they try to keep the area clean for the customers at least. On the other hand, however, ordinary people who just want to admire the beauty of nature are unable to get closer to them.
Hrazdan Gorge is also a perfect place for those who are learning to drive – there are few cars, and the drivers-to-be can drive safely and at a desirable speed. When taking a walk you can see some driving school cars passing by. Some cars even stop here, drivers love to wash their cars with the water pouring down from the retaining walls.
What is Not Known: the 70,000-Year-Old Skull
When visiting Hrazdan Gorge we usually just relax and admire its beauty. We have no idea, however, what it has been through. Its history dates back to tens of thousands of years or more.
Hrazdan Gorge is a mysterious blend of the past and present. A 70,000 years old skull was found in the Paleolithic cave of Hrazdan Gorge. It is currently kept in the History Museum of Yerevan.
How Hrazdan Got Its Name
The Gorge naturally got its name from the Hrazdan River. And how about the latter? In the inscriptions of the Kingdom of Van, the name of this river is mentioned as ‘Ildarouni’ /ildaruni/, which is said to have been transformed into Hrazdan over time.
According to another theory, it consists of the word ‘hour’ (/hur/, meaning fire in Armenian), particle ‘az’ which shows the origin, and the word ‘dan’ meaning water in Indo-European languages. Thus Hrazdan may mean ‘water originated from a volcano’.
It is believed that some 14,000 years ago the level of Lake Sevan, fenced with five mountain ranges, rose as a result of volcanic eruptions. Meanwhile, the river originating from it kept flowing its way, as it was the lowest part of the basin of the Lake.
Modern etymologists consider Hrazdan to be accurate evidence of the origin of the Armenians and proving once again that we are the natives of our lands.
Who knows how many battles have taken in Hrazdan Gorge. It is a proven fact that people lived in the numerous cave dwellings found in the Gorge since the Ice Age.
There are many traces of fortresses, mausoleums, and clay tiles.
You should definitely have Hrazdan Gorge in the list of your Places to Visit – just grab some food and anything else you need for a picnic, and off you go. Make sure to clean after yourself when you are done, as we have to take care of this absolute gem inherited by our ancestors.
17 places to visit on Hrazdan River (140 km) along Hrazdan Gorge
Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex (or simply Hamalir)
Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian genocide memorial complex
The Missak Manouchian Park
The Soviet Era Tunnel 460 m long
The feline statue
10 drinking fountains- can you find all 10 of them?
“Mankakan Yerkatughi”- Children’s Railway- founded in 1937
The three bridges built over Hrazdan Gorge
The naughty squirrels
The Paleolithic cave, where a 70,000 years old skull was found (Now in Yerevan History Museum)
The traces of fortresses, mausoleums, and clay tiles