Vorotnaberd

Already in the 5th c. Vorotaberd was one of the most famous and impregnable castles in Armenia.

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Vorotnaberd

Vorotnaberd

The exact date of the construction of this castle is unknown but it is believed to have been built in the 4th c. Already in the 5th c. Vorotaberd was one of the most famous and impregnable castles in Armenia.

It was included in the list of the castles and settlements taken from the Persians during the Vardanats War in 450. The castle was captured by Seljuk Turks in 1104, then liberated by Prince Ivaneh Zakarian in 1219, who gave it to Prince Liparit Orbelian.

Vorotnaberd was taken by the Timur Lenk hordes in 1386, with princes Burtel and Smbat Orbelians captured to Samarkand. The Orbelian brothers returned later and recaptured the castle. In 1407 Vorotnaberd was seized by kara-koyunlu Turkoman Kara Yussuf.  

In 1724 military commander Davit Bek took the castle from Baghri, an Armenian melik who had converted to Islam. The date of the final collapse of the fortress is unknown. It was no longer mentioned as a standing fortress in the 19th c. The strong earthquakes that hit Siunik also reduced the castle to ruins.     

Due to its location Vorotnaberd guarded vast areas and kept watch over the enemy’s advancement. One of Nakhijevan trade routes ran through this area.  

The large platform Vorotnaberd stands on resembles a triangle, protected on three sides by Vorotan canyon precipice. The castle once boasted outer walls running on the south-western side, with a small part of the wall with two towers preserved on the east. To the south-east is the citadel set at a height of about 50 m.

The castle had a secret tunnel used for drawing water from the Vorotan River and a circular reservoir covered with lime mortar. What remains of the one-time powerful castle of Siunik are ruins of thick double walls, watch-towers and other structures that have retained the sense of grandeur. 


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Finding VorotnaberdI visited the village at the base of Vorotnaberd twice, the first time in 2005. later in 2013. At that time I could not find it. I was at the base of the sheer wall by the hot spring in Uruyt, the village at the base, which I also had trouble findingI didn't see it because it was hundreds of feet straight above my head.
The article does not mention that the fortress is built on the top of a volcanic plug, similar to Devil's Tower in Wyoming, USA (think of Spielberg's ENCOUNTERS OF THE 3RD KIND). Pieces of the plug lay in the Vorotan River, with characteristic parallel layers from when the lava cooled.
My trip in 2013 was to see if the secret tunnel was in fact an ancient lava tube. It was not. Like at least three other fortresses in Armenia, including Amberd, the tunnel was actually a long cleft in the side of the mount, with rocks laid over head to hide the route; and steps carved in the floor of the cleft to aid climbing up and down for water without being seen during a siege.
Met a local there in 2013, who explained that the tunnel did not extend all the way to the river, but that those under siege would rope down the last 100 feet of cliff to the Vorotan, adjacent to where the 70 foot long boulder splits the river into two streams
This village site is profoundly rich with photographic opportunities. Uruyt has a huge 1855 stone bridge sandwiched between two cliffs. To get a photo, you have to walk back up dirt roads of Uruyt for 200 yards, the perspective is that immense. If you go from the bridge up toward Uruyt (population ~300), there is a grove of trees on the left across from three stone houses. Inside the grove near the 400 foot sheer cliff there is a hot spring pool, although it is Soviet-style concrete rectangle with 5 inch pipe pouring into it. I got some stares when I entered it with some locals, and it was not extremely hot.
This tiny village and environs is a very densely endowed photographic opportunity, as much as the Areni/Noravank area, but with ZERO tourists. Just north of it is the Voravank monastery site, whose restoration was suspended. In 2013 the "partial" restoration allowed examination of how the solid stone roof was constructed in slabs on these churches, as it appeared they ran out of funds when the roof was half done.
This town and the fortress site is still a great Armenian secret.

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    How to reach From Yerevan drive north east for 220 km and you will reach the Vorotnaberd. The trip will take approximately 3 hours 8 minutes.

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