I saw the stunning photos in an article in a local magazine I picked up at a diner I was eating at in Yerevan – the lush tropical looking forests, the sheer cliffs, the beautiful river cascades and waterfalls. These carvings in a cave looked distinctly Mayan or Aztec, nothing like what existed in Armenia. I would have dismissed the entire thing as a distant wonderland, except I could make out the letters of one name, Ijevan, a region in Armenia. Strange I thought. I asked the people working at the diner what the article said about the location. Was it in Armenia? They said it sounded like it, but they couldn’t really tell where. I grabbed the article, took it to the tourist information office because if it was in Armenia, I was going to see this place!
Where "is" this place
The story caused a bit of a stir and confusion at the tourist information office. People there had never seen or heard of any such canyon.
Eventually, I was sent to an adventure tour company, whose owner had hiked all over the country in his youth. With a gleam in his eye, he recognized the place, and explained how to find it. That was all I needed. I rented a car and drove up to the town of Ijevan, not knowing what to expect, or how exactly to get to this canyon. I went to the local tourist information office, but it was closed. To city hall. Closed also. Calls were made and the tourist information office was quickly opened. After showing them information about the canyon and caves, another call was made, this one to Yenokavan Village. Twenty minutes later a young Armenian guy arrived, he would be our guide. All of this had taken some time, so we rushed up past his village, well above it, where we parked and started our hike into the canyon.
The cliffs, the lush forests, the river – all was a complete
transformation in scenery. We felt like we’d been transported to
Descending towards the river we saw beautiful flora and wildlife, before we came to a few stairs, and then, the entrance to the cave. I couldn’t wait to see these odd carvings. I was not disappointed! The style was totally out of character for this part of the world, looked like it had been carved by Central Americans centuries ago. The wall was covered with many faces, often with face on top of face, some looking mysteriously cat-like. It was crazy that nobody knew about this place. I wanted to explore the area more. We set off for the nearby river, which had gorgeous rock formations, cascades and waterfalls along the way. A bit further in the canyon was another cave, one that required effort to get up inside to see the small pool it was supposed to contain. That would have to wait for another day. We did not have the right equipment which our guide said he could bring, plus we were starting to run out of time.
If we’d known, we would have come prepared to camp. Our guide had all the gear for a few nights which meant we would not have rented a car. Just take a Marshrutni to Ijevan and a cab to Yenokavan from there.