EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently Asbarez was contacted by the Artsakh Tourism Department, which works under the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Economy Ministry, with a request to publish a series of articles about tourism in Artsakh and the growing industry that has been burgeoning there in recent years. We continue the series on Artsakh tourism in hopes that our readers who visit Armenia, consider Artsakh as a destination as well and share these articles with their friends—Armenian and non-Armenian alike.
To be in Artsakh and not to visit Shoushi is like to be in Paris and not to visit Eifel tower. Shoushi is the cultural capital of Artsakh Republic. In 1846 Shoushi was given a city status and since then it has flourished becoming the “Paris of Caucasus”. It was a trade and cultural center, which was located on the trade road connecting Armenia and Iran. The city comprised population of more than 50 thousand people. Now only several thousand people live there, but this fact doesn’t decrease the importance of Shoushi as a cultural capital of all Armenians.
You can walk here all day round and not get tired, because every step is a new cultural experience and a new discovery. Shoushi is another hidden treasure of Artsakh, which will be discovered step by step: with famous sites and hidden routes, it’s a quest that should be passed by each traveler.
Shoushi welcomes everybody with a fortress of middle ages which was preserved to our days. The fortress saved heroic population of the city several times. It had four gates, but only one of them preserved (Elizabethpole gates-on the entrance to the city). The fortifications with 2.5 km long and 5-7 m high begin on the rocks in the eastern part of Shoushi.
Right near the entrance, a Fine Arts Gallery was recently constructed, where thousands of paintings, sculptures are exhibited. Entry fee -350 AMD per person. Hours of operation of from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
After examining the masterpieces of Armenian and foreign painters it’s time to visit one of the main architectural wonders of Artsakh- Church of Holy the Saviour (Ghazanchetsots Cathedral) of the late 19th century. Built in 1888 from white limestone the church with height of 40m makes a really strong impression. Near the church a souvenir shop is located.
One of the must visit places of Shoushi, is of course Carpet Museum. Shoushi was famous for its carpet manufacturing. The carpets from Shoushi and from the whole Karabakh were famous for their skillfully woven symbols, ornaments and bright colours. The carpet museum is located in a recently restored historical building near Ghazanchetsots cathedral, on the first floor.
Walking down the city we will reach the Muslim quarter of the city where a market square and the Upper Mosque are located. The two storey market was built by Tarkhanyan brothers. Now it is reconstructed and operates on the same purposes. The Persian mosque was built at the end of the 19th century by a Persian architect for the needs of the Muslim population of Shoushi. During the Soviet period it was used as a museum, now it’s protected by the state as a historical-cultural monument and a plan of reconstruction is being designed at this moment.
One of the reasons that Shoushi is beloved by visitors is Katarot or Jdrduz field, on the rocks of Hunot Canyon. Incredible views, fresh air, forests and monuments: Jdrduz is an appropriate place for organizing picnics, camping and meetings near the fire in the evenings. The mountain climbers will also like this place, the rocks will take them to the depth of the canyon, to “Mamrot kar” waterfall. The entrance to Jdrduz is free, but you will be charged 500 AMD in case of entering there with a vehicle.
After enjoying unforgettable panoramic views of Hunot Canyon, it’s time to get acquainted with the monumental architecture of Shoushi. One of them is Realakan college (early 20th century), which was considered to be one the most famous educational institutions of the Southern Caucasus at that time. Unfortunately, it was abandoned in the 90th, but even now it still amazes with monumental forms and a mixture of European and Armenian traditional architecture. Realakan college is surrounded by impressive buildings like the city hospital of Dzhamharyants and the girls’ school Mayramyan.
If you notice a spring built with limestone and decorated with inscriptions and eaves, be sure that you will meet such springs again and again. Dozens of Memorable springs are spread in Shoushi, harmoniously integrated with the architectural atmosphere of the White City.
Shoushi is a city of museums as well. Two of them are located near each other: Shoushi history museum and Geological museum. The Museum of History is located in a historical mansion and visited for its cultural artifacts, history of Shoushi, a beautiful collection of household articles from the late middle ages. The Geological museum represents itself as a unique repository of unique geological fossils and minerals from Artsakh and all over the world.
One of the routes will take us to the eastern part of Shoushi. This place is not popular among the tourists, but who knows about it prefers to visit by every opportunity. It’s the place where Shoushi fortification walls begin, on a high rock right above Hunot Canyon. Here, you will see how history and nature are merged with each other, how fortification is literally included to the rocks. The remarkable palace of Khans (Persian governors) remained in this area. Only a few fragments have preserved to our days, but they will tell many things about the beauty of this palace.
Another place of interest in Shoushi is Kanach Zham church (Green church). It is called “green” due to its former green domes. The church was built in the place of old church called Gharabaghtsots, in honor of Artsakhian farmers, who had built it.
Tips about accommodation, food and information
Shoushi has several hotels which offer different types of services. I advise you to stay in Shoushi Plaza Hotel, Shoushi Grand Hotel or Shoushi Hotel. If you prefer to stay in a cheap accommodation, choose Shoushi Hotel. The two others offer middle class services with appropriate prices.
Actually, you can have food at hotels, but there is an interesting restaurant called “Russin Aghbyur” (Spring of a Russian). Besides tasty food you will enjoy panoramic views of Stepanakert from 1400 meters above the sea level.
There is a tourism information center in Shoushi as well. The staff will help with any information you need and will be your travel advisor during your stay in Shoushi. (3, Garegin Nzhdeh Avenue; hours of operation: every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).