Garni Gorge is 23 km east of Yerevan, Armenia, adjacent to the village bearing the same name, Garni. It’s a destination that epitomizes Armenia’s geological and historical tapestry. The gorge is famed for its unique basalt column formations known as the Symphony of Stones. Additionally, perched on a promontory overlooking the gorge is the ancient Temple of Garni, dating back to the first century AD, further enriching the area’s historical allure.
Geological Formations: Garni Gorge
The prime attraction of Garni Gorge is the Symphony of Stones, also referred to as the Basalt Organ. These are naturally occurring hexagonal basalt columns that tower approximately 50 meters above the ground. The columns resemble organ pipes or pencils, aligned vertically along the cliff faces of the gorge carved out by the Goght River. The formation resulted from volcanic activities; the cooling and crystallization of volcanic lava under extreme pressure conditions led to the creation of these hexagonal pillars. The Symphony of Stones is considered one of the most significant and picturesque of such formations globally.
Historical Significance: Temple of Garni and Medieval Structures
The Garni Gorge is home to the well-preserved Temple of Garni from the 1st century AD, symbolizing Armenia’s pre-Christian Hellenistic era. A short distance from the temple lies an 11th-century medieval bridge, and further along, the gorge leads to Havuts Tar Monastery. These historical structures enhance the region’s appeal, offering a glimpse into Armenia’s rich and diverse historical past.
Access and Routes
Garni Gorge is accessible via two primary routes. One route descends into the gorge just before reaching the Temple of Garni, while another traverses through the village on a cobblestone path leading into the valley. Once in the valley, a right turn leads to the gorge and its historic structures, whereas a left turn guides visitors along the river towards the Khosrov Forest State Reserve. The well-maintained roads and transport facilities in Armenia allow for personal or guided tours to Garni Gorge, making it a conveniently accessible destination from Yerevan.
Weather and Visitations
The climate in Armenia favors a long visitation period to Garni Gorge, with the warm season commencing in March and extending until late autumn. Winter is relatively mild and short-lived, permitting year-round accessibility to the gorge. However, the spring and autumn seasons are considered the most favorable times for visiting due to pleasant weather conditions.
Safety and Environmental Concerns
While the Symphony of Stones is under state protection as a natural monument, the absence of caretakers, informative signage regarding rockfall risks, and inadequate maintenance have led to environmental neglect. Tourists are advised to maintain a safe distance from the basalt columns due to the ongoing rockfall threat. The gorge also faces challenges with littering, indicating a need for improved environmental conservation measures to ensure its preservation for future generations.
Recognition and Awards
In 2013, a poster depicting the Symphony of Stones garnered recognition in the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) competition, winning in the “Europe” category. This acknowledgment underlines the global appreciation and the enchanting appeal of Garni Gorge’s natural formations.
What Did We Learn Today?
Garni Gorge encapsulates Armenia’s splendid geological and historical narrative. Its proximity to Yerevan, coupled with its natural and historical sites, makes it a significant destination for both local and international tourists. The continued effort towards better environmental management and promotion of responsible tourism is imperative to preserve and enhance the enduring allure of Garni Gorge and its Symphony of Stones.