The first time I traveled to Khndzoresk (Խնձորեսկ) was in 2007, and since then, every time I am in Armenia, I am pulled to travel there again. It is a magical place. For Lord of the Ring fans, it's like stepping into a real-life Rivendell.
Khndzoresk is located in southeast Armenia, about 160 miles from Armenia's capital, Yerevan, and normally takes five hours to get there. It's part of the Syunik province, on the slopes of Khor Dzor (Deep Gorge).
Until the 1950's/1960's, villagers lived in cave dwellings depicted in the photos below. These dwellings, some of which are man-made caves, are intricate, consisting of separate rooms. There have also been underground tunnels found from one home to the next. These tunnels were used to warn of enemy attacks. In the mid-1900's, Soviet officials removed the remaining villagers still living in these caves, as they deemed it uncivilized. Some of these dwellings are still used today to house livestock.
The people of Khndzoresk, and Syunik in general, have been and are still known for their strength and courage. While Armenia adopted Christianity in 301AD, the people of Khndzoresk are believed to have remained Pagan until around the 1600's (still to be historically proven). Their location, which was difficult to get to, and their stubbornness is what has kept their traditions alive.
One Khndzoresk villager told me a story about how his grandmother would protect her home on horseback against the Turks.
Until 2012, getting to the cave dwellings was a hike through untamed trails. In 2012, a "swinging bridge" was constructed to allow for an easier and faster access, especially for the villagers of Khndzoresk. The bridge, seen below, bounces with your every step. the man, a villager from Khndzoresk, at the end of the bridge had been too afraid to walk through it, but said, "If crazy tourists from America can do this, I'm going to do it as well." Towards the end, he was running on the bridge like a little kid.
If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend you visiting Khndzoresk. Take the hike to the bridge and explore the dwellings. On your way back you'll be hungry enough to have some delicious khorovats (Armenian BBQ), or the endless healthy greens this place has to offer.