Akhtala is located in the Lori Region, on the bank of the Shamlugh river, in the valley of Debed river and on the slopes of Lalvar mountain, at a height of 740 meters above sea level. It is 186 km north of the capital Yerevan and 62 km north of administrative centre Vanadzor. The town has a subtropical climate with cool, dry summers and mild winters. The present-day Akhtala is divided into 3 neighbourhoods: the old and the new town and the eastern neighbourhood. 

History of Akhtala

Akhtala was known with the names Akhdala and Pghndzahank, the latest of which means "copper mine" in Armenian. The name of the city was first mentioned in the recordings of Kirakos Gandzaketsi, who wrote that in 1214 Prince Ivane Zakarian died and was buried at the Pghndzahank church, i. e. the monastery of Akhtala. 

The famous Akhtala fortress was also built in the medieval period. There are numerous historical monuments, churches, chapels, and khachkars in this area. The archaeological excavations revealed that Akhtala has been settled since the early Bronze Age. In the result of the excavations in the fortress, led by a French archaeologist Jacques de Morgan, bronze and iron objects, weapons, and ornaments dating back to the 8th century were discovered.

The fortress of Akhtala was built in the late 10th century by the Kurikyan princes. The location of the castle is very impressive․ It was built on a plateau surrounded by gorges on three sides. On either side of the main entrance, three-storey pyramidal towers and high walls rise.

The Akhtala Monastery (10th century) is located in the territory of the fortress and is considered to be one of the greatest samples of the Armenian architecture. The monastery complex includes three churches. Once the monastery was one of the important educational centres of Armenia.  

The well-preserved murals of the main church of Saint Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) are of particular interest. The colouring of the murals is typical of Byzantine art while the thematic solutions are Armenian. Some of the records are in the Greek and Georgian languages.

The murals are very colourful and have a history of 800 years. The most interesting fact is that they haven't changed their colours. The secret is that a special blue dye was used which hasn’t changed its colour. Among the other historical monuments of Akhtala are the Holy Trinity monastery (13th century), Saint George church, a 13th-century spring monument, a 19th-century Russian chapel, a Greek church and other chapels.

Akhtala is famous not only for its historical monuments but also for the annual  Armenian Barbecue Festival celebrated here. The first festival took place on the third Sunday of August, in 2009. During the festival, the participants prepare and present traditional barbeque and kebab with other national dishes. The celebration is accompanied by traditional Armenian songs and dances. 


Akhtala Monastery

Akhtala monastery complex was built in 10th century located in Akhtala town, Lori Region. The monastery is surrounded by natural barriers and the only entrance to the castle is from the north .

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