Known for ages, Akhtala is a small settlement in one of the beautiful, forested corners of Lori. Sources dating to the 5th century often mention it as Pghndzahank (or copper mine), which suggests the historic roots of mining in this region. Akhtala’s magnificent monuments—both natural and historical—make it one of the most remarkable sightseeing sites in Armenia and an exceptional travel destination.
Founded in 2016, the Nurik Center is an important tourism resource, which organizes programs with the involvement of the locals, particularly people with disabilities. The programs include teaching traditional and decorative applied arts and crafts, making souvenirs, presenting and cooking local dishes, and hiking tours aimed at exploring the surrounding natural and historical monuments.
For instance, visitors may prepare national dishes, weave carpets with the help of local masters, taste freshly baked gata and other distinctive Armenian dishes, and tour the sublime 13th-century Akhtala monastic complex, one of the most remarkable examples of Armenian church architecture, which is adjacent to the center.
A knowledgeable local guide will lead your tour from the center to the monastic complex and tell you fascinating stories about the medieval fortress, as well as its eye-catching tall gates, the Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) Church, and the ruins of a large two-story building that may have been a royal mint, due to the presence of gold and silver coins.
The colorful murals of the Surb Astvatsatsin Church are one of the highlights of the Akhtala monastery complex. According to legend, their magnificence and beauty were so absorbing that they distracted churchgoers from their prayers.
Before strolling through the monastic complex, you may try your luck by throwing a small stone into the pit of the wall above the gates; according to popular belief, if the stone remains there, your dream will come true. You will also see a recent sculpture in the form of wedding rings inside the fortress. According to another popular local belief, newlyweds will receive good luck if they pass through the rings.
With these vivid impressions of Akhtala’s historical and architectural monuments, you may return to the Nurik Center and to continue engaging with Armenian history and culture through traditional cuisine, crafts, and communication with locals.
Meet your host
The Nurik Center is a community and tourism development center established by the Armenian Young Women’s Association to promote the social and economic development of the Lori region and to provide places of work for women and people with disabilities.