What to See
Despite its small size, Gargar village has many places of interest both for entertainment, tourism and spiritual retreat. Among these sites are the lakes which are within 15-20 minutes’ walk from the village center. About the same amount of time is needed to get to the three sanctuaries and pilgrimage sites in the village; Subnishan, Amenaprkich and Yamaj. If you are travelling by car, you may also visit Dendropark which is only 20 minutes’ drive away from the village.
The three man-made lakes in Gargar created in 2001 with the efforts of Village Mayor Karen Zalinyan are of exceptional beauty. The lakes, which are unique resorts, are located on the south-western outskirts of Gargar. The villagers love spending their holidays and leisure time on the banks of the lakes. Here, Gargar people also engage in fish breeding.
Dendropark is a botanical garden that was founded by Polish engineer-forester Edmond Leonovich in 1931. Until 1998, he remained the director of the botanical garden; afterwards it was his son who assumed the post. The territory was declared a special protection area in 1998. The botanical garden covers an area of 35 ha of which 17,5 ha consist of natural forests and 15 ha of ornamental trees. Most of the specimens were acquired from the Yerevan Botanic Garden, as well as from many other countries, such as Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and the Far East. Some specimens were also obtained from Germany, France, Portugal and the USA. Presently, there are more than 500 introduced species in Dendropark. Dendropark is located 12 km away from Stepanavan, the second largest city in Lori Province of Armenia. At 1550 m above the sea level, the garden has a severe climate. It snows from December all the way through to March. The park is a wonderful place that constantly attracts new visitors with its beautiful foliage, fresh and healthy air and chirping birds. One may stroll aimlessly along the lanes and know no boredom.
Bakery in Hatsavan
Gargar is known for its special bread that differs from ordinary bread made in Armenia. The secret lies in the fact that in the village bread is baked in a wood-fired oven rather than a stove. The bakery is located in Hatsavan, a rural community the name of which, in its turn, has an interesting history. They say once there lived a woman who gave newlyweds bread as a sign of prosperity and happy marriage. In addition, all the unmarried girls of the community would be given bread straight out of tonir (pit oven) to meet their significant other and to live together in peace. This is how the community earned its name Hatsavan and it is no coincidence that the bakery is situated in that very community. You may see grandmas sell the flavorful bread of Gargar while passing through the community and why not to stop to savor it!
Here, You Feel the Breath of Art
In one of the outwardly plain-looking houses in Gargar, you may witness an unusual scene. Landlady Stella Melikyan has been practicing drawing since childhood and today her home has turned into a real heaven on earth. She interweaves reality with vivid imagination to draw scenic wall murals with watercolor paints. She miraculously transforms any wall poor in condition or dull in appearance. Though almost all of the walls in her house are already covered with paintings, Stella confesses she has this immeasurable urge to constantly create something new.
Created in 2000, the testing ground occupies 1 ha of land. Before turning into a test site after the devastating earthquake in 1988, the territory used to be a building material warehouse. From the very first day of its establishment till now, the testing ground has been taken care of and managed by the village dwellers headed by Frunzik Zalinyan. Here, visitors may find not only flavorful cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes unique to the village, but also non-traditional crops, namely varieties of peas, anise, kohlrabi, broccoli, patisoni, fizalis, asparagus, celery roots and artichoke.
While escaping from the enemy in the course of a war in the 19th century, a large group of villagers took a shelter in a small hut and locked the door from the inside. Notwithstanding the enemy’s relentless efforts to destroy the hut, it stood intact. As a result, the villagers were saved. Following this incident, this area became a pilgrimage site and was named “Amenaprkitch,” which translates to “Saviour of all men.”
They say every wish you make here will come true.
Being the oldest shrine in the village, Yamaj means a lot to the people of Gargar. Legend says that there had long been a pilgrimage site on top of the mountain the cross-stone of which was once toppled downhill by an infidel. Sometime later Melo Nazaryan, a man of unbelievable strength and profound faith, carried the cross-stone on his back and erected it atop the hill again, reviving the pilgrimage site.
They say once some pilgrims sat by the side of a road to rest while passing through this part of the village and then they were up again on their way. One night one of the pilgrims dreamed of light, a holy sign, descend from the sky upon this very place. The pilgrims returned to the site and built a shrine here, naming it “Sourb Nshan” which translates to “Holy Sign.” This is where the current name of the pilgrimage site “Subnishan” derives from.