The fortress of Amberd

The fortress of Amberd

According to historians, the fortress of Amberd was built from the 7th to the 10th century AD. The castle itself and part of the fortress walls were constructed in the 7th century during the reign of the princely Kamsarakan family. Later, in the 10th century, the Amberd fortress belonged to one of the most influential princely families – the Pahlavuni. The fortress served as the summer residence of Armenian princes. The construction of the Saint Virgin Mary (Astvatsatsin) church in 1026 is associated with the beginning of the Pahlavuni family’s rule, as evidenced by the inscription on the entrance door. Near the church wall, there is an ancient khachkar, dating back to the 8th-9th century. Its restrained form indicates that it is one of the earliest examples of this type of art.

In the 1070s, the Amberd fortress fell into the hands of the Seljuk Turks and was turned into a military camp. Later, in 1196, Armenian forces led by Prince Zakare Zakarian liberated the fortress. Once a mighty castle, it was finally destroyed and lost its significance in the 14th century during the invasion of Tamerlane.

The Amberd fortress is a unique structure of its kind. The complex includes fortress walls, a palace, a bathhouse, a church, and secret passages leading to the canyon. The princely palace, built of huge basalt blocks, is a three-story structure covering an area of 1500 square meters. The fortress towers were intentionally built with curvature to provide control over attackers from a height. One can only imagine that the castle once had rich interior decoration. Discoveries made during excavations suggest that the rooms were adorned with delicate ornaments and oil lamps adorned with bronze, silver, and gold decorations.

As surprising as it may sound, even in those distant times, the Amberd fortress had a unique feature: it had a developed system of continuous water supply. The water supply system was of vital importance to the castle’s inhabitants, both in peacetime and during sieges, so that they were not doomed to die of thirst. Water flowed through clay pipes at a distance of 4-5 meters. Reservoirs have been preserved in the castle where water collected and stored from melting snow and nearby springs.

The bathhouse has also been well preserved to this day. It was built in the 10th-11th centuries. This vaulted stone building has a spacious bathing hall. Cold water flowed through clay pipes, while hot water flowed through iron pipes. In addition to supplying hot water, the bathhouse had a developed heating system.

The Amberd castle is an important historical monument for Armenia. In addition to its rich cultural heritage, Amberd is interesting for its geographical location. It is situated on the slope of Mount Aragats, offering picturesque views of biblical Mount Ararat. The area around the castle is covered with alpine meadows from May to July, where various flowers grow, including some very rare species.

How to get there:

The Amberd fortress is located 34 km from Yerevan, which takes about 50 minutes by car. To reach the fortress, you can take a bus, taxi, rent a car, or join a tourist group. If you decide to travel by bus, you can take bus No. 202 from the Kilikia bus station (fare about 500 drams (1$)) to the city of Ejmiatsin. From there, you will need to take a taxi to continue your journey (cost of the trip about 5400-6800 drams (11-14$)). If you go directly to the fortress by taxi from Yerevan, the journey will take 1 hour 30 minutes and cost approximately 5700-8600 drams (12-18$).

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